Tua Tagovailoa threw for a career-high four touchdown passes, but it wasn't enough as the Atlanta Falcons kicked a late field goal to beat the Miami Dolphins, 30-28, at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday in Week 7.
It was the Dolphins' sixth straight loss after winning the opener against the New England Patriots. But the postgame takeaway was as much about a quarterback that's not on the Dolphins' roster.
Not yet, anyway.
Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa on the Deshaun Watson rumors: "I hear it. I do hear it. I just don’t listen to it." Tagovailoa wouldn't divulge his conversations with Brian Flores on the Watson rumors, but said he appreciates the coach's transparency.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 24, 2021
Tagovailoa also had two red-zone interceptions that cost his team. But it would be hard to say that he alone cost the Dolphins the victory. He finished with 291 yards on 32-of-40 passing. Tagovailoa also ran for 29 yards on four carries.
And give him credit for giving a professional response to what had to be a tough question to take following another bitter loss.
Matt Ryan's fumble with 5:54 remaining gave Miami life. Down 27-21, the Dolphins recovered on the Atlanta 40-yard line in a great spot to take the lead. First, a penalty wiped out a first down. Then another penalty pushed the Dolphins back farther. Neither flag was Tagovailoa's fault.
Tagovailoa then hit Mike Gesicki for a huge first down on third-and-15 to the Atlanta 8, followed by a touchdown pass to a wide-open Mack Hollins to give Miami the lead.
But Ryan got the ball back and engineered a 57-yard drive for the win. Ryan hit Kyle Pitts for passes of 23 and 28 yards to get the Falcons into field-goal range and were able to get Miami to use all of its timeouts.
Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo then hit a 36-yard game-winning field goal. That evened the Falcons' record at 3-3.
Could this spur a Deshaun Watson trade?
The Dolphins have a slew of problems after it looked like they were a team on the rise after a 10-6 record a year ago.
The defense has faltered in key situations, as it did Sunday. The offensive line and run game have been disappointing at best. Several offensive playmakers have been in and out of the lineup.
Tagovailoa is neither a proven strength nor a clear weakness. Would trading for the Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson help matters? Maybe. But it's not addressing several other areas of need.
They've been connected to Watson since Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported in late August the Dolphins were the frontrunners to land him. And despite head coach Brian Flores saying he likes Tagovailoa this week, he might be willing to roll the dice on upgrading at the position. This week brought more reports — mostly originating from Houston — that a Watson-Dolphins deal could go down this week.
The clear risk, of course, is with Watson's off-field status. We simply don't know what might come next amid a slew of sexual assault allegations levied against him.
There also is the matter of cost. Committing assets to improve the QB talent is understandable in a vacuum, but with so many other concerns, can they afford it?
On the flip side, the Dolphins have quickly gone south. This season might be gone. Flores and general manager Chris Grier have to be feeling the heat. It's possible they've reached a level of desperation where such a move can't be considered reckless, even as the Nov. 2 trade deadline quickly approaches.
Either way, this is a pivotal week for the Dolphins' future.