In a thrilling Sunday matchup, Tua Tagovailoa showcased his brilliance, threading three touchdown passes to three distinct targets, igniting the Miami Dolphins to a spectacular 42-21 comeback win against the Carolina Panthers, who have yet to register a win this season.
Tagovailoa, with an impressive performance, completed 21 of 31 passes for 262 yards, solidifying his position as the NFL leader in passing yards this season with 1,876 yards.
The Dolphins initially faced a daunting 14-point deficit, but Tyreek Hill engineered a breathtaking turnaround with a 41-yard touchdown reception late in the second quarter, swinging the lead back in favor of Miami. His jubilation led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, marking the second consecutive game where he received such a penalty. Hill amassed six receptions for 163 yards, extending his NFL-leading season tally to 814 yards. Jaylen Waddle contributed 51 yards from seven receptions.
Miami orchestrated an extraordinary 35-point rally before Mike White replaced Tagovailoa with approximately four minutes remaining, only to throw an ill-fated interception that was swiftly capitalized upon by cornerback Troy Hill for a touchdown, narrowing the gap to 14 points.
Nevertheless, Miami’s rushing game, the NFL’s front-runner, remained unfazed. Salvon Ahmed’s 9-yard touchdown run further bolstered their lead, amassing a total of 169 rushing yards for the day.
The Panthers, still chasing their first win at 0-6, seized the early initiative with a 6-yard rushing touchdown by Chuba Hubbard in the opening quarter. Later, Adam Thielen hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Young. Young concluded with a 23-of-38 record, accumulating 217 yards and enduring four sacks.
Thielen continued his fine form, surpassing 100 yards receiving for the second consecutive game, amassing 115 yards from 11 receptions. Hubbard, deputizing for the injured Miles Sanders, showcased his skills with 19 carries for 88 yards.
After a sluggish start with two consecutive three-and-outs, the Dolphins staged a remarkable comeback with touchdowns on their next three drives. Raheem Mostert’s 3-yard touchdown catch cut the early deficit in half, made possible by crucial catches of 27 and 14 yards by Hill and Waddle, respectively. Mostert contributed significantly, producing 17 carries for 115 yards, including a crucial 48-yard run in the second quarter, setting the stage for the tying touchdown catch by Waddle. Mostert, the new lead ball carrier for Miami, filled in admirably after rookie De’Von Achane was sidelined with a knee injury, notching up rushing scores of 1 and 4 yards, marking his fourth multiple-touchdown game of the season.
In the second quarter, Carolina’s Eddy Pineiro missed a 43-yard field goal, adding to their struggles in the game.
A momentous occasion unfolded during halftime, as the Dolphins honored linebacker Zach Thomas, who had been inducted into the Hall of Fame in August. Thomas, a fifth-round draft pick by Miami in 1996, held the distinction of having seven Pro Bowl selections, the most ever for a Dolphins defender, and five first-team All-Pro nominations. He addressed the crowd of 65,529 at Hard Rock Stadium, expressing his deep connection to the city, saying, “I love you, Miami. This is my home. I am a Miami Dolphin for life.”
The game witnessed a rare occurrence as the Dolphins punted on their opening drive for the first time this season. Prior to this game, Miami had consistently been successful on their opening drives, often resulting in touchdowns, field goals, or excellent field position.
Carolina attempted a daring fake punt in the second quarter, when they were up by 7 points. However, Dolphins defenders Duke Riley and Elijah Campbell thwarted the attempt, pushing Panthers receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. out of bounds just short of the first-down marker, leading to another Miami scoring drive just three plays later.
In terms of injuries, the Panthers faced setbacks as Shenault left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury, while linebackers Yetur Gross-Matos and Frankie Luvu suffered hamstring and hip injuries, respectively. The Dolphins also had their share of injuries, with Hill experiencing cramps in the third quarter, cornerback Xavien Howard dealing with a groin injury, and running back Chris Brooks being helped off the field in the fourth quarter due to a leg injury.
This Dolphins team is no stranger to breaking or even tying records in 2023. Tyreek Hill and Raheem Mostert have combined for 17 touchdowns this season, which ties a Super Bowl era record for any duo in the NFL through six games.
Looking ahead, the Dolphins will journey to Philadelphia next week for a Sunday night showdown against the only undefeated team in the NFL remaining, the Philadelphia Eagles.
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