From zero to hero has never described a quarterback’s resurgence so aptly as it does Tua Tagovailoa in Week 2. The steam may still be emanating off of the Dolphins quarterback after he caught fire in the first half and outdueled Miami native Lamar Jackson. A few weeks ago, Dolphins fans openly fantasized about the possibility of Jackson in a Dolphins uniform. Jackson himself gave subtle hints that he would be interested if the Ravens shorted him on his contract extension.
It was déjà vu for Tagovailoa who was yo-yoed between starting and serving as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s understudy in his rookie season and then dealt with Deshaun Watson trade rumors in his second season as a pro. Then, Jackson, who played high school football approximately 15 minutes from Hard Rock Stadium put on a showcase in his return. In the first half, the Ravens led 28-7 and Tagovailoa was helplessly watching a local go on a rampage.
Jackson was 11-of-13 for 210 yards, threw three touchdowns, and had a perfect passer rating. Tagovailoa, quite the contrary, had a 60.3 quarterback rating after hurling up two picks. The game was essentially over. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Ravens are 53-0 (including postseason games) when leading by 21 or more points over the past 20 seasons.
And then Tagovailoa happened.
In the second half, Tagovailoa strutted all over the Ravens’ defense like a prime Rick Flair and showcased the downfield passing that was missing from his game for the past two seasons. In the final two frames, he threw for 319 yards and five touchdowns.
Those stats weren’t empty calories either. Passing for six touchdowns in a comeback bid may be a seminal moment for his career. Four came in the fourth quarter. Jackson’s 79-yard gallop into the end zone put the Ravens up 21 at the end of the third quarter, and made him the first player in 25 years to explode for a 75-yard pass and run in the same game.
In the fourth quarter, however, the Dolphins began scoring in a hurry. Tagovailoa’s deep missile to Tyreek Hill made it a one-possession game but was slightly underthrown. That type of throw was consistently lambasted in the preseason and training camp as evidence of his inadequate arm. In game time, it appeared to be right where Hill needed it. He also found Hill in stride downfield to tie the game, which gave Tagovailoa his first career game with multiple deep touchdown passes that traveled 20 air yards or more.
Rather than play conservative and go for the tie, the Dolphins promptly marched down the field, set Tagovailoa up at the 7-yard line, and let him take shots into the end zone.
Tagovailoa’s final throw of the evening was his magnum opus. After stepping up into the pocket and drifting to his left, he fired a laser into the outstretched arms of Jaylen Waddle who was being blanketed by a Ravens corner. If the pass were a little higher, it goes out of bounds. A bit lower and it’s picked. Tagovailoa had to deliver a bullseye.
Hill and Waddle proved their value as game-changers in Miami, combining for 361 yards and four touchdowns. In one game, Waddle gained 73 yards on go routes, which surpassed his total from last season, while Hill’s 108 yards on go routes matched his 2021 total with the Chiefs. Tagovailoa has been repeatedly punched in his mouth, mocked, and belittled, but those days of him being underestimated might be over.