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Do dolphins have a problem Tua Tagovailoa?

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During three quarters Sunday, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins does enough.

Then, in the fourth quarter, they – and in particular their ball safety – completely imploded.

The same quarterback who entered December with 19 touchdowns to just three interceptions in nine games matched that total turnover in a single quarter.

Mistakes, head coach Mike McDaniel said after the 26-20 defeat to Green Bay Packers, compound. And until Tagovailoa and the Dolphins address them enough, they threaten to continue to derail a promising season.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s also something every quarterback really goes through,” McDaniel said. “You really have to understand how you don’t snowball. … You can’t let the past influence the present.

“I think there might be parts of it that have to do with him kind of snowballing into his own mind.”

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 25: Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins heads for the sidelines dejected after throwing an interception to De'Vondre Campbell #59 of the Green Bay Packers during the fourth quarter of a football game NFL at Hard Rock Stadium on December 25, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

Tua Tagovailoa on his disastrous holiday outing that hurt Miami’s playoff chances: ‘You have the opportunity to play on Christmas Day against a really good team, and I’m going there, unable to put on my best foot forward.” (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

McDaniel insisted his quarterback was strong and the coach was “confident” he would get past that. But a four-game Dolphins slippage continues to hurt their playoff viability and even, after Sunday’s loss, their playoff contention.

The Dolphins entered Sunday with an 83% chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight playoff predictor. They came out with a 67% chance.

And while McDaniel pointed out that Tagovailoa alone was not responsible for the failure of this game, the quarterback’s decision-making undoubtedly contributed. He knew it.

“You have the opportunity to play on Christmas Day against a very good team,” Tagovailoa said, “and I’m going there unable to put my best foot forward.”

“Communication errors” and “wrong route”

Dolphins fans might refuse to look back that far, but it was actually the Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers who threw the first interception in the tight Christmas Day game.

Facing third-and-15 less than a minute into the fourth quarter, Rodgers looked for the receiver Allen Lazard in the end zone. Dolphins rookie cornerback Kader Kohou instead recorded his first career pick, allowing the Dolphins to retire from a 20-20 tie.

On the first snap, Tagovailoa targeted the receiver Tireek Hill, putting air on the ball in hopes of knocking down a defender. He miscalculated the air in his throw, the pass sailing over the heads of the defender and Hill. Packers cornerback Alexander Jaire He watched the room unfold, thinking, “Wow, is he really knocking her over?”

“Oh, man,” Alexander said in his postgame interview with Fox reporter Pam Oliver. “It’s easy.”

Tagovailoa said the throw “escaped” him.

Three minutes and 15 seconds later, the Packers connected on a basket to go up 23-20 after three quarters without a lead.

On the ride that followed, the Dolphins seemed to settle down. With his team alternating between running and passing, Tagovailoa managed to find three different receivers for a double-digit gain each on the drive. Remnants of the rhythmic explosive play that had dominated the first half – Tagovailoa had actually completed 9 of 12 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown. before halftime – seemed to go by.

Until a misunderstanding.

Facing the Packers’ second and 13 of 30, Tagovailoa fired almost as soon as he lined up the snap. This time, Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell grabbed the catch, no Dolphins player even within reach. Tagovailoa took responsibility for what he called “a few miscommunications” on the play, with the quarterback shrugging that he “might have said the wrong play, I’m not too sure.” McDaniel, however, defended his quarterback on that play.

“There was one of his interceptions that the main receiver kind of cut off,” McDaniel said. Ran the wrong route. A concept that we have executed several times this week. So it’s not just him.

“It’s a team failure, not a one-person failure.”

The Packers once again settled for a field goal as they blew up the clock. Tagovailoa and his teammates returned to the field with 1:56 to play and one chance: they were trailing by just 6 points.

Two games later, it wouldn’t matter. Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas thought of the mantra that turnovers come in clusters. “You get one choice,” he reasoned, and “more will come.” Tagovailoa backed up and shot across the body to the right sideline. Douglas skipped the lane destined for a tight end Mike Gesicki and effectively sealed the win for Green Bay.

“It’s just not a good ball for my receivers to play on,” Tagovailoa said, rubbing the back of his neck wearily. “It’s hard.”

Green Bay's Rasul Douglas (29) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter.  (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

Green Bay’s Rasul Douglas (29) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

Is Tagovailoa likely to repeat?

McDaniel objected to the Dolphins’ entire four-game streak being blamed on Tagovailoa’s ball safety. Tagovailoa surrendered three costly second-half turnovers from December 17-33. 4 loss against San Francisco 49ers. But he didn’t throw an interception in later losses to the Los Angeles Chargers or Buffalo Ticketshis only fumble on a strip sack recovered by a teammate.

“So going from zero turnovers to four is going to have a serious impact on the game,” McDaniel said. “If you don’t do line-ups well, you don’t do well protecting football, those are the things that will happen. Our young team has to learn in a very, very hard way.

And Tagovailoa, after Sunday’s dramatic end, needs to quickly incorporate lessons for the Dolphins to maintain their grip on this season. The high level execution that his game in the first half against. featured Packers need to extend longer. His communication with his teammates must be clearer, his throws more judicious. Upcoming opponents are sure to exploit the tendencies shown in three interceptions, across three consecutive drives, towards three different defenders.

The Packers already seemed to be capitalizing.

“We knew he was a guy who was going to think ahead and he was going to let the ball go,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said. But if you can read the quarterback the right way, it also gives you defensive opportunities. And our guys have done a great job of that.

With two AFC East games rounding out the Dolphins’ regular season roster, the road won’t be any easier. Dolphins face New England Patriots then the New York Jets, the teams that entered this week ranked eighth and fourth respectively in total defense. The Patriots’ 16 interceptions are also tied for second in the league.

All three teams are vying for the AFC wild card spots, and the Dolphins’ 8-7 record is just one game clear of their counterparts.

Miami’s first-year head coach implored his team after the game to make sure “these situations show…improvement.”

“At some point, if we’re going to take the next step, we’re going to have to put up or shut up,” McDaniel said. “Nothing is easy in this game. The only thing I know is that if you are able to get through it, it will benefit you in the next phase of the season. This is where you don’t want not have a wilt game or snowball or anything but a clean football.

Tagovailoa knows he has to pull himself together and bounce back. McDaniel thinks his teammates and his coach need to improve their game as well.

“What kind of people are we and are we able to really get through this together?” he said. “There’s no one else outside the team meeting room who’s going to come and save us.

“We have to find out for ourselves.”

Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein

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