1 of 5 | Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) logged one of the team's eight sacks in a win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday in New Orleans. File Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Nik Needham's early interception return for a touchdown and a team-record tying eight sacks sparked a dominant defensive performance, leading the Miami Dolphins to a 20-3 win over the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans.
The victory Monday at the Caesars Superdome also extended the Dolphins' winning streak to seven-consecutive games. The Dolphins (8-7) became the first team in NFL history to log a seven-game winning streak and a seven-game losing streak in the same season.
"We stayed the course," Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins told reporters. "We didn't grow weary. We stuck with the program, stuck with what we knew.
"Even when things were tough, we took it one day at a time. That's what we'll continue to do the rest of the season."
Dolphins defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah totaled two sacks. Safety Brandon Jones logged a sack and an interception in the win. The Dolphins held the Titans offense to an 0 for 12 conversion rate on third downs.
The Saints, who played without 16 active roster players due to their placement on the reserve/COVID-19 list, totaled just 164 yards. Saints third-string quarterback Ian Book completed 12 of 20 passes for 135 yards and two interceptions in his first career start.
"Just keeping him upright was a challenge," Saints coach Sean Payton said of Book.
"I'm sure that there are some plays that we will look at and he'll look at. The first interception is a throw that he'll want back. It's a tough position for him to be in."
The Dolphins punted on the game's opening drive. Needham intercepted Book three plays later. He returned the interception 28 yards for a score.
The Saints defense went 3-and-out on the next drive. The Dolphins went up 10-0 on a 48-yard field goal by Jason Sanders with 2:09 left in the first quarter.
Saints kicker Brett Maher answered with a 38-yard field goal with 2:45 left in the second and the Dolphins led 10-3 at halftime.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa connected with Jaylen Waddle for a 1-yard touchdown on a misdirection play about 10 minutes into the second half.
Sanders made a 34-yard field goal about three minutes into the fourth quarter for the final points of the night.
Jones intercepted Book with 3:04 remaining to seal the victory.
Linebacker Jerome Baker totaled a 1.5 sacks for the Dolphins. Cornerback Xavien Howard and defensive tackle Zach Sieler logged one sack apiece in the win.
Wilkins, safety Jevon Holland and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis each chipped in 0.5 sacks.
Tagovailoa completed 19 of 26 passes for 198 yards, one score and one interception. Waddle recorded 10 catches for 92 yards and a score.
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan logged two sacks in the loss.
The Dolphins face the Tennessee Titans (10-5) at 1 p.m. EST Sunday at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. The Saints (7-8) host the Carolina Panthers (5-10) at 4:25 p.m. EST Sunday at the Caesars Superdome.
"The game ahead is going to be as tough as any game we're going to play," Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. "I've already taken a look at Tennessee. Obviously I know [coach] Mike Vrabel. I have a lot of respect for him.
"I know he'll have his guys ready so we'll enjoy [the win] -- it was a hard-fought 60-minute game, so we'll enjoy this one and then we'll turn the page and get started on our next opponent."
The Cincinnati Bengals' Tyler Boyd (83) fights to make the catch under pressure from Baltimore Ravens Tony Jefferson during the second half of play at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals won 41-21
as quarterback Joe Burrow threw for a franchise-record 525 yards. Photo by John Sommers II /UPI | License Photo