Everything that happened Thursday night in Cincinnati seemed inconsequential at this point Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was knocked to the ground in the second quarter, that’s how you knew there was a serious problem. Tua stayed his own. The team lined up around him as he left on a stretcher. He was taken to nearby University of Cincinnati Hospital, and the Dolphins announced that he was “conscious and has movement in all of his limbs.”

It’s every footballer’s nightmare, and it’s compounded by the questions that began last Sunday when Tua returned from what the team initially reported as a head injury. It certainly appeared that way when he passed out after his head bounced on the field. But Tua returned to play, announcing that it was actually a back problem and, well, the NFL neurologist cleared him to return with the idea that he didn’t have a concussion.

The players’ union, however, announced it was launching an investigation, suggesting it looked as strange as it did. And… well, four days later, Tua was thrown to the ground by Cincinnati quarterback Josh Tupou and he suffered from what appeared to be a serious problem. Let’s get the facts straight about Tua’s condition. The good news: He was expected to be released from the hospital and return to South Florida with the team. But there will still be some questions about these last four days and the transfer of Tua. It focuses on a simple question that will put the NFL and the Dolphins under the microscope: Should Tua have played Thursday night?

2. Quote of the night: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tua’s former Dolphins teammate, said during Amazon’s Break with Tony Gonzalez and Richard Sherman, “We’ve all played a lot of football, but this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen.”

3. Tweet of the night: The league announced that protocol was followed in examining Tua on Sunday. An NