Tua Tagovailoa's return to the lineup didn't exactly get off to a great start, but there was a clear change that happened that paved the way for a big second-half effort in the Miami Dolphins victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.
After the offensive was limited to only two field goals in the first half, including one of the final play before halftime, Tagovailoa led the Dolphins to 13 points with the kind of performance he had shown in his breakout game at Arizona.
Tagovailoa was 14-for-20 for 185 yards and one touchdown in the second half, posting a second-half passer rating of 115.6.
One thing the Dolphins did differently in the second half, a switch that certainly seemed to help Tagovailoa, was going to a faster tempo, sometimes without a huddle.
"I think (Offensive Coordinator) Chan (Gailey) really put us in a good situation, really the first half and the second half," Tagovailoa said. "The biggest thing was I just didn’t go out there and execute. Everyone was clicking on the offense except me, and it took the second half for me to regroup with our guys and for us to go down and march the ball down the field.”
Tagovailoa's strong second half began right after the Dolphins received the kickoff.
He started the drive with a 5-yard completion to tight end Durham Smythe and later had a 35-yard completion to running back Myles Gaskin before finishing things off with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki.
“I’d say the only thing that was different was our tempo," Tagovailoa said. "We just got on the ball, and then we played. The reason we did that was, it confuses the defense not to get into their calls that they want to get into whether it’s a pressure call or a coverage call. So I think that was our only adjustment. We’ve just got to play football. That was it.”
This was Tagovailoa's first action since the Nov. 22 game at Denver when he was pulled early in the fourth quarter with the Dolphins trailing 20-10 after completing 11 of 20 passes for 83 yards.
Tagovailoa was a question mark all week because of the thumb injury that caused him to miss the Jets game last week.
Head coach Brian Flores explained how he decided that Tagovailoa was ready to play against the Bengals and why there was never any consideration of pulling him even after the sluggish first half on offense.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Tua," Flores said. "I think what went into the decision to start him was we thought he practiced well, thought he was healthy enough to play. I thought we were moving it pretty well in the first half. Our drives were stalling out. I thought he was playing well. I thought we just needed to be more consistent and finish drives and really kind of take it one play at a time, and we were just kind of stalling out on a few of the drives early. I just think we needed to finish off some runs, finish off some protections, finish off some throws.
"That’s what we talked about at halftime. It was never really a thought of … Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it until you really brought it up here. He was going all the way, and I thought he was playing well, and he did play well. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him. Hopefully, we can build on this.”