MIAMI — The home crowd at Hard Rock Stadium made it clear who it wanted to see Thursday night, chanting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa‘s name after a third-down incompletion by starter Jacoby Brissett in the first half.
The Miami Dolphins had no plans to play Tagovailoa, opting to sit him in favor of Brissett while Tagovailoa recovers from a fractured middle finger on his throwing hand. But the crowd got its wish early in the third quarter.
Tagovailoa entered the game after Brissett exited with a knee injury, leading Miami to a 22-10 upset win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Although Tagovailoa was “a lot closer” to being physically ready to start than he was last week, when he did not play against the Houston Texans, Dolphins coach Brian Flores said the team was comfortable in Tagovailoa operating as the team’s backup.
Tagovailoa looked good enough in his first few series Thursday night that Flores said they ultimately decided to keep him in the game.
“[Brissett], I think, probably was OK to go back in, but we just decided to stay with Tua,” Flores said. “He’d hit a couple passes, so we felt like we might as well just leave him in there.”
Tagovailoa went 8-of-13 for 158 yards in two quarters of work, adding a 1-yard rushing touchdown. His performance didn’t go on without a hitch. Tagovailoa admitted having trouble gripping the ball, and Flores said it was difficult for Tagovailoa to drive the ball downfield, although he did complete a pass to Jaylen Waddle that traveled 34.5 air yards, according to NFL NextGen Stats.
Tagovailoa also played through more pain than usual after banging his injured finger during the game.
“It doesn’t feel good, I can tell you that,” he said. “I got it banged up a little bit in the game, but we’ve got 10 days to heal up. So we’ll take all the time we can.”
In addition to not playing in last week’s win over the Texans, Tagovailoa previously missed three games while on injured reserve after fracturing his ribs in Week 2.
Flores said he knows how tough Tagovailoa is and wasn’t surprised by his performance Thursday night. But just 16 games into Tagovailoa’s NFL career, Flores said sometimes it’s his job to protect Tagovailoa from himself.
“That’s really how it was when I had my rib injury, too,” Tagovailoa said. “I wanted to play, but Flo got with [Dolphins head athletic trainer] Kyle [Johnston] and they made the decision to try to protect me from myself. It’s the same thing with my finger. … I would say I was ready, but that’s Flo’s decision. That’s his call. You just have to be supportive of the next guy up.”
Brissett had completed 11 of 23 passes for 156 yards before his injury.
The Dolphins have now won back-to-back games after losing seven straight. They get 10 days to prepare for their first game of the season against the AFC East rival New York Jets in Week 11.