No matter the QB, Miami Dolphins' defense shows it is key to playoff run

With quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick filling in for an injured Tua Tagovailoa, the Miami Dolphins (7-4) returned to their winning ways on Sunday, beating the winless New York Jets, 20-3, behind another dominant performances by one of the NFL's best defenses.

No matter the quarterback, the Dolphins' playoff push will depend on its defense. All season, Miami's unit has been key to the team's success, and Sunday's win was another example that it will be just as important down the stretch.

The Dolphins' defense got two interceptions, making it 17 straight games with at least one takeaway, best in the NFL. The Jets are a bad team, but the Dolphins continue to show they have a playoff-caliber defense, and they're just waiting for the offense to catch up.

Sunday proved to be a highlight day of what the Dolphins' defense does best. Xavien Howard's elite ball skills prevented multiple deep plays from the Jets, and he nabbed his NFL-leading seventh interception. Howard is the NFL's best ball hawk, and he continues to show it.

Linebacker Elandon Roberts also had a huge fourth-quarter stuff of Frank Gore on fourth-and-1 with the Jets inside the red zone. The Dolphins' pressure scheme also notched three sacks.

The biggest storyline of the coming week will be whether Tagovailoa's left thumb injury will heal enough for him return to the starting lineup on Sunday against Cincinnati. Either way, the Dolphins' defense will keep trucking no matter who is under center.

Promising trend: DeVante Parker had a season-high 119 receiving yards on eight catches, and he flourishes when Fitzpatrick is throwing to him. Their chemistry, particularly on tight-window throws that are 50/50 balls was a common thread Sunday.

It was Parker's 10th 100-yard game of his pro career and second of the season. Parker is clearly the Dolphins' best offensive weapon, and they need more big games from him down the stretch.

Troubling trend: For the second consecutive week, the Dolphins' offense and particularly the offensive line failed to perform well. Despite having some first-half success in the passing game, Fitzpatrick threw for 77 yards in the second half and was sacked four times.

Dolphins running backs Matt Breida and Patrick Laird fumbled on back-to-back drives in their own territory. The turnover and offensive struggles trend needs to be fixed.

Eye-popping NFL Next Gen Stat: Fitzpatrick's second quarter TD pass to Mike Gesicki had 0.94 yards of separation at the arrival of the throw. Fitzpatrick has 13 TD passes into tight windows (less than 1 yard of separation) since the start of 2019, which ranks as most in the NFL over that span.

Booming leg: Jason Sanders is perfect on 50-plus yard field goals this season: 8-of-8, most in NFL. He has made 10 straight from 50-plus yards, dating back to last season. He is having a Pro Bowl worthy season, and he has been a big weapon for the Dolphins' inconsistent offense.

Sanders has made 12 FGs from 50-plus yards in his career, third-most in franchise history. His 85.7 career percentage from 50-plus yards is the best in the NFL since at least 1991.