Tua Tagovailoa’s t-shirt after Miami Dolphins practice one day this week read, “I wish it was warmer.”
First-year head coach Mike McDaniel often uses the phrase to remind his team that they have to accept Florida’s sweltering, humid conditions — and their opponents can’t.
But it doesn’t get any hotter than Tagovailoa’s left arm entering Sunday’s undefeated AFC East battle with the Super Bowl favorites Buffalo Bills.
“Individual success only happens as part of team success,” the humble Hawaiian said during his weekly press conference.
The left QB leads the NFL with 739 passing yards in two weeks. And he’s tied for the most TD assists with seven. Most of that came from a blowout for 469 yards and six touchdowns in last week’s 42-38 road win over the Baltimore Ravens.
The exclamation points were 48-yard and 60-yard TD passes to Tyreek Hill in the fourth quarter that shattered the stereotype of Tagovailoa as a checkdown king.
“I think what Mike does with our offense is he complements everyone’s talents, everyone’s ability within the offense,” Tagovailoa said. “For example, if I’m good with RPOs [run-pass options], he will find a way to implement this. If someone is good at running a certain route, we will find ways to get them to pass the ball through that route in different ways. things like
Desperation played a role in the Dolphins’ offensive explosion. They trailed 35-14 early in the fourth quarter and had no choice but to throw him into the field.
Receivers Hill and Jaylen Waddle are also very fast. McDaniel’s Dolphins offense began to recreate, in a way, Tagovailoa’s skill position weapons from his Alabama days.
And the Baltimore Ravens defense inexplicably left gaps in the field for these speedsters to exploit.
“It’s a different kind of speed,” an NFL defensive back told The News this week of Hill, the longtime Kansas City terror.
Miami’s early offensive explosion is significant for two reasons. First, the property chose general manager Chris Grier and Tagovailoa over former fired coach Brian Flores. So it’s all about this QB working.
More immediately, however, the Dolphins suddenly have a golden opportunity to assert themselves atop the AFC East if they can defeat Josh Allen’s visiting Bills at Hard Rock Stadium.
Buffalo just lost starting safety Micah Hyde for the season to a neck injury. Additionally, they will be without starting corner Dane Jackson and starting D lineman Ed Oliver on Sunday.
That said, Miami has lost an unthinkable seven straight games to the Bills since a 21-17 win on Dec. 2, 2018. It was the only time they beat Allen head-to-head, in his rookie year.
And the Dolphins refused to get ahead this week because they know the Bills outscored the LA Rams and Titans 72-17 in two weeks with just three punts.
“You look at their opener, they beat last year’s Super Bowl champions, and they didn’t just beat them; it was a lot,” Tagovailoa said. “The next team they played, a very good team, they beat them by a lot.”
In addition to Tagovailoa’s play, many of Allen’s numbers are as good or better: he has a completion % of 75.4 compared to Tagovailoa’s 71.1; a quarterback rating of 123.7 to the Dolphins QB’s 116.5; and an identical TD/INT ratio (7-2) and yards per completion (8.9 yards).
“He’s consistently become one of the best players in the National Football League,” McDaniel said of Allen. “You could easily say he’s the best… You’ll never see him, I don’t think, see him shut down, necessarily. It’s about minimizing and containing.
“For us, we’re just looking to play the way we play and play the way we’ve played for the past two weeks. They will get our best and we will get theirs. And it’s not because it’s a gift from God. It’s because he’s incredibly talented, but it’s because you can tell he’s working on his craft. on Buffalo
High praise. But now the Dolphins have their own firepower, making Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff the NFL game of the week.
JERRY’S ‘RUSH’ TO THE CONCLUSIONS
Increasingly off the beaten path, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones invited quarterback controversy to his own roster this week between backup Cooper Rush, who starts Monday night against the Giants at MetLife Stadium, and injured starter Dak Prescott.
“Wouldn’t it be something if you had a dilemma about which direction to take?” Jones told reporters in Dallas. “You do that if he gets 10 wins. The same thing that happened with Prescott [in 2016]. I think like that. Of course I would [want that]. If he comes in and plays as well as Prescott played, Rush – played well in the next few games to come – I’d walk to New York to get him.
Rush, a former giant, said he and Prescott “had a good laugh” at Jones’ wild comments.
“I certainly don’t dream as big as Jerry. I just want to keep winning,” Rush said. “I think he just wants to win games and that’s what we all want to do.”
Head coach Mike McCarthy, who must have felt like he was playing mole with unnecessary drama coaching Jones’ team, told 105.3 The Fan: “Dak is our quarterback, and we want Cooper succeed as best as possible. I think it ends there.”
Glad it’s settled — at least until Jones speaks next week.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Sunday’s game in Nashville between the Las Vegas Raiders (0-2) and the Tennessee Titans (0-2) will be a desperate battle between two teams with high expectations on the brink of disaster in 2022. Mike Vrabel’s Titans have lost left tackle Taylor Lewan for the season, so the Raiders pass rusher Chandler Jones needs to have a big day. Josh McDaniels’ Raiders are the only 0-2 team in the AFC West. They need to recover quickly from a brutal loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2. The Titans, the AFC’s No. 1 seed last year, could end up being the most disappointing team of the league this season if their trajectory continues.
There’s also a lot of early pressure on Denver Broncos first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who will be on the national Sunday Night Football stage this week hosting Jimmy Garoppolo’s San Francisco 49ers (1- 1). Hackett’s game management was so poor in a narrow Week 2 win over the Houston Texans that the Broncos’ home crowd counted down when Denver was on offense to avoid more late game penalties or a mismanagement.
Hackett is a highly regarded player coach, but his season has had a rocky start to the season that could signal a one-and-done if he doesn’t recover. Denver (1-1) could also use a little help from so-called elite QB Russell Wilson.
Carson Wentz’s Washington Commanders (1-1) host his former Philadelphia Eagles team (2-0) in a division battle that’s dripping with intrigue and will have major ramifications for the top NFC East standings.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ signing of slot receiver Cole Beasley was smart, especially given the one-game suspension of wide receiver Mike Evans for offloading Saints corner Marshon Lattimore last week.
Beasley will help Tom Brady in a major way as the Bucs (2-0) host the Green Bay Packers (1-1)… There are six teams left undefeated after two weeks: the Bills, the Dolphins, the Eagles, the Bucs, the Kansas City Chiefs and Giants – as everyone expected.
THEY SAID IT
“I think at this point if I was going to take a leak in training I would end up on the report.” — Often-injured Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey on his ‘stiff ankle’ in Week 3 injury report