By: Brandon Liguori
Poor offensive line play resulted in poor quarterback play from rookie Tua Tagovailoa Sunday afternoon against the Denver Broncos (4-6) at Empower Field at Mile High, costing the Dolphins a 20-13 loss, breaking a five-game winning streak and an opportunity to even the Buffalo Bills atop the AFC East standings at 7-3.
Tagovailoa, who was benched in the fourth quarter at the hands of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, closed with a career-low 83 passing yards on 11 completions, tossing a first-quarter touchdown to DeVante Parker, but struggled to move the football effectively and consistently, thus causing his benching.
“Tua wasn’t injured. We just felt like it was the best move at that point in the game. We had to get to two-minute mode and we just felt like he gave us the best chance to win the game, which we had an opportunity at the end- to tie it, I should say,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said in regards to the decision to bench Tagovailoa in place of Fitzpatrick.
Flores, however, confirmed to media members that despite a sloppy performance, Tagovailoa remains the starter Nov. 29 against the 0-10 New York Jets. “No changes,” Flores said. Sunday’s result was due in large part to the Dolphins’ inability to stop Denver’s ground game. As a team, the Broncos, led by Melvin Gordon’s two rushing scores, gained 189 yards on 33 carries.
Tagovailoa was sacked six times today and as a team, the Broncos out-gained the Dolphins, 459-223. “I think they were very well-prepared coming into this game. We knew they were a tough front, and we knew we were facing a tough defense at the same time,” Tagovailoa said.
Fitzpatrick appeared with 10:44 in the final quarter, needing a spark on the offensive side of the football. Trailing, 20-10, the 16-year veteran marched the Dolphins down the field, before Jason Sanders’ 53-yard field goal cut Denver’s lead to one possession, 20-13. Forcing a huge defensive turnover on the ensuing drive, Fitzpatrick, from Miami’s 1, brought the Dolphins in the red zone before throwing a game-sealing interception on a pass intended for Parker.
“It’s very clear that this is Tua’s team and Tua’s going to continue to get better and grow,” Fitzpatrick said.
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