NFL Week 9: Breakout Performance of the Week
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
By James Pike.
The NFL season is officially over the halfway point. Every team in the league has played at least half of their games now, and we have got a good idea of who the contenders and pretenders are.
Bills batter supercharged Seahawks
The Buffalo Bills produced probably the most impressive win of the week, with Josh Allen and company dominating the supercharged Seattle Seahawks on the road. Allen could have put himself firmly back in the MVP conversation with his 415 yards through the air and 3 touchdowns. He added a rushing touchdown in a statement win for the Bills.
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens rallied after a slow start in Indianapolis against Phillip Rivers and the Colts. Lamar isn’t back to his MVP form from last season just yet, but his much improved second half display coupled with a suffocating effort from the defence was enough to secure them the victory.
In what was probably the most shocking result of week 9; the New Orleans Saints manhandled the high-flying Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an emphatic performance from Drew Brees and the Saints passing attack. Brady and the Bucs simply had no answer on the offensive side of the ball, and the Saints rolled to a 38-3 victory on the road.
However, it was in Glendale, Arizona where one team fully cemented themselves as a contender in 2020. A team that many fancied to improve significantly this year, just not quite this much this early.
Dolphins and Cardinals more than just young pretenders
The Miami Dolphins went on the road across the country for their second consecutive battle against NFC West opposition as they did battle with the Arizona Cardinals. Another team who despite recent struggles in the past find themselves in the hunt for a playoff berth this season. This was arguably the most exciting matchup between two teams on the rise, moreover it was also a battle between two of the most hyped young quarterbacks in recent memory.
Kyler Murray played his part with what is quickly becoming a vintage Murray performance. The Sophomore signal caller completed 21 of his 26 passing attempts for 283 yards and 3 touchdowns, while also adding 106 yards on the ground for another score. Murray has simply been electric these past three weeks. It was a game that came down to the wire with both teams seemingly making clutch plays when they needed it the most.
And no player stood up more than Dolphins Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
In just his second NFL start; Tua was able to show the entire league why he was one of the most sought after prospects in recent memory. As the former Alabama standout showed incredible poise and precision in the pocket to help guide the Dolphins to an improbable road victory. Tua’s final stat line wasn’t too flashy: he completed 20 of his 28 passing attempts for 248 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also added 35 yards on the ground off 7 rushing attempts, which in of itself is a pretty pedestrian performance compared to today’s standards at the quarterback position. However, it wasn’t all about the statistics which made this a performance to remember for Tagovailoa. It was the way in which he was able to step up for his team when they needed him the most.
Going into the fourth quarter, Miami found themselves down by 7 points after a fiercely contested game up until that point. Tua however was unphased by the situation, and in what was by far the most impressive drive of his young career so far was able to lead the Dolphins 93 yards down the field to tie the game up with 11 minutes remaining. On this drive in particular the Crimson Tide alumni showed off everything you want to see from a franchise QB.
Dual threat dynamism
His passes were deadly accurate, as evidenced by the dart he threw to Devante Parker to bring Miami into field goal range. When he was coming out of college, one of the biggest strengths to Tua’s game was his incredible accuracy on his passes, and this was on full display once more when he threw a perfect ball to the corner of the endzone to wide receiver Mack Hollins for the score. This just isn’t something you usually see from a guy making just his second start in the NFL, and it is a testament to the trust that head coach Brian Flores has in his rookie signal caller. Not only did Tagovailoa show off his skills as a passer on this drive, he was also able to use his underrated athleticism to keep the drive alive on two separate occasions.
On a crucial 3rd down on their own 28-yard line Miami needed to keep the drive alive and the Cardinals front four were able to get significant pressure on number 1 up the middle. Tua however was able to avoid the sack and break through into the next level before putting on an amazing cut move past star safety Budda Baker for the first down.
Later in the very same drive on 2nd down inside Cardinals’ territory Arizona brought the blitz trying to drive the Fins out of field goal range, but Tagovailoa once again was able to miraculously escape the pocket and scramble for an 18 yard gain bringing his team down to the ten yard line. Not only does this show that he is a capable runner at the quarterback position, it also showed off his toughness as the biggest question mark going into this season for Tua was his resilience due to the injury he suffered during his final season at Bama.
The hip injury Tua suffered last year has been well documented at this point, and it essentially cost Tua the chance of being the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The issue with an injury of this type at the time was it wasn’t the usual type of injury a player suffers, which is why there was such a huge question mark as to how it would affect him during his rookie season.
ACL tears and ankle injuries although concerning for scouts when evaluating talent coming out of college are not a major concern, as this is the type of injury that teams deal with on a regular basis throughout a typical season. Teams have enough knowledge to know the exact time scale of when a player will return following on from those types of injuries and in most cases will be back to normal. Whereas the injury that Tua suffered is one that could potentially lead to complications down the road.
Nevertheless, the Miami Dolphins decided to take a leap of faith when they selected the 22 year old quarterback with the 5th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and that faith appears to have been rewarded so far this season. After a modest start against the LA Rams the week before, Tua was a completely different player this week against a dangerous opponent who will be right up their contending with the Seahawks for the remainder of the season. The Miami Dolphins are a team on the rise in the NFL, and if performances like the one we saw this past week from Tagovailoa start to become the norm going forward then expect this team to be one we are talking about for years to come.