For one half of football, it looked like the Miami Dolphins were going to start their playoff push by dispatching a reeling Green Bay franchise in front of their home crowd. The offense was explosive, the running game was consistent, Tua Tagovailoa was deadly accurate, and the defense was solid. It looked like their formula for winning in December and January.
Maybe that still will be their formula for winning some games down the stretch and in the postseason, but they looked like a very different team in the second half. The defense held up, but the running game stalled and Tua Tagovailoa had the worst quarter of his football playing career (by a wide margin).
It has since come out that Tagovailoa suffered a concussion right before half-time (on this play), which would help explain his uncharacteristic decision-making. I know I speak for the majority of fans when I express my hope that Tagovailoa experiences a speedy recovery and makes whatever decision is best for him and his family at that point.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how they built this lead and then how they ultimately lost it to the Green Bay Packers.
In the first half of this game, the offense looked completely unstoppable. They did this against one of the more talented defenses in the NFL too. Let’s look at their two biggest plays of the afternoon and break down how they were able to execute these at such a high level.
It's frustrating that the Miami offense has two of their best plays of the season in the first half of such a heart-wrenching loss. pic.twitter.com/OD892VSss2— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 28, 2022
First play: The Packers dial up a zone blitz here, bringing six guys to get to Tagovailoa. Luckily for the Dolphins, they called max protect with a two-man route concept (with Ingold slipping out late to the flat). The Packers have a cover 3 look on the back end with two outside corners and the free safety splitting the deep portion of the field three ways.
The Dolphins are running a go route with Tyreek and a deep crosser with Waddle. Rasul Douglass peels off Tyreek to try and make a play on the deep crosser but missteps and takes a bad angle. That was really all Waddle needed to take this one to the house.
The throw from Tua was also really nice. He had to wait for Waddle to clear the linebackers in underneath coverage, but stands in the pocket and completes this one with several Packers defenders bearing down on him.
Second play: This time there’s no blitz and the Packers are in a standard cover 3 defense. They use Waddle running a deep out to pull the middle safety just a little bit to his side and send Tyreek streaking between the outside corner and middle safety. Tua throws a beautiful 55+ air yard bomb right into the bread basket. They punch it in the very next play for the touchdown.
Second Half Collapse
I don’t want to kick a guy when he’s down and I’m sure being concussed had a lot to do with these miscues, but the three second-half interceptions are what made the difference in this game. Let’s take a look and see what happened on each play.
The second one to Mostert looked like a miscommunication, but on the other two it looked like he expected a window to be there, it wasn’t, and he threw it there anyway. We’ve seen some missed throws earlier in his career and he tends to make the occasional bad decision, but this isn’t anything I’ve seen from him before.
It seems very likely that he was dealing with some kind of symptoms from his concussion-ones that he probably wasn’t even fully aware of. After watching the game, I feel confident in saying that Tua played the three best quarters of his football career followed promptly by the worst quarter of his football career. Just a really odd game to go back and watch.
These last two videos are the same quarterback. Idk how, but it is. pic.twitter.com/fnDP8HMIcv— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 28, 2022
When you add these throws on top of the two chunk plays that we covered earlier, it’s clear as day that Tua was playing at an insanely high level in this contest against one of the better defenses in the NFL. But he also threw three back-breaking interceptions and is back in concussion protocol. This is so Dolphins.
Well, Dolphins fans need to hope that the roster is good enough to go on a run with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm. I would be very surprised to see Tua back on the field for either of the next two games and even playoffs could be pushing it a little too early considering his history with head injuries this season.
If it were me running the Miami Dolphins (it isn’t), Tua Tagovailoa would be shut down for the year. I’ve watched enough film this season to know that when healthy Tua Tagovailoa is one of the six or eight best quarterbacks in the NFL. This is what every franchise in the NFL is looking for and they found it. Let him play out his rookie deal and fifth-year option but look toward the future. Tagovailoa’s longevity will have more to do with the long-term success of this franchise than making the playoffs in 2022.
They’re paying Teddy Bridgewater to be a competent quarterback when needed, let him. The Dolphins are returning 99% of this roster next year, if they’re contenders now then they’ll be contenders next season.