Dolphins vs. Bears score, takeaways: Tua Tagovailoa outduels Justin Fields in a game of historic performances

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields played Sunday’s game like it was a Saturday showdown between Alabama and Ohio State, with each putting up numbers one could only imagine in an NCAA Football video game in the Dolphins’ 35-32 win in Chicago. Tagovailoa became the first quarterback in Dolphins history with over 300 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and no interceptions in consecutive games thanks to his 302 passing yards and three scores on 21-of-30 passing.

Fields went toe-to-toe with Tagovailoa and his high-powered pass-catchers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle with a performance never before seen. Fields became the first player in NFL history with three passing touchdowns and over 150 rushing yards in the same game. He has also broken the NFL’s regular season, single-game quarterback rushing yards record with 178 on the ground against Miami, 61 of which came on his only rushing score of the day. Fields’ rushing touchdown marked the longest run in his career. Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick had the previous record with 173 rushing yards in Week 13 of the 2002 season against the Minnesota Vikings.

One of the key differences between Tagovailoa and Fields’ afternoon was how Miami’s playmakers made some magic on their own since essentially everything the Bears did offensively stemmed from Fields’ singular brilliance. Hill finished with seven receptions, 143 receiving yards and a three-yard receiving touchdown, running his season total for receiving yards to 1,104, the most in a player’s first nine games in the Super Bowl Era. Hill topped Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,083 receiving yards in his first nine games of the 2013 season.

Waddle also showed out for his quarterback, recording 85 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches. The Dolphins’ dynamic duo have combined for 1,916 receiving yards this season, the most by teammates through nine games in the Super Bowl Era. They broke the previous record of 1,878 receiving yards set by “The Greatest Show on Turf” terrific tandem of Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.

The Dolphins scored touchdowns on four of their first five offensive possessions with their fifth score of the day coming on the Bears’ first punt, which they blocked for a 25-yard return score. Fields had one last chance to lead the Bears to overtime or a win with Chicago getting possession of the football with 2:50 left to play. He was only able to pick up one first downs before a sack and consecutive incompletions thwarted their last-ditch efforts.

The win improves the Dolphins to 6-3 overall, and 6-0 this season when Tagovailoa starts and finishes a game. Chicago falls to 3-6 overall with losses in five of their last six games after starting the season 2-1.

Why the Dolphins won

The Dolphins could not be stopped from the start, scoring an offensive touchdown on four of their first five drives in addition to the seven points from their special teams blocking a punt for a score. Tagovailoa completed his first nine passes for 111 yards and a touchdown across the Dolphins’ first two touchdown drives. The Shanahan offense that head coach Mike McDaniel has imported to Miami — after working alongside current San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan in 14 of his 15 NFL seasons as an assistant with five different teams — has taken his quarterback’s game to another level. Tagovailoa leads the NFL in passing yards per attempt (9.2) and passer rating (115.9) through nine weeks. If he can maintain this level through the end of the season, Tagovailoa would be the first Dolphin to lead the NFL in passer rating since Dan Marino in his 1984 MVP season.

Tagovailoa’s best was needed after Fields’ career-long 61-yard rushing touchdown cut Miami’s lead down to three, 28-25. He delivered, marching the Dolphins 75 yards all the way down the field, and he punctuated the drive with his third and final passing touchdown of the day to trade deadline pickup, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. The connection stretched the Miami lead back to double-digits, 35-25. McDaniel continues his reconstruction of the 49ers backfield he coached for five seasons (2017-2021) with both Raheem Mostert and Wilson Jr. once again topping his running back depth chart.

Why the Bears lost

Playing from behind isn’t a recipe for success for this Bears team that runs the football on 59.5% of their offense plays, the highest rate in the NFL. Chicago faced 11-point deficits twice, down 21-10 in the second quarter and 28-17 in the third quarter. Fields’ legs and arm accounted for 301 of Chicago’s 378 total yards with running back David Montgomery finishing as the team’s second-leading rusher with 36 yards on 14 and wide receiver Darnell Mooney finishing as the team’s leading receiver with 43 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. The quarterback had only one more carry, 15, but 142 more rushing yards than Montgomery.

In order for the Bears to finish these types of offensive, seesaw games, Fields needs more from his supporting cast. His final pass of the day hit a diving Equanimeous St. Brown in the chest, but the receiver was unable to hang on to a potentially game-extending catch. Tight end Cole Kmet had a career-high two receiving touchdowns in the red zone, but he didn’t add much else to the offense in terms of being able to regularly help move the chains, finishing with five receptions for 41 receiving yards.

Turning point

Wilson Jr.’s 10-yard catch-and-run for six stood up as the game-winning touchdown, creating a double-digit lead that Fields and the Bears just couldn’t quite reach before the end of regulation. The newly acquired running back co-led the Dolphins in carrying with him and Mostert each with nine. However, the Dolphins’ newest former 49er running back led the team in rushing yards with 51. It was an encouraging debut as McDaniel can continue to re-integrate Wilson Jr. into his gameplans at greater and greater volumes.

Play of the game

The play of the game is Miami’s blocked punt that they return for a touchdown since they needed all five touchdowns the team scored today to hold off Fields’ historic outing. The special teams score allowed for the Dolphins to relax for the first time on Sunday since it gave them their first double-digit lead of the game, 21-10.

What’s next

The Dolphins will return home for one more game before their Week 11 bye against the Cleveland Browns. The Bears host one of their NFC North rivals, the Detroit Lions in Week 10, a team coming off a 15-9 teardown of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The Lions forced the NFL’s back-to-back MVP into multiple interceptions in a division game for the first time since Week 17 in the 2013 season.

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