By Daniel Roberts and Kayla Morton
Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins made history Sunday as they scored a passing, rushing, defensive, and special teams touchdown for the first time since 1993 in route to their 28-17 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Rams.
Additionally, Tagovailoa, in his first career NFL start, became the first quarterback since Donovan McNabb in 1999 to pass for under 100 yards (93) and 20 completions (12) to win his debut.
Miami Win Streak On-Line at Hands of Los Angeles
The Dolphins entering Sunday had been on a tear winning back-to-back games against both the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets. Coming into the weekend though Miami knew it would have a tough task in taking on LA and its defense. But, it was the Dolphins’ own defensive performance that propelled them to an upset victory.
Rams Score First, Aaron Donald Welcomes Tagovailoa
The Rams struck first less than four minutes into the game with a four-yard rushing touchdown from wide receiver Robert Woods on an in-and-around trick play.
The score came after defensive tackle Aaron Donald welcomed Tagovailoa with a booming wrestling-like takedown and strip-sack deep in the Dolphins’ own territory on Miami’s first series.
After two consecutive punts, Miami fans were no doubt getting a little anxious.
Christian Wilkins INT Starts Dolphins Defense Onslaught
But an interception from Miami big-man defensive-lineman Christian Wilkins foreshadowed what the day would bring for the Dolphins.
Wilkins intercepted Rams QB Jared Goff at the LA 41-yard line and returned it to the 33 to set up Tagovailoa’s first career TD.
Tagovailoa Throws First Career TD
As the clock struck zero to end the first quarter, Tagovailoa sniped a three-yard TD to WR DeVante Parker for his only catch of the game.
“That was fun,” Tagovailoa said during the post-game press conference. “It always feels good throwing a touchdown. It’s not easy scoring against a defense like that but just enjoying the moment every time. I’m keeping that ball.”
Miami Wins Game in Second Quarter
The name of the game in the second quarter is big plays. Why are the words big plays used to describe the Dolphins performance in that period? Well, just ask defensive teammates Emmanuel Ogbah and Andrew Van Ginkel.
After Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin fumbled at the Miami seven-yard line, Ogbah went untouched and leveled Goff on the ensuing play to give the Dolphins a strip-sack of their own. Van Ginkel scooped up the loose ball and took it 78 yards the other way to the house to give Miami its first lead of the game.
Following that defensive score, the Dolphins forced a three-and-out, Rams punt and WR/kick returner Jakeem Grant finally reminded everyone why he was given a lengthy contract extension.
Grant danced around defenders and used nearly half the field before breaking through the Ram defense to score on an 88-yard punt return.
“Coach told me coming in that I was going to get an opportunity to field one and we made the most of it,” Grant said during the post-game press conference. “I credit my teammates, I don’t even think I got touched so it’s all credit to them.”
Within a matter of minutes, Miami had a clear momentum shift and had a stronghold on the game.
Not done yet though, up 21-7, Gaskin scored near the end of the half on a one-yard after defensive end Shaq Lawson punched the ball out of Goff’s hands deep in LA territory. LB Kyle Van Noy recovered the loose ball and returned it 28 yards to the Rams one-yard line to set up Gaskin.
Rams Run Out of Time
Right before the end of the half, the Rams used a field goal from kicker Kai Forbath to make it an 18-point game. After being held scoreless in the third quarter, they tacked on another TD to begin the fourth. Woods got his second of the game after dusting cornerback Xavien Howard and being virtually wide open in the back left corner of the end zone.
But that’d be all she wrote in the scoring department as the Miami defense came up with more key stops throughout the remainder of the game and the Dolphins extended their win streak to three games and jumped above .500 for the first time since 2018.
LA Out-Gained Miami on Offense Heavily, But Dolphins Defense Shines
LA had 471 yards of offense but failed to score when it really mattered. Miami only had 145 yards of offense all Sunday but still managed to win by double digits thanks to its defense.
Goff’s Turnovers Cost Rams
Tagovailoa finished his first start completing 12-of-22 passes for 93 yards and one TD. Goff on the other hand struggled to connect on scoring plays during the game, especially in the first half, but built an overall respectable final stat line. He finished the day completing 35-of-61 passes for 355 yards for one TD. However, he tossed two interceptions and fumbled twice. Head coach Brian Flores was pleased with his team’s effort on Sunday.
“I think our guys showed a lot of mental toughness today,” Flores said during the post-game press conference. “We got off to a slow start and when I talk about the mental toughness, that’s part of it. We just kept playing hard. It was great to see this team’s mental toughness.”
Smythe, Kupp Lead Respective Teams
Tight end Durham Smythe ended up as Miami’s leading receiver with two catches for 16 yards, while the Rams’ Cooper Kupp finished with 11 catches (21 targets) and 110 yards led LA. However, Woods’ two TDs were the only scores.
The next game for the Dolphins will be on Sunday on the road against the Arizona Cardinals at 4:05 p.m. eastern. They will be looking for their fourth straight win and an overall record of 5-3 as they look to take the lead in the AFC East. They trail only the Buffalo Bills (6-2) by one game.