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MIAMI – Tua Tagovailoa’s pocket collapsed before any of his recipients’ routes could fully develop.
The Miami Dolphins quarterback performed a play-action foul against the New York Jets in Week 11, but quickly found the Jets defensive end, John Franklin-Myers, in the chase. It was a familiar sight to Tagovailoa; Miami’s offensive line ranks dead end in the NFL in pass block victory rate – that’s part of the reason the Dolphins have run play action in 45% of league games since Week 10.
But also given his familiarity with facing pressure, Tagovailoa knew how to evade it. He stepped up in his pocket and threw a pass that raised 44.5 airyards to open receiver Mack Hollins, who had slipped past a busted cover for a 64-yard touchdown.
It’s a microcosm of Tagovailoa’s maturation in his second NFL season.
“I would say I learned a lot more by being able to play and then also be on the sidelines,” Tagovailoa said. “Understand a little more of the protection, understand where guys need to be within their route distribution and then also for myself, step up in my pocket, maneuver me through my pocket and then find the open guys.”
Miami is on a four-game winning streak, largely due to a defense that ranks second in the NFL in expected points added over the past four weeks. But Tagovailoa has done his part after a tough start to his season.
He was knocked out of the Dolphins’ game against Buffalo in Week 2 with a broken rib, and missed the team’s next three games. He also missed the game against the Houston Texans in Week 9 with the broken finger on his throwing hand, which kept him out the following week against Baltimore until he entered the game in the second half as relief from an injured Jacoby Brissett.
Tagovailoa threw 158 yards in the second half against the Ravens and scored the game-sealed TD on a 1-yard dive.
The good moods from that victory continue. Over the past two games, he has completed a league-leading 84.4% of his 64 passes with three touchdowns and one interception. On Sunday, he picked the NFL’s best passing defense in a 33-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers, where he completed 27 of 31 passes in 230 yards and a touchdown. It came after a similar performance against the Jets – 27-of-33 for 273 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.
“He gets better every time he steps on the field. I think he made a lot of good decisions today,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said after the Jets game. “I thought we moved the ball quite efficiently, especially in the second half. … Tua leads the way.”
Tagovailoa has had to get the ball out at the third-fastest speed in the NFL – 2.53 seconds, just behind Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, taken into account in Miami’s passing protection matches. He has been excellent when he has been able to make quick throws, throws in six touchdowns and no interceptions when he got the ball out within 2.5 seconds, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
And although Tagovaailoa’s 5.25 air yards per. attempt since week 10 is last in the NFL among qualified passers, his playmakers have averaged 6.1 yards after catching in the same span – the seventh highest grade in the league.
– NFL (@NFL) November 28, 2021
Rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle, Tagovailoa’s former teammate in Alabama and his go-to receiver, has 17 receptions on 19 goals over the last two games for 202 yards (11.9 per catch) and a touchdown.
On Sunday, Tagovailoa found him over the middle on another quarter-throw against the Panthers. Because Tagovailoa hit him in stride, Waddle turned a 20-yard catch into a 57-yard line that put Miami on the Panthers’ 14-yard line and led to a raging TD for returning Myles Gaskin four games later.
The four-game winning streak has put the Dolphins (5-7) back in the AFC playoff discussion, and their next two games are at home – Sunday (13.00 ET, Fox) against the New York Giants (4-7). and Dec. 19 against the New York Jets (3-8). The defense has clearly worn the Dolphins during this stretch, allowing 11.5 points per game. match. But the effort on that side of the ball would be in vain if the offense did not hold its end – it is the complementary football that every team longs for.
“We look like the team we would like to be at the beginning of this year,” Tagovailoa said after Sunday’s victory. “You know, it looked like a lot of guys went out there with confidence and knew what to expect offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. I would say this is the best we’ve played complementary football to date, but “There are still some games left on the pitch that we can fix.”