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After 75-yard TD on first play, Tua Tagovailoa, Miami lose

AL.com 12/5/2022 Mark Inabinett, al.com

For the first time this season on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins lost a game started by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa that he could have finished.

Before Sunday’s 33-17 defeat by the San Francisco 49ers, Dolphins had an 8-1 record in the games started by Tagovailoa (and an 0-2 mark in the games that he missed). The lone loss had come on Sept. 29, when Tagovailoa sustained a first-half concussion and was in a Cincinnati hospital while Miami finished a 27-15 loss to the Bengals.

Miami’s offense went 0-for-7 on third down, lost a season-high four turnovers, snapped 34 fewer plays than the 49ers and had a 21:08 deficit in time of possession at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

“Obviously, it starts with me offensively,” Tagovailoa said. “Turnovers with third-down communication errors, in that retrospect, it’s hard to win a game when you’re not on your P’s and Q’s and you’re not dialed in.”

But Sunday’s game didn’t start as though the Dolphins would meet defeat. On the first play from scrimmage, Tagovailoa completed a pass across the middle to Trent Sherfield, and the wide receiver ran the remaining 65 yards to the end zone to complete a 75-yard scoring play 10 seconds into the game.

Despite playing after their first series without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who sustained a season-ending broken foot, the 49ers led 17-10 at halftime and added two third-quarter field goals after intercepting Tagovailoa to end both of Miami’s possessions in the period.

Tagovailoa had a team-record streak of 193 passes without an interception going when San Francisco defensive back Jimmie Ward picked off the former Alabama All-American. The former Davidson High School star dived over Jeff Wilson to catch the football when the Miami running back slipped down.

“No one really to blame but myself,” Tagovailoa said. “We’ll be better from this.”

The Dolphins closed within six points when Tagovailoa connected with wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a 45-yard touchdown on the second snap of the fourth quarter. Miami scored the first second-half points against San Francisco since Oct. 23. The 49ers had blanked their opponents after halftime in the previous four games.

On the Dolphins’ next possession, Tagovailoa connected with Hill for a 9-yard completion on a fourth-and-1 snap at the Miami 19-yard line. Three more first downs made it look as though the Dolphins were on their way to cashing in the gamble. But a 3-yard completion to tight end Mike Gesicki on fourth-and-2 at the San Francisco 36 was overturned by video review.

The 49ers capitalized by adding a field goal to their lead, then got a touchdown with 1:53 to play to secure the victory when Nick Bosa sacked Tagovailoa and Dre Greenlaw ran 23 yards to the end zone after recovering the resulting fumble.

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Tagovailoa completed 18-of-33 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He entered the game with the NFL’s best passing-efficiency rating of 115.7. But he posted his worst showing of his nine full games in the 2022 season at 79.7.

Tagovailoa called it a “poor performance on my part” in the fourth game in NFL history between a team that had scored at least 30 points in each of its previous four games and a team that had not allowed more than 16 points in any of its previous four games.

“We knew what we were playing against,” Tagovailoa said. “Really good front. You look at the backers that they have. Very intuitive. And then their safeties and how they try to mix in coverages of making everything look the same. Not easy being in the back there and having that kind of pressure and trying to read it at the same time, so they had a great game plan for us. We were hoping to have a lot more chances to make some plays, but we didn’t. We had a lot of opportunities offensively. Didn’t capitalize, so that’s the result of the game.”

The Dolphins played without starting offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Austin Jackson, who were injured. After being sacked three times, Tagovailoa said replacements Greg Little and Brandon Shell did a “phenomenal job.”

Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant of the 2022 NFL Draft, completed 25-of-37 passes for 210 yards with two touchdowns and one interception after Garoppolo left the game.

The end to Miami’s five-game winning streak dropped the Dolphins to 8-4 and one game behind the Buffalo Bills at the top of the AFC East standings.

Miami will stay in California for its next game. The Dolphins play the Los Angeles Chargers at 3:05 p.m. CST Dec. 11 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

“I would say this is nothing for us to worry about,” Tagovailoa said, “but it is an opportunity for us to get better from, so don’t think that we’re taking this lightly and we’re just going to move on from it. Great opportunity for us that we’ll use and take coming into the L.A. game next week.”

With its fifth consecutive victory, San Francisco improved to 8-4 and kept a one-game lead over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West.

“The biggest thing I wanted from this game is to really go out there and feel a playoff-type atmosphere and do everything that they could to try to win that game,” Miami coach Mike McDaniel said. “And when you do that, I think you can actually, win or loss, you can get better from it because we have a young team that needs to be able to – at some point in time you have to have everything on the line and you have to be able to execute. …

“As frustrating as it was, I think that we are well-equipped and we have the guys in the locker room that collectively will take this piece of adversity and get better from it, and that’s the objective.”

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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit al.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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