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Suddenly hot Miami Dolphins give Tua Tagovailoa big help in first NFL start over Rams

Eric Edholm
·3-min read

Tua Tagovailoa lost a fumble, didn’t break the 100-yard passing mark and barely completed half his passes Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams at Hard Rock Stadium.

But his Miami Dolphins teammates made sure that Tagovailoa didn’t go away a loser in his first NFL start thanks to a tremendous all-around effort.

In an eight-minute span in the second quarter, the Dolphins turned a 7-7 tie into a 28-7 lead thanks to a defensive touchdown, a special-teams score and a Rams turnover that they turned into points in a 28-17 win.

“I don’t think I played to the standard that this offense is capable of,” Tagovailoa said after the game. “Thank God we’ve got a good defense.”

The suddenly hot Dolphins are now 4-3, winners of three straight and four out of five games after opening the season 0-2. They trail only the 6-2 Bills in the AFC East and are two games up on the 2-5 Patriots in the loss column.

The Rams fell to 5-3, as their offense has struggled in recent games. Jared Goff was picked twice and lost two fumbles in the first half alone. Miami converted a strip sack of Goff — who was smashed by Miami’s Emmanuel Ogbah on the play — for a 78-yard fumble-return score by Andrew Van Ginkel.

After a Rams three-and-out, the Dolphins’ Jakeem Grant zoomed 60 yards for a punt-return touchdown, giving Miami a 21-7 lead.

Goff’s second fumble of the first half came shortly thereafter, and Miami’s Kyle Van Noy returned it to the Los Angeles 1-yard line. Stunningly, it was 28-7 despite the Dolphins logging only 61 yards of offense and five first downs to that point.

The Rams outgained the Dolphins, 471 yards to 145. The last time a team with fewer than 150 yards of offense beat a team with more than 450 yards was Dec. 24, 2000, when the Baltimore Ravens beat the New York Jets.

Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa made his first NFL start Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams at Hard Rock Stadium. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa made his first NFL start Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams at Hard Rock Stadium. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Tua’s rough start

Tagovailoa, who made his NFL debut two weeks ago in mop-up time against the New York Jets, was named the Dolphins’ starter prior to the team’s Week 7 bye. The timing was interesting, as previous starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing well and had Miami in the playoff picture.

Tagovailoa was expected to need to knock some rust off, having not played in a game since last Nov. 16 with Alabama, when he suffered a season-ending hip injury against Mississippi State.

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft had some of that rust knocked out of him early by the Rams’ Aaron Donald. Tagovailoa was sacked by Donald in a welcome-to-the-NFL moment and had the ball stripped on just his second NFL dropback.

“I don’t know who it was that took me off my feet and body-slammed me,” Tagovailoa said. “I’m not going to lie, I did enjoy getting hit that first time.”

To his credit, Tagovailoa hit DeVante Parker on a nice 3-yard touchdown pass, trusting his receiving by throwing the ball before he had fully turned around.

It was mostly a tough game for the rookie, who completed only 12 of 22 passes for 93 yards and that one score.

The last time a rookie quarterback won his first NFL start with fewer than 100 yards? That would be Andy Dalton back on Sept. 11, 2011, and Dalton was knocked out of that game early.

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