MIAMI (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick emerged early Friday from the Miami Dolphins’ first victorious locker room of the year wearing a tropical print shirt adorned with purple pineapples as a complement to his beachcomber beard.
It was a Dad shirt, which is OK because the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick has seven kids.
“Being the elder statesman on the team, I’ve adopted more of the senior citizen look in terms of some of the touristy shirts, and my waistband is sitting a little higher than it used to,” Fitzpatrick said. “But I do like the color; I like the flair.”
Fitzpatrick doesn’t look like the prototypical NFL quarterback, and that’s true even after the ball is snapped. His style resembled a sandlotter Thursday night, when he led the Dolphins to a 31-13 victory at Jacksonville
Fitzpatrick ran for 38 yards and a score, lowering his shoulder into tacklers more than once. He was a lead blocker on one of Miami’s best running plays, and even had a reception when his pass was batted in the air. That was one of his 18 completions in 20 attempts for 160 yards and two scores.
“Running and trying to throw a block here and there and getting hit, that stuff helps me get into the game a little bit,” he said.
Said teammate Ted Karras: “Fitz definitely brings the energy. It’s an honor to go into a game with a guy like that. It’s fun to be his friend and work toward a goal together.”
Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins emphatically bounced back from a rocky start to the season, winning by more than one score for the first time since 2017.
“I’m excited for the players and coaches to see the fruits of their labor,” coach Brian Flores said Friday. “That’s why we put all the time in — to win ballgames. Now the goal is to try to string them together.”
The 0-2 start amplified calls for rookie Tua Tagovailoa to take over at quarterback, but Fitzpatrick tamped down the talk for another week, at least.
He led an offense that had 17 first downs in its first 32 plays. The Dolphins scored touchdowns on their first three drives for the first time since 2011.
Fitzpatrick again clicked with Mike Gesicki, who made his seventh touchdown catch since Week 12 of the 2019 season, which is tied for the most in the NFL during that span. Preston Williams also had a TD catch after dropping a fourth-down pass in the end zone a week earlier.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Miami’s three running backs combined for 71 yards rushing in 28 carries, an average of 2.5. Through three games, veteran newcomers Matt Breida and Jordan Howard have combined for 75 yards in 31 attempts, a 2.4 average.
Myles Gaskin, a seventh-round draft pick last year, has become Miami’s busiest and best ball carrier, with 243 yards rushing and receiving this season.
The Dolphins failed to muster a pass rush in the first two games, but that changed at Jacksonville, where they totaled 10 quarterback hits, and four players each had a sack.
The biggest was by Kamu Grugier-Hill on fourth down to end a Jaguars scoring threat. Kyle Van Noy set up a touchdown with a strip sack and recovery.
Pass coverage was much improved, in part because Gardner Minshew didn’t have much time to throw. Miami’s two takeaways were a season high.
“We just had to look ourselves in the mirror really and just kind of find out what defense we want to be,” Grugier-Hill said.
Tagovailoa did nothing wrong, but the chances of him seeing action soon fell significantly. Given that Miami has 10 days to prepare for the next game, an 0-3 start would have fueled intense speculation about a change at quarterback.
The Dolphins won without cornerback Byron Jones, sidelined because of a groin injury.
Miami’s other cornerback, Xavien Howard, grabbed the back of right leg after making a late-game interception. He has had surgery on both knees.
“Just a little cramp,” he said. “I feel great.”
21 — That’s how many consecutive completions Fitzpatrick threw over two games, including 12 on Thursday night.
Game 4 will be Oct. 4, when the Seattle Seahawks play in Miami for the first since 2012. Russell Wilson was then a rookie, and the Dolphins overcame his two touchdown passes to win.
“Obviously one of the best players in the league,” Flores said.