Have you heard of Murphy’s Law? It’s the idea that anything that can go wrong will go wrong in any situation. 

Well, that’s what happened to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The team suffered a crushing 56-19 defeat and lost several key players to injury (Xavien Howard, Bradley Chubb). Even the individual game felt like an exercise in Murphy’s namesake. 

For every one-handed catch the Ravens made, the Dolphins dropped a touchdown. The defense gave them a spark by forcing a fumble, only for Miami to give the ball right back on an interception. 

For Tua Tagovailoa, Week 17 got off to a great start and quickly spiraled into a rough outing. He finished the game 22 of 38 for 237 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. 

The film isn’t great, but it’s not as bad as his stats indicate. Let’s dive into the good, bad, and ugly from Sunday’s loss. 

Tua All-22 vs. Ravens

Great Start

As we said, Tagovailoa got off to a great start on Sunday. He was four of five on the game’s opening drive, which ended with this touchdown pass to Cedrick Wilson. 

The key player to watch is Ravens LB Roquan Smith. When Tyreek Hill runs the underneath route, it draws Smith’s eyes. That opens the window for Wilson to catch the ball right in front of the safety. 

This is Tagovailoa at his best in the redzone. He’s got no fear to grip it and rip it in the middle of the field. His trust and anticipation generated a touchdown and an early lead for the Dolphins. 

This is another throw from the first half where Tagovailoa looked like his usual self. Miami has done a nice job of getting Durham Smythe more involved in the passing game the past few weeks, and this play is another excellent example. 

Again, the player in conflict is Roquan Smith. He bites on the underneath curl route, allowing Smythe to sneak into the middle of the field. Tagovailoa does an excellent job throwing the ball on time and target, so Smythe doesn’t take too big of a hit. 

This is a big-boy throw, and Tagovailoa makes them every game. 

This throw is arguably one of Tagovailoa’s best from this season, especially when factoring in the situation. It’s fourth and 5 from the Ravens’ 45, and Baltimore leads by four. 

Miami knows they have to push for as many points as possible, given their defensive shortcomings to this point in the game. 

So they dial up a bold call to go for it, and Tagovailoa delivers a beautiful pass over Hill’s shoulder for 25 yards. The Ravens made a bold call of their own, playing Cover-1 man across the board. 

Tagovailoa saw this pre-snap, picked his best 1-on-1 matchup, and let the ball fly. Tagovailoa has his faults, but this is an elite throw in a tough spot against an overwhelmingly talented opponent. 

Things felt different after Miami converted and made the score 14-13. It felt like these teams would be duking it all day, and then … 

The Spiral

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment things got out of control for Miami. The Ravens scored on a one-play touchdown drive following Miami’s field goal to make it 14-13. Then, Tagovailoa threw this INT. 

Remember the first two plays we showed? The conflict player was Roquan Smith, and Miami was picking on him slightly. Well, he got his revenge with this wildly impressive interception. 

Tagovailoa was rushing to get one final play in before the two-minute warning, attempting to maximize every single piece of time Miami had. It’s an understandable feeling. The Dolphins now trailed 21-13, and Baltimore was set to receive the second-half kick. 

In the moment, it’s not surprising this play was rushed. In hindsight, it was the wrong choice. Rushing the play also rushed Tagovailoa’s process. He stared his receiver down right off the snap. 

That allowed Smith, who appears to be operating almost like a robber in a Cover-3 look, to get underneath the route and make a tremendous catch. This is equal parts a poor throw from Tagovailoa and a great play by Smith. 

The second INT is still a great play by the Ravens, but Tagovailoa shares more of the blame this time. Like the one above, this looks like a situation where Tagovailoa is pressing. 

He knows he’s down and knows the Dolphins have to be perfect to make the comeback. However, this is far from perfect. There are at least four and, arguably, five Ravens’ defenders in the picture. 

Tagovailoa has made a career out of making tight window throws into the middle of the field. But no version of this play ends with a completion. Some will point to the tip leading to the INT, which is true. 

However, the only reason the ball was tipped in the first place was because Tagovailoa threw it into a covered window. Postgame, Tagovailoa said he should’ve taken more check-downs, and it’s hard to imagine he wasn’t talking about this throw. 

Don’t Panic About Tua

Alright, so Tagovailoa started hot and then folded — a bit — trying to claw Miami back into the game. What does it mean? 

This wasn’t Tagovailoa’s worst game of the season by a long shot. Offensively, it feels like Miami ran into a buzzsaw. The Ravens’ defense had answers for everything, and Miami’s defense couldn’t keep the game close. 

The most concerning part about Tagovailoa’s performance is less about one throw or read. It’s more about how he reacted to falling behind. His “I need to make things happen” reaction wasn’t wrong. 

He just tried to erase Miami’s deficit all at once a few times, and good teams — like Baltimore — will make you pay for that. Tagovailoa has done this before, though. It just looked worse without Waddle, Mostert, and the defense giving up points like they’re going out of style. 

Next Week Matters (Duh)

In this column, we’ve discussed how some games matter more than others. And how — fair or not — quarterbacks are judged on results. Next week’s game is a legacy game for Tagovailoa. 

The injuries won’t be a good enough excuse if Miami doesn’t win. The Dolphins need him to be Superman next week because that’s what elite quarterbacks do in big moments. 

There is no better chance for Tagovailoa to silence doubters than beating Josh Allen and the Bills to secure the No. 2 seed and the AFC East crown. 

Tagovailoa doesn’t really have a signature win on his resume. The Dallas game is close, but let’s be honest. That win will go out the window if Miami doesn’t beat the Bills this week. 

Next week is the chance Tagovailoa was robbed of last season by his injuries. With a win against Buffalo and a win in the Wild Card round, Tagovailoa can challenge many narratives. Regardless of the outcome, he’ll still be a “good” quarterback. One won’t define his career. 

The question is: Can he be more than that? The next two weeks are an opportunity to state that he can be — emphatically and without a doubt. 

Despite Sunday’s loss, everything is still in front of Miami and Tagovailoa. To be an elite team and player, these are games you have to play well in and win. 

The following two weeks will tell us a lot about QB1.