Tua Tagovailoa walked off the field, game ball in his injured left hand, and waved his arms to acknowledge the cheers.
And then he stopped before entering the tunnel to take a bow, a rare moment of celebration for the Miami Dolphins this season.
Xavien Howard forced a fumble and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown, Tagovailoa came off the bench and capped his night with a 1-yard sneak for a score with 2:19 left and the Dolphins stunned the Baltimore Ravens 22-10 on Thursday night.
“Any win is good,” Tagovailoa said. “No rumors, no external factors of noise had anything to do with what we did tonight.”
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The Dolphins (3-7) got three field goals from Jason Sanders in what became their second win in five days. Tagovailoa — who couldn’t start because of a fractured finger on his left, or throwing, hand — threw for 158 yards in relief of Jacoby Brissett, who passed for 156 yards before needing to depart in the third quarter with an injured right knee.
“I think it’s tough coming into a game, second half,” Tagovailoa said. “You’ve got to warm up, you’ve got to get your head back into the mindset of going in and playing, but that’s the NFL. You’ve got to be ready at any time.”
Baltimore’s streak of 51 regular-season games with at least 14 points — the second-longest such streak in NFL history behind a 63-game run by New England from 2009 through 2013 — came to an end.
An emphatic end, at that.
Miami’s defense carried an offense that had one quarterback get hurt, have an injured one take his place, and saw its only trip to the end zone in the first 57 minutes come from an offensive lineman who reached just far enough on a back flip to get the ball over the goal line — only to have it not count because he wasn’t an eligible receiver.
Didn’t matter. The offense did enough, and the defense did more than enough.
“The defense played great,” Tagovailoa said.
Lamar Jackson completed 26 of 43 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown for Baltimore (6-3). Mark Andrews had the scoring grab for the Ravens, who had dominated Miami in the teams’ most recent three meetings going into Thursday — winning by a combined 137-16 score.
Not this time. Not even close.
‘We’ve got to be a lot better’
“We’ve got to go to work,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to be a lot better.”
Brissett had a 52-yard completion to Isaiah Ford late in the half on what appeared to be a busted play that turned into Miami’s longest gain of the season — to that point, anyway. Sanders connected on a chip shot, the Dolphins took a 6-3 lead into the break and, somehow, had the lead for good.
Andrews’ scoring catch got Baltimore ton 15-10, just close enough for it to seem that Miami was on the ropes. Tagovailoa found Albert Wilson for a 64-yard gain — Miami’s longest play of the season and the longest pass of Tagovailoa’s NFL career — with about three minutes left, and then the QB muscled in from the 1 to seal the win.
The closest either offense came to the end zone for the game’s first 55 minutes was a play midway through the third quarter, when Tagovailoa completed a pass to right guard Robert Hunt. The lineman rumbled toward the goal line, got flipped over and appeared to reach the ball over the plane.
It wouldn’t have counted anyway. Hunt wasn’t an eligible receiver, the Dolphins settled for a field goal and a 9-3 lead.
And soon afterward, finally, a TD happened. Howard stripped the ball from Ravens receiver Sammy Watkins after a catch on the ensuing Baltimore possession, picked up the fumble and scored to put Miami up 15-3.
“A great play,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “X, he’s done a great job for us and he showed up again, made a big play in a big moment. We needed it. Got it out, scooped and scored. Big play in the game.”
Veteran’s Day tributes
Ravens’ cornerback Tavon Young, who had been dealing with a knee issue, suffered a foot injury in the second half.
A rarity, the Orlando Magic got cheers in Miami. Magic rookie guard Jalen Suggs made the trip south for the game, and the Dolphins presented him with a custom jersey bearing his No. 4. Suggs is the second cousin of former Baltimore defensive standout Terrell Suggs.
In addition to having the U.S. flag displayed for the national anthem, the Dolphins also had flags from the branches of the military and a POW-MIA flag unfurled as well. The anthem was performed by retired Navy Petty Officer First Class Generald Wilson.
And at halftime, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon performed a rifle precision drill.