Home Sports Dolphins snowballing downhill, and it’s up to Tua Tagovailoa to stop it | Habib

Dolphins snowballing downhill, and it’s up to Tua Tagovailoa to stop it | Habib

Dolphins snowballing downhill, and it’s up to Tua Tagovailoa to stop it | Habib

(Editor’s note: Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel announced late Monday afternoon that Tua Tagovailoa is in concussion protocol after displaying symptoms earlier in the day. It’s uncertain whether Tagovailoa actually has a concussion, but backup Teddy Bridgewater will prepare as if he’s starting next weekend at New England.)

MIAMI GARDENS — Maybe it’s a good thing that minutes after losing to the Green Bay Packers, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said one thing that can’t happen is for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to let this one snowball.

And maybe it’s a good thing that minutes after McDaniel said that, Tagovailoa said he and his teammates can’t take this loss home to their families and allow it to wreck Christmas.

Put them together and maybe it means that Packers 26, Dolphins 20 on Sunday was more about just one loss and less about the troubling fact that it also represents an extension of Miami’s losing streak to four.

Because the challenge now, for both Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ organization, really is the same.

Forget the past.

Forget the trends.

Forget expectations that are diminishing.

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Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa calls signals against the Packers.

Here’s the good news (maybe): The Dolphins, even at 8-7, go up to New England next week, beat the Patriots, hear that the Jets have lost at Seattle, and their playoff worries are over. They’re in. Or, even if the Jets win next weekend, they still get to return to Hard Rock Stadium for the season finale. Miami wins that to finish 10-7, they’re in.

Here’s the bad news: This is a young team that doesn’t know what South Florida knows about what so often happens to the Miami Dolphins when the weather turns cold. And at 46 degrees at kickoff Sunday, the air was cold, the reality, colder.

If the Dolphins can’t beat a 6-8 team like the Packers at home, what’s to say they can win out? Perhaps it’s that this Dolphins team is the streakiest since, oh, 1972, having produced equal amounts of winning streaks and losing streaks this season.

What happened to the Tua Tagovailoa who couldn’t throw a pick?

The same applies to Tagovailoa. The quarterback who not long ago couldn’t throw an interception was one who threw a critical pick to open the fourth quarter against Green Bay.

Then another on the next possession.

Then another on the next possession.

Which maybe is why McDaniel had the concept of snowballing in his crosshairs.

“You can’t let the past influence the present,” McDaniel said. “And I think that there could be some portions of that that have to do with him kind of snowballing in his own mind. But he’s such a strong individual that the good news is that I’m very confident that he’ll be able to get through that.”

McDaniel then added that quarterbacks need teammates to do their share “so that he doesn’t have to do too much on his own.”

True, but sometimes, elite quarterbacks put teams on their shoulders. Tagovailoa had chances to do that Sunday and fired blanks each time.

“It was just terrible how everything ended,” Tagovailoa said. “Like I told the guys, that’s on me. I will definitely get better from that.”

Immediately after Kader Kohou intercepted a pass in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa overthrew a deep ball to Tyreek Hill that Jaire Alexander intercepted, setting up the Packers for an easy field goal and their first lead at 23-20.

Tagovailoa and the Dolphins appeared ready to answer, driving to the Green Bay 30 before De’Vondre Campbell intercepted.

“There was one of the interceptions that the primary receiver kind of busted,” McDaniel said. “Ran the wrong route, a concept that we ran numerous times last week, and so it’s not just him.”

McDaniel appeared to be referring to running back Raheem Mostert, who never looked back for the ball, although even if he had run a curl route, Campbell still appeared to have the inside track to the pass.

Credit Tagovailoa for standing up even if he didn’t have to.

“I might have said the wrong play,” Tagovailoa said. “I’m not too sure.”

Interception No. 3, the dagger, came in desperation mode. A short pass intended for Mike Gesicki sailed to Rasul Douglas.

“It felt like it was situations where the ball just kind of got away from Tua, which is not characteristic for him by any means,” McDaniel said.

Tagovailoa went five straight games without a pick this season. He went through an eight-game stretch in which he completed 70 percent or better five times. During this losing streak? He’s hitting 52.5 percent with six touchdowns and five interceptions.

Was Tua unknowingly tipping off intentions to the Packers?

Coaches have praised Tagovailoa’s ability to look downfield, read defenses and place the ball in space, even if receivers aren’t quite there yet. But coach Matt LaFleur suggested the Packers benefited from reading Tagovailoa’s intentions.

“We knew he’s a guy that’s going to anticipate,” LaFleur said. “He’s going to let the ball go. But if you can read the quarterback the right way, that also gives you some opportunities defensively.”

Maybe it says something about Tagovailoa’s ability to not let a bad game to linger that when he stepped to the podium postgame, the first thing he did was wish everyone a merry Christmas. 

“This isn’t something that after a loss we should be going home and taking it to our families, our kids, our other halves,” Tagovailoa said. “We leave it all here and we go enjoy Christmas, and then we come back in when time is (right), and we learn from it.”

Tagovailoa hardly is the only one who needs to learn. Although the defense had its moments, such as holding the Packers to a field goal despite taking possession on the Miami 14, it also failed again late. Green Bay built a cushion in the final six minutes, driving from its 36 to the Miami 8, via a nine-play, 56-yard drive that swallowed up four minutes.

“I don’t think it’s time for us to blink,” Tagovailoa said. “We just move on.”

McDaniel thought the Dolphins would have shown they moved on from losses to the 49ers, Chargers and Bills by taking care of the Packers.

“Nothing has really changed moving forward except for the fact that we were really expecting to cleanse ourselves of this feeling and we’re going to have to wait another week to try to get right,” McDaniel said.

Another week, South Florida must live with.

Another year? Been there many times.


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