The hopes and dreams of an entire fanbase were realized Sunday. The Miami Dolphins needed perfection out of Tua Tagovailoa to overcome a 21-point halftime deficit. And he, for the first time as a pro, delivered, rallying the Dolphins past host the Baltimore Ravens 42-38 in a game for the ages.
Tagovailoa — the most polarizing player in football — for the first time in his career, looked like Alabama Tua. And because he did, anything now seems possible for a Dolphins team loaded with playmakers.
Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa has his star moment
For more than a generation, the Dolphins have been trying to replace Dan Marino. On Sunday, Tua’s second half was downright Marino-esque in the second half, completing 24 of 30 passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns.
Tua’s six touchdown passes on the day tied a franchise record, which is held by Bob Griese (Week 11, 1977) and Marino (Week 3, 1986). His 469 passing yards were fourth-most in team history (and second-most in a Dolphins win).
But the most impressive — and potentially landscape-changing — part of Tua’s all-time afternoon? He matched Lamar Jackson blow for blow, and his best — at least on this day — was better than the former MVP’s best.
If that can be sustained — and with Mike McDaniel as his coach and Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as his receivers, there’s reason to believe it can — the Dolphins shouldn’t just be considered playoff contenders.
They will be in the Super Bowl conversation.
The competitive gap entering this year between the Dolphins and the AFC’s elite — the Chiefs, the Bills, and yes, the Ravens — was the size of the gap in their quarterbacks. If you would put Jackson or Patrick Mahomes on the Dolphins’ team with their current roster and coaching staff, that team would be a Super Bowl favorite.
The perception (rightly) entering the season is the Dolphins needed much-improved quarterback play to compete with the best of the best.
So far, they’ve gotten it. Tagovailoa, through two games, has completed 71.1% of his passes with seven touchdowns and two interceptions (both thrown in the first half Sunday). He’s averaged 8.9 yards per attempt, and his passer rating is 116.5. That’s MVP caliber.
McDaniel, when he took the job in February, promised Tua he would “get all of that greatness out of him.” So far, McDaniel has been a man of his word.
“This is huge,” McDaniel said not long after he won his second NFL game as a head coach in as many tries. “He stopped worrying about the last play. He went and played and took his responsibility seriously to his teammates.
“It is what you get into sports for,” McDaniel added. “It’s as cool for the coaching staff [as it is for] him. It was coming to life. I think it was a moment he’ll never forget that hopefully he can use going forward. … His teammates learned a lot about him.”
What did they learn Sunday? They have a quarterback capable of digging them out of the deepest of holes. After Jackson raced 79 yards to the end zone for his fourth all-purpose touchdown of the day, the Dolphins trailed 35-14 entering the fourth quarter.
No NFL team had won when trailing by 21 or more since 2010 — a span of 711 games, per ESPN Stats.
The Dolphins knew they needed scores and stops on basically every possession the rest of the way. Incredibly, they got them. The Dolphins scored touchdowns on all four of their fourth-quarter possessions.
And Tua was responsible for them all. He got it started early in the fourth by hitting River Cracraft from two yards out. Four and a half minutes later, he connected with Tyreek Hill on a 48-yard bomb.
Then after a defensive stop, Tua and Hill did basically the same exact thing again, this time going for 60 and the score. Finally, Jaylen Waddle gave the Dolphins their only lead of the game with 14 seconds left, pulling in a 7-yard go-ahead touchdown.
“We were executing on all cylinders offensively,” Tagovailoa said. “I’m always confident in what I can do, confident in myself,” Tua added. “But I think that just shows the resiliency of our team. It brings all of our confidence up. … If you look at the big picture of it, the confidence goes up.”
And so do the hopes of a region that can now allow themselves to truly dream.