5 Instant Takeaways: How the Miami Dolphins outlasted the Detroit Lions in a 31-27 win

In the Motor City, both the Dolphins and the Lions had their offenses on overdrive.

But Miami had more speed and more horsepower and it had more talent, outlasting Detroit 31-27 Sunday in a game blemished somewhat by penalties and sloppy play.

The Dolphins will take it. It’s a second consecutive victory, as the club improves to 5-3 in what is essentially the halfway mark of Mike McDaniel’s first NFL season.

As long as Miami has Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the field, it will be a threat to score and to outscore its opponent.

On Sunday, an 11-yard touchdown pass to Mike Gesicki late in the third quarter was the final score. Miami trailed 27-17 at halftime, but Detroit (1-6) was held scoreless in the second half by a Miami defense depleted by secondary injuries.

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Terrific Tua

Tua Tagovailoa was lights out for the Dolphins on Sunday.

Tua was much sharper in this game than he was in his return from a concussion against the Steelers last Sunday night.

In this game, Tagovailoa completed two touchdown passes to Jaylen Waddle and one to Mike Gesicki.

In this game, Tagovailoa scrambled for a key third-down conversion.

In this game, Tagovailoa topped 350 passing yards and hovered around 80 percent completions and a passer rating above 130.

Simply put, Tua produced as one might expect he would against a dreadful Lions defense.

While a few of Tagovailoa’s passes to Hill were arguably underthrown, he did not commit a turnover. And he threw a perfectly-placed, over-the-shoulder touchdown to Waddle.

This sets up Tagovailoa and Miami well with Chicago, Cleveland and Houston on deck.

Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle prepares to catch a 5-yard touchdown pass against the Lions in the first half of Sunday's game in Detroit.Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle prepares to catch a 5-yard touchdown pass against the Lions in the first half of Sunday's game in Detroit.

Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle prepares to catch a 5-yard touchdown pass against the Lions in the first half of Sunday’s game in Detroit.

Penalties disgrace

The number of penalties the Dolphins have committed this season is atrocious and unacceptable. It’s bad football.

In the first half alone, Elandon Roberts (taunting), Liam Eichenberg (holding), Tyreek Hill (illegal motion) and Justin Bethel (illegal contact) committed penalties.

But in that same first half, the Dolphins had a whopping seven penalties that were declined by Detroit.

Utter disgrace. Twice Christian Wilkins lined up offsides. Late in the fourth quarter, Wilkins was cited for offsides a third time.

Other Dolphins who committed would-be penalties included Terron Armstead, Brandon Shell, Hunter Long and Melvin Ingram.

In both the first and second half, Miami had a play featuring two penalties.

The Dolphins don’t need to be among the league leaders in fewest penalties. But they are worse at penalty differential than any team in the league and that’s a back-breaker.

Miami has to do a deep dive into why these penalties are being committed (technique? overworked? lack of focus? too complex a scheme?) and get it corrected. Quickly.

Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle unstoppable

Even when Tua Tagovailoa does not make the perfect throw, receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are able to make adjustments and make huge plays.

In the first half, Hill had catches for 24, 36 and 42 yards.

And Waddle caught two touchdowns.

Anyone who thought that Hill’s statistics would fall off with a shift from Patrick Mahomes to Tua have been sadly mistaken.

There is not a cornerback in the NFL who can cover Hill 1-on-1. He is literally uncoverable. And as long as Tua gets it in the area, which he usually does, it’s going to be a completion. He’s such a consistent ball-catcher.

Hill has topped 150 yards in 4 of his first 8 Dolphins games. Insanely, this ties Mark Duper’s single-season record in that category.

It’s an unfortunate unintended consequence that players such as receiver Cedrick Wilson and tight end Mike Gesicki are taking a backseat to this two-man headliner.

The Dolphins can win games, even if those two receivers total 60 percent or more of team catches. They complement each other so well. They’re so fast that opponents are simply scared to play too close to either one.

Hill is on pace for 2,042 receiving yards this season; Waddle on pace for 1,545.

Secondary problems

The Dolphins have without question been hit hard by key injuries to the secondary.

Byron Jones has not played this year and Nik Needham and Brandon Jones are now out for the season.

But Miami shouldn’t be shredded by the Lions’ passing offense.

Undrafted rookies Kader Kohou and Vernon McKinley started. But defensive coordinator Josh Boyer has confidence in them or he wouldn’t have sent them out there.

Strangely, veteran safety Eric Rowe was scratched in an apparent special teams decision. Well, Miami had miscommunication and poor coverage on too many plays on Sunday. Before the game Rowe tweeted he was “shocked, too” at the decision.

While it makes sense to consider moving free safety Jevon Holland around the field now that Jones it out, it could be overcomplicating thing a bit, too.

In the fourth quarter, cornerback Keion Crossen made a nice pass break-up. But cornerback Xavien Howard was lined up offsides.

Kohou was in coverage for a key third-down incompletion with less than three minutes to play.

This & That

This has a been a tough season for Mike Gesicki, adjusting to new scheme. But Gesicki now trails only Waddle (5) in Miami touchdown catches (4). Gesicki’s value in red zone (Waddle and Tyreek Hill are obviously much smaller) make it a bit harder to deal him. On Sunday, Gesicki caught a TD to put Miami ahead 31-27 at the end of the third quarter. …

Liam Eichenberg left with what appeared to be a serious knee injury at the end of the third quarter. Eichenberg has struggled for much of this season. But if Eichnberg is lost for an extended period of time, Robert Jones or Michael Deiter would probably be called upon to fill the void. On Sunday, Jones got first crack at the role. …

Jason Sanders continues to be clutch from anything inside of 50 yards. … The Dolphins appear to have shifted primary punt return responsibilities to Cedrick Wilson, who is not a key part of the offense despite signing a big free-agent contract before the season. … Miami suited up undrafted rookie receiver Braylon Sanders ahead of fourth-rounder Erik Ezukanma. Following Sanders’ first NFL catch, he was hit and lost a fumble. … The Dolphins allowed a fake-punt conversion near the end of the first half. Their special teams continue to be putrid overall. … Zach Sieler, aka “The Beast,” had a key fourth-quarter sack on third down.

Joe Schad is a journalist at the Palm Beach Post part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at jschad@pbpost.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Instant Takeaways from Joe Schad: Dolphins 31, Lions 27