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NFL Sunday takeaways: Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins are a threat

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa consults with Coach Mike McDaniel during the Dolphins' victory Sunday in Baltimore. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
15 min

BALTIMORE — The wildest game of the NFL’s early-afternoon slate Sunday took place at M&T Bank Stadium. Tua Tagovailoa outdueled Lamar Jackson, and the Miami Dolphins overcame a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Baltimore Ravens, 42-38.

It’s far too early to call the Dolphins anything resembling a favorite in the AFC East, a division that includes the mighty Buffalo Bills and their presumptive MVP front-runner, quarterback Josh Allen. But Miami certainly is interesting with its first-year coach, Mike McDaniel, and its wide receiver tandem of newcomer Tyreek Hill and holdover Jaylen Waddle.

The Dolphins are 2-0, and McDaniel quickly is proving to be a steadying, calming influence. He said he told his players before the game that he wanted them to face some on-field adversity. When the Dolphins fell behind, McDaniel told the players to stop worrying about the outcome and simply find a way to play better football. Tagovailoa ended up throwing for 469 yards and six touchdowns, no longer looking quite so much like the quarterback bust of the 2020 draft class. Hill and Waddle totaled 22 catches on 32 targets for 361 yards and four touchdowns. This team is a threat.

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Jackson’s price tag is only increasing. The 2019 MVP had a 79-yard touchdown run and a 75-yard touchdown pass, an unprecedented same-game feat for an NFL quarterback. He had the 11th 100-yard rushing game of his career, a record for quarterbacks, and his passer rating for the day stayed at a perfect 158.3 for much of the afternoon before falling to 142.6 by game’s end.

The Ravens still lost. But Jackson’s asking price surely isn’t dropping after he and the team failed to agree to a contract extension before Week 1.

Tom Brady’s Bucs finally beat the Saints in the regular season. Brady threw a tablet in frustration on the sideline. There was an on-field scuffle that led to the ejections of Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

But Brady and the Bucs at last found a way to beat the Saints in a regular season game. Their 20-10 triumph Sunday in New Orleans ended a six-game losing streak to the Saints in regular season play. The Saints, of course, were depleted, with tailback Alvin Kamara on the game-day inactive list and quarterback Jameis Winston reportedly playing with four fractures in his back. But the Buccaneers certainly weren’t complaining as they improved to 2-0.

The Patriots quieted the criticism, at least for now. It wasn’t a great performance for second-year quarterback Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offense in Pittsburgh. But Jones did throw a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor, and the Patriots won, 17-14. The considerable consternation about New England’s muddled offensive play-calling situation and Jones’s supposed regression can be put aside for the time being.

All it took was a muffed punt by the Steelers — by former Patriots wideout Gunner Olszewski — and a key dropped interception by Pittsburgh cornerback Cameron Sutton. Some of the fans in Pittsburgh, meanwhile, already were chanting for a quarterback switch from Mitchell Trubisky to rookie Kenny Pickett. But the Steelers are not exactly known for knee-jerk reactions.

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Could there be trouble already for Matt Rhule? The Panthers are 0-2 after their 19-16 loss to the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. They’ve lost nine straight games dating from last season. And it’s probably fair to begin wondering how much more patience owner David Tepper will have with his coach.

The Giants are 2-0 under their new coach, Brian Daboll. Before their season-opening victory at Tennessee, the Giants had not been above .500 at any point since 2016. Daboll has moved quickly to make a once-proud franchise competitive again.

There are early issues for Indianapolis. The Colts were shut out Sunday at Jacksonville in a dispiriting 24-0 loss to the Jaguars. They are off to an 0-1-1 beginning after a tie against the Houston Texans in their opener.

Frank Reich is a respected coach. The addition of Matt Ryan following the trade of Carson Wentz to Washington after only one season seemed to represent a quarterback upgrade for the Colts. But Ryan threw three interceptions Sunday, and nothing is working for the Colts in the season’s early going. Owner Jim Irsay showed his frustration about last season’s late unraveling that cost the Colts a playoff spot. He cannot be pleased these days.

Where’s Davante Adams? The Las Vegas Raiders made one of the many big moves of the offseason when they traded for wide receiver Davante Adams. But in his second game with his new team, Adams was all but nonexistent. He had only two catches for 12 yards. (He did have a touchdown.) But the Raiders squandered a 20-0 halftime lead and fell to 0-2 by losing, 29-23, in overtime to the visiting Arizona Cardinals.

Cooper Rush came to the rescue. The Dallas Cowboys can win with Cooper Rush at quarterback after all.

