The NFL is giving the people of Frankfurt, Germany, quite the show by matching up the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins this week. Miami has been the league’s best offense statistically this season, while the Chiefs obviously have quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce to showcase.
The Dolphins’ offense is captained by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who currently leads the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns, and passer rating. He has also been as efficient as anyone else, ranking second in yards per pass attempt and fourth in completion percentage.
He is also one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the league, going down less often than every other signal-caller besides Patrick Mahomes. That will counter a Chiefs’ defense that has heated up the quarterback. Defensive lineman Charles Omenihu described what makes Tagovailoa and Miami’s pass game so effective.
“Quick passes,” Omenihu answered to reporters on Wednesday. “He’s a rhythm, timing type of guy — then obviously has two guys that can stretch the defense. From college, that’s how he was: timing, accurate, and he can throw the deep ball. Good quarterback.”
Linebacker Drue Tranquill recognizes that aspect of the Dolphins’ offense as well. He will play a key role in stopping the run but also keeping his head on a swivel to get in the way of quick passes over the middle.
“He has one of the quickest releases in the NFL, statistically,” Tranquill shared with reporters on Wednesday. “We’re going to have to have good coverage on the back end and make it a one-dimensional game. If they’re allowed to run the ball and set up play action, it’ll be tough.”
The Miami rushing attack can be dangerous but nowhere near as threatening as a pass to wide receiver Tyreek Hill. That’s what the play action can result in: Hill dashing into open field for a big play. No team is as familiar with that as the Chiefs, including Tranquill, who faced him many times as a member of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Tranquill, like many NFL defenders, has been burned by Hill before.
“We had a play last year where we were playing good defense against the Dolphins,” Tranquill recalled. “We forced a fumble, the ball is in the pile and shoots out, we blink our eyes, and Tyreek took it 75 to the house.”
“They’re finding creative ways to use him with motions,” Tranquill continued. “There’s this out motion that has become a popular thing in the NFL. He is still the same fast, elusive Tyreek Hill that I remember.”
Hill is the NFL leader in receiving yards and touchdowns; he is already over 1,000 yards this season with nine games to go. He averages nearly 17 yards per reception despite catching many passes close to the line of scrimmage. He is just that hard to corral.
“I don’t know that you get used to it,” Tranquill said of tracking Hill. “You might have good angles for two quarters, then you take a bad angle, and he cuts back and reverses field, you have a big play on your hands... they have all types of speed. It’s going to be a fun challenge.”
To prevent those quick passes from reaching Hill, the Chiefs’ pass rush will have to be active in passing lanes. The group has been batting down passes as much as any team in the NFL, and Omenihu recognizes how it can impact an offense.
“For any quarterback, when you get a batted pass... it can take any quarterback out of rhythm,” Omenihu noted. “You want to take them out of rhythm and take them out of manageable downs, so that they have to drop back and really throw the ball.”
Tagovailoa has only completed 40% of his passes against pressure this season and has one of the league’s lowest passer ratings when under pressure (55.8). However, he faces pressure at a lower rate than every other starting quarterback in the NFL because Miami generates such quick releases.
When Miami has the ball, the game will likely come down to how effective the Chiefs are batting down passes and corralling receivers — like Tyreek Hill — after the catch. If the Dolphins’ offensive rhythm isn’t disrupted in those ways, the unit will continue looking like the NFL’s best.