Jaylen Waddle was inactive for the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. This is when Tua Tagovailoa should have been struggling, right?
For those who believe Tagovailoa is merely a product of his receivers, taking one of the best players in the NFL away from him on Sunday against the Denver Broncos should have led to a quiet day. It will be difficult for Tagovailoa’s critics to explain what happened after Waddle’s exit.
The Dolphins exploded on offense. Miami became the first NFL team since 1966 to score 70 points. They are the fourth team in NFL regular season history to reach the mark of 70. The Dolphins were closing in on the NFL team record of 735 yards in a game, set by the 1951 Los Angeles Rams. They had to settle for just 726 yards as time ran out on their trampling of the Broncos 70-20. They took a knee on fourth down in the final minute instead of making another run for the record, which was probably as embarrassing for the Broncos as allowing 700 yards and 70 points.
Heading into halftime, Tagovailoa was 16 of 16 for 202 yards, two touchdowns, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The Dolphins, who perhaps need to be recognized as one of the best teams in the NFL, set a franchise record in points. Tagovailoa, who perhaps needs to be recognized as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, was good again.
Tagovailoa had 309 yards and four touchdowns, and played just one play in the fourth quarter because the Broncos couldn’t keep the game competitive. If the Dolphins were stretching their stats for an MVP run, they could have offered more.
Yes, Tagovailoa has Tyreek Hill to throw to and he is great. But his emergence as a top favorite this season is about much more than just being a great receiver. Many other great quarterbacks have great receivers they can take advantage of and don’t get the “yeah, but…” treatment that Tagovailoa does.
Tagovailoa even showed some technique on turning down a no-look no-look to De’Von Achane.
This is a confident quarterback paired with an excellent play caller in coach Mike McDaniel.
Tagovailoa is a front-runner for the MVP award for several reasons. The system allows for fast reading and it processes quickly. His average time in the pocket of 2.1 seconds over two games was the second-lowest in the NFL among rookies behind Trevor Lawrence, According to FantasyPros. He’s had just one sack through three games. This also helps keep it healthy.
Tagovailoa is also meticulous. Focus on professional football Tracks “big time throws” which are tight window throws with excellent location. Within two weeks, Tagovailoa had the second-best mark in that category. On Sunday, he didn’t miss his first pass until 9:44 and stayed in the third quarter. He had completed his first 17 passes to that point.
Tagovailoa may not be able to lay down quick layups 70 yards down the field, but accuracy and reading the defense quickly are valuable skills, too. Tagovailoa is near the top of the league in those categories.
Dolphins are rolling. Road wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots are solid. The Broncos could end up being a disaster, but the best teams deal with terrible teams and Miami destroyed Denver on Sunday. It is clear that this offense will continue to put up yards and points. This will help Tagovailoa’s case.
The Dolphins look good enough to clinch the AFC East title, and perhaps much more. As long as Tagovailoa stays healthy, an MVP at the end of the season isn’t out of the question either. Miami’s 70-point game would look good on his resume.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 3 of the NFL season:
Love Jordan: In Week 2, Love and the Green Bay Packers were unable to win after taking a 24-12 lead over the Atlanta Falcons. The Packers needed to move the ball a little in the fourth quarter and couldn’t do that.
In the third week, love was evident in a big way.
The Packers were without four stars: receiver Christian Watson, running back Aaron Jones, left tackle David Bactiari and cornerback Jair Alexander. They trailed 17-0 to the New Orleans Saints. Love didn’t do much for three quarters. No one will remember the first three quarters after what happened in the fourth quarter.
Love led the comeback against the Saints, who had to play most of the game without Derek Carr after he was out injured. Love led a field goal drive and then two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. Thanks to Packers coach Matt LaFleur going for two after the Packers’ first touchdown, they led 18-17 on the extra point after the second touchdown. Then the Saints missed a field goal in the final two minutes and the Packers cruised to a huge win.
Green Bay 2-1 Love wasn’t great on Sunday. But all that mattered was that he was good enough when it mattered.
Buffalo Bills Defense: The Bills offense is getting attention, overwhelming their top-five defense.
The Bills defense was great on Sunday. They were dominant in the win over the Washington leaders. The offense was setting field goals more often than not but it didn’t matter. The defense wasn’t allowing anything and then defensive end AJ Epenesa put the game away with an interception 32 yards for a touchdown.
Sam Howell was sacked nine times and threw four interceptions. The Bills got shut down on the road. When Buffalo’s defense takes on the Dolphins’ offense in two huge AFC East matchups, it should be fun to watch.