Rush took over for the injured Dak Prescott, who underwent surgery last week for the fractured right thumb that he suffered during the Cowboys’ season-opening defeat to the Buccaneers. Rush made the start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals in Arlington, Tex., and did his part in a 20-17 victory. He completed 19 of 31 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown. The Cowboys won on a 50-yard field goal by Brett Maher as time expired.

The Bengals fell to 0-2. The defending AFC champs simply cannot properly safeguard quarterback Joe Burrow. He was sacked six times Sunday.

Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa stun Ravens in comeback win

The Baltimore Ravens resembled an elite team with an absolute top-tier quarterback Sunday afternoon. Somehow, Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins won, anyway.

The Ravens got an otherworldly performance by quarterback Lamar Jackson. But the Dolphins overcame a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to prevail, 42-38, Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium to improve their record to 2-0.

Tagovailoa’s seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle with 14 seconds remaining won it for the Dolphins. The Ravens had taken a 38-35 lead on kicker Justin Tucker’s 51-yard field goal with 2:18 left.

Tagovailoa had six touchdown passes and threw for 469 yards. He also threw two interceptions.

Waddle had 11 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow wideout Tyreek Hill had 11 catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Tagovailoa had touchdown passes of 48 and 60 yards to Hill as the Dolphins rallied to tie the game at 35 with just more than five minutes remaining.

Jackson threw three touchdown passes, including a 75-yard strike to wide receiver Rashod Bateman, in a 21-for-29, 318-yard showing. He had a passer rating of 142.6, just shy of a perfect 158.3 mark. He added 119 rushing yards, 79 of them on a third-quarter touchdown dash. It was the longest run of Jackson’s NFL career.

He set a league record for a quarterback with his 11th career 100-yard rushing game, and he became the first quarterback in NFL history to have a touchdown pass and a touchdown run of at least 75 yards each in the same game.

The former league MVP is doing wondrous things early in the season after failing to reach an agreement with the Ravens on a contract extension before opening day. The crowd chanted, “M-V-P! M-V-P!” when Jackson’s rushing record was announced late in the third quarter.

The Ravens’ record dropped to 1-1.

Lamar Jackson perfect in first half as Ravens pour it on

The Baltimore Ravens, seeking a 2-0 start to the season, got a pair of quick-strike touchdowns and lead the Miami Dolphins, 28-7, at halftime at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens had a 13-second touchdown drive, as Devin Duvernay went 103 yards with the game’s opening kickoff, and a 10-second touchdown drive, on a 75-yard catch and run by wide receiver Rashod Bateman. Quarterback Lamar Jackson also threw touchdown passes of one yard to tight end Mark Andrews and 12 yards to wideout Demarcus Robinson.

Jackson had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in the first half. He completed 11 of 13 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

Another would-be touchdown for the Ravens was overturned on an instant replay review that showed Jackson was down shy of the goal line. The Ravens lost a fumble on a fourth-down attempt from inside the 1-yard line on the following play.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa provided a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle but also threw a pair of first-half interceptions.

Alvin Kamara is inactive as Saints face Buccaneers

The New Orleans Saints will be without tailback Alvin Kamara as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an early-afternoon game Sunday.

The Saints placed Kamara on their game-day inactive list. He had been listed as questionable on the injury report because of a rib injury.

Quarterback Jameis Winston will play for the Saints as they try to beat the Buccaneers for a seventh straight regular season meeting. Winston had been listed as questionable on the injury report because of a back injury. Winston is playing with four fractures in his back, Fox reported.

The Buccaneers will be minus wide receiver Julio Jones. He is on the inactive list after being listed as questionable on the injury report because of a knee injury. Jones joins fellow wideout Chris Godwin, who is inactive after previously being ruled out because of a hamstring injury. Tailback Leonard Fournette and wide receivers Mike Evans, Russell Gage and Breshad Perriman are active for the Buccaneers and will play after all were listed as questionable.

In Baltimore, Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters is active and is expected to make his season debut. He missed all of last season because of a torn ACL in his knee.

Tailback J.K. Dobbins and left tackle Ronnie Stanley are on the Ravens’ inactive list. Patrick Mekari is expected to start at left tackle in Sunday’s early-afternoon game against the Miami Dolphins.

Tyrod Taylor sued Chargers doctor over 2020 injection

Former Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor filed a lawsuit last year seeking damages from the doctor for the team who administered a painkilling injection that caused Taylor to suffer a collapsed lung in September 2020.

Taylor, now with the New York Giants, filed the lawsuit in May 2021 in California Superior Court for Los Angeles County. The suit accuses David S. Gazzaniga and the Newport Orthopedic Institute of negligence, medical malpractice and medical battery and seeks damages of at least $5 million.

