Dolphins vs. Bears score, takeaway: Tua Tagovailoa outplays Justin Fields in historic performance game

Dolphins vs. Bears score, takeaway: Tua Tagovailoa outplays Justin Fields in historic performance game

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields played Sunday’s game like it was Saturday’s showdown between Alabama and Ohio State, each putting up numbers only imagined in an NCAA Football video game in the Dolphins’ 35-32 victory in Chicago. Tagovailoa became the first quarterback in Dolphins history with over 300 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and no interceptions in back-to-back games thanks to his 302 passing yards and three scores on 21-of-30 passing.

Fields matched up against Tagovailoa and his powerful pass-catchers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle with an unprecedented performance. Fields became the first player in NFL history with three passing touchdowns and over 150 yards in the same game. He also broke the NFL regular-season record for a quarterback in a single game with 178 yards against Miami, 61 of which were his only rushing score of the day. Fields’ rushing touchdown marked the longest drive of his career. Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick had the previous record with 173 yards in Week 13 of the 2002 season against the Minnesota Vikings.

One of the key differences between Tagovailoa’s afternoon and Fields’ afternoon was how Miami’s players made some of their own magic because basically everything the Bears did offensively just came from Fields’ singular brilliance. Hill finished with seven receptions, 143 receiving yards and a 3-yard receiving touchdown, bringing his season receiving total to 1,104, the most by a player in the first nine games of the Super Bowl era. Hill surpassed Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,083 receiving yards through his first nine games of the 2013 season.

Waddle also showed up for his quarterback, recording 85 yards receiving and a touchdown on five catches. The Dolphins’ dynamic duo has combined for 1,916 receiving yards this season, the most by a teammate through nine games in the Super Bowl era. They broke the previous record of 1,878 yards set by the great tandem of Hall of Famers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.

The Dolphins scored touchdowns on four of their first five offensive possessions, while their fifth score of the day came on the Bears’ first punt, which they blocked for a 25-yard punt return. Fields had one last chance to lead the Bears to overtime or a win with Chicago taking over with 2:50 left. He was only able to get one first down before a sack and back-to-back incompletions thwarted their last-ditch effort.

The win improved the Dolphins to 6-3 overall, and 6-0 this season when Tagovailoa starts and finishes a game. Chicago fell to 3-6 overall with losses in five of its last six games after starting the season 2-1.

Why the Dolphins won

The Dolphins were unstoppable from the start, scoring offensive touchdowns on four of their first five drives, with seven points from their special teams blocking punt for a score. Tagovailoa completed his first nine passes for 111 yards and a touchdown over the Dolphins’ first two touchdowns. The Shanahan offense that head coach Mike McDaniel imported to Miami — after working alongside current San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan in 14 of his 15 NFL seasons as an assistant with five different teams — elevated his quarterback’s play to a new level. Tagovailoa leads the NFL in passing yards per attempt (9.2) and passer rating (115.9) through nine weeks. If he can maintain this level for the remainder of the season, Tagovailoa would become the first Dolphin to lead the NFL in passer rating since Dan Marino in his MVP season in 1984.

Tagovailoa’s best was needed after Fields’ career-long 61-yard run cut Miami’s lead to three, 28-25. He delivered, marching the Dolphins 75 yards down the field, and capped the drive with his third and final pass of trade deadline day, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. The tie extended Miami’s lead back to double figures, 35-25. McDaniel continues his rebuilding of the 49ers backfield that he coached for five seasons (2017-2021) with Raheem Mostert and Wilson Jr. who once again top the running back depth chart.

Why the Bears lost

Running from behind is not a recipe for success for this Bears team that runs the football 59.5% of the time on offense, the highest rate in the NFL. Chicago faced 11-point deficits twice, 21-10 in the second quarter and 28-17 in the third quarter. Fields’ legs and arms accounted for 301 of Chicago’s 378 total yards, with running back David Montgomery finishing as the team’s second-leading rusher with 36 yards on 14 carries and wide receiver Darnell Mooney finishing as the team’s leading receiver with 43 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. The quarterback had just one more carry, 15, but 142 more yards than Montgomery.

For the Bears to complete these types of offensive, see-saw games, Fields needs more than his supporting cast. His final pass of the day hit Equanimeousa St. Brown in the chest, but the receiver was unable to hold on to a potentially overtime catch. Tight end Cole Kmet had two receptions in the red zone, but didn’t add much more to the offense in terms of being able to help move the chains on a regular basis, finishing with five receptions for 41 receiving yards.

A turning point

Wilson Jr.’s 10-yard catch-and-run for six stood up as the game-winning touchdown, building a double-digit lead that Fields and the Bears just couldn’t reach before the end of regulation. The newly acquired guard led the Dolphins and Mostert with nine each. However, the Dolphins’ newest former 49er running back led the team in rushing yards with 51. It was an encouraging debut as McDaniel can continue to reintegrate Wilson Jr. into his game plans more and more.

Playing the game

The game is Miami’s blocked punt return for a touchdown as they needed all five touchdowns the team scored today to deny Fields’ historic outing. The special teams score allowed the Dolphins to relax for the first time Sunday since giving them their first double-digit lead of the game, 21-10.

What’s next

The Dolphins will return home for one more game before a Week 11 bye against the Cleveland Browns. The Bears host one of their NFC North rivals, the Detroit Lions, in Week 10, a team that crushed Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 15-9. The Lions forced the NFL’s back-to-back MVP to multiple interceptions in a division game for the first time since Week 17 of the 2013 season.

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