Tagovailoa offers clarity on cold weather. And personnel notes on every Dolphins position
On a night that an eight-point fourth quarter lead was squandered and a third game in a row was lost, at least this was the gained for the Dolphins:
The comforting knowledge that Tua Tagovailoa can, in fact, function effectively in cold weather games.
Much was made of Tagovailoa’s three-lowest QBR ratings coming in games in which the temperatures dropped below 45.
On Saturday, while playing in temperatures in the 20s and snow late in the game, Tagovailoa had a 104 passer rating (keeping him second in the league at 107.8) and his QBR was twice what it had been in losses to the 49ers and Chargers.
He completed two late passes in the snow before Miami’s final possession stalled, and his final numbers: 17 for 30 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions short-changed him because at least four passes were dropped.
“When I come up here, I feel the pressure of how we perform offensively,” he said. “I think we performed to how we think we can. Regardless, it sucks losing.”
Among the completions were well thrown touchdowns of 67 yards to Jaylen Waddle and 20 yards to Tyreek Hill.
“We found success in the passing game, also due to how efficient we were running the ball,” Tagovailoa said of a run game that produced 188 yards on 7.5 per carry. “We came in wanting to run the ball before we decided to open up the passing game.”
Tagovailoa has produced a passer rating of at least 100 in seven of his 12 games this season, and he hasn’t thrown an interception in an AFC East game in four straight division games.
“I thought as a team we handled the elements pretty well for a team that comes from 80 degree weather,” he said. “After this performance, we’re able to put that to rest that we can’t play cold weather games or compete against cold weather teams. Thank God I wasn’t hit by a snowball.”
Some notes about most every other position:
▪ Running back: Raheem Mostert, who finished with 17 carries for 136 yards (8.0 per carry), became the first Dolphin to rush for at least 100 yards in a first quarter (101, precisely) since the statistic began being tracked in 1991.
Mostert was the first NFL back to achieve that feat this season; Indianapolis’ Jonathan Taylor ran for 106 yards in the first quarter against Jacksonville in a late-season game last year.
The last Dolphins to rush for at least 100 yards in any quarter was Lamar Miller, who scampered for 106 in the second quarter of a game against Houston in October 2015.
Mostert played 45 of Miami’s 59 offensive snaps, with Salvon Ahmed playing 14 snaps and averaging 7.2 yards on his six carries.
Alec Ingold played 32 snaps, his third most in a game this season.
▪ Wide receiver: Waddle, who caught three passes for 114 yards, reached 100 yards in receptions for the fifth time this season. He and Tyreek Hill are the first Dolphins teammates to have five games with 100 yards in receptions in the same season.
Waddle’s 1117 yards in receptions for the season topped his 1015 yard output as a rookie and he ranked fifth in the league in receiving yards entering Sunday’s games. And his 18.0 yards per reception leads the league.
Waddle, who left the game briefly with a forearm injury, logged 41 snaps. Hill (nine catches, 69 yards) had 49 and exited second in the league in receiving yards, behind Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson.
Trent Sherfield played 32 plays, and Cedrick Wilson Jr. and practice squad elevation Braylon Sanders each played 13 offensive snaps.
Sanders, the undrafted rookie, was used ahead of Eik Ezukanma because Sanders has more experience playing the particular receiver position typically handled by River Cracraft, who missed the game with an injury. Ezukanma, the rookie fourth-rounder, hasn’t played in a game this season.
▪ Tight end: Mike Gesicki had his first catch in four games (for five yards) on his only target of the night and played just 12 snaps, compared to 38 for Durham Smythe. Gesicki has been thrown just four passes in those four games and is very likely playing his final games as a Dolphin. Hunter Long played six snaps.
▪ Offensive line: The run-blocking was immaculate, and the Dolphins permitted only four quarterback pressures (and two sacks) on 33 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Tackle Terron Armstead, guard Robert Jones and center Connor Williams yielded no pressures.
▪ Defensive line: Christian Wilkins’ six tackles gave him 81 for the season, most among NFL defensive linemen. He continued his heavy workload, playing 69 of Miami’s 78 defensive snaps. Zach Sieler played 65.
Nose tackle snaps were split fairly evenly between Raekwon Davis (25) and John Jenkins (23), with Justin Zimmer playing three.
▪ Linebackers: The disparity in playing time between the starting edge players (Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb) and backups Melvin Ingram and Andrew Van Ginkel continued to grow. Phillips played 60, Chubb 56, Ingram 22 and Van Ginkel 15.
Chubb had a quiet night, with two tackles. Phillips and Sieler had the Dolphins’ two sacks.
Among inside linebackers, Jerome Baker logged 69 snaps and Elandon Roberts and Duke Riley logged 33 apiece. Baker dealt with an ankle injury late in the game. Channing Tindall again played only on special teams.
▪ Defensive backs: When Jevon Holland left briefly with a neck injury, cornerback Justin Bethel played safety. Holland returned in the second half and he and rookie Verone McKinley played 67 of 78 defensive snaps, with Clayton Fejedelem - the only other natural safety active for the game - playing eight. Bethel played 17.
At cornerback, Xavien Howard and Kader Kohou played all 78 snaps, Keion Crossen played 37 and Noah Igbinoghene logged 33.
▪ Kicker: Jason Sanders: He made all three of his field goal attempts (21, 39, 47 yards) and now has hit 10 in a row. His 83.4 field goal accuracy (121 for 145) is the best in franchise history.