The Miami Dolphins took another step toward their first playoff appearance since the 2016 campaign.
Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins defeated Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals 34-31 in Sunday's thrilling showdown between high-profile young quarterbacks at State Farm Stadium. Tagovailoa was brilliant and led the way for a Miami squad that is 5-3 and within striking distance of the 7-2 Buffalo Bills in the AFC East following a fourth straight win.
Murray was also incredible, but Zane Gonzalez missed a 49-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining. As a result, the Cardinals dropped to 5-3 as their own three-game winning streak came to an end.
Notable Player Stats
- Tua Tagovailoa, QB, MIA: 20-of-28 for 248 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INT; 7 carries for 35 yards
- Preston Williams, WR, MIA: 4 catches for 60 yards, 1 TD
- Kyler Murray, QB, AZ: 21-of-26 for 283 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT; 11 carries for 106 yards, 1 TD
- Chase Edmonds, RB, AZ: 25 carries for 70 yards; 3 catches for 18 yards
- Christian Kirk, WR, AZ: 5 catches for 123 yards, 1 TD
Tua Puts on a Show in 2nd Start
The Dolphins are much improved and battling for the playoffs this year, but the biggest storyline is still whether Tagovailoa can become the franchise quarterback they have been looking for since Dan Marino.
The No. 5 overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft led Miami to a win in his first career start against the Los Angeles Rams but threw for just 93 yards. He was surely looking for more on an individual level in his second start, especially since he was going to be compared to Murray in the head-to-head showdown.
Safe to say he provided more.
Jeff Darlington @JeffDarlington
Man, in just one game, Tua has really made some strides in terms of comfort. It almost feels like a slight blessing in disguise that he doesn’t have much of a backfield today. Miami is forced to put more weight on him — and he’s taking ownership. Moving well, throwing well.
Tagovailoa had more passing yards with over 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter than he did all last week, found Preston Williams with a deep ball to set up a touchdown pass to the same receiver and demonstrated plenty of poise while directing a field-goal drive in the final minute of the first half to give the Dolphins a 24-17 lead.
The first-half showing was also a sign of things to come, as Tagovailoa delivered under pressure in the fourth quarter with both his arm and legs. He showed off his running ability down seven by evading pressure, scrambling free and picking up key yards before capping off the drive with a perfectly placed touchdown pass to Mack Hollins.
He then drove the Dolphins into field-goal range in the final minutes, and Jason Sanders came through with what proved to be the winning kick. It was his second of 50 or more yards as perhaps the most important player for Miami outside of its quarterback.
Tagovailoa wasn't just brilliant. He turned in that performance against a Cardinals defense that entered play ninth in the league in points allowed per game, making it all the more impressive.
The Dolphins appear to have their franchise quarterback.
Kyler Incredible Even in Defeat
Murray might be the blueprint for Tagovailoa.
He flashed moments of brilliance during his rookie season as he established himself at the NFL level and is now appointment viewing as a highlight machine with his team in the middle of the playoff race in a daunting NFC West in his second year.
The Oklahoma product didn't look like a highlight machine when Shaq Lawson scooped up his fumble and returned it for the opening score, but he bounced right back with a touchdown pass to Maxx Williams on the ensuing possession before uncorking a beautiful deep ball to Christian Kirk for another touchdown in the first half.
Murray danced around defenders as a runner, hit underneath receivers in stride when given time in the pocket and underscored just how many ways he can hurt the defense with multiple long passes.
He got some help in the second half when tight end Darrell Daniels ripped what could have been an interception out of Byron Jones' hands in the end zone for a touchdown and then did it on his own with an option keeper to convert on fourth down before scoring with his legs to take the lead in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for Murray, that catch by Daniels was not the only help he needed.
Arizona didn't score in the fourth quarter largely because Chase Edmonds was stuffed on a fourth-down play and Gonzalez was somehow short on the 49-yarder at the end. It didn't help that head coach Kliff Kingsbury decided to kick it instead of go for it on 4th-and-1, and Murray could only watch as his team fell short in the biggest moments while relying on others.
Both teams are at home against AFC foes in Week 10 when the Dolphins face the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cardinals play the Buffalo Bills.