The TD was just the cherry on top of a career day for the young receiver. Waddle displayed his ability to win at every level of the field. His speed in space is devastating to defenses, even one as good as Carolina's.
Waddle corralled nine receptions for a career-best 137 yards and a TD, all team-highs. With seven catches for 119 yards and a TD in the first two frames, he became the first Dolphins rookie to record 100-plus receiving yards and one or more receiving TD in the first half of a game.
The rookie had more receiving yards than the rest of the Dolphins combined (93). While Waddle has had high-volume catching days this season (two games of 10-plus receptions), the outings haven't been efficient. In the first 11 games, he earned just 6.69 yards per target. On Sunday, he generated 13.70 yards per target.
"I work extremely hard not to be completely known as like a speed guy or a guy that's just a vertical threat," Waddle said, via the Miami Herald. "I'm continuing to try to go out there every week, and show that I can actually run routes and do things I would say people don't expect of me."
On Sunday, Waddle embodied the type of playmaker the Dolphins believed they were getting when they plucked him No. 6 overall in the draft after trading back into the top 10. His speed after the catch is breathtaking, and he's shown better route-running ability in recent weeks, leading to the Week 12 explosion.
Don't discount Waddle's big game coming against a heretofore stout Panthers defense, which entered the game ranked first against the pass in the NFL. Carolina plays physical, but on Sunday, they couldn't touch Waddle.
The rookie's rapport with Tua is also growing as the season progresses. With the QB's precision, particularly over the middle, Waddle should have plenty more opportunities to take short passes for long gains in the coming weeks.
"Jaylen's just been in the right place at the right time," Tagovailoa said. "There's times when he gets covered and he's still open."