‘His hunger is deep within himself’

When Miami played the New York Jets for the first time this season, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw two interceptions late in the first half of a 34-13 victory on Nov. 24.

The former Alabama All-American hasn’t been intercepted since – a streak of 88 passes – to shave his interception rate this season from 2.72 percent to 2.18 percent. The streak includes 24 passes in a 30-0 victory over the Jets on Sunday.

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“Especially with Tua, there’s a pattern here where somebody’s got to pick up on, OK?” Miami coach Mike McDaniel said on Wednesday. “He gets better. And he gets better an inordinate amount in a short period of time. That doesn’t mean — the game of football is tough. He will throw an interception at some point in his life. But what he’s doing is he’s learning from everything because he’s not pointing a finger or hiding from it. He’s really holding himself fairly accountable for everything, but not backing down from anything. You’re seeing a guy develop as we’ve seen him develop, really, since I’ve been here.

“So should it surprise us that he continues to improve his game? Well, if we’re blindfolded with earplugs, it should surprise us. That’s what you know about Tua: His hunger is deep within himself and that will continue. He’s playing the quarterback position better than he had at the beginning of the season. Numbers are numbers, but he’s learned stuff that is tangible as you progress through the season.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility to have the football every play, and he doesn’t take that lightly.”

Tagovailoa said he thinks he’s improved, too, although sometimes that “football is tough” factor can make the gridiron game feel like golf.

“I think there’s continued growth every time I step out on that field,” Tagovailoa said on Wednesday. “There’s always something new that I can learn. Just when you think you’ve got it and you’ve been playing for however long, however many games, there’s always going to be new things, new challenges, new obstacles. But that’s the beauty of this game. For me, I think that’s also allowed me to be the human that I am also. I think in this league, you also mature a lot quicker because as good as things can be, they can be just as bad the next week or the following week, and through all of those obstacles of the wins and the losses, there are so many things that you can learn from.

“This league is just like golf. You can go out and shoot really good one day and you’re like, ‘I’m in my rhythm.’ The next day, you go out and you forgot how to even hit the ball the way you were hitting it yesterday, and it will humble you in that sense. So it’s just like golf. Golf and football is the best way I could sort of correlate them.”


Miami lost to Tennessee 28-27 on Dec. 11 but rebounded from a fourth-quarter meltdown against the Titans to blank the Jets.

Tagovailoa expects a similar comeback effort from Dallas when the Dolphins meet the Cowboys on Sunday. Each team has a 10-4 record, but Dallas got drilled by Buffalo in its previous outing as the Bills ran for 266 yards in their 31-10 victory.

“I sort of think of our team last week coming off the loss to Tennessee,” Tagovailoa said. “I can sense that that’s where they would probably be. Not a very fun team meeting to be in. Guys are going to be dialed in, locked in, doing whatever they need to do to get that feeling off their chests or off their shoulders.

“For me, we’re going to prepare the same way we’ve prepared for any other team. We’re expecting their best. They’re going to do anything and everything they can to beat us, and we’re going to do the exact same.”

The passing statistics of Tagovailoa and the Dallas defense are at odds.

Tagovailoa has averaged 280.1 passing yards per game, completed 71.0 percent of his passes, thrown for 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and achieved a 106.0 passing-efficiency rating while getting sacked 25 times.

The Cowboys have yielded an average of 176.9 passing yards per game, allowed 59.7 percent of its opponents’ passes to be completed, allowed 18 TD passes while intercepting 13 and given up an 81.0 passing-efficiency rating while registering 40 sacks.

With three Sundays remaining in the NFL’s 2023 regular season, Dallas already has secured a postseason berth in the NFC. The Dolphins would do the same in the AFC with a win against the Cowboys.

“I had no idea about any of the scenarios of what that would look like,” Tagovailoa said when informed of the clinching possibility. “At any time, we just want to come out of the game with a win. We want to stack those together. If you can win them all, that’s what it is.”


The Dolphins and Cowboys will square off at 3:25 p.m. CST Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. FOX will televise the game.

“Cowboys were my favorite team growing up,” Tagovailoa said. “They played in prime time a lot, and in Hawaii, primetime is like 3 p.m. We were like, ‘Dang, it’s night over there; the sun is still up over here.’ I come from a family that are big Cowboys fans. But not anymore. Everyone is Dolphins fans. And then the ones who still support the Cowboys are probably not my family anyways. …

“It’s going to be cool. It’s going to be cool for the moment, just being able to see the star, being able to see those guys in their jerseys and whatever and whatnot. Some of the guys that are playing, I used to watch them while I was in high school playing high school football. And now I get to play against some of the guys on their team. That’ll be cool. But at the end of the day, I have a job, and we want to go out there and beat them.”


Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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