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The Miami Dolphins had a chance to make things so much better for themselves Sunday afternoon. And quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a chance to show himself as one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks leading a playoff-bound team.
Tagovailoa threw three second-half interceptions against the Green Bay Packers on three consecutive fourth-quarter possessions. And the result was a 26-20 Packers victory that kept Green Bay on a playoff footing…
…And delivered to the Dolphins their fourth consecutive loss and definitely their biggest disappointment of the season.
That’s how it feels because this one suggests all the improvement the Dolphins have seen from Tagovailoa this year has been lost over the past month. The Dolphins went 0-for-December and during that skid Tagovailoa has managed only one game when his play was acceptable — last week in a loss at Buffalo.
Tagovailoa’s early season improvements have faded in the chilly pressure-packed days of a playoff push. He, like the entire Dolphins team, is in regression mode now.
Tagovailoa Misses The Chance To Be Elite
It didn’t have to be that way.
Despite throwing interceptions on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter — a loft into coverage that Jaire Alexander easily caught, and then a miscommunication on a route that linebacker De’Vondre Campbell stepped in to snare — Tagovailoa and the Dolphins still had a chance to save this game.
They had the ball at their own 28 yard line with 1:56 to play. They trailed by 6.
An elite quarterback playing in Miami’s good weather conditions at home should drive his team for a winning touchdown. Dan Marino did it countless times. The NFL’s best do it every weekend as if by routine.
Simple as that.
Tagovailoa knows this.
“We got to go win this,” Tagovailoa said, sharing his thoughts at the start of that fateful final possession. “That’s how that was. We got to go win this.”
But Tagovailoa instead threw his third interception of the game to end Miami’s hopes for a heroic comeback. Rodgers kneeled a couple of times to seal the Packers victory.
“Very unfortunate,” Tagovailoa added. “It was terrible how everything ended. Like I told the guys, ‘That’s on me.’ And I’ll definitely get better from that.”
Dolphins’ Tagovailoa Says Right Things
That’s the right reaction. But the Dolphins desperately need the right action from their quarterback on the field.
There comes a time in a quarterback’s development when he proves he’s capable of putting the franchise on his shoulders. Those guys win big games, get big contracts and eventually are competing for championships.
Tagovailoa isn’t there. And he showed as much in this game.
And, by the way, this loss is not all his fault. Combining Sunday’s terrible outing with previous struggles at San Francisco and against the Los Angeles Chargers, it seems the Dolphins are pretty much where they started this season. Their 8-7 record is riding too close to .500 to suggest they’ll factor for long in the playoffs.
If they make the playoffs.
“Overall that is a team failure, not a one person failure,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said.
The coach, in his first Miami season, tried to shield Tagovailoa. He said one of Tagovailoa’s interceptions was a result of a receiver running a wrong route. He also pointed out in the loss to Buffalo, the Dolphins had zero turnovers.
And the fact is the Dolphins defense has been wildly inconsistent also reared its head this game. Holding a 20-10 lead late in the first half, the Packers scored a field goal to end that half and a touchdown to open the second half to make it a new game.
So, we get it, football is a team game.
Dolphins Struggling As A Team
But the harsh reality is the team game is driven by quarterback play. And three interceptions is unacceptable any way they happen.
“On the first one, I tried to throw it over a defender, but I ended up throwing over the defender and Tyreek [Hill],” Tagovailoa said explaining his mistakes. “So that one got away.”
“The second one, I might have said the wrong play, I’m not too sure,” Tagovailoa said.
And I’m not sure what to do with that. It’s weird.
“There was just some communication errors on that,” Tagovailoa said.
“And then the third one was just not a good ball for my receivers to be able to make a play on that,” Tagovailoa added. “It’s tough. You get an opportunity to play on Christmas Day against a really good team. And I go out there and not being able to put my best foot forward for our team.”
The opportunity was there. The moment was there.
Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t up to it.