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Dolphins defense helps Tua Tagovailoa win NFL debut

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., Nov. 1 (UPI) — Tua Tagovailoa bounced back from a big hit and an early turnover — and was aided by a dominant Miami Dolphins defense — en route to a win over the Los Angeles Rams in his first NFL start on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.

Tagovailoa — the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft — completed 12 of 22 pass attempts for 93 yards and a touchdown and did not throw an interception in the 28-17 win.

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“I don’t think I played to the standard of what this offense is capable of,” Tagovailoa said after the game.

“Thank God we’ve got a good defense.”

The Dolphins scored touchdowns on a fumble return and a punt return in the victory. The Rams out-gained the Dolphins 436 to 139 in total yards, but had four turnovers.

“It takes a team effort,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “There are 11 guys on the field. All the guys work hard. Everybody’s roll is important, but it was a total team effort — offense, defense and special teams.”

Rams defensive end Michael Brockers delivered a hard hit to Tagovailoa as Aaron Donald knocked the ball out of the rookie’s left hand for a fumble on Tagovailoa’s first drop back of the game.

The Rams turned the turnover into points three plays later when Robert Woods ran into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown.

Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins intercepted Rams quarterback Jared Goff late in the first quarter. Tagovailoa then put together a six-play, 33-yard touchdown drive. He capped off the drive with his first career touchdown pass, a three-yard toss to DeVante Parker.

Goff then fumbled after he was hit on a drop back in the second quarter. Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel recovered the ball and had a 79-yard return for a touchdown to give the Dolphins a 14-7 lead.

Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant then scored on an 88-yard punt return to give Miami a two-score advantage six minutes into the second quarter.

The Dolphins forced another Goff fumble on the Rams next drive. Dolphins running back Myles Gaskins scored a one-yard rushing touchdown on the resulting possession.

Rams kicker Kai Forbath then made a 23-yard field goal just before halftime to make the score 28-10 at the break.

Neither team scored in the third quarter. Goff connected with Woods for an 11-yard touchdown with 10:03 remaining to cut the Dolphins lead to 11 points, but neither team added points down the stretch.

Goff completed 35 of 61 passes for 355 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in the loss. Cooper Kupp had 11 catches for 110 yards for the Rams.

“It’s not a one-man show,” Flores said of Tagovailoa and the Dolphins. “He made enough plays for us to win the ball game.

“It was his first NFL game against a really good defense. They [the Rams] played well. They are hard to move the ball on. You have to take that into account as well.

“The rest of the team picked him [Tagovailoa] up.

The Dolphins battle the Arizona Cardinals at 4:24 p.m. EDT on Nov. 8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The Rams have a Week 9 bye before they host the Seattle Seahawks at 4:25 p.m. EDT on Nov. 15 in Inglewood, Calif.

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