Tua Tagovailoa's final numbers in the preseason opener against the Chicago Bears weren't particularly overwhelming and his day ended with a bad interception.
The first preseason game of his NFL career still should be viewed as an absolute success.
In fact, his performance has to be the single most encouraging thing for the Miami Dolphins and their fans, even ahead of the first-team defense completely shutting down the Bears despite three key starters — Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Emmanuel Ogbah — being given the day off.
We always caution against reading too much into practice and preseason performances — because opposing defenses won't do nearly as much to confuse a quarterback as they will in the regular season — but focusing on the way Tua threw the ball, it was a really, really good performance.
Tagovailoa finished the game going 8-for-11 for 99 yards with no touchdowns and that one forgettable interception, and he also had a completion to Mack Hollins nullified by a holding penalty on Austin Jackson.
The highlight, of course, was the 50-yard completion to tight end Mike Gesicki — or, at least, that's the way some describe Tua's day — though it wasn't even close to his best throw of the game.
Let's break down his 12 passes (including the one negated by the penalty):
Second-and-8, pass incomplete intended for Adam Shaheen near the sideline
That throw was slightly too far ahead of Shaheen, who left his feet to try to make the grab but couldn't come down with it. While not a perfect throw, it still was catchable.
Third-and-8, pass incomplete intended for Jakeem Grant
Watch Tua's reaction immediately after the play and it's clear he was expecting Grant to go deep with his route instead of breaking it off near the sideline. With Robert Quinn pushing Jackson back and getting close to Tua, he didn't have much choice then but to chuck the ball out of bounds.
Second-and-6, 2-yard completion to Shaheen
This came off a naked bootleg and the play didn't gain much, though the throw was on target.
Third-and-4, 50-yard completion to Gesicki
This one was all about the offensive line and the incredible protection it gave Tua on the play. He was able to just stand in the pocket and scan the field long enough for Gesicki to break free down the middle. The throw wasn't even perfect because Gesicki had to turn back for it a bit, but it still got the job done.
This is now when Tua really got to work.
First-and-goal, 6-yard completion to Mack Hollins
Quick decision, quick throw, right on target, great play to get the Dolphins from the 7 to the 1-yard line.
First-and-10, 16-yard completion to Hollins (negated by the holding penalty)
A deep out to Hollins near the left sideline and a perfect throw by Tua.
First-and-20, 11-yard completion to tight end Durham Smythe
With good protection again, Tagovailoa threw a strike to Smythe between three defenders to put the Dolphins in a position to eventually convert a third down.
Third-and-6, 6-yard completion to Gesicki
This was easily Tua's best throw of the game because Gesicki did not create much separation after making a quick outside move against safety DeAndre Carson-Houston, the same guy who would pick off Tua later. There was very little room for Tua to get the ball to Gesicki, and he fit the ball through that tight window.
Third-and-9, 14-yard completion to Hollins
Another perfect throw against tight coverage after Hollins ran a deep square-in pattern. Adding to the degree of difficulty here was that the pocket was collapsing on Tua as he threw the ball, and Jackson fell into him just after he released the ball.
First-and-10, 7-yard completion to running back Malcolm Brown
After looking downfield, Tua eventually got pressured by the Bears and did a good job of simply dumping the ball off to Brown for a very good gain on first down.
First-and-10, 3-yard completion to running back Myles Gaskin
Nothing special about this one, though Tua made a good decision to just shovel the ball forward to Gaskin after he started scrambling to his left.
First-and-10, pass intercepted by Carson-Houston
Yeah, that was the one bad play by Tua and it wasn't so much that he tried to force a late throw to Shaheen in the end zone between two defenders, but the replay clearly showed Shaheen wide open early in the play and Tua seemingly looking in his direction before looking right and then going back to Shaheen.
That one, easily correctable mistake paled in comparison to the great throws that Tua made. And it's those throws that should be remembered from the game at Chicago.
It's actually not farfetched to say he threw the ball better than he did at any time during his rookie season.
And that's why, without question, the preseason opener was such a success when it comes to Tua's performance.