By Jason Hayes
♪♪ “Let the sunshine… Let the sunshine in… The sunshine in” ♪♪
These notes by The 5th Dimension could be heard echoing throughout the Sunshine State on Monday morning, as each of the NFL’s Floridian squads find themselves atop their respective divisions through three weeks of action.
The last time the Dolphins, Jaguars and Buccaneers all reached the postseason was 1999. Dan Marino was still slinging it for a Jimmy Johnson coached Miami side, the head coach in Jacksonville was Tom Coughlin, with Mark Brunell at quarterback, and Tampa Bay was led by Tony Dungy, with Trent Dilfer throwing the ball.
Those are some titanic names in the history of football. The current players and coaches will do well to be remembered in the same vein (okay, let’s leave Brady out of that one). On Sunday, they each took a small step towards achieving that.
This could well be the Age of Aquarius, or at least an aqua coloured football team, as the Miami Dolphins just outswam a Buffalo Bills side that is widely regarded as the league’s best. The stat line looked as drunk as Tua after he hit his hea.. I mean hurt his back (Did I get that right, Roger?). But despite the injury, and despite Bills dominating the ball, Tagovailoa made plays when it mattered most.
He didn’t need Tyreek Hill on a day where efficiency trumped explosiveness. A strike to River Cracraft in the endzone was his lone score, but a beautiful deep throw to Waddle set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth. A late scare involving a punter, a ball and a butt wasn’t enough to thwart the Dolphins, who hung on to remain undefeated.
On a side note, we were treated to two great moments of self-deprecation this weekend. Mark Sanchez tweeted “Woah… stay out of my lane bro” in response to the Butt Punt, while Dan Orlovsky rejoiced at the moment Jimmy Garoppolo stepped out of his own endzone for a safety. Cheers to that, lads.
My question is, will the undefeated team of 1972 still pop that bottle of champagne if it’s the Dolphins themselves who are the last team to fall? We may soon find out.
While the Cheetah was quiet on Sunday, the Jaguars roared. Trevor Lawrence is starting to look every bit of the player he was touted to be coming out of Clemson. After a shaky start versus the Commanders, back-to-back games with a 115+ passer rating have guided the Jags to a 2-1 record.
He has found a safety blanket in newcomer Christian Kirk, who is relishing his fresh start post-Arizona. Kirk has 267 yards and 3 touchdowns to begin his career in teal, which accounts for 35% of Lawrence’s yardage and 50% of his touchdowns. The defence shouldn’t be overlooked either, allowing just 10 points over the previous two games combined. In a division that otherwise looks remarkably unimpressive, the Jaguars look like the team to beat.
The Buccaneers robbed us of a Sunday sunshine sweep, as Tom Brady lost what could be his last ever showdown with Aaron Rodgers (okay, the same thing was said in 2018). However, their presence as one of the NFC’s elite can’t be questioned. They are what the other two teams strive to be, a Super Bowl winner still slugging it out for another chance at glory. The only difference is that, while the windows are just opening for the Dolphins and Jaguars, it’s slowly closing for the Buccaneers.
Nevertheless, let’s enjoy this brief moment where all three windows are open in Florida. The sun is shining in and the palm trees are blowing in the breeze.
Anyone have a cocktail?
♪♪ “Let the sunshine…” ♪♪