MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Tua Tagovailoa walked off the field, game ball in his injured left hand, and waved his arms to acknowledge the cheers.
Then he stopped to bow before entering the tunnel. This was a moment of rare celebration for the Miami Dolphins.
Xavien H Howard forced a fumble. He returned it for 49 yards. Tagovailoa then came on the bench to complete his day with a 1 yard sneak. With 2:19 remaining, the Dolphins shocked the Baltimore Ravens by beating them 22-10.
“Any win is good,” Tagovailoa said. “No rumors, no external factors of noise had anything to do with what we did tonight.”
Jason Sanders scored three field goals for the Dolphins (3-7), in their second victory in five days. Tagovailoa — who couldn’t start because of a fractured finger on his left, or throwing, hand — threw for 158 yards in relief of Jacoby Brissett, who passed for 156 yards before needing to depart in the third quarter with an injured right knee.
“I think it’s tough coming into a game, second half,” Tagovailoa said. “You’ve got to warm up, you’ve got to get your head back into the mindset of going in and playing, but that’s the NFL. You’ve got to be ready at any time.”
Baltimore’s streak of 51 regular-season games with at least 14 points — the second-longest such streak in NFL history behind a 63-game run by New England from 2009 through 2013 — came to an end.
A fitting end.
“We just played poorly and it’s because of our coaching,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It starts with me. I didn’t do a good job getting these guys ready.”
Miami’s defense carried an offense that had one quarterback get hurt, have an injured one take his place, and saw its only trip to the end zone in the first 57 minutes come from an offensive lineman who reached just far enough on a back flip to get the ball over the goal line — only to have it not count because he wasn’t an eligible receiver.
Didn’t matter. Both the offense and defense were able to do enough.
“The defense played great,” Tagovailoa said.
Lamar Jackson completed 26 passes for 238 yard and one touchdown, for Baltimore (3-1). Mark Andrews had the scoring grab for the Ravens, who had dominated Miami in the teams’ most recent three meetings going into Thursday — winning by a combined 137-16 score.
This time, not at all. Not even close.
“We’ve got to go to work,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to be a lot better.”
Brissett had a 52-yard completion to Isaiah Ford late in the half on what appeared to be a busted play that turned into Miami’s longest gain of the season — to that point, anyway. The Dolphins led 6-3 at the break after Sanders scored on a chip shot.
Andrews’ scoring catch got Baltimore ton 15-10, just close enough for it to seem that Miami was on the ropes. Tagovailoa found Albert Wilson for a 64-yard gain — Miami’s longest play of the season and the longest pass of Tagovailoa’s NFL career — with about three minutes left, and then the QB muscled in from the 1 to seal the win.
“We just didn’t play a good football game,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. “At the end of the day, they played better football than us today.”
The closest either offense came to the end zone for the game’s first 55 minutes was a play midway through the third quarter, when Tagovailoa completed a pass to right guard Robert Hunt. He ran towards the goal line and was flipped to the side, appearing to have reached the ball.
It wouldn’t have counted anyway. Hunt wasn’t an eligible receiver, the Dolphins settled for a field goal and a 9-3 lead.
The TD came soon thereafter. After Sammy Watkins, the Ravens’ receiver had made a catch in Baltimore, Howard took the ball away from Watkins and picked it up to score for Miami.
“A great play,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “X, he’s done a great job for us and he showed up again, made a big play in a big moment. It was what we needed. We got it out and we scored. Big play in the game.”