1st and 14.
Ball on their own 4 yard line.
One point lead.
3 minutes and 24 seconds left in the game.
This was the situation late in Miami’s opening day contest against the New England Patriots. The play call came in – a run. Tua Tagovailoa came to the line of scrimmage and surveyed the defense – noticing that the Patriots had stacked the box with defenders. The run play wasn’t going to be effective.
These are the moments that can completely change the outlook in a game. Hell, these are the moments that can completely change the outlook on your entire season when you consider that you’re playing a divisional opponent in their home stadium – a stadium in which you have had little success for the past two decades.
Tua discretely signals to his wide receiver flanked out to the right. DeVante Parker gets the message. Tua takes the snap, feigns a handoff to Malcolm Brown, immediately resets his feet before firing a dart to Parker on a quick hitting slant route. The play goes for 13 yards, setting up a short 2nd and 1 which was converted on the following play via a 2 yard run from Brown out of the Wildcat formation.
“Where we’ve made way more hay … has been the play-pass with the illusion of RPO.”— Chris Kouffman (@ckparrot) September 15, 2021
“I want the line, the tight end, the running back, the quarterback to make it look, feel, smell, sound like RPO. I want everyone in the stadium to say here comes another.”
-Steve Sarkisian pic.twitter.com/EbHyRFRoFX
Outside of the Xavien Howard forced fumble and subsequent recovery which happened just prior to the sequence outlined above, I believe this play – this audible by Tua Tagovailoa - is the most important play in the entire game for the Miami Dolphins in Week One. New England had all three timeouts, had been moving the ball very efficiently with rookie QB Mac Jones, and had Miami not gotten a first down after facing 1st and 14 from their own 4 yard line, would have undoubtedly gotten the ball back with tremendous field position, needing only a field goal to overcome the one point deficit and claim victory against the squad from South Florida.
But, Tua didn’t let that happen. He didn’t play a perfect game in Week One, but in this crucial moment, he didn’t just force a run into the teeth of the defense, he did what he wasn’t able to do during his polarizing rookie season when he had an offensive coordinator named Chan Gailey who didn’t believe in his talent – he checked out of a play he knew wouldn’t work and into one that essentially sealed the victory for Miami.
Tua checked out of a run play to a slant to DeVante Parker late in the game, near his goal line. “We didn’t want to give them the ball back,” Tua said.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) September 15, 2021
That’s leadership. That’s what winners do. That’s the reason you should be excited to watch the growth and maturity of our young, second-year signal caller as the season progresses. A confident Tua Tagovailoa is a dangerous Tua Tagovailoa, and plays like this are only going to allow Tua to feel more and more comfortable as the plays, drives and games pile up.
With more moments like this surely on the horizon, Tua will get even more opportunities to prove that he is the right man to lead this franchise into the future. If he continues to make plays like he did late in Sunday’s contest, Miami will be in prime position to not only make the playoffs in 2021, but do some significant damage when they get there.