Whew, that was close. Ryan Fitzpatrick nearly deep-sized the #TankForTua campaign with some fourth-quarter FitzMagic on Sunday.
There is no denying the overriding reality of this Dolphins season. A team that was constructed only to win in next year’s draft by losing on the field nearly mucked it up and pulled off an improbable comeback against an equally inept Redskins team.
Veteran quarterback Fitzpatrick came off the bench to replace an ineffective Josh Rosen and led two late touchdown drives only to fall short 17-16 when a do-or-die try for a two-point conversion failed.
The silver lining was that the 0-5 Dolphins stayed on track toward securing the first pick in next April’s draft after the Redskins emerged from the Winless Wonders Bowl 1-5.
The Bengals remained in the race by falling to 0-6, while the other winless team entering Week 6, the Jets, was threatening to upset the Cowboys in a later game.
Players not tanking, front office is
Of course, Dolphins players and coaches are doing their best to actually win the games, and they are to be commended for nearly pulling it off in this one. And you can’t fault coach Brian Flores’ decision to roll the dice and either win or lose by going for two with 10 seconds remaining.
“I was like, ‘let’s do this.’ I don’t want to play overtime,” Dolphins offensive tackle Jesse Davis said. “I think it’s a good call. I think we’ve got to be aggressive doing that. What do we got to lose? Go for it. … I like the call.”
Kenyan Drake dropped Fitzpatrick’s short pass in the left flat, though it is unlikely he would have gotten to the end zone had he caught it.
Nonetheless, for the first time this season it felt like watching a real game, at least in the final quarter.
Earlier, it was dreadfully dull as two dysfunctional teams slogged through a first quarter in which both teams had three possessions and punted reach time. The Redskins didn’t record a first down. The Dolphins allowed three sacks in their first two possessions.
0-16 far from a certainty
One thought kept recurring through the early entertainment vacuum: What number will Tua Tagovailoa wear for Miami?
He can’t keep his No. 13 from Alabama.
The Dolphins have spent two decades trying to replace their own legendary No. 13.
Tua won’t get the number. And as Sunday showed, it’s no certainty the talented Hawaiian will get the chance to fill the void that has persisted since Dan Marino hung it up in Miami.
The way things can change in the unpredictable NFL, the Dolphins may win a game or two over the next 11 weeks.
They had been outscored 91-0 in the second half this season before tallying those final 13 unanswered points.
“Everyone kind of knows the woes we have had in the second half throughout the season,” Drake said, “So for us to come back and give our team something to make sure that we put ourselves in a position to win; that’s all you can ask for, to continue to improve on a week-to-week basis.”
Tua worth tanking for
The team’s determination to win each Sunday and the organization’s strategy to lose in the best interest of the future are both understandable.
Tagovailoa has thrown 27 touchdown passes and only one interception while completing 73.6 percent of his passes this season. In his career at Alabama, he has thrown for 81 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.
For anyone questioning that tanking is the intent for Miami, the decision to make Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard inactive with knee soreness after he practiced through the week certainly looks suspicious.
Howard may have made the difference in a game in which the Redskins’ two touchdowns came on passes to Terry McLaurin, of 25 and 33 yards.
On the first, McLaurin easily beat someone named Ken Webster, who fell trying to keep up. (Webster was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots this year and released at the end of preseason.) McLaurin accounted for 100 of the Redskins 166 receiving yards on four catches.
The no-name secondary the Dolphins fielded Sunday actually turned in a respectable performance, and held up despite the pass rush putting no pressure on Case Keenum all day.
“I think our defense played really phenomenal and we just didn’t pick up our stuff [on offense],” Davis said. “Whenever the defense holds them to 17 [points], I think we should definitely beat that team.”
A few days after being declared the starter for the remainder of the season, Josh Rosen took a 180-degree turn in his quest to prove he is capable.
Rough day for Rosen
Rosen’s 32.9 passer rating certainly screamed Tua can’t get here soon enough. He threw for only 85 yards on 15 completions in 25 attempts and two regrettable interceptions.
He was often under heavy pressure, particularly in the first half. But the two interceptions were all on Rosen. He shouldn’t have attempted either throw. He had time and simply made bad decisions throwing to receivers who were covered.
The main thing the remaining games will reveal is which players may have value for the future. On defense, linebacker Raekwon McMillan continues to do a solid job as a run stopped. He had five solo tackles and four assists Sunday.
Former University of Miami running back Mark Walton got his first start and averaged 5.3 yards rushing (six carries for 32 yards) and added 43 yards receiving on five catches.
Second-year tight end Mike Gesicki is becoming more of a factor in the passing game. The 2018 second-round pick made a terrific catch over the middle for 30 yards that got the final touchdown drive going.
Then there’s Fitzpatrick, who was huddled with Marino in the locker room after the game. If the Dolphins aren’t careful, old FitzMagic just might put the kibosh on this whole #tankovailoa strategy.
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns
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