Well, that was a nice, stress-free football game, huh? The Miami Dolphins took the Washington Commanders to the cleaners on Sunday, beating them 45-15. The Dolphins are now 9-3 on the season and firmly in the race for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. 

One of the reasons Miami won so convincingly on Sunday was because of Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins’ QB1 wasn’t entirely playing up to his standards in recent weeks, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday. 

He completed 18 of 24 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns, and zero turnovers. It was an efficient day where Tagovailoa wasn’t asked to do much. That’s not a knock on him but a testament to how much better Miami’s roster is than Washington’s. 

Let’s dive into the tape to break down some of Tagovailoa’s better throws from Sunday’s game. 

Tua All-22 vs. Commanders

Yet Another Controversial Deep Ball

Let’s get what seems to be the most controversial play out of the way first. This absolute bomb to Tyreek Hill is getting hotly debated online because Hill is defending Tagovailoa’s placement on the pass. 

Hill is claiming he ran the wrong route, and Tagovailoa threw the ball flawlessly, allowing Hill to adjust and make an excellent catch. 

Off-film, that explanation sort of makes sense. Initially, it looked like Tagovailoa threw the ball back shoulder by mistake or because he was worried about the middle of the field safety. 

However, that middle-of-the-field safety doesn’t have the depth to impact a well-thrown pass on the front shoulder. If you pause the video when Hill gets past the outside cornerback, it looks like every post route ever thrown. 

The ball is supposed to go into the middle of the field, hitting the receiver in stride for an easy touchdown. So, that framework leaves us with two options. 

One, Tagovailoa misjudged the deep safety and threw an unnecessary back shoulder ball. Two, Hill is telling the truth, and he was supposed to break outside on this concept. 

Here’s the thing. We can’t actually know the answer to that question without looking at Miami’s playbook. Both explanations are equally plausible, given the information we have. 

The big picture is what’s more important. Whether this throw was right or wrong, Hill and Tagovailoa are on the same page. Hill understands what his quarterback was doing and is vowing that next time, it’ll look a lot smoother. 

That’s all you can ask for. It speaks volumes about Hill’s relationship with Tagovailoa, which was missing during Tagovailoa’s early seasons. 

We can sit here and debate the quality of Tagovailoa’s throw all day. However, it ended in a touchdown, and both guys are on the same page about what needs to happen next time. 

It’s honestly not that deep. 

Pocket Movement

Moving onto something worth discussing in detail, let’s highlight a few of Tagovailoa’s impressive pocket movement throws. 

This first one came late in the first half, with the Dolphins facing a third and 12. LG Liam Eichenberg loses immediately off the snap, forcing Tagovailoa to deal with pressure much quicker than expected. 

Tagovailoa does an excellent job calmly sliding away from the pressure and keeping his eyes up. That allows him to drive a well-thrown pass right into Jaylen Waddle’s chest for a key first down. 

This throw is the difference between a touchdown and a field goal. Tagovailoa’s movement is subtle. It’s not a flashy play by any means, but it generated four extra points for Miami’s offense. 

This next one is much flasher. Washington gets a free rusher because of a well-schemed overload blitz to Tagovailoa’s left. 

Ideally, you’d like to see the quarterback throw hot, but hey, juking a man out of his shoes and throwing a strike is pretty good, too. 

It’s important to note these plays because Tagovailoa’s pocket presence sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Miami’s offensive line and scheme have kept him clean this season. 

If you go back and look at previous seasons (especially the Brian Flores era), you’ll see a lot of plays that look like the one above. Tagovailoa’s dead leg even shows up in his Alabama film. 

What’s different about this season is Tagovailoa is making defenses pay more often out of structure, something we’ve covered extensively in this column. Tagovailoa isn’t an elite QB out of structure, but he’s become functional this season. 

That improvement, combined with his aptitude for avoiding sacks in the pocket, is one of the most significant reasons he’s playing so well. 

Weekly In-Breaker

We joked about making this a running series last week, so here it is. Your weekly “wow, Tagovailoa’s anticipation in the middle of the field is special” throw. 

We had a few contenders this week, but this dart to Hill stood out because of the placement. This ball is thrown way before Hill arrives in the window and is put high on his front shoulder. 

That allowed him to snatch the ball and keep moving with little hesitation. This stuff is routine for Tagovailoa and Miami, but these throws are too fun to leave out. 


Wait, there are no bad plays this week? No questionable decisions or almost INTs? Nope. Tagovailoa made one small mistake we covered in the Twitter thread. 

But that throw was not worth breaking down in detail. Tagovailoa was efficient, calculated, and on time. Against a defense that wasn’t putting up much of a fight, that’s all that was needed. 

That’s the luxury of having a great roster. There are some games where you just outclass your opponent and don’t need a Superman performance from your quarterback. 

Sometimes, it’s as simple as “the other team isn’t capping Hill’s deep routes.” 

Week 14 features the Dolphins on Monday Night Football against the Tennessee Titans, who might somehow have a worse pass defense than Washington’s. 

We expect next week’s column to look roughly the same as this one.