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Tua Tagovailoa: Why was he benched by Miami Dolphins? Will he start next week vs. Jets? – Palm Beach Post

Denver Broncos defensive end DeShawn Williams (90) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Denver.

DENVER — Tua Tagovailoa was benched by coach Brian Flores early in the fourth quarter of Miami’s 20-13 loss at Denver on Sunday.

Tagovailoa had been sacked six times. The rookie quarterback had practiced all week with a foot injury. Was Tagovailoa knocked out of his fourth start in favor or Ryan Fitzpatrick due to injury?

“Tua wasn’t injured,” Flores said after the game. “We just felt it was the best move at that point in the game. We felt (Fitzpatrick) gave us the best chance to win the game.”

Tagovailoa was 11-for-20 for 83 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. But Miami punted six times and scored only 10 points on his eight drives.

Will Flores start Fitzpatrick against the Jets next Sunday in New Jersey?

“No changes,” Flores said.

Fitzpatrick, asked to provide a “spark,” led a comeback. When he entered the game, Miami trailed 20-10. He led a field goal drive. And then he led Miami from its 1-yard line into scoring position with less than two minutes to play.

More:5 Instant Takeaways: Miami Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa stunned at Denver, 20-13

But a potential game-tying touchdown intended for DeVante Parker was intercepted in the end zone by Broncos safety Justin Simmons.

“I needed to hold the safety,” Fitzpatrick said. “If he was a step slower, maybe that ball gets in there and we’re having a happy press conference.”

Fitzpatrick was 12-for-18 for 117 yards, operating an up-tempo offense.

After the game, Fitzpatrick repeatedly said he is the backup to Tagovailoa. 

“It’s very clear this is Tua’s team,” Fitzpatrick said. “Tua is going to continue to get better and grow.”

Later, Fitzpatrick added: “There is no controversy. It’s his team and he’s going to continue to lead the team. We just have to all pull in the right direction.”

Tagovailoa had begun his career 3-0, but fell flat under intense pressure dialed up by Broncos coach and defensive play-caller Vic Fangio.

More:Ryan Fitzpatrick replaces Tua Tagovailoa as Dolphins QB

Tagovailoa had an interception overturned by a defensive penalty. In the previous game, he had gotten away with two near-interceptions.

How did Tagovailoa feel about being pulled?

“Whatever is best for the team,” he said. “When we were in, we couldn’t really get things going. Coach felt it was the best decision to put Fitz in and give us a spark. It’s what’s best for the team. If we were to win with Fitz in there, the locker room would be a lot different and everyone would be a lot happier. It just sucks to lose.”

Tagovailoa said he held the ball too long. He said he needs to understand that a player may appear to be covered when he really isn’t.

“I couldn’t get the ball in the hands of our playmakers or get in a rhythm,” Tagovailoa said.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa stands on the sidelines after being benched in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game.

Tagovailoa was not effective on downfield passes. That’s something he’ll need to continue to work on. He was also responsible for at least a few of the sacks, which can be deemed “coverage” sacks.

Flores is not worried about the game dragging Tagovailoa down.

“They pressured us,” Flores said. “We struggled getting it going. When that’s going on, you have to try to do something to create some momentum. That’s why we made the switch. But he’s healthy. He’s a confident kid. He’s fine.”

So Tagovailoa is slated to lead the Dolphins (6-4) next Sunday in a game at the Jets (0-10) that really is a must-win from a playoff-hunt perspective.

 Fitzpatrick has assured Tagovailoa that he must simply continue to learn, and that the rookie road is rarely paved smoothly. Fitzpatrick has also pledged to help Tagovailoa build a catalog of game-playing memory that he can lean on in the future.

“What happened in this game?” Fitzpatrick said. “They were getting pressure up front, so what are some things I can do as a quarterback to combat that? As we go forward, he’ll be able to lean on that. I learned those things in 16 years but I want to help him accelerate the learning and make sure he learns it faster than I did.”

More:Joe Burrow is out for the season, robbing Dolphins fans of matchup with Tua

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