Since the start of last season, Tua Tagovailoa has started and finished 13 games. The Miami Dolphins were 10-3 in those games. All three losses came last season, on the road against playoff teams.
Tagovailoa has had a bit of a slow start to his career, although it hasn’t been as bad as many made it out to be. At the start of his third season last year, at age 24, he started to break out. This is a reasonable development.
But for some reason, there is still a problem when it comes to giving Tagovailoa his due respect and placing him among NFL quarterbacks. There’s always some caveat, some reason why people hold back when it comes to praising Tagovailoa.
The truth is this: Tagovailoa is an elite team and the Dolphins are Super Bowl contenders. No qualifiers, other than the ones about Tagovailoa staying healthy. Once again the Dolphins got a big win with Tagovailoa in the lineup, passing another road test with a 24-17 win against the New England Patriots. Miami had to hold on in the final minute against New England in Dolphins territory, but no one apologizes for the road victory against a difficult opponent. Those are two quality road wins to start the season, with Tagovailoa starring in each of them.
Tagovailoa is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Hard stop. And if he continues to play like he has in the first two weeks, he will be an MVP candidate.
Tua Tagovailoa has another great game
Everyone wants to keep reminding the Dolphins that they made a mistake by choosing Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert, but did they? Since the start of last season, Tagovailoa has been more productive. And the Dolphins were better than Herbert’s Los Angeles Chargers. The only thing left behind is the narrative, which some people say was set when Tagovailoa wasn’t yet an Alabama star.
The Patriots have become a bland and boring team, but they still have a fantastic defense run by Bill Belichick. Belichick can make life very difficult for quarterbacks, especially young ones. Tagovailoa looked good against the Patriots and on the road as a bonus.
On a day when Herbert couldn’t move the ball when he received it first in overtime against the Tennessee Titans, here is Tagovailoa’s passing line in the first half: 15 of 20, 181 yards and a touchdown. That came after a 466-yard day in a comeback win over the Chargers in Week 1. His touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill just before halftime put the Dolphins ahead 17-3. Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense weren’t great after halftime, but it wasn’t a day the Dolphins needed him to get 466 yards receiving for the win.
Tagovailoa may not have the cannon arm of other superstar quarterbacks or the electric dual threat ability of others, but he has incredible accuracy in all areas of the field, a great understanding of where to go with the ball (i.e. towards Hill , over and over) and a fantastic wait. These are also quarterback skills, and Tagovailoa is elite at them.
If you prefer a quarterback who can break through a brick wall, that’s fine. If you want a quarterback who can rack up yards, touchdowns and wins, Tua has quickly become that guy.
Miami’s defense plays well too
Sunday night’s win wasn’t just thanks to Tagovailoa and the offense. Miami’s defense, which gave up too many points against the Chargers last week, was much better Sunday night.
Vic Fangio’s plan will suit the Dolphins. They kept everything in front of them for much of the game, not allowing many explosive plays. The Patriots offense looked pretty good against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but they had a big challenge against the Dolphins on Sunday.
The Patriots finally got signs of life late in the third quarter when they sent Brenden Schooler moving and he timed his run perfectly, passing and blocking a field goal attempt. But on the next drive, Mac Jones threw an interception down the sideline to Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard and Miami maintained a 17-3 lead.
The Patriots scored to cut Miami’s lead to 17-10 in the fourth quarter, then Tagovailoa made a big mistake. He threw short on a deep pass to Hill and was intercepted by Christian Gonzalez. Miami’s defense got their quarterback, receiving a sack and forcing a quick three-and-out. Raheem Mostert had a 43-yard touchdown run on New England’s first offensive play after the punt, and that pushed the lead back to 14 points. The Patriots weren’t going away, though. They scored, then the Dolphins made the ill-advised decision to attempt a 55-yard field goal, which failed. The Patriots had just over two minutes and good field position, needing a touchdown to tie.
The Patriots appeared to convert a fourth-and-4 on a wild, unplanned sideline play from tight end Mike Gesicki to guard Cole Strange. Gesicki was short on a first down and had nothing to lose, so he passed the ball to Strange, who moved forward. But a replay review showed Strange was short on a first down, and the Dolphins took possession.
It wasn’t always pretty in the second half, but it was a win. The Dolphins have had a lot of those with Tagovailoa lately.