Tua Tagovailoa proved he belonged as a starting quarterback in the NFL, having a breakout performance in the Miami Dolphins thrilling 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon -- out-dueling Kyler Murray in a battle between the two young quarterbacks. Tagovailoa finished 20 of 28 for 248 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, while also rushing for 35 yards on seven carries as Miami won its fourth game in a row.
Tagovailoa led the Dolphins from a seven-point deficit entering the fourth quarter, earning his first comeback victory in the NFL. On the Dolphins' final three possessions, Tagovailoa went 6 for 8 for 77 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and a 144.7 quarterback rating. He also had three carries for 24 yards, including the first-down run that sealed Miami's victory.
So much for the Dolphins auditioning Tagovailoa over these final 10 games. They have their franchise quarterback.
"He made a lot of plays for us, a lot of big plays, especially down the stretch when we needed it," Dolphins' head coach Brian Flores said after the win. "The stage wasn't too big for him tonight, he played well."
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Tagovailoa willed the Dolphins to two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to earn the victory. Trailing 31-24 with just under 12 minutes left, Tagovailoa ran 17 yards on second-and-4 to the Cardinals' 11 -- then followed with a touchdown pass to Mack Hollins in the corner of the end zone to tie the game on the next play. The Dolphins' quarterback then fired a 19-yard strike to Mike Gesicki to set up Jason Sanders' game-winning 50-yard field goal with 3:30 to play, giving Miami a 34-31 lead. When the Dolphins needed a first down to seal the victory after Zane Gonzalez missed the game-tying field goal, Tagovailoa was able to get a yard on third-and-1 -- becoming the first Dolphins to win his first two starts since Chad Henne 11 years ago.
"Unbelievable performance. I'm really proud of the whole offense. Came out here and executed and did what we need to do and any time you can end the game on a QB sneak is a favorite of mine, so that was great," said Dolphins center Ted Karras. "That one scramble where he split those guys was exceptional.
"I thought we did a good job in pass protection, but I don't think any moment is too big for Tua (Tagovailoa). He's a great leader and a great person and really works his absolute hardest and has gained the respect of everyone in that huddle, and we want to go to battle for him and keep winning games."
Tagovailoa has been efficient in his two starts, completing 64% of his passes for 341 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions -- finishing with a 103.8 passer rating. Tagovailoa's only turnover was on his first pass attempt in his first start -- going 108 straight snaps without turning the football over.
No matter how well Tagovailoa has played, he's getting all the support from his teammates -- and spreading the love back.
"It was a good win, first off. I think the biggest thing throughout the game was taking what the defense gave us and just taking it a play at a time, a snap at a time," Tagovailoa said. "I was very fortunate before that play to have run and got out of that pressure situation on third down. I think it's just taking it a play at a time. The plays that we've been given by our offensive coordinator (Chan Gailey) helped us get into situations where we could be successful offensively.
"Kudos goes to everyone up front with the O-line, the blocking with the backs and all the receivers making plays."