The Miami Dolphins won their second straight game on Sunday, Tua Tagovailoa had a bounce-back performance, and the team made a splash at the trade deadline on Tuesday. 

Things are good in South Florida as Miami prepares for another NFC North opponent, the surprisingly frisky Chicago Bears. However, before moving ahead, let’s look back to last Sunday and evaluate Tagovailoa’s performance against the lowly Lions. 

Spoiler alert! He was pretty good in a game where he completed 29-of-36 passes for 382 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. 

The Good Stuff

As always, we’ll start with the good stuff. This play represents a classic Tagovailoa strength — placement in the middle of the field. It’s important to note this because he struggled with his placement against the Steelers in Week 7. 

That wasn’t the case against Detroit. This play is an RPO concept with a TE (Mike Gesicki) coming across the formation to simulate split zone action before heading to the flat. The two outside WRs run a wheel and a vertical down the seam. 

Tagovailoa does a tremendous job placing this ball on Jaylen Waddle’s back shoulder allowing him to sit down and not take a hit. Additionally, the low, outside throw prevented the sitting zone linebacker from making a PBU. 

This play required pinpoint accuracy and quality anticipation into a crowded zone window. It’s good to see Tagovailoa get back to his consistent success on these concepts and throws. 

This throw is important to include because it highlights the impact Tyreek Hill makes on the game even when he’s not catching the football. 

Forcing teams to guard Hill and Waddle — a bad team like the Lions no less — just isn’t fair. Miami has three receivers to the top of the screen with Hill in the slot and Waddle closest to the line of scrimmage. 

Waddle runs a switch/wheel route has Hill runs a short in-breaker. Watch how the Lions attempt to bracket Hill in coverage with the cornerback and safety, and keep your eyes on the other safety. 

Where are his eyes? On Hill. There are essentially three players focused on Hill, which allows Waddle to win his vertical against a cornerback with absolutely no help over the top. Great marriage of play design and skillsets. 

For Tagovailoa’s part, this throw isn’t exactly hard, but I do think his rainbow touch throws haven’t been as dynamic this season, so it’s nice to see him drop an easy one in the bucket. 

Everyone does their part, and it’s an easy touchdown. 


This is another touchdown pass worth discussing. Both Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel and Gesicki said this play required Tagovailoa to get to his fourth progression. 

The most impressive part of Tagovailoa’s performance from Saturday wasn’t any individual throw he made but instead how quickly he moved through progressions. 

It might’ve been the best showing he’s had in that area since his time at Alabama. 

This throw is a great example. The Dolphins motion Raheem Mostert out of the backfield, and based on how the Lions’ defense reacts Tagovailoa knows they’re in some kind of zone coverage.

His progression starts at the top of the screen where he’s got an in-breaking route that is basically bracketed by two defenders. He comes off to the middle of the field where he’s got two receivers running stop routes. Hill is directly in the middle, and Waddle is a little bit outside. 

The Lions have this covered pretty well too, so he comes off of it to Gesicki, who is running a crossing route to the corner of the endzone.

The idea on this concept is for Gesicki to clear out those sitting zone linebackers and open up Hill and Waddle’s routes in the middle of the field. However, they stay home, allowing Gesicki to run to open space in the end zone. 

Tagovailoa sees this, lets the ball fly, and puts just the right amount of touch on the ball to protect Gesicki from taking a big hit. 

Accuracy, anticipation, and processing are all on point in this play. 

Tagovailoa took a jab at the narrative he’s a bad deep ball thrower this week during his press conference. It seemed like a weird time to do it since every true deep ball he threw against Detroit was underthrown. Or so we thought. 

This incompletion got lost in the shuffle, and Tagovailoa is right this does show improvement on the deep ball. 

Hill is running a deep post as the Lions spin into a two-high look post-snap. This is a solid beater for this play since the safety has to get back to his spot while also racing Hill — a losing proposition for the safety. 

Tagovailoa sees this and lets the ball fly from his own 35-yard line, and it lands on the Lions’ 15-yard line. Hill never breaks stride, and the pass hits him in the hands. Detroit’s safety made a nice play to force a contested catch, robbing Tagovailoa and Hill of another highlight. 

This throw is arguably the best deep ball of Tagovailoa’s career. It’s perfectly placed, into a tight window, and it didn’t force Hill to work back to the ball barely at all. If Tagovailoa really wants to start flipping that narrative he’ll need more throws like this one. 

The Meh Stuff

Quick reminder, this category is for plays that while totally fine could’ve been a little better. The throw above is one of those true deep balls Tagovailoa underthrew on Sunday. 

Hill runs right by both Lions’ defenders and could’ve had an easy touchdown if led properly. This throw didn’t slide into the “bad” category is for two reasons. 

One, it’s a good read. The Dolphins are running a mirrored concept on third and long that asks the two outside receivers to run in-breaking routes while the slot receivers run clear-out verticals. 

Similar to the Gesicki touchdown, this is designed to open up the underneath routes. However, Hill is just so fast he splits the defenders creating a big play opportunity. Tagovailoa deserves credit for seeing that and trusting his guy to bail him out if he underthrew it. 

Two, he had some pressure coming into his face. Tagovailoa had room to step up into this throw. Pressure was coming, but it wasn’t quite on top of him. However, given his recent injury history it’s understandable he didn’t want to take that hit. 

All in all, it’s a solid play that resulted in a conversion, but it could’ve been a great play and a touchdown. 

This deep ball lands in this category for most of the same reasons as the last one. It’s underthrown, so it can’t quite sneak into the “good” category. 

With that said, it’s encouraging to see Tagovailoa continually get more aggressive. He avoids pressure and thinks about making a big play down the field. Last season, this would’ve been a dump-off or a short scramble. 

But Tagovailoa’s confidence in himself and trust in Hill is at an all-time high, so he lets it fly. Hill makes a play for him, and Miami’s offense keeps on rolling. 

Did Tagovailoa get bailed out? Sure. Is that the most important takeaway from this throw? Probably not! There will be regression at some point on throws like this (think the Cincinnati INT), but Tagovailoa’s head is in the right place. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. 

The Bad Stuff 

We’ve got a short “bad” section this week as just one throw truly felt bad enough to include. It was this early throw to Gesicki, which is incredibly easy to explain. 

Tagovailoa just missed it. It happens to everyone, and it happened to him on this throw. This throw is too high and too far to Gesicki’s left. 

He’s lucky Gesicki got a hand on it because Jeffery Okudah — the only Lions secondary player who is worth mentioning by name — would’ve had an easy INT. 

After this, Tagovailoa was generally on point the rest of the game. 


In last week’s article, we wrote about how Tagovailoa had a bad performance against the Steelers, and there was no need to worry because it wasn’t a trend yet. 

Well, it’s still not a trend because Tagovailoa was quite good on Sunday. Some have peddled Sunday’s performance as one of the best of his career, but that’s a stretch. 

The Lions are awful. This might be the most outmatched secondary in the entire sport. Besides Okudah, nobody could win in man coverage, and when they played zone, their communication was brutally bad. 

This is not to take anything anyway from Tagovailoa. Good quarterbacks are supposed to slice and dice awful defenses, which he undoubtedly did. However, when judging this game against his other performances, it’s important to note just how little resistance Detroit’s defense offered in this game. 

He deserves credit for playing well, but his performance on film when factoring difficulty of the opponent still pales in comparison to his second half against Baltimore, or his performance against Buffalo. 

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