By Christian Chappell and Kayla Morton
The Miami Dolphins are still undefeated under rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who picked up his second straight victory, and Miami’s fourth in a row, in a 34-31 nail biter out in Arizona against the Cardinals on Sunday. Tagovailoa has had a hot start to his career, throwing for 350 passing yards, three touchdowns and adding another 35 yards on the ground. He also hasn’t recorded a turnover since his first drop-back against the Los Angeles Rams.
“It was a team effort. Tua did his part. It wasn’t a perfect game. He made some mistakes like we all do. I made some mistakes for sure in this game,” Miami head coach Brian Flores said.
Miami’s Defensive Score: Difference Maker
It was a hotly contested game throughout the high-scoring matchup as the three-point game only had one turnover. The game was ultimately decided on the Cardinals’ first drive, when quarterback Kyler Murray was strip-sacked by defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and DE Shaq Lawson took the fumble 36 yards to the house. That was the first score of the game, and while the game went back and forth, had the score not happened, Arizona would have won the game.
Cardinals Tie the Game Up Quickly
After the score, the Cardinals quickly tied it on their next possession when Murray found tight end Maxx Williams for his first TD of the season on the 10-play drive.
Miami: Next Man Up Mentality in Backfield
But, Miami proved that the “next-man-up” mentality was in full swing as it powered its way 65 yards down the field to answer and retake the lead. Its drive was capped off by a two-yard rushing score from the game’s starting Dolphins running back, Jordan Howard, with both Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida being out with injuries. Howard had been a healthy inactive the previous three weeks.
Back and Forth Again with Christian Kirk, Preston Williams
In just over a minute and a half, it was Arizona again who got on the board. Murray showcased his passing abilities with a 56-yard bullet to wide receiver Christian Kirk.
To begin the second quarter, the Dolphins scored on their first possession, a wide open snipe to WR Preston Williams from nine yards out. However, Williams suffered a foot injury on the play and did not return to the game. It was later diagnosed as a foot sprain and his status for week 10 at home against the Los Angeles Chargers is currently questionable.
Kickers Zane Gonzalez, Jason Sanders Get in on the Action
After allowing the Cardinals to work all over them, the Dolphins finally got a stop and forced a kicker Zane Gonzalez field goal on the next drive. After trading punts, Miami lined up kicker Jason Sanders for a field goal as time was expiring in the half. A questionable run call with no timeouts barely allowed the Dolphins to clock it with three seconds remaining to set Sanders up from 56 yards away, but he hit his career-long to keep his perfect season in-tact.
“We fought back as an offense, as a defense, as special teams. We gave ourselves a chance to win it at the end and we made plays at the end,” Flores said.
Two Quick Scores from Cardinals Answered by Mack Hollins’ First Dolphins TD
The Cardinals tied it up at 24 coming out of the half and with about two and half minutes left in the third quarter and then took the lead with a 12-yard TD run by Murray. That lead was short-lived though, as Miami tied the game back up on its ensuing drive thanks to WR Mack Hollins‘ first career catch and TD as a Dolphin.
Sanders Makes Dolphins Franchise History
With just over 11 minutes left in the game, Arizona ended a 33-yard drive with a fourth and one play from the Miami 40-yard line. Thinking a 57-yard field goal was out of Gonzalez’s range, the Cardinals elected to go for it after already converting on a fourth and one situation during the same drive, but did not get it. Miami took advantage of the short field on the turnover on downs, and even though the drive only went 28 yards, it came away with a 50-yard field goal.
On the kick, Sanders made Dolphins history as the first Miami kicker to make 20 consecutive field goals to start a season, passing Olindo Mare.
Cardinals Were Right to Not Trust Gonzalez
After a touchback, the Cardinals took over on their own 25-yard line and took it 44 yards down to the Miami 31-yard line. After Miami forced another fourth down, this time, Arizona went for the field goal from 49 yards out.
When it thought a 57-yard field goal was out of Gonzalez’s range… the Cardinals were right.
Gonzalez was spot on, but came up short of the goal posts and gave Miami the ball as a result of a turnover on downs. Picking up a first down with under two minutes remaining in the game, the Dolphins finished the game by effectively killing the clock running the ball.
“Sometimes it comes down to one play on each side and to win in these types of competitive games against good teams; those are the plays we need to make and essentially we made one more than they did,” Flores said.
Tagovailoa, Murray Show What NFL’s QBs of the Future Look Like in Duel
Tagovailoa finished 20-for-28 for 248 yards, two TDs and zero turnovers, while Murray went 21-for-26 for 283 yards for four total TDs (one rushing) and one fumble.
“I would say it was a lot better than the Rams game. We’re going to enjoy it and come in Monday and watch film with one another. We’ll see what we can learn from and continue to work,” Tagovailoa on the play of his second game.
Murray was also the Cardinals leading rusher with 106 yards on 11 carries and the score, while it was Salvon Ahmed for Miami in his first career game as a Dolphin who mustered 38 yards on seven carries.
WR DeVante Parker was Miami’s leading receiver, snagging 64 yards on six receptions (seven targets) while seven different Dolphins caught passes. For Arizona, it was Kirk, who has been quietly pacing that corps in recent weeks, with five catches (eight targets) for 123 yards on the day and a score.
The Dolphins will go for five wins in a row next Sunday at home against the Chargers, while Miami will be rooting for Arizona to upset the Buffalo Bills.