For one half of football on Sunday nothing was different for Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins.
Even the most ardent Dolphins fans, and perhaps some folks within the organization, watched with little hope as the Dolphins fell 21 points behind the Baltimore Ravens headed into the fourth quarter with a quarterback who had already thrown two interceptions.
And then the fourth quarter came around and lightning struck.
Alabama Tua Tagovailoa showed up.
Maybe the real Tua Tagovailoa showed up.
Tagovailoa threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter — including a 48-yard bomb and a 60-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill and 7-yard game winner to Jaylen Waddle with 14 seconds to play — to lift the Dolphins in a stunning and electric 42-38 comeback miracle for the win.
Read that last paragraph again because it’s been a long time since I wrote anything like it.
“We were executing on all cylinders,” Tagovailoa said afterward. “And when we weren’t executing, no one panicked.”
The Dolphins quarterback played like an elite NFL quarterback. And he beat an elite NFL quarterback on the other side of the field who also had a great game.
This was as if Dan Marino just outdueled Jim Kelly or John Elway.
It’s been a long time for the Dolphins since those kind of performances punctuated seasons.
The last time a Dolphins quarterback threw 6 TD passes in one game was when Marino did it on Sept. 21, 1986.
And here is Tua tying that mark and leading the biggest comeback in franchise history since 2005.
“It feels good,” Tagovailoa said. “You look at the first half, we couldn’t stick to our rhythm. For me, I wanted big plays and big plays now and so in the second half we came in and played the way we wanted to. That’s what I’d say about that.”
And that leads to the question for the Dolphins that today gets a pleasant answer.
The question is about Tagovailoa — or has been.
Tagovailoa had a career day on par with great quarterbacks in the league. He threw for 469 yards and connected on those 6 touchdowns. He became the first NFL quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards and 5-plus TD in one game since Patrick Mahomes did it last November.
The Dolphins hadn’t had a quarterback performance like that since Dan Marino did it in 1994.
So while Tagovailoa had some cringe-worthy moments in throwing his two interceptions, he overcame those, overcame a solid Baltimore defense and overcame doubt from cynics, and joined some big names with this performance.
This game is going to change the narrative on Tagovailoa.
Until Sunday that narrative was that when the opposing quarterback was dynamic or doing dynamic things, Tagovailoa could not respond. He could not match that level of play.
Tagovailoa, we mostly believed, is a solid quarterback that does good things when the offense remains on schedule.
But ask him to lead a big comeback or put up a lot of points like his counterpart and it gets rough.
And then this game happened and the narratives now goes in the trash can.
Tagovailoa in many respects — including the most important one, which is his team emerged victorious — outplayed Jackson.
And so this gives hope that it’s a launching point for a career that was so far good but not great. The Dolphins and their fans hope this game in which Tua was great, can continue to orbit at such heights.
The Dolphins need that.
Because they play in a division with Josh Allen and in the same conference as Mahomes, Joe Burrow and eventually Deshaun Watson. Until now those were depressing facts for Dolphins fans.
But this one suggests Tagovailoa can play at that level. Win at that level.
The Dolphins, by the way, will test that new narrative right away. They host the Bills and Allen next Sunday. They have lost seven consecutive games against the AFC East’s best team and have been outscored 117-37 the last three meetings.
But to the next meeting the Dolphins will bring a quarterback that has finally shown he can play on an elite level in the NFL.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero