Still, Jackson had the ball and he had been brilliant, a one-man offense who had already thrown a 75-yard touchdown pass and run for a 79-yard touchdown, who had carried a perfect quarterback rating through much of the game and finished with 119 of the Ravens’ 155 rushing yards. At one point, when the game appeared out of reach, the crowd stood and chanted “M-V-P”. They might still be right about that. But with the game tied, Jackson could get the Ravens only into field goal position and Justin Tucker gave them a fleeting lead.
This, then, would require something different from Tagovailoa and the Dolphins — a more deliberate two-minute drive, something that would net a touchdown but also chew up the clock. Tagovailoa would say later that the last time he played a game like this was in college against LSU. Hill said the offense was riding off a high from how the defense had been limiting the Ravens. There were short passes, with the clock ticking. And on second-and-goal from the 7-yard line, a perfectly placed throw to Waddle for the game-winning touchdown.
Tagovailoa has mostly stayed out of the minute-by-minute critique of his game, even when Hill went out of his way this summer to lavish praise on him. Nobody would have blamed him if he had taken a moment to crow on Sunday. He did not, opting instead to spread the credit — to the running game and offensive line and the team. In the first half, he said, they couldn’t stick to their offensive rhythm. He always wants big plays and eventually they came in the second half.
“I’m always confident in what I can do,” he said. “I think this shows the resiliency of our team. Brings all of our confidence up, our confidence in one another, confidence that if the offense has a turnover, the defense will get it back.”
Later, Tagovailoa added “For me, every game is a big game. I want to do good every time I’m out there.”
Perhaps most importantly, Tagovailoa said that even when things were not clicking, nobody panicked. Which, in hindsight, makes sense when you know you have the firepower to blast out of a hole the way the Dolphins did Sunday.
At halftime, McDaniel challenged his team to say “who cares what the score it,” he said. He wanted them to get something out of the game to feel good about and they’d worry about the score again some time in the fourth quarter. McDaniel said at that point he didn’t even care about the outcome of the game. It was, simply, a huge opportunity to show who the Dolphins are, and once the Dolphins were within two scores, McDaniel felt pretty good about their chances.
Now the whole league knows who the Dolphins can be, something they haven’t been in more than two decades. A team that can craft the biggest fourth-quarter rally on the road in franchise history.
“We’ll never give up,” Hill said. “No matter the score. No matter who we’re playing.”
And they will never be out of it.