Detroit Lions defense too: Maybe it’s not fair for the Lions to have to endure questions about their legitimacy after their first loss of the season last week, but this is the Lions we’re talking about. Everyone expects the worst.
Black is fine. The defense, which didn’t have a good day against the Seattle Seahawks last week, was excellent against the Atlanta Falcons in a key 20-6 win. Atlanta has a lot of star players but also has big questions at quarterback with Desmond Ryder, and the Lions have revealed that. The Falcons gained just 183 yards.
The Lions have a win over the Kansas City Chiefs in their back pocket, and now sit 2-1 after an impressive win over the Falcons. They are back on track.
Oh, and the Cleveland Browns defense: The Browns’ defense may be the best in the NFL. They’ve played like this for three weeks. They tore apart the Cincinnati Bengals in the opener, would have beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 if Deshaun Watson hadn’t lost the game and then stifled the Tennessee Titans in an emphatic 27-3 win on Sunday.
The Browns didn’t miss Nick Chubb on Sunday. His replacement Jerome Ford scored twice, Watson played better and the defense was amazing. Myles Garrett had 3.5 sacks, including a huge one near the end of the first half when the Giants didn’t have a timeout left. That sack ended the first half and the game spiraled out of control in the second half after that.
The Browns will need Watson to play well, to keep the offense afloat without Chubb. But the defense, with new coordinator Jim Schwartz, may make sure the offense doesn’t need to do too much of the heavy lifting.
Doug Pederson vs. Demeco Ryans: Ryans had this team ready on Sunday. Pederson didn’t do that.
The Houston Texans are off to an 0-2 start and it doesn’t look like Ryans, the rookie coach, will get his first win on Sunday. Pederson’s Jacksonville Jaguars were everyone’s favorite. But the Jaguars were terrible. For the second week in a row, the offense missed multiple plays they should have made. The defense wasn’t much better. They allowed Tank Dell to run wide on a 68-yard touchdown that effectively sealed the 37-17 win. The Jaguars’ special teams allowed linebacker Andrew Beck to return a kickoff for a touchdown. Jacksonville was not ready to play in any way.
Ryans got his first win. It’s a young roster that should continue to improve. Sunday should give the Texans a boost of confidence. Jaguars, on the other hand, seem to be a bit of a mess.
New York Jets repeat last season: When the New England Patriots scored on a botched coverage, catching a 58-yard touchdown to tight end Pharaoh Brown, they took a 10-0 lead. There were just over 11 minutes left in the second quarter. The Jets had to know the game was over.
The Jets can’t move the ball with Zach Wilson and they certainly can’t count on scoring any touchdowns. The Jets’ first five possessions resulted in a first down and five punts. They had 39 receiving yards in the first half and averaged 1.4 yards per play.
The Jets put together one touchdown drive and trailed 13-10 in the fourth quarter. Wilson had the chance to erase the memories of a bad day with one motive to win. Instead, he threw the ball incomplete twice and then held the ball too long in his own end zone, where he was sacked for a safety. The Patriots went on to win 15-10.
The Jets know it won’t get much better with Wilson at quarterback. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they start making calls this week to see if anything else is available.
Vikings 0-3: The Los Angeles Chargers-Minnesota Vikings game looked like an elimination game. Starting 1-2 isn’t great but 0-3 is much worse.
The Vikings had their chances. And somehow the Chargers didn’t screw up the game like usual.
They tried. Chargers coach Brandon Staley went for a fourth-and-1 deep in his own territory late in the game and didn’t get it. If the Vikings had won, Staley’s hot seat would have been scorching. But Kirk Cousins threw an interception on first-and-goal at the 6-yard line and the Chargers held on for the 28-24 win. Keenan Allen led the way with 18 catches for 215 yards and also a 49-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams.
The Vikings went an incredible 11-0 in one-score games last season. This year they are 0-3. They’ll start winning some of those close games, but it may be too late.
Hot start for Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens looked great during a 2-0 start to the season, then they were at home against the Indianapolis Colts without Anthony Richardson at quarterback. But the 3-0 score did not happen.
The Ravens lost 22-19 in overtime to the Colts, a surprising result on a Sunday afternoon that featured a few upsets. Justin Tucker was surprisingly short on a long field goal attempt near the end of regulation, and then the Colts and Ravens traded failed fourth-down attempts near midfield in overtime. A fourth-down incompletion by the Ravens, which could have been pass interference but was not called, led to the Colts’ Matt Gay making a game-winning 53-yard field goal.
The Ravens will be fine. But facing a tough AFC North, they may regret this loss.
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