The Dolphins have finally slayed the dragon. Or, in this case a Buffalo. 

Miami ended a seven-game losing streak to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday with a 21-19 victory. The game was incredibly weird as the Bills outgained the Dolphins in every metric, but Miami stepped up in big moments. 

Tua Tagovailoa stepped up this week despite dealing with ankle and back issues (I’m not going to speculate on a potential head injury). Taogvailoa finished with a modest stat line, completing 13-of-18 passes for 189 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. 

Compared to his stat line against the Ravens, it looks like this was a down week for the third-year signal caller. However, we’re going to argue it was actually a slightly more impressive performance. 

Let’s dive into the film. 

The Good Stuff 

This week’s YouTube breakdown comes courtesy of Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle. The video goes into a lot more detail, but the simple version is this throw might qualify as the best of Tagovailoa’s career. 

It’s a deep shot into a tight window with perfect placement, and Waddle didn’t even have to come back to the ball. 

It’s not the most impressive throw of all time, but when compared to a lot of what Tagovailoa has done thus far — it really stands out. 

When I’m evaluating college quarterbacks, I try to look for certain throws against specific coverages. Those throws can help determine how comfortable a quarterback would be against those concepts in the NFL. 

One of the best ones is called “The Cover-Two Hole Shot.” It’s exactly what the throw Tagovailoa makes in the clip above. 

The Bills’ defense is in a two-high safety look with the cornerbacks in underneath zone. The idea is to fit the ball along the sideline between the closing safety and the cornerback. 

Tagovailoa does this perfectly as he floats the ball into a tight window and places it perfectly in Alec Ingold’s hands. He ends up dropping the pass, but it’s great processing from Tagovailoa and great accuracy. 

Throws like this don’t pop up on Tagovailoa’s film a ton. He doesn’t challenge zone windows a ton, but when he does, it’s usually to the short flat or the middle of the field. He does that because his passes don’t lose velocity as they do on the outside. 

So, while this throw looks unspectacular, it’s good to see him try this window and even better to see him execute. 

A better safety might’ve closed the window better, but Tagovailoa needs to continue building his confidence on these types of passes. 

Speaking of good throws in the middle of the field, let’s talk about this beauty. When pundits like me talk about how “placement” is different from “accuracy,” we’re talking about plays like this. 

The Bills end up in a cover-three look after the motion man pulls one of the safeties out of the middle of the field. 

The Dolphins use play action to suck the middle linebackers towards the line of scrimmage and then try to get Waddle on a hook route right behind them — all pretty standard for McDaniel. 

However, Tagovailoa’s throw is what turns this into an explosive play. He hits Waddle on his outside shoulder, allowing him enough time to turn upfield and invade the safety who actually did a solid job coming downhill. 

Tagovailoa could’ve put this throw on Waddle’s other shoulder, and it would’ve been “accurate.” That would’ve been poor placement, though and likely prevented Waddle from getting any YAC. 

Tagovailoa’s arm strength is always a hot-button issue. I’m on record saying Tagovailoa’s arm is strong enough, and it’s throws like this that prove my point. 

This tight window touchdown pass to River Cracraft is a bullet into a tight window. It required a fastball and keen anticipation. Pause the video when Tagovailoa winds up to throw, and look at where Cracraft is. He’s not even close to open. 

Tagovailoa throws the ball to a spot where he knows his receiver will end up. He trusted his receiver and his own eyes. That was something he struggled with a lot last season. 

What’s ironic about this throw is that it’s probably the wrong read. 

The Dolphins motion Raheem Mostert left to create a trips formation. The Bills’ defense is another two-high zone. The idea is for the outside receivers, Cracraft and Mike Gesicki in this case, to run in-breaking routes. 

This is supposed to condense the Bills’ zone towards the middle of the end zone. In the meantime, the inside receiver, Mostert here, runs a wheel route to the back pylon. It works, and Mostert is pretty open. 

However, Tagovailoa calls an audible and threads the needle to Cracraft instead. Either way, it would’ve worked, but Tagovailoa got himself an impressive tight window throw in the end. 

I’m sure you’re wondering why the play where Tagovailoa got hurt is in the good stuff section. Well, it’s because it’s actually a pretty solid throw moving to his left. 

Buffalo shows blitz up the middle at the snap but back out of it and drop into their normal two-high look. 

However, Matt Milano still blitzes from Tagovailoa’s left, and Chase Edmonds does a poor job blocking him, leading to the pressure. Still, Tagovailoa escapes out to his left and delivers a catchable ball for a first down to Waddle. 

Why is this worth talking about? Do you remember this throw from Week 1 against the Patriots? 

The difference in arm strength here is staggering. That is not to say Tagovailoa’s arm suddenly got stronger, but it does at least serve as proof he can make these throws rolling to his left — something he’s struggled with. 

The Bad Stuff 

Tagovailoa played a super clean game against Buffalo. I had some minor gripes with a few other throws and decisions, but this was the only one that truly stood out. 

There are currently 59 views on that video, and I think I’m 58 of them. I can’t quite figure out why Tagovailoa decided to throw this pass. Maybe he thought Milano would carry the tight end down the seam? 

Maybe he thought he could fit that tight window, or maybe he just didn’t see Milano at all? Either way, it was by far the worst decision he made all game and could’ve ended up causing the Dolphins to lose. 

But Milano dropped it, and the rest is history. Still, Tagovailoa needs to work on getting these “goof” moments out of his game. He had fewer of them against Buffalo than he did against the Ravens so hopefully, that signals some progress. 

Conclusion 

This game stands out above the raunchy numbers Tagovailoa put up against the Ravens because it required him to do more high-level quarterbacking. 

He hit tight windows down the field. Hit hole shots against cover-two. Made pinpoint passes in big moments while still maximizing the YAC potential of his receivers. 

So much of what he did against Baltimore was letting Waddle and Tyreek Hill make plays for him. There’s nothing wrong with that, as I wrote last week, but from an individual standpoint, this was a more impressive performance. 

This game hasn’t changed my long-term thoughts on Tagovailoa’s ceiling. However, just like last week, this performance increases my confidence he’ll reach the ceiling I’ve set for him. 

Tagovailoa has a tough test on Thursday. He’s banged up going into a short week against a surging Bengals team while having to travel up north. Let’s see what Tagovailoa has for a follow-up performance.