MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa heard MVP chants multiple times in the first half. Star receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle provided fans with oohs and ahhs with their elite speed and pass catching. This was supposed to be an easy, blowout win for Miami.
Then, Dolphins starting left tackle Terron Armstead left the game.
And Tagovailoa began hitting the deck a lot more than fans cared to see during Sunday’s 30-15 win over the Houston Texans at Hard Rock Stadium.
Tagovailoa was sacked four times – all coming after Armstead left the game with a pectoral injury – before he left the game in the third quarter with a 30-6 lead.
NFL COACHES SERIES: ‘Positional desegregation’ is rampant, leaving Black coaches stuck in the pipeline
Follow every game: Live NFL Scores
OBJ: Star NFL free agent wide receiver asked to leave flight from Miami
There was no reason for Tagovailoa or Armstead to play in the rest of this game.
But now, the Dolphins’ biggest concern is how severe Armstead’s injury is and whether it may cause him to miss an extended amount of time heading into the stretch run for the rest of the season.
The Dolphins are 8-3, in first place in the AFC East ahead of the Buffalo Bills with the tiebreaker in their favor. Miami is only trailing the Kansas City Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC playoff picture, before the Chiefs host the Rams.
That’s the good news.
But the challenge ahead of Miami: Three consecutive road games, against the revamped San Francisco 49ers, Justin Herbert and the injured San Diego Chargers, and in Buffalo against Josh Allen and the Bills.
It’s not the time of the season for the Dolphins to lose Armstead to injury.
And Armstead is not the caliber player the Dolphins can afford to lose during an aspiring playoff run in a resurgent season led by Tagovailoa and Hill.
Tagovailoa finished Sunday’s game completing 22 of 36 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown and a 96.9 passer rating.
It was not reminiscent of the three-game stretch Tagovailoa played before Miami’s bye, when he completed more than 70 percent of his passes with three touchdowns. His passer rating never reached below 135.0.
But it was a reminder how important Armstead has been to Tagovailoa’s success this season.
Armstead, one of the best left tackles in the NFL, was one of two premier signings (Hill was the other) the Dolphins made this offseason to be in the position they’re in after this game.
And if the Dolphins are forced to play without Armstead, their options are limited.
Right tackle Austin Jackson was the Dolphins’ left tackle before Armstead’s arrival. He played his first game Sunday since injuring his ankle earlier this season at right tackle.
Brandon Shell, the Dolphins’ right tackle who played well in Jackson’s absence, assumed Armstead’s role at left tackle.
Other than that, it’ll be hard for the Dolphins to replicate having one of the best left tackles in football in their lineup.
Tagovailoa threw a touchdown pass to tight end Durham Smythe, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. scored a rushing touchdown in his third consecutive game since joining the Dolphins, and cornerback Xavien Howard returned a fumble for another touchdown in the win.
Follow Safid Deen on Twitter @Safid_Deen
Story Credit: usatoday.com