Tua’s 6 TD passes lead miracle Dolphins win in a career-redefining performance for the ages | Opinion

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The Miami Dolphins were down 35-14 entering the fourth quarter Sunday in Baltimore, headed to a brutal loss. That is when time stopped, and rewound. It was suddenly the mid-1980s again, and Dan Marino was throwing rockets and fireworks to the Marks Brothers, Clayton and Duper.

We have not seen since what we just saw Sunday. Raw offensive firepower. You-can’t-stop-us bravado. From a Dolphins franchise lost and trying to recover its soul for the past 20-plus years.

Only now it was Tua Tagovailao’s rainbows finding gold with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

The Dolphins beat the Ravens, 42-38, and, with zero concern of hyperbole, it was one of the most stunning comebacks and victories in the Fins’ 57 seasons.

Hell, it would have been an exhilarating loss had it fallen just short.

That it ended in triumph — and the way it did — instantly minted a memory for Dolfans for all-time.

Tua Tagovailoa, the maligned third-year starting quarterback, threw six touchdown passes. Six. The two only other men to ever do that for Miami were Bob Griese in 1977 and Marino in ‘86, Hall of Famers both. Tagovailoa completed 36 of 50 passes for 469 yards.

He threw two interceptions, and those disappeared in a tidal wave of heroics as we saw one young man reconfigure how we see in in a quarter’s time.

Before Sunday, with Tua, we saw shortcomings.

Now we see how good he can be. How great.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) scores a touchdown against the defense of Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (24) and safety Kyle Hamilton (14) during fourth quarter of an NFL football game at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, September 18, 2022 in Baltimore, MD.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) scores a touchdown against the defense of Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (24) and safety Kyle Hamilton (14) during fourth quarter of an NFL football game at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, September 18, 2022 in Baltimore, MD.

And of course it is largely because Miami suddenly has two elite wide receivers who just helped Tagovailoa look like Marino.

Hill, brought in on a blockbuster trade this offseason, caught 11 passes for 190 yards and Waddle, last year’s rookie sensation, caught 11 for 171. That’s 22 catches combined for 361 yards. Each caught two TD passes.

Down 35-14, before everything changed, we know what seemed a sure loss would have started with and fallen hottest on Tagovailoa, because that’s the way it is into his Year 3 here. It isn’t just that the position is always the easiest magnet for both undo praise or criticism.

It is that the Dolphins themselves and many of their fans have spent Tua’s entire NFL career lamenting that he isn’t Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow. Or Deshaun Watson or Tom Brady. Or Lamar Jackson, for that matter.

So when a former teammate, Ryan Fitzpatrick, called Tagovailoa “limited” on a podcast, or when retired (for now) coach Sean Payton predicts on Fox Sports that Miami will bench Tua sometime this season, those things sold as news bytes are just the latest spritzes of gas on a flame already burning.

The flame was growing higher as the fourth quarter began.

Because day by day and play by play is how Tagovailoa always has been judged, right? He might still prove to be the long-term answer for this franchise, but for now he seemed to many like temporary help, a rental. Benefit of doubt never found him.

And Sunday’s certain loss (before that fourth quarter magic) fit the preconceived and media-fed narrative because he threw two interceptions and, yes, both were his fault. The first was a pass to Hill that he tried to squeeze into tight coverage. The other was a pass that got away from him on a deep route to Waddle.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) runs out the field after their 42-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens during an NFL football game at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, September 18, 2022 in Baltimore, MD.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) runs out the field after their 42-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens during an NFL football game at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, September 18, 2022 in Baltimore, MD.

On each he was playing from behind and trying to do too much. Guilty.

Tagovailoa also was accurate but for the two blemishes, but, hey, let’s not be fair when blame is so much easier and fun!

Even if Sunday’s rally had fallen short, repeat after me, this loss would not have been on Tua.

Dolphins special teams gave up a 103-yard kickoff return TD on the game’s first play.

The defense gave up a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown when Jackson’s pass to Rashod Bateman left the Fins’ star cornerback Xavien Howard, making a play he won’t enjoy seeing on film.

Jackson, on a third-and-2 play, with the defense stacked to stop the run, beat said defense for a 79-yard TD romp.

Miami’s defense overall, one week after rising up in the 20-7 opening win over New England, was at times quite lousy before rising in the fourth quarter.

But all of that washed away late Sunday in an electrical storm. In Tua’s 48- and 60-yard TD strikes to Hill and then the clutch, game-winning 7-yard scoring pitch to Waddle in the end zone.

Hill and Waddle have proved, for any remaining doubters, that if you give Tua two extremely fast receivers who get open, he has the accuracy to find them and take full advantage.

That is why we saw more than a game change courses Sunday, flipping from a huge loss to an exhilarating win.

I believe we saw the perception of Tua Tagovailoa change, too.

We have spent two-plus years wondering how good he can be, and whether he can maybe be better than just good.

The answer came late Sunday afternoon, and it was glorious.