“As a direct and legal result of the negligence, carelessness and other tortious, unlawful and wrongful acts and conduct of the Defendants … Plaintiff Taylor was prevented and/or limited in following his profession as an NFL starting quarterback, and has, therefore, suffered past and future loss of earnings and diminution of earning capacity; Plaintiff’s injuries caused him to lose his position as the starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers for 2020 NFL season,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiff’s contract with the Los Angeles Chargers ended in 2020 and as he returned to free agency, he entered as a back-up quarterback as opposed to a starting quarterback. The economic difference between a starting quarterback’s salary and a back-up quarterback salary is at least $5,000,000.00 and is more than likely much greater.”

Gazzaniga administered painkilling injections to Taylor before a Sept. 20, 2020 game at SoFi Stadium after Taylor suffered rib fractures a week earlier. According to the lawsuit, Taylor experienced “unusual pain” after returning to the field and “reported numbness traveling up towards his clavicle.” He consulted with Gazzaniga and underwent an X-ray. Taylor was transported to a hospital by ambulance on the recommendation of other medical personnel, according to the lawsuit. Tests there revealed a pneumothorax, or collapsed lung.

“The failure of Dr. Gazzaniga to create, follow, and/or maintain an adequate, consistent protocol for the local anesthetic injections, including but not limited to, administering a higher volume of the anesthetic, with a lower percentage, and the method of administration without appropriate guidance, including but not limited to radiological imaging, into the areas around Mr. Taylor’s ribs, and thereafter the failure to timely recognize, diagnose and treat a pneumothorax suffered by Taylor caused, and continues to cause Taylor extreme pain and suffering,” Taylor’s lawsuit says.

According to ESPN, which first reported the lawsuit Sunday, Gazzaniga is involved in the care of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who suffered a rib injury during Thursday night’s loss at Kansas City. Coach Brandon Staley announced Friday that Herbert had suffered a fracture of his rib cartilage, calling Herbert’s playing status day-to-day. Herbert succeeded Taylor as the Chargers’ starter after the 2020 incident with the painkilling injection.

The Chargers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Week 2 preview: After opening-weekend craziness, season begins for real

Now the NFL season can begin for real, with the arrival of the second Sunday of the regular season.

The season’s opening weekend can be a mirage. That is particularly true now that some regard the early weeks of the longer, 17-game regular season as, in effect, the new preseason. Many coaches are increasingly wary of playing starting quarterbacks and other key players during the actual preseason, meaning those players must knock the rust off their games once the regular season begins. That can make for some ragged play — and misleading results — in Week 1.

The Los Angeles Rams, the defending Super Bowl champs, lost the NFL’s season-opening game. At least they had a good excuse, given that they were facing the team regarded by many as this season’s Super Bowl favorite, the Buffalo Bills.

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The Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers all were losers last Sunday, results that were met with varying degrees of surprise. The Denver Broncos ushered in the Russell Wilson era by losing Monday night in Seattle to the quarterback’s former team, the Seahawks.

So it is a bounce-back Sunday for those teams, or at least they hope so. The Patriots play an early-afternoon game at Pittsburgh. The Rams, 49ers, Bengals and Broncos are part of the late-afternoon slate. The Packers host the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Sunday night. (The Titans don’t play until Monday evening at Buffalo.)

This is familiar territory for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Recall that last season, Rodgers threw two interceptions, and the Saints overwhelmed the Packers, 38-3, in an opening game relocated to Jacksonville, Fla., because of the effects of Hurricane Ida on New Orleans. Even so, the Packers won their next seven games on their way to a 13-4 record during the regular season and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Rodgers secured his second straight league MVP award.

The Titans, similarly, were the top seed in the AFC playoffs last season despite opening with a 38-13 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals.

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So as Rodgers famously once instructed Packers fans in supposedly dire circumstances that turned out not to be so insurmountable: R-E-L-A-X.

At least for now.

For some teams, it could begin to feel late in the season awfully early. The Dallas Cowboys not only lost their opener to the Buccaneers; they also lost quarterback Dak Prescott to a thumb injury that required surgery. They’ll have Cooper Rush at quarterback Sunday when they host the Bengals. Niners quarterback Trey Lance struggled mightily in the wet, sloppy conditions at Soldier Field in last weekend’s loss to the Bears. He’ll need an improved performance Sunday at home against the Seahawks to keep the speculation about a potential switch back to Jimmy Garoppolo from intensifying.

So there is plenty at stake Sunday, as always, in the NFL. An 0-1 start? That very well could be an aberration. But an 0-2 beginning? Well, that just might be a trend taking hold.