For those who know what kind of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is, it isn’t surprising that he led the NFL in passer rating in 2022. After all, he is the most efficient quarterback in college football history. Yes, he also led in college football’s passer efficiency rating as well. So, transferring that same kind of elite passing skill to the NFL is to be expected.

He had two bad games besides the two games where Tagovailoa was concussed in 2022. Outside of those concussed games, Tagovailoa had his worse passer-rated games of the year in two games. He also had a lot of very good games. But there is something that is a very common factor among the two bad games that Tagovailoa had. Simply said, the run game was missing. Those two bad complete games he played (Chargers and 49ers) had his lowest passer ratings of the year.

The 65.3 passer rating against the Los Angeles Chargers had less than 17 called rushing attempts. There were barely over 90 yards rushing, and Tagovailoa had 28 of those, which were scrambles, not called runs. Tagovailoa’s passer rating was higher in the 49ers game, even though there were fewer rushes. But having eight more rushing attempts in the Chargers game wasn’t the reason for the struggle. It was the time those rushes were called.

There were twelve run plays in the second and third quarters of the Chargers game. But there were only four run plays in the first and fourth quarters, two in the first and two in the fourth. Interestingly, the only two touchdowns the Dolphins scored came after running plays. The first touchdown was from a fumble recovery in the second quarter by Tyreek Hill from Jeff Wilson after a six-yard rushing attempt on the previous play. The second touchdown was a 60-yard pass to Tyreek Hill after four consecutive running plays, one being a scramble by Tua.

The run game is especially important for a quarterback like Tagovailoa, who specializes in play-action passes. Out of all NFL quarterbacks in 2022, Tagovailoa had the third most play-action pass yards (1431 yards), just short of 11 yards from being the leader. He threw 159 play-action passes last season, which was the third most play-action passes in the NFL.

Tagovailoa’s second-lowest passer rating of the season was against the San Francisco 49ers with a 79.7 passer rating. During that game, only eight rushing attempts were made in the entire game.

In comparison, Tagovailoa’s highest passer-rated game was against the Detroit Lions, with a 138.7 passer rating. The biggest difference is that the ball was run 26 times, with five of those being scrambles by Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa had two more with a passer rating over 135. Against the Chicago Bears, there were 23 rushes, and there were 34 rushes against the Cleveland Browns.

For Tagovailoa to be effective, there must be a run game, especially to set up the play-action pass. Without it, the game is off.

However, it isn’t just for Tagovailoa. This is a universal rule of thumb in all of the NFL. It is false if a modern-day analyst tries to say that you don’t win in the NFL with the run game anymore. The highest passer rating in a single game in 2022 was New York Giants Daniel Jones’ 153.3 rating against the Houston Texans. There were 47 rushing attempts in that game, with Saquon Barkley’s most rushing attempts in any NFL game last year with 35.

Yes, there are running backs there are superior to others. But to have them and not utilize them is ineffective. Even Patrick Mahomes was able to play off 26 rushes in the Super Bowl, giving him the win with a 131.8 passer rating.

The answer is simple this year. Run the ball! If the run is utilized, then what Tua will be able to do in games will be unstoppable. Run the ball!