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Saturday night, Marriott Hotel, suburb of Baltimore. Last Dolphins team briefing before the Ravens. “I want us to react when we’re not in the lead,” said Miami coach Mike McDaniel. “This is the National Football League. It happens. And believe me guys, there’s nothing like silencing a crowd on the street when the clock hits zero.”

Sunday afternoon, halftime, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore. Ravens 28, Dolphins 7. A shroud over the dressing room. McDaniel told his players to forget the scoreboard and just play and whatever happens, happens and he had faith they would play great in the second half. Afterwards, he told me he was concerned about what he saw in his players when great adversity struck. “I thought our boys were defeated and I understood why,” McDaniel told me. “They had high hopes for the game and it didn’t start that way.”

Then the “F—it” bit happened.

This is a family website, so McDaniel has to leave a little to the imagination here. But the big piece of Miami’s ridiculous comeback was honestly dubbed the “F—it” piece.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Miami was still down 14 and stuttering, Tua Tagovailoa going incomplete-incomplete, with a clock under eight, with a third and ten at Baltimore’s 48-yard line.

“So we had a game ready in case things didn’t go right or if there were various frustrations,” McDaniel said an hour after the game, right in front of the team bus waiting to take the team to the airport. “We installed this swear word game that the quarterbacks knew as the ‘F—it’ game. Tua loved the play. If we really needed to make a difference, we would name the piece.”

Well f—. What the quarterback wants, the quarterback gets…especially when the quarterback is in the midst of the hottest part of his young NFL life.


Second week… in the league they play in… for a fee.

Trey Lance out, Jimmy Garoppolo in. “We lost our starting quarterback in the first quarter of week two,” Kyle Shanahan told me on his drive home Sunday night. “Incredibly sad for Trey, but the stars are in our favor to get Jimmy back and we need him now.”

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Still want to enforce the study habits of Kyler Murray, Cards?

Football’s brightest new non-QB star plays for the Dee-troit Lions. I’ll tell you why Amon-Ra St. Brown will have a champion chip on his shoulder as long as he plays soccer.

Should we really be surprised that Matt Ryan and the Colts still can’t win in Jacksonville? I do not think so.

The Giants and Daniel Jones are 2-0. The Bengals and Joe Burrow are 0-2. Exactly as we thought.

Who will be the first to exclusively report that Nathaniel Hackett will be registering for Coaching Mechanics 101 in Colorado-Boulder this week? That’s a messed up touchline, and the Broncos are lucky to be 1-1. (Eighteen drives in two weeks, two touchdowns.)

Bucs Saints. Mike Evans – Marshon Lattimore… Ravens-Steelers. Ray Lewis Hines Ward.

Rams scratch Falcons. Need a panic late security to ensure it. Whatever Sean McVay says to the press, he must be thinking, “I never could have imagined that.”

Joe Flacco for governor of New Jersey.

Nervous: Jacoby Brissett, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Russell Wilson, Ron Rivera.

Very nervous: Matt Rhule, Frank Reich, Jameis Winston, Bengal’s offensive line.

Happy: The Dolphins, who don’t often score 35 points in one half.

“At halftime,” McDaniel told me, “I was focused on getting the guys to finish the game right and to our standard. I didn’t think about anything other than scoring the next time I had possession.”

Finally, early in the fourth quarter, some luck: The Ravens took a 35-21 lead with nine minutes to go, fourth and one at the Miami 40-. Two former Patriots, Elandon Roberts and Trey Flowers, stoned Lamar Jackson on a run, and Miami recovered him at their 41-yard line.

On the third and tenth, McDaniel opted for it. Fit. What did they have to lose? The design: Three receivers on the left, Hill alone on the right hoping Hill could get two steps on the corner. The cornerback turned out to be an old pro, Marcus Peters. “We talked at the quarterback meeting the night before,” McDaniel said. “Tua knew he liked the opportunity there. He’s like, ‘Yeah, third-and-12, third-and-long, I really like the f-it bit.'”

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Why? Because who wouldn’t want Hill (with some sort of passive safety aid late, it turns out) to be singled out against it any Corner?

“In practice,” McDaniel said, “we didn’t do it really well. But give Tua credit: he didn’t blink.”

Interesting fourth quarter for the Dolphins – of course that would be scoring 28 goals with a good team on the road. But there was another reason, with the football world wondering if Tagovailoa would be cool to link up with a speed receiver deep in the field. In that game, Tagovailoa threw it 46 yards past the line of scrimmage – “air yards” in modern football lingo – and that would be a trend in this district. In the first three quarters, Tagovailoa averaged 5.6 air yards per attempt, according to next-gen stats. Fourth quarter: 11.1 yards.

Tua wasn’t done yet. Hill wasn’t done yet. Next series: Third and sixth at the Miami 40 yard line. Did the Ravens feel the heat of being on the field so much, running so much? Could this be a case of load management catching up with Baltimore while the Dolphins had some left over after practice in the sweltering South Florida heat? Another interesting perspective from Next Gen Stats: Baltimore’s DBs totaled 6,131 yards in this game. This is the most yards rushed in a game by a secondary since the start of the 2021 season.

And on that game, with Hill singled at left against rookie cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis, he blew past Armour-Davis, who looked like he thought he should have safety assist. But no security help came. “I knew there was a potential that they would go to zero [zero coverage, or blitzing and leaving the receivers all singled]so I wasn’t totally surprised because the corner played flatfooted thinking his rush was going to come home.

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nope The 60-yard TD to Hill tied it at 35. From there, Baltimore took the lead with a 51-yard field goal from Justin Tucker, and Miami took over at 32- with 2:12 left. Who would be surprised that the Dolphins would end a 547-yard tag with a Tua-to-Jaylen Waddle seven-yard TD with 14 seconds left?

Typically in the NFL, you have to learn hard lessons the bad way,” McDaniel said. “I was proud that they were able to learn a lesson in mental toughness in a game that was spiraling out of control super fast. Just play the four quarters and find out later.”

But this game was bigger than just this lesson. The outside noises of football 2022 are impossible to ignore, and Tagovailoa has been benched, booed and questioned over his 29 months in Miami. He had to listen to the Deshaun-Watson rumors last year because he knew his coach wanted to take on Watson. Then he had to get used to a new coach who kept emphasizing with him that he was the future. And now, after the first two weeks of this season, after beating New England 4-0 and beating Baltimore with a six-touchdown game, perhaps the world (and Tua herself) will finally believe that the quarterback of the future is in Miami is the quarterback of today.

“What did you say to Tua after the game?” I said to McDaniel.

“I said, ‘The weight should be off your shoulders, man. All you did was do exactly what we talked about. Hopefully for at least a week you can shut up all the people you’re trying not to listen to.’ I hope Sundays feel different for him now. It takes a kind of shock and awe to do that.”

Throwing four touchdown passes in 13 minutes against the Baltimore Ravens…if that doesn’t shock and awe, then what does? The Tua era is here.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

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