MIAMI GARDENS. Fla. — Style points are overrated. With the hell the Miami Dolphins have been put through this season, results are way more important than the process.
And Miami’s latest result is hideously beautiful: An 11-6 win over the rival New York Jets that puts the Dolphins back in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
They’ll play the Buffalo Bills this coming weekend in the Wild Card Round, thanks to three Jason Sanders field goals — including a 50-yard in the game’s final moments.
Those kicks — and a tremendous defensive effort — allowed the Dolphins to snap a five-game losing streak. They won even though Tua Tagovailoa didn’t play a down. Neither did Teddy Bridgewater.
Rather, Miami’s QB1 and QB2 were part-coach/part-cheerleader for Skylar Thompson — the Dolphins’ QB3 who avoided the critical mistake in Sunday’s rock fight.
Tagovailoa, who has missed the last two games with his second diagnosed concussion of the season, was well enough to attend the game and was among the first to congratulate Thompson and his Dolphins teammates in the locker room.
Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater Injury Update
The Dolphins had no choice but to hold Tagovailoa out of Sunday’s must-win game. He remains in the concussion protocol after missing every rep of practice last week. But McDaniel’s reality might not be so cut-and-dry in the week to come.
It’s conceivable that Tagovailoa is cleared before Dolphins-Bills — which would present McDaniel with the most important decision of his short time as a head coach: Is it safe and responsible to put Tua back at risk so soon after suffering at least his second (and perhaps third) concussion in the span of three months?
“We have a lot of question marks,” McDaniel said post-game Sunday. “I left the Tua question last Friday, he’ll have another day. We’ll continue to take it day by day. And I will not even think about any sort of game, whether that’s this year or next year, until he’s fully ready to do so.
“And that comes with a medical clearance,” McDaniel continued. “That’s why the procedure’s in place so I haven’t even thought about that. Ready for either quarterback against the Bills. There’s a lot of things that we have to get through the training room first.”
Without getting too far into the weeds, Tagovailoa needs to meet multiple physical and cognitive benchmarks to be cleared to return.
But just because he can play doesn’t mean he should. Which is why we asked McDaniel post-game Sunday whether Tagovailoa needs a full week of practice to play.
His response: “I’m pretty disciplined. Once it was articulated to me that it doesn’t help Tua in any way, shape, or form if I project any sort of things besides, ‘Hey, what are we doing today? Are we getting better today?’ — I haven’t thought about it. I just want him to take everything day by day, and when we’ll assess everything, when he’s fully cleared when, whenever that is, but I’m not worried about timelines.
“Saying yes or no to the postseason is another added layer of anxiety. Either way, whatever I say. So I’m not in the business of that. I’m gonna do what’s best for that player. So we’ll see each and every day. It’s not because I like keeping people in suspense. It’s because it’s the best thing for the human being.”
Translation: Tagovailoa is the least likely of the four quarterbacks on the Dolphins’ active roster (a list that includes Mike Glennon) to be available for the Wild Card Round.
Teddy Bridgewater QB1 vs. Bills?
Teddy Bridgewater, meanwhile, was healthy enough to serve as Thompson’s backup on Sunday but was not prepared to start with a dislocated pinky finger.
Yet with another week of treatment, Bridgewater presumably should be good to play, which would force a decision by McDaniel — play Bridgewater or stick with Thompson?
“Teddy was battling to be available,” McDaniel said. “And we think that he was in a spot where he could have come through an emergency situation. And Skylar got, you know, got twisted up a couple of times too. So I have to see how all that shakes out.
“Yeah, there’ll be some question marks but fortunately this team has proven not to blink. We have guys that we really believe in and we’ll go with the healthiest group up to Buffalo and play a very good football team.”
From a statistical standpoint, McDaniel’s choice should be easy. Bridgewater, on the year, was superior to Thompson in completion percentage (62% to 57.1%), yards per attempt (8.6 to 5.1) and passer rating (85.6 to 62.2).
Skylar Thompson: I’m Built For This
The Dolphins’ offense is limited when either backup quarterback is in the game, and with Thompson under center Sunday, they managed just nine points despite crossing midfield five times.
Thompson needed 31 passing attempts to total 152 passing yards. But he made winning plays at critical times. And most significantly, he didn’t turn the ball over.
“I’m soaking this in as much as I can right now,” Thompson said. “I have no idea what [next week] is gonna look like. It’d be something for, you know, a couple of days from now. Whatever that looks like, it’s, you know, I’m enjoying this, it’s important to celebrate stuff like this for the time being and soak it all in. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Thompson, the 247th pick in April’s draft, added: “I’ve had my own ups and downs. And it’s been a crazy journey for me this year. And just the experiences and situations that I’ve experienced. Hasn’t always been pretty, hasn’t always been perfect. But I believe everything that I went through, set me up and prepared me for this moment.
“And I had so much confidence coming into this game because looking back at this year is like, ‘What have I not experienced? I’m ready for this. I’m built for this. And I prepared for this my whole life.’ So I just got to be myself, have fun out there and let the game come to me and I truly felt like I did that today.”
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