Tua Tagovailoa throws for 6 touchdowns in comeback win over Ravens

Tua Tagovailoa throws for 6 touchdowns in comeback win over Ravens

Tua Tagovailoa throws for 6 touchdowns in comeback win over Ravens

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Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) celebrates with teammates Robert Hunt (68) Mike Gesicki (88) Chase Edmonds (2) and Connor Williams (58) after scoring the go ahead touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, September 18, 2022 in Baltimore, MD.

dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Mike McDaniel addressed his team Saturday night, aware that the week-to-week nature of the NFL likely wouldn’t allow the Dolphins to cruise to another win like their season-opening victory over the New England Patriots at home.

He honed in on what has been a buzzword early in his tenure as Dolphins head coach — adversity — and pushed through the tough moments ahead.

But as McDaniel stood at a podium and reflected on what had happened at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, he joked that his players “took me way too literally[ly],” as he could not have imagined what took place.

In one of the most improbable comebacks in recent NFL history, the Dolphins rallied from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Ravens, 42-38, on Sunday. It ties their second-largest comeback win in franchise history.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who passed for a career-high 469 yards and six touchdowns, threw the game-winning, 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle with 14 seconds left.

With the win, the Dolphins are 2-0 for the first time since 2018 and advance to their next AFC test, a home game against the Buffalo Bills.

Ten months after a 2-7 Dolphins team overwhelmed the Ravens in Miami Gardens on “Thursday Night Football” in a sloppy 22-10 victory, they produced similar drama in a lopsided, high-scoring affair.

Trailing 35-14 early in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins outscored the Ravens, 28-3. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it is the first time in 12 years that a team has won a game after trailing by at least 21 points in the fourth quarter. Previously, the teams had a record of 0-711.

At the center of the Dolphins’ second-half turnaround was Tagovailoa, the third-year player who shined in the biggest moment of his young career. In the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa completed 13 of 17 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns.

“I would say I’m always confident in what I can do, confident in myself,” Tagovailoa said. “But I think it just shows the resiliency of our team. It boosts all of our confidence, confidence in each other, confidence that if the offense has a turnover, the defense will get us the ball back and vice versa.

For much of the afternoon, the Dolphins and Ravens looked like teams that had traded places from Week 10 meeting last November.

Miami faced an early 7-0 deficit after wide receiver Devin Duvernay returned the opening kickoff for a 103-yard touchdown.

A Dolphins defense that baffled quarterback Lamar Jackson in one of the worst games of his career in 2021 had no early answers for the 2019 league MVP. Jackson countered Miami’s blitz in the first half with several pass rushes, including a 75-yard catch-and-run score by wide receiver Rashod Bateman that put the Dolphins behind 14-7. Jackson accounted for 437 total yards and four scores, including a career-high 79-yard touchdown run.

The Dolphins offense was able to move the ball, but was plagued by a pair of Tagovailoa interceptions in the first half. The second pick set up Jackson’s third touchdown pass and put the Dolphins into a 28-7 deficit.

However, McDaniel had a clear message for his players at halftime.

“I’m just challenging[d] them to say, ‘Who cares what the score is?'” McDaniel said. “It’s about how we play football together. This is an opportunity. It’s a tough one, but it doesn’t matter. Let’s go and get something out of this game to feel good in the second half and we’ll worry about the result sometime in the fourth quarter. Let’s just put some things together on both sides of the ball.”

Tagovailoa led the Dolphins to a touchdown on their opening possession of the second half — a 12-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 14-yard pass to tight end Mike Gesicki (four catches, 41 yards) — and it wasn’t long before they played the “perfectly complementary football” McDaniel said was necessary to make such a comeback.

The Dolphins gave up touchdowns on three of the Ravens’ four first-half offenses, but kept Baltimore out of the end zone on its final four drives, including a key fourth-down stop down 35-21 with 9:11 left.

When the Dolphins needed clutch plays late on offense, Tagovailoa leaned on the team’s two stars, Waddle and Tyreek Hill. 84 seconds after the defense stopped Jackson short on fourth down, Tagovailoa found Hill for a 48-yard touchdown, his first as a Dolphin.

A quick three-and-out gave the Dolphins the ball back, and 87 seconds later Hill was back in the end zone after hitting rookie cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis deep for a 60-yard touchdown catch, tying the game at 35-5: 19 remain.

Waddle (11 catches, career-high 171 yards, two touchdowns) and Hill (11 catches, 190 yards, two touchdowns) were on the receiving end of 14 of Tagovailoa’s 24 completions in the second half.

“It was just like he was out there playing Madden,” Hill said of McDaniel’s play-calling. “Just lined up quick and was just like, ‘Tua, get it to the guys that you know can create space.’ That’s what we did, stretch the ball down the field. Get Chase [Edmonds] involved, get Raheem [Mostert] involved. You know, everybody was involved today.”

A 51-yard field goal by kicker Justin Tucker gave the Ravens a three-point lead with 2:23 left, but a Dolphins offense that had no problem getting to the end zone quickly was soon back in scoring position. They traveled 68 yards in six plays and two minutes.

Hill and Waddle praised Tagovailoa’s composure and the way he commanded the huddle, down to the final words before the decisive play: “It’s either us or them.”

“Mike told us this in our team meeting, that this is going to be a great opportunity for us,” Tagovailoa said. “That if we ever come up against these guys, we know you’re not looking to put your head down. We’re always going to be in the game and just take it one at a time. And Mike is always going to say this, this is kind of like the mindset for our team, is that adversity is opportunity. And that’s how we played.”

This story was originally published September 18, 2022 4:29 p.m.

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Daniel Oyefusi covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald. A native of Towson, Maryland, he graduated from the University of Maryland: College Park. Previously, he covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun.

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