Dolphins locker room ‘like a funeral’ after blowout loss, Tua Tagovailoa injury

Safid Deen
USA TODAY Sports Plus

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa worked all offseason, transforming his body to perform at a new peak almost two years after breaking his hip.

Unfortunately for Tagovailoa, the first home game of his second NFL season ended Sunday after nine total snaps.

Tagovailoa suffered a rib injury on the left side of his body after his third sack in two series. He made an early first quarter exit and did not return to the deflating 35-0 blowout loss against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium.

What was the Dolphins’ locker room like after this loss?

“Like a funeral,” star cornerback Xavien Howard said.

Tagovailoa’s injury did not appear to be season-ending at first glance. X-Rays taken during the game were negative. But Dolphins coach Brian Flores said his starting quarterback will continue to be evaluated Monday.

“They don’t know the severity of the injury right now,” Flores said after the game, his fifth straight loss to the Bills in three seasons as Dolphins coach.

Year 3 of the Dolphins’ rebuild got off to a winning start in New England last week, but Week 2 brought any hope of contending against the Bills in the AFC East crashing down to reality.

The Dolphins are just as far away from the Bills’ potential as they were at the end of last season — when they lost 56-26 to end the season with 10 wins and kickstart Buffalo’s run to the AFC title game.

Miami has been outscored 91-26 its last two games against the Bills. Sunday’s result also dropped Flores to 16-18 as Dolphins coach and was the second shutout of his tenure.

Tagovailoa made his 11th career start, hoping to live up to the hype he accrued as a college phenom at Alabama before being Miami’s top pick, fifth overall in 2020.

The Dolphins, also reliant on a staunch defense, have an 8-3 record with Tagovailoa as starter since he made his debut last November – a year following his hip dislocation and fracture.

Tagovailoa outdueled Cardinals star Kyler Murray and helped the Dolphins contend from behind against Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes during his rookie season.

The hope is he can also help the Dolphins contend with the Bills and Josh Allen, who threw two touchdowns and led five scoring drives in his sixth consecutive dominant win of the rivalry.

However, Tagovailoa underwhelmed by his own standards as a rookie playing so soon after a body-altering injury.

His latest injury, however long it keeps him out of action, only delays both the ability to showcase his talent and the evaluation process for the Dolphins.

And the part Tua's ride-or-die legion of fans on social media don't want to hear: 

It also revives gossip and sports debate on surrounding Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson, the subject of 22 sexual misconduct lawsuits who would like to be traded to Miami. As a lengthy legal process looms, Watson has been kept off the field during the first two weeks so far this season.

“It was a tough feeling. You never want to see any of your teammates go down, you know what I mean?” Dolphins right guard Robert Hunt said. “Hopefully, Tua is alright.”

While Tagovailoa was ruled questionable to return, the way he looked following the hit did not incite any indication of a potential comeback. And now the Dolphins must move forward without him indefinitely.

Tagovailoa was leveled on a sack by Bills defensive end A.J. Epenesa during the second series of the game. He writhed in pain, favoring the left side of his body, which hit the field upon impact.

Tagovailoa couldn’t even stand fully upright as he gingerly walked off the field on his own, before being charioted on a cart into the locker room with roughly 10 minutes left in the first quarter.

Before the injury, Dolphins fans cheered loudly when he completed a 14-yard slant to receiver DeVante Parker three plays earlier. The reception did not count thanks to a penalty by fellow first-round pick Austin Jackson, a left tackle too far up the field on the run-pass option play.

At a moment the Dolphins were dying for momentum, especially with Tagovailoa sacked twice in three plays on his first drive, the penalty and the injury brought quite the buzzkill that lingered the rest of the game.

Tagovailoa completed just 1 of 4 passes for 13 yards, and his replacement Jacoby Brissett was unable to provide a spark. Brissett finished 24 of 40 for 169 yards with an interception during his first action with the Dolphins.

The Dolphins’ Week 3 game on the road against the Las Vegas Raiders is where the next phase of Miami’s rebuild begins — the one when Tagovailoa’s health and durability again become a concern unti, while his potential to be a franchise quarterback lingers in the wind.