Home Sports Cause for alarm? Miami Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa misfire again in loss to Chargers | Habib

Cause for alarm? Miami Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa misfire again in loss to Chargers | Habib

Cause for alarm? Miami Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa misfire again in loss to Chargers | Habib


Try M-I-A.

That’s not M-I-A as in an abbreviation for Miami. If you saw the Dolphins’ 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night, you know missing in action suddenly describes quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the entire Dolphins offense.

Did the Dolphins leave their offense in the Eastern time zone when they flew to California?

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Coach Mike McDaniel and Tua Tagovailoa talk during the loss to the Chargers.

Or maybe the time difference isn’t three hours, but a year. These past two weeks, the Dolphins’ 2022 offense has looked more like the 2021 edition. You know, the one you flushed out of your mind, hoping to never see it again.

A week ago, when the Dolphins lost to the San Francisco 49ers, it was easy to chalk it up as an outlier. Tua didn’t look like Tua? Everybody has a bad day.

When a bad day becomes days, plural, that easy answer no longer flies.

“We can’t just push it aside,” coach Mike McDaniel said of this offensive performance.

McDaniel came out of this one knowing what he’s up against. The Dolphins had to fly all night to get back to South Florida. Before they know it, they’ll be back on a plane, flying to Buffalo for a Saturday night game forecast to be in sub-freezing temperatures, snow showers or both.

Before you get too caught up looking ahead, don’t forget to look around. See those Chargers, Jets and Patriots? Believe it or not, they’re nipping at Miami’s heels for a wild-card spot.

Before the Cali trip, the Dolphins were 8-3 and the question was more whether they’d win the division and have a home playoff game. Even entering the Chargers game, fivethirtyeight.com had Miami with an 87 percent chance to make the playoffs. Now? It’s 75 percent, dropping to 70 if Miami loses next week.

There’s no putting this all on Tagovailoa, but his drop in performance, if not confidence, is the most striking aspect of this before-and-after picture. For most of the season, you didn’t need stats to know he was the most accurate passer in the league. He couldn’t miss.

Now, he’s overthrowing open receivers and unable to thread balls into tight spaces. He finished the Chargers game 10-of-28 for 145 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. That’s a 35.7 percent completion rate — the worst of his career outside of a 1-for-4 cameo against Buffalo last year. Worse, the Chargers’ defense entered the game ranked 26th.

His timing issues with receivers seem most acute with Jaylen Waddle, the team MVP last year. Tagovailoa targeted Waddle nine times these past two weeks — and completed only three. Is it really as simple as defenses dropping linebackers a few extra yards to deny Miami the middle of the field it so adores? No, because coach Brandon Staley said the Chargers’ game plan was “not even close” to the 49ers’.

“They didn’t play pressed up like we did tonight,” Staley said.

Tagovailoa on Dolphins’ problem: ‘Everything’

Tagovailoa had a stark answer to a question of whether there was anything he’d put his finger on as the problem.

“Yeah,” he said. “Everything.”

Well, then.

Later, he added, “The defenses that we’ve played have been playing exactly what we’ve expected them to play.”

So the defenses are as expected, but the offense … not so much.

“We were out of whack,” Tagovailoa said. “Out of rhythm.”

Out of opportunities, too. On this two-game trip, the Dolphins ran 94 plays to the opposition’s 157. They possessed the ball for 39 minutes, 48 seconds to the opponents’ 80 minutes, 12 seconds. Sure, Miami’s defense had a hand in that, but when your offense is this punchless on third down (a combined 3-of-18, 16.7 percent), you can’t expect defenders to not get gassed.

This rare prime-time opportunity for the Dolphins was billed as Tua Tagovailoa vs. the guy the Dolphins didn’t draft, Justin Herbert. Tagovailoa won their first meeting two years ago. This one didn’t go to the scorecards; it was Herbert in a knockout. Herbert went 39-of-51 for 367 yards and a touchdown in which he hit Mike Williams on the run from 10 yards out.

Not that he needed any extra help, but Herbert got it in the third quarter when sacked by Jaelan Phillips. Well after the play, Phillips was called for a laughable roughing-the-passer penalty that sent Twitter into a frenzy, including J.J. Watt wondering what the heck.

The Dolphins kept attempting to chug away, but like a 20-year-old Toyota trying to climb these California hills, they never could get over the hump. Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill combined on a 60-yard touchdown after safety Michael Davis fell, but the Chargers responded with two field goals. In the dying minutes, Jason Sanders hit a season-best 55-yarder to cut the deficit to 23-17, but his onside kick ricocheted off Joshua Palmer and was smothered by Nick Niemann, ending it.

Tua misses a wide-open Hill in first half

McDaniel said he was “disappointed” at the lack of connections between Tagovailoa and his receivers. He cited Hill not being able to pick up one ball but also Tagovailoa not placing the ball where it belonged.

“Bottom line is who cares whose fault it is?” McDaniel said.

He described the loss as a gut punch. One he took personally.

“Their plan was better than ours,” he said. 

When you consider what his players’ expectations have risen to, then compare them to this performance, McDaniel said, “This was probably the furthest miss that we’ve had all year.”

And that’s probably the most confounding thing about this. We’ve seen losses like this by the Dolphins before. More than any of us care to count. But two of them, in a row?

Wasn’t that supposed to be a thing of the past?


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