Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Fields showed why they are two of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the NFL on Sunday.
But it was Miami’s defense that held up late in a 35-32 victory at Soldier FIeld.
Fields was incomplete on a fourth-down pass with less than two minutes to play.
For most of the game, the Dolphins could not slow Fields, who ran for 178 yards and passed for 123 more.
But for a second consecutive game, Tagovailoa was phenomenal.
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The game-deciding score was a 3-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to newly-acquired running back Jeff Wilson with 6:07 left in the third quarter.
Tagovailoa completed 70% of his passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns.
Tyreek Hill caught seven passes for 143 yards.
Melvin Ingram of the Dolphins had a key sack with less than five minutes to play.
The Dolphins have won three consecutive games, improving to 6-3, and closing with a half-game of the Bills in the AFC East.
The Bears fall to 3-6.
Here are five takeaways:
TUA SHINES IN WINDY CITY
Tua Tagovailoa’s early-season production appears no fluke.
In chilly and windy conditions in Chicago on Sunday, Tua shined again.
What’s most startling is how Tua continues to complete deep ball after deep ball to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Tua is undoubtedly going to finish this season with one of the highest completion percentages in the NFL. But that’s not a surprise.
What is more encouraging for Miami is that Tua is going to be among the league leaders in yards per attempt.
In the first half alone, Tua completed passes of 17, 18, 25, 26 and 39 yards.
Tua is playing with an incredible amount of confidence in himself and the offensive scheme and his teammates. What a complete 180 from last season.
TYREEK HILL’S ACCOMPLISHMENT
In the second quarter, Tyreek Hill went over 1,000 receiving yards for the season.
In Game 9. With Tua Tagovailoa, not Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback.
Hill may end up as the best offensive player in Dolphins history other than Dan Marino.
Hill may be the first player in NFL history to record 2,000 receiving yards in a season.
When Hill back-flipped in the end zone after a first half touchdown, we were reminded how different things are now. The entire complexion of Miami’s offense, and the Dolphins organization changed with Hill arrived.
He is not only the fastest player in the league, and virtually uncoverable.
He is an Alpha male. He is a very hard worker. He is a team leader.
His acquisition by general manager Chris Grier has been a stroke of genius.
MIXED BAG ON SPECIAL TEAMS
When Jaelan Phillips blocked a Bears punt and Andrew Van Ginkel ran it in for a touchdown for a 21-10 lead in the second quarter, special teams coordinator Danny Crossman was feeling good.
After all, Crossman’s units have struggled most of this season.
Van Ginkel is arguably Miami’s most important special teams contributor. And inserting Phillips, the 6-foot-5, 266-pound monster onto the punt block team was genius.
Considering that entering the game, Phillips was 31st among Dolphins players with only 19 special teams snaps, the Bears may not have been expecting to see him on that play. It’s possible that the addition of a stud edge rusher like Bradley Chubb could open a top players like Phillips for a few additional special teams snaps.
Unfortunately, kicker Jason Sanders missed a 29-yard field goal wide left just before halftime. Yes, it was a bit windy. But Sanders can’t miss that kick. He’s struggled with kicks of 50 yards or more in recent times, but he has to make it from 29, even in tropical storm or blizzard conditions.
XAVIEN HOWARD CONCERN?
Xavien Howard allowed a touchdown pass from Justin Fields to Darnell Moody.
According to Pro Football Reference, Dolphins touchdown passes allowed in 2022 at that point in the game were: Howard (4), Sam Eguavoen (2), Kader Kohou, Nik Needham, Noah Igbinoghene, Keion Crossen and more (1 apiece).
Howard is a Pro Bowler. He is playing through groin injuries. He is playing without Pro Bowler Byron Jones at the opposite corner.
But it just hasn’t seemed like Howard is himself. He’s a step slower than usual.
At the end of the third quarter, Howard was called for holding on a less-than-obvious violation. On that play, Howard came up with what would have been his first interception of the season.
It should be noted that corner Keion Crossen had a pass interference and a missed tackle in the first half and hasn’t played quite as well as he practiced in the summer.
But it should also be noted that undrafted rookie cornerback Kader Kohou has played really, really well. He is a gem and may be a Dolphins starter at nickel for years to come. Or, outside if Byron never returns.
THIS & THAT
Bradley Chubb started for the Dolphins in his first game with the club. Chubb had a third-down pressure to force a punt at the very end of the third quarter… Safety Eric Rowe, one week after he was a healthy scratch for Miami, started and made some strong plays… Dolphins head coach and play-caller Mike McDaniel is a very smart play-designer and play-selector. But because this is his first year as a full-time, primary play-caller, he is going to continue to work on play-calling speed as well as red zone clock management. The latter issue reared its head at the end of the first half… Miami offensive linemen Robert Jones and Brandon Shell continued to appear to play solid football at left guard and right tackle for Miami, as the offensive line continues to make some apparent gradual improvements.
Story Credit: usatoday.com