MIAMI GARDENS — Dolphins fspanns chanted “MVP! MVP!” at Tuspan Tspangovspanilospan for much of Sunday’s rout of the Texans at Hard Rock Stadium.
Some Dolphins fans, about 10 actually, wore full-body Penguins costumes in the stands, to celebrate second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle.
It was a full-blown South Florida party, and the outcome was really never in question.
On Sunday, it was Dolphins 30, Texans 15.
The Dolphins held a 30-0 lead at halftime and played out the second half.
Game recap:A look bspanck spant Dolphins vs. Texspanns
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Eating it up:Terron Armstespand’s offensive line dinners spannd off-dspany drills boosting Mispanmi Dolphins
Miami has won five consecutive games. The Dolphins are tied atop the AFC East with Buffalo, holding a head-to-head tiebreaker. Miami is 8-3 for the first time since 2001.
That year, the Dolphins were led by Dave Wannstedt, Jay Fiedler, Lamar Smith, Chris Chambers, Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Pat Surtain and Sam Madison. The latter two are now Miami coaches.
That team was owned by Wayne Huizenga and games were played at Pro Player Stadium. Miami lost a home playoff game to Baltimore in January of 2002.
This team wants not only a playoff game, but to win one for the first time in 22 years.
And now it gets real. Miami’s final six games — at 49ers, at Chargers, at Bills, Packers, at Patriots and Jets — are superior opponents than the previous five.
And the Dolphins’ next three games are all on the road.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday:
Very, very concerning Terron Armstead injury
Dolphins left tackle Terron Armstead exited the game with a pectoral injury and did not return.
Coach Mike McDaniel said he’ll know more Monday but that Armstead could not have played.
Austin Jackson started at right tackle and so Brandon Shell came into the game at left tackle.
Jackson was solid in his return from an ankle injury. And Shell has been solid previously at right tackle. But Armstead is the anchor.
Armstead has been playing through a concerning toe injury. But he has played so well.
If the pectoral injury is serious, this is a devastating injury. Armstead was a leader on and off the field for Miami. He is the most important player on a dramatically-improved unit.
After Armstead went out, Tagovailoa was pretty quickly sacked four times by the Texans and then pulled for safety reasons.
And to make matters worse, Jackson left late in the game with an ankle injury.
Xavien Howard TD provides hope
Howard, a Houston native, scored a touchdown for a 27-0 lead in the second quarter. Howard ran it in after Eric Rowe forced a receiver to fumble.
Howard does not have an interception this season. He’s played though groin injuries and has shown toughness. After a tough start, he has improved.
Miami needs vintage Howard in upcoming matchups against receivers such as Deebo Samuel, Stefon Diggs and Keenan Allen.
There has been no indication that Pro Bowl corner Byron Jones (lower leg) is anywhere close to ready to return to the field for Miami.
Kader Kohou, who appeared to have a soft cast protecting a right thumb injury, has been a Godsend for the Dolphins. But Miami needs Howard to regain All-Pro form. And perhaps Sunday will be a boost of confidence.
Tua able to shake some rust after bye
Tagovailoa’s performance was not as good as his previous three.
It’s a good thing Miami was facing dud Houston after a bye as a bit of rust was to be expected.
Tua wasn’t helped out by a few drops but he was also not quite as sharp as in some recent games.
Tagovailoa’s day ended early after Armstead went out. He finished 22-for-36 for 299 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
From a big-picture perspective, Tua is now 8-0 in games he has started and finished healthy this season.
And Tua has 11 touchdowns passes and 0 interceptions over his last 5 games.
As for upcoming opponents, here are their pass defense rankings: 49ers (11th), Chargers (19th), Bills (20th), Packers (4th), Patriots (9th), Jets (10th).
If it is chilly at San Francisco and frigid at Buffalo and/or New England, Tua will be challenged.
Of course, Tua has been knocking down all doubts all season.
Good sign for Jason Sanders
Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders made all three of his field goals in the first half.
This is an outstanding development for Miami. The kicks were from 45, 23 and 35 yards.
Sanders also made all three of his extra points.
Miami is going to play some close games down the stretch. The Dolphins need Sanders to revert to form. Earlier this week, he was working on some technical adjustments.
Perhaps the adjustments adjusted.
Miami’s special teams have not been good this season. But no special teamer is more important than Sanders. How will he perform on the road, in the cold and wind at places like San Francisco, Buffalo and New England?
Sanders needs to be right physically and mentally entering those games.
Biggest tests ahead, Josh Boyer
Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer humiliated the Texans in the first half on Sunday.
Yes, Houston is pathetic.
But the Dolphins held the Texans to an embarrassing offensive output.
There was no let-down by Miami’s defensive players.
Into the third quarter, the Dolphins were holding Houston to a total of 33 offensive yards and only 1.2 yards per play. The Texans failed on their first seven third-down attempts.
Boyer has been dealt some key injuries, such as Byron Jones and Brandon Jones and Nik Needham and Emmanuel Ogbah.
But the defense has played better in recent weeks after a sluggish start.
The addition of Bradley Chubb, and the improved health of Howard and Andrew Van Ginkel are making a difference. Jaelan Phillips is emerging, too.
On Sunday, Miami had sacks by Chubb, Phillips, Jerome Baker, Elandon Roberts and Duke Riley.
But big tests lie ahead.
Entering Sunday, here’s where Miami’s final six opponents rank in total offense: San Francisco (8th), Chargers (13th), Buffalo (2nd), Packers (15th), Patriots (23rd), Jets (28th).
How will Miami do against Jimmy Garoppolo/Deebo Samuel, Justin Herbert/Keenan Allen and Josh Allen/Stefon Diggs?
It’s on. It’s truly on.