Tua Tagovailoa silences critics with 6-TD day, stuns Ravens in rally from 21-point halftime deficit

The Baltimore Ravens appeared to have a walkover secured against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Tua Tagovailoa had other ideas. The Dolphins quarterback led a rally from a 28-7 halftime deficit to tie the game at 35-35 late in the fourth quarter en route to a stunning 42-38 Dolphins win.

Tagovailoa entered the season and the day with myriad questions about his downfield abilities and whether he could lead an explosive offense alongside receivers Tyreek Hill and Waddle. The answer on Sunday was a resounding yes. He finished the day completing 36 of 50 pass attempts for 469 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. His second touchdown of the day to Hill was a 60-yard bomb that tied the game at 35-35.

Baltimore responded with a field goal to retake the lead at 38-35. Tagovailoa followed up by leading another touchdown drive capped by his second touchdown to Jaylen Waddle, a 7-yard dart in end-zone traffic.

That score secured a 42-38 lead that left 14 seconds on the clock, and the Ravens couldn't find a miracle to respond. And Tagovailoa secured his signature win to silence critics that have dogged him for most of this three-season NFL career.

Tua bounces back from ugly start

Tagovailoa's day got off to an ominous start. The Ravens opened the game with a 103-yard Devin Duvernay touchdown return on the opening kickoff. The Dolphins responded by driving into Ravens territory on their opening possession. But Tagovailoa threw an ill-advised ball into traffic on second-and-6 from Baltimore's 29-yard line. Instead of finding his intended target Hill, the ball bounced into the air and landed into the hands of Ravens safety Marcus Williams.

The Ravens failed to capitalize on the ensuing possession, but eventually took a 21-7 second quarter lead that had the Dolphins reeling. Then they picked off Tagovailoa one again. With 1:25 left in the second quarter, Tagovailoa threw a deep ball down the left sideline into double coverage. It was intercepted again by Williams.

This time, the Ravens did respond with a touchdown. Tagovailoa entered halftime with his Dolphins trailing 28-7 alongside a touchdown and two turnovers. Facing the pressure of a make-or-break season after the high-profile acquisition of Hill, the knives were out for Tagovailoa at the break.

He responded with the half of his NFL career.

This is the Tua Tagovailoa game Dolphins fans have been waiting for. (Tommy Gilligan/Reuters)
This is the Tua Tagovailoa game Dolphins fans have been waiting for. (Tommy Gilligan/Reuters)

The Dolphins opened the second half with a 75-yard drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown to tight end Mike Gesicki. The Ravens maintained their 21-point edge heading into the fourth quarter after a 79-yard run by Lamar Jackson extended their lead to 35-14. From there, it was all Tua as the Dolphins outscored Baltimore 28-3 in the final stanza.

Tagovailoa capped the third quarter with a 33-yard connection to Waddle to set the Dolphins up near midfield. That drive ended with a two-yard touchdown toss from Tagovailoa to River Cracraft. Miami's next possession saw Hill score his first touchdown in a Miami uniform. And it was vintage Hill on a 48-yard strike from Tagovailoa after Hill ran past the Ravens secondary.

That cut Miami's deficit to 35-28, and the Dolphins were in business. With another deep score to Hill and the capper to Waddle in traffic, Miami secured a 2-0 start alongside legitimate optimism that the investment in and around Tagovailoa might actually pay off.

Dolphins offense looks legitimately scary

Not only did Tagovailoa have the game of his career in a win over one of the NFL's best team, he did so while throwing touchdown passes of 48 and 60 yards. Meanwhile, Hill and Waddle finished with monster efforts. Hill tallied 11 catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Waddle, Miami's first-round draft pick in 2021, tallied 11 catches for 171 yards and two scores.

The Dolphins on Sunday looked like a legitimate big-play offense with a passing game that strikes fear in opponents. They did so against against a respected Ravens defense. Rookie head coach Mike McDaniel couldn't have drawn up a better response to the critics questioning Tagovailoa's ability to thrown the ball downfield.

It's just one game, of course. But it's hard to argue with the result. And a 2-0 Dolphins start to top the AFC East doesn't hurt.