This is another familiar feeling for Miami Dolphins fans. The team was close to getting a signature win, only to fall short against the defending champs in Germany. 

The Dolphins had every opportunity to beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday but fell to 6-3 on the season and without a win against a team with a winning record. 

For his part, Tua Tagovailoa completed 61.8 percent of his passes for just 193 yards and one touchdown. The Dolphins’ offense never found a rhythm on Sunday, and by extension, neither did Tagovailoa. 

Tagovailoa’s 193 yards is the lowest output since putting up 145 yards in last year’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. It was an uncharacteristically non-explosive game by the Dolphins’ offense. 

What happened? It was a combination of good defense, penalties, near misses, and back-breaking mistakes in big moments. All of that culminated in an incredibly underwhelming performance. 

Let’s dive into the film to see what it shows from Sunday’s loss. 

The Good Stuff

Let’s start with some of the good stuff from Sunday’s game. This throw came early in the game when Miami’s offense ripped off at least a few chunk plays. 

The highlight here is how well Tagovailoa anticipates this throw into a small window off of play action. He ends up threading this needle into a window with four nearby defenders. 

Timing, anticipation, and accuracy are all on point. It’s the bread and butter that has made Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense so dynamic this season. 

It took Miami a long time to get into the endzone on Sunday, but it finally did with this pass to Cedrick Wilson Jr., of all people. One of the hardest things about writing this column every week is judging quarterback intent. 

How intentional was a specific action or placement? It’s hard to know, but given what we know about Tagovailoa, it’s fair to give him credit for the placement on this ball. 

There are a few things to note. Wilson is supposed to be running a corner to the back pylon. However, he gets jammed up and doesn’t generate a ton of separation — a theme of Sunday’s game. 

So, instead of chucking the ball where he thinks Wilson will end up, Tagovailoa correctly reads the leverage and throws a back shoulder jump ball. That allows Wilson to go up and highpoint the ball with little interference from the cornerback. 

The other thing to note with this throw is how Tyreek Hill’s crossing route influences the deep safety. The safety knows Miami likes to win on in-breakers in the middle of the field. He also knows Tagovailoa wants to target Hill more often than not on those concepts. 

So when he sees Hill breaking across the middle, he steps up. This pulls him out of the range to make a play on an intentionally underthrown deep ball. Miami using Hill as a decoy is where some of its best offense comes from, and it’s something they’ll have to lean on a lot for the rest of the season. 

Near Misses

These plays are where the Dolphins lost. There were more overt mistakes like penalties, but they could’ve overcome them had some of these just misses gone the other way. 

This throw to Wilson is just an uncharacteristic miss from Tagovailoa. He leads Wilson much further than he should. If Wilson is where Tagovailoa throws this ball, Wilson gets his head taken off by the safety. 

Most weeks, this is routine. Tagovailoa makes this throw in his sleep. Things were just slightly off on Sunday. 

Speaking of plays the Dolphins usually make in their sleep, here’s one of Hill’s two crucial drops from Sunday. The throw isn’t “perfect,” whatever that’s supposed to mean these days. 

Tagovailoa could’ve kept this slightly more in Hill’s center mass. However, this throw is more than good enough, and Hill should’ve caught it. Tagovailoa threw the pass with good anticipation and dropped it about 30 yards down the field. 

You can’t ask your quarterback to do much more than that. But again, what’s usually routine for the Dolphins just wasn’t on Sunday. 

Here’s the other Hill drop. Is this throw perfect? No. It’s slightly behind Hill when it should be in front to lead him into open space. 

That said, Hill should’ve caught this pass. He’s made much tougher catches on this exact concept in the past two years. Quarterbacks can’t be perfect all the time. This isn’t a remotely hard adjustment for Hill. 

For Tagovailoa, it’s odd to see him be a little off on this throw and the similar one to Wilson early. Even before Tagovailoa made all his improvements this season, he was deadly accurate on these throws. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. 

Okay, last one in this category. This throw got a lot of fanfare on Twitter because, at first glance, it looked like Tagovailoa had maybe one of the worst underthrows of all time in a huge spot. 

Anyone with critical thinking skills could’ve identified something else was the culprit once given time to watch the play a few times. Head coach Mike McDaniel and Tagovailoa both identified the culprit as a miscommunication. 

Basically, Tagovailoa signaled Wilson to run route, and Wilson thought it meant a different route. We’re guessing, but based on the film, Tagovailoa likely wanted Wilson to throttle his route down because of the impending blitz. 

Tagovailoa didn’t think he would have time to hit Wilson down the field. However, Wilson saw the empty middle of the field and figured he could get behind the defense. 

Again, we’re guessing based on the situation. Either way, this was a crucial third down with Miami in position to tie the game. This miscommunication can’t happen in this spot. Blame everyone or nobody — it was a huge miss. 

Bad Snap

In the spirit of putting other narratives to bed, let’s take a quick look at the Dolphins’ final play from Sunday. At first glance, it looked like a bad snap from Conner Williams. It was less about the accuracy and more about the speed.

This angle is why everyone makes a big deal out of the All-22. It’s so easy to see this play is on Tagovailoa. It’s a perfectly catchable snap from Williams, who fired it quickly because he had to deal with pressure up front. 

It’s pretty standard for centers to do that. If you listen to Jason Kelce’s podcast, he talks about this all the time. 

It’s the same conversation about Hill’s drops from earlier. Those throws weren’t perfect, but there’s no doubt he should’ve caught them. This snap wasn’t perfect, but Tagovailoa should’ve caught it. 

That mistake just can’t happen in that spot. 


Here’s an excerpt from last week’s article: 

“Next week is a different story. It’s another gut-check game for Tagovailoa. It’s another chance to take down a legitimate contending team — a chance to out-duel the NFL’s best quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. 

Don’t ignore the Chiefs’ defense, either. They’re quite good and will send a lot of pressure Tagovailoa’s way. Next week’s game matters more.”

So, if this one mattered more, what did we learn about Tagovailoa? It’s the same lesson we learned after the Eagles game. Tagovailoa was far from the reason Miami lost on Sunday. There were a myriad of issues on offense. 

Some were in his control, and others weren’t, but he wasn’t bad on Sunday. He was indeed just “okay.” Here’s the thing: when you’re trying to take down the defending champions, “okay” just isn’t good enough. 

Tagoavailoa was accurate on Sunday, but he wasn’t precise. That’s the difference between teams that find a way to win and those that don’t. 

“Elite” quarterbacks have to be better than that in games that matter. And don’t be mistaken, this game mattered. The narrative that Miami doesn’t play well against good teams has legitimate weight. The sample size is big enough now to say that with certainty. 

After the Eagles game, we held onto some optimism by saying the Dolphins and Tagovailoa are closer than ever to taking that next step. 

That’s still true. If Hill makes a few catches or Tagovailoa is on the same page as Wilson, we might be talking about a signature comeback win instead of another disappointing defeat. 

Eventually, though, the “ifs” and “buts” will run their course. The Dolphins are close, and there’s no reason to panic, but close doesn’t count. 

If Tagovailoa wants to be considered an elite quarterback — up there with Mahomes, Lamar, Burrow, and whoever else you think lands in that category — he has to put his Superman cape on and beat a good team in a game that matters. 

We’ve seen the glimpses, but the results have to start following. McDaniel said it best after the game. 

“But that’s on us collectively from coaches and players alike to — if you want the narrative to change, change the narrative.”