Tua Tagovailoa entered the press conference room at Miami Dolphins team facilities for his usual Wednesday post-practice media session in a shirt he wore under his pads and jersey that read, “I wish it were hotter.”
Coming in straight off the practice field sweating, it’s a mantra coach Mike McDaniel has instilled in his team that has been working in the South Florida heat and humidity through offseason workouts and since training camp in late July.
“That’s a phrase that Mike likes to say, more so reverse psychology,” the Dolphins quarterback said. “It gets really hot out here, so just say it, believe it.”
After last Sunday’s stunning 42-38 come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Ravens, it’s hard to call any quarterback in the NFL hotter than Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa’s historic passing performance in Baltimore earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, as announced Wednesday morning. Later Wednesday, it was revealed he was voted by fans as the NFL’s FedEx Air Player of the Week.
“It’s awesome,” said McDaniel, who has been impressed with the way Tagovailoa works through the outside noise surrounding him. “It’s a team award to me, but an award that he tremendously deserves.”
Said Tagovailoa: “It was cool. That’s my first one, but I’ve said this in many interviews: Individual success is only done within team success. If we never won that game, if the defense never did what they did, if our offense didn’t go out and put points on the board, none of that would’ve been possible.”
Tagovailoa threw for 469 yards and six touchdowns to erase a three-touchdown fourth-quarter deficit. His yardage and touchdown totals Sunday in Baltimore were easily career highs. The six touchdowns tied Hall of Famers Bob Griese and Dan Marino for a franchise record. The 469 yards were fourth-best in Dolphins history, bested three times by Marino.
Four of Tagovailoa’s touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter as Miami, coming back from down 21 points, staged its largest road comeback in franchise history. It was the first time any NFL team came back from down 21 in the fourth quarter in 12 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Tagovailoa’s prolific Sunday has him among NFL passing leaders through two weeks. He’s first in passing yards (739), tied for first in touchdowns (seven), third in yards per attempt (8.9) and completions (59) and fourth in quarterback rating (116.5).
Tagovailoa’s top two receivers, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, collected 11 receptions and two touchdowns each. Hill went for 190 receiving yards and Waddle 171 as Tagovailoa finished 36 of 50.
“I feel comfortable distributing the ball to our playmakers,” he said of the strides he’s proud of early in Year 3. “Just getting the ball into the hands of our playmakers and letting them go to work.”
Now, it’s on Tagovailoa to continue making progress after a career day. McDaniel would like to see Tagovailoa’s rebound from two first-half interceptions on Sunday serve as a microcosm going forward.
“The second pick he threw was the worst that he’s thrown in practice or games for me. And what he did after that, that’s something to hold on to,” McDaniel said. “It’s using that day in a beneficial manner moving forward.”
It doesn’t get easier after such a dramatic finish on the road. The Dolphins host the AFC East-rival and Super Bowl-favorite Buffalo Bills.
“We understand that they’re a really good team,” Tagovailoa said. “They’re tough defensively. They’re explosive offensively.”
He emphatically called Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen a “beast.” Despite dealing with a number of injuries, especially in the secondary, the Bills present one of the league’s most stout defenses and have crushed their first two opponents, the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans, by a combined 55 points.
“I wouldn’t say that we have a measuring stick for how good that these guys are,” Tagovailoa said. “For us, we’re just looking at playing the way we played for the past two weeks. They’ll get our best, and we’ll get theirs.”
Tagovailoa is the first Dolphins player to win the AFC’s offensive weekly award since quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick received the honor in Week 16 of the 2019 season.
Last year, the Dolphins twice had weekly award winners. Cornerback Xavien Howard was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after his fumble return for a touchdown was a key play in the Week 10 upset of the Ravens. Three weeks later, Michael Palardy took home the conference’s special teams honor for the week for his punting in a victory against the New York Giants.
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