Did he ever know what he was talking about.
Tagovailoa was a winner in his first NFL start on Sunday, even though the former Alabama All-American’s stats weren’t eye-popping. In a 28-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, Tagovailoa completed 12-of-22 passes for 93 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
“I don’t think I played to the standard that this offense is capable of,” Tagovailoa said. “There were certain plays where I could have stepped up and made the right throw, made the right decision. But I’ve heard it many times from the guys in the locker room: It’s good that we still came out with the win. And aside from that, thank God we got a good defense.”
Tagovailoa joined Miami as the fifth player picked in the NFL Draft on April 23. He spent his first six NFL games backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick and had taken five game snaps with the Dolphins offense entering Sunday.
“It was fun,” Tagovailoa said, “just being able to go out there and play a full 60-minute game now.”
Tagovailoa connected with wide receiver DeVante Parker on a 3-yard throw for his first NFL touchdown pass on the final play of the first quarter. Set up by an interception that gave the Dolphins the football at the Los Angeles 33-yard line, the touchdown allowed Miami to tie the score at 7-7.
“That was really fun,” Tagovailoa said. "It always feels good throwing a touchdown and being able to celebrate with your team, and your teammates on the sideline are celebrating as well. It’s not easy, like I said, scoring against a defense like that. But just enjoying the moment every time.
“And I’m keeping the ball.”
By halftime, the Dolphins had a 21-point lead, even though Los Angeles had 244 yards and Miami had 59.
In the second quarter, Miami linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel ran 78 yards for a touchdown with a fumble recovery, wide receiver Jakeem Grant returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown and running back Myles Gaskin plunged into the end zone after Kyle Van Noy returned a fumble recovery 28 yards to the Los Angeles 1-yard line.
“We won the game,” Flores said when asked to assess Tagovailoa’s performance. "And again, it’s a team football game. I can’t stress that enough. It’s not a one-man show. I think he made enough plays for us to win the ball game. I think collectively if we don’t play well in one phase, we need to play well in other phases.
“We have a lot of confidence in him. He had a good week of practice and did some good things, but, obviously, it’s his first NFL game against a real good defense. We talked about it all week. Aaron Donald and their defensive group and their front, they played well. They’re hard to move the ball on. You’ve got to take that into account as well. But the rest of the players on the team picked him up, and we got the ‘W.’”
The game did not start well for Tagovailoa. On the Dolphins' second snap, Donald knocked the football out of his hands, defensive tackle Michael Brockers buried Tagovailoa and linebacker Leonard Floyd recovered the fumble at the Miami 15-yard line.
Three plays later, Los Angeles had a 7-0 lead.
“The guys never really needed to say anything,” Tagovailoa said. “It was more so we came to the sideline and I was kind of telling the guys, ‘Hey, that’s my fault. We’ll get it the next series.’”
Tagovailoa’s record-setting career at Alabama came to an early end when he suffered a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture while being tackled during an SEC game against Mississippi State on Nov. 16.
“I don’t know who the guy was that took me off my feet and pretty much body-slammed me,” Tagovailoa said about the hit by Brockers, “but, hey, that’s football. And I’m not going to lie: I did enjoy getting hit that first time. That was definitely a welcome.”
Miami improved to 4-3 and is scheduled to visit the Arizona Cardinals at 3:25 p.m. CST Nov. 8.
“We just got to continue to work and see what we can do tomorrow with what we need to fix in getting ready for the Cardinals,” Tagovailoa said.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at?@AMarkG1.