Tua Tagovailoa’s numbers said he merited a different outcome.
These were the stats that the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback posted on Sunday: 32 of 40 passing, 291 yards, four touchdowns. There had been only one prior instance of a quarterback being that accurate, and throwing for that many yards and touchdowns, in a loss.
That quarterback was Matt Ryan — the player who outdueled Tagovailoa on Sunday in Atlanta’s 30-28 win over Miami. The Dolphins have lost six consecutive games, remain alone in last in the AFC East, and with about a week before the trade deadline it stands to reason that rumors about Miami’s interest in Houston’s Deshaun Watson will only intensify.
“I hear it. I do hear it,” Tagovailoa said of trade talks. “The thing is, I just don’t listen to it.”
The two sides of the Tagovailoa argument in Miami — keep him or get someone else — both got fuel for their respective fires Sunday.
On the one hand, completing 80% of his passes, throwing for a career-high four scores and putting Miami in the lead after a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter all surely steeled the pro-Tua crowd. On the other, he threw two critical interceptions, both poor decisions, both likely costing Miami points and both giving the Falcons the ball on possessions that they turned into points.
Quarterbacks as accurate, with as many yards and touchdowns as Tagovailoa was on Sunday, had been 45-1 in NFL history.
Make it 45-2.
“He is the same guy,” Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki said. “Never gets too high, never gets too low. He is confident. He knows what he is supposed to do. He goes out there and he executes at a high level, and I can’t say enough good things about him. I love playing with him and love having him back there, and he bounced back great. Played a hell of a game. Played tough. You can go on and on.”
Tagovailoa said he had talks with Dolphins coach Brian Flores during the week as the rumor mill churned again about Miami’s interest in Watson, who has not played this season. Watson asked the Texans for a trade after last season, about three months before it was learned that he was being accused of sexual assault and harassment in lawsuits filed by 22 women. Watson has not been charged with a crime.
If the situation distracted Tagovailoa, it didn’t necessarily show.
“It’s just, the margin for error is slim,” he said.
The Dolphins also had a field goal blocked Sunday, three points that might have come in handy at the end. But Tagovailoa also pointed the finger at himself after his two interceptions.
Incidentally, the only other player in NFL history before Sunday with all of Tagovailoa’s numbers against the Falcons — the completion rate, the yards, the touchdowns and the two interceptions — just happened to give him a pregame pep talk.
Dolphins legend Dan Marino had an 81%, four-touchdown, 332-yard, two-interception day for Miami against Pittsburgh on Nov. 1, 1987. Thing is, that day, Marino and the Dolphins drove for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and won 35-24.
“What we’ve got to do is continue to work,” Tagovailoa said. “I don’t see any other way that you look at that. I don’t think there’s a secret recipe for wins.”