By Steven "Goldie" Goldstein

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins ended the season the way they started it – by beating the New England Patriots.

Coach Brian Flores beat his former team, this time a 33-24 win in the season finale. The Dolphins held off a 4th quarter charge by the Patriots to finish with a winning season at 9-8. Miami won 8 of the last 9 games after a 7 game losing streak.

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Waddle Record
No rookie wide receiver in NFL history has had more catches than Jaylen Waddle. It was a nice moment at Hard Rock Stadium when he caught pass number 102 of the season to set the record. Waddle is a superstar and the Dolphins coaching staff did a good job getting him the ball all year. He finished the opening drive of the game with a nice touchdown catch, followed by “The Waddle.”

The Duke
Duke Johnson’s return to South Florida was a great story late in the season. The former Miami Hurricanes running back transformed the running game. Duke’s power and straight forward running style boosted the offense and time of possession. He had two 100 yard games in the final four games. A decision needs to be made this offseason on Johnson. Do the Dolphins view him as either a feature back or at least half of a tandem? The fans surely have spoken, they love the Duke.

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X Marks the Spot
Xavian Howard had a pick in the season finale capping another dominant season. He is one of the league’s best corners, makes big plays, and is a favorite of teammates.

Rookies Shine on D
The emergence as the season went on of Jevon Holland and Jaelan Phillps was encouraging and fun to watch. GM Chris Grier hit big on Waddle and the two defensive rookies are up there too. For Phillps, the sky’s the limit getting after quarterbacks and disrupting plays. Holland is a play maker, hitter., and emerged as a team leader. The Dolphins defensive future is bright.

If Only
We were all thinking it as the Dolphins thoroughly dominated the first quarter, what if they played that way more often, like the start of last week’s game or against Atlanta, Indianapolis or Jacksonville. If only…

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The BIG question
Where do the Dolphins go at quarterback? Tua Tagovailoa certainly showed he is a capable QB that can win NFL games. But did he show enough to make the front office and coach feel he can lead the team to a Super Bowl? There were a handful of plays in each game that gave reason to question it. The Titans game and much of the 2nd half of the season finale were alarming. But on 3rd down and the game on the line, he took off and ran for a big first down. Tua made the big play as he has at times in his two seasons. It was a microcosm of the tough call the team must make. The Dolphins will decide how much better Tua can get and if he can clean up those mistakes and develop more big play ability. They also will evaluate how much of those struggles were due to the offensive line and receiver and running back depth issues. This team has many good pieces but needs to improve the offensive line and receiver depth. Will an attempt to improve at the most important position, quarterback, be part of the equation? Salary cap space is no issue as Grier set the team up with major flexibility this offseason. The Dolphins are closer to being a contender than any time in recent memory.

Steven "Goldie" Goldstein