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Everyone wants to make it about Tua Tagovailoa and Deshaun Watson in Miami. It’s not just about that for the floundering Miami Dolphins.
They have problems beyond just their chase for a new starting quarterback.
Maybe bigger problems.
Like talent regressing.
Like talent not being good enough.
“We didn’t do a good enough job, they made some plays,” coach Brian Flores said, echoing a sentiment he’s expressed before this season.
It was a tough week for Tagovailoa. And then Sunday’s game came and things got temporarily better for the second-year quarterback.
Tagovailoa completed 32 of 40 for 291 yards with a career-high 4 TD passes in giving the Dolphins a come-from-behind 28-27 lead with less than 3 minutes to play.
“He put us in position to win the game,” Flores said of the QB. “Overall, he did a lot of good things.”
But for the second consecutive week, the Miami defense folded when it mattered most. They allowed the Falcons to march down the field and get a game-winning field goal as time ran out.
It is the sixth consecutive loss for the Dolphins and they are on a collision course with seeing people fired at season’s end — likely general manager Chris Grier and possibly even Flores.
Despite this season’s apparent arc, the Dolphins have continued to flirt with the Houston Texans about trading for Watson.
In that regard, the team is seemingly trying to fix its disappointing season by putting it on a player in Tagovailoa, who has generally played well enough to win the past two weeks.
Yes, Tagovailoa had two interceptions on Sunday and one of those came right after the defense had handed him and his offensive teammates the football on a turnover. That led to the Falcons taking a 27-14 lead with nine minutes left in this game.
But Tagovailoa led back-to-back nine-play touchdown drives to give his team a 28-27 lead with 2:27 to play.
Tagovailoa had some cringe-worthy moments. But also moments of great clarity.
So what now?
Tagovailoa has been the topic of trade talks even as the Dolphins have been discussing another trade with the and the Miami quarterback is quite aware of the rumors.
He told the FOX Sports crew as much during their production meeting before Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. And QB coach Charlie Frye told the same crew he asked Tagovailoa to focus on his job and the game despite the distractions.
That worked for one series as the Dolphins scored on their opening drive Sunday.
And then the roof caved in.
Tagovailoa threw his two costly interceptions — one in the end zone, one following a potentially game defining turnover by the Falcons.
Let there be no mistake, the Dolphins are not losing because of Tagovailoa. Watching Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan dice up the Miami defense had to be difficult for Miami fans.
The Dolphins defense is supposed to be the team’s strength. Cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are the highest-paid cornerback duo in the NFL.
The unit was No. 6 in scoring defense in 2020. This year that same unit is 29th in scoring defense. And bottom five in total defense.
This on a team in which Flores is supposedly a defense-minded coach because he came to Miami after helping the New England Patriots win a Super Bowl as their defensive play-caller.
Despite this, something’s not working.
“It just seems like Atlanta mentally is in a better place in Year 1 than Miami is in Year 3 under Brian Flores,” FOXSports game analyst Darly Johnston said on the broadcast, comparing Atlanta’s rookie coach Arthur Smith to Flores.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero