The Miami Dolphins got off to a great start on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers on the first play quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit Trent Sherfield for a 75-yard catch and run to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead on the first play of the game. However, things went downhill from there, especially on offense. In the next 24 plays, the Dolphins gained 82 yards.
Going into the game, the Dolphins knew they would be playing without Austin Jackson and Terron Armstead on the offensive line, and it was going to be a tough match-up against the 49ers’ defense, which is one of the best if not the best, in the NFL. I thought the offensive line in the first half did a decent job, especially in pass protection, as Tagovailoa was sacked two times, and the running backs were more responsible than the line. The line gave up the pressure, but not as bad as a week ago to the lowly Houston Texans when Armstead went out with injury.
The problem in the first half of Tagovailoa was inaccurate with his throws, and that’s not something you see from him. If there is one part of his game that he is excellent at, it’s his accuracy on his throws to put the ball where the receiver can catch the ball and make a play, but after the Sherfield play, it wasn’t Tagovailoa’s day. These days happen, but if you were going to tell me before the game Tagovailoa was going to be inaccurate, I would have thought it would have been because of the pressure from the 49ers’ defense, considering the Dolphins were playing their backup tackles. However, Tagovailoa had time, and when pressured, it wasn’t in his face or where he had to run around. He had guys open in the flat and on simple short throws that he makes every game. There was one play in particular where he had running back Jeff Wilson open on a wheel route in the 2nd quarter, and his throw was off, and Wilson couldn’t adjust to make the catch. Wilson was so open if he had caught the ball in stride, it would have been a touchdown, but it was a missed opportunity. It was uncharacteristic for him to be off on his throws like that. Even Daryl Johnston, who was calling Sunday’s game for Fox, said he’s never seen Tagovailoa off like this when not pressured.
One thing Johnston mentioned during the broadcast was it would be the emotions of a big game on the road with a crown; He said that was normal and that it’s true players do get hyped up for big games like this between two winning teams in December and both teams in the first place. This was probably Tagovailoa’s first real big game since coming into the NFL, and if this is the case, he will have to keep his nerves down as best he can with every game riding on the playoffs from here on out. I’m a little surprised, Tagovailoa; this would be the case considering that he played so many big games at Alabama in the SEC, where every week was a big game, but this is the NFL and not college things are much different.
The Dolphins are in the driver’s seat for the playoffs, but that could change if they have a downhill spiral. I’m not saying that is going to happen by any stretch. The Dolphins should make the playoffs, but the AFC is much more competitive than the NFC. In the NFC, it’s possible right now that all four teams in the NFC East might make the playoffs, and you very rarely see that, but the NFC is so bad. This Sunday night, the Dolphins go to Los Angeles to play the Los Angeles Chargers, who are 6-6 and in the hunt for a wild card spot. The Dolphins need to win this game to keep the Chargers on the outside and for the head-to-head tiebreaker if a scenario comes down to that. Tagovailoa can’t have another off-game like that.
I’m sure Tagovailoa will play better for the rest of the year. As much as he has improved, if the Dolphins go on a slide and miss the playoffs, Tagovailoa will get the blame, and questions will come up about whether he should be the quarterback moving forward, but that’s getting ahead of myself. All quarterbacks have bad days missing throws. Even Dan Marino had a few as great as he was. Tagovailoa needs to put this behind him.