“They’re going to make us earn everything”: Tagovailoa, Dolphins wary of Patriots

In their past four head-to-head matchups, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has emerged victorious from the vicious defensive schemes of coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

When you take a deeper dive into Tagovailoa’s efficiency, you get a clearer glimpse of why the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback is undefeated against the rival Patriots. And even Belichick acknowledged these eye-popping statistics.

“The quarterback’s played very well, and he’s had tremendous production over the last couple of years, led the league in a lot of different categories passing the ball,” he said Wednesday. “So, they’ve got a really efficient guy running the offense.

“It’s a little more awareness in the pass rush, certain plays that he would favor the quarterbacks’ throwing hand, pocket movement plays. But, he’s athletic enough. He can go both ways. So, it’s certainly an awareness thing to know what it is. But I don’t think it fundamentally changes the offense too much.”

Through Week 1, Tagovailoa’s 466 passing yards led the NFL. He was efficient in the Dolphins’ 36-34 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, and made the most of his top target, Tyreek Hill, who had 215 yards receiving.

In his career vs. New England, though, Tagovailoa has only thrown two interceptions in those four games, and his familiarity against Belichick’s defenses is beginning to show. Against any opponent, you never want to turn the ball over, but against New England, it is traditionally integral.

Belichick is, after all, among the best defensive minds in the history of the game, and has made a career out of making teams pay for mistakes.

In Tagovailoa’s last game against the Patriots, he finished with 270 yards, completing 69.7% of his throws. He had one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 104.4 in a 20-7 win on Sept. 11, 2022.

The Patriots come into Week 2 looking to capture their first win of the season, after a Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and now they must face one of the league’s hottest offenses.

“They use motion in a lot of different ways,” Belichick said. “Yeah, of course, it changes the formations, makes defenses adjust, and then sometimes they use motion as an advantage to run certain plays, and sometimes they use it as a decoy to run the play that compliments the play that they use the motion for. So, pretty standard, it’s what most offenses do.

“If you pressure, you better get there, because when those guys get the ball and there’s not many people around them, you’re looking at a lot of yardage. A lot of their yards are run-after-the-catch yards, it’s not all go routes and post routes. So, when you start bringing a lot of people, you better get there, because there’s going to be a lot of space behind you if they get the ball, and they’re both very good with the ball in their hands.”

Miami coach Mike McDaniel on Wednesday made it clear the Dolphins and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had moved on from their Week 1 win, saying in anticipation of the New England Patriots in Week 2 that “you’re always preparing to try to be the best version of yourself against the best teams when it matters most.” (Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins)

Tagovailoa was equally complimentary of New England’s defensive schemes and knows what’s awaiting him Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.

“They do a lot of good things and it starts with their front, their front seven. How they’re able to maneuver where guys are, they’re exchanging personnel, making things look the same in that sense,” he said. “Coach Belichick has been coaching in this league for way longer than I think I’ve been alive. So he knows exactly what he’s looking at when he coaches his guys. Nothing new under the sun for that guy.

“So, we got to come out, we got to be prepared. We understand that that’s a physical team and they’re going to make us earn everything that we can.”

Tagovailoa’s historic opening week put him in elite company with the likes of Norm Van Brocklin, Tom Brady and Dolphins legend Dan Marino in at least one statistic. Those are the only quarterbacks in NFL lore to pass for more yards in the opener.

Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel has read the history and the statistics. And while he’s impressed, he quickly moved his team — and his quarterback — to Week 2.

“That’s cool, that’s well earned, but that means nothing for the Patriots,” he said after Tagovailoa was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. “Literally, zero. I checked with the league. We can’t take the points from last game and put them in the points of this game.”

Sunday’s contest kicks off at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.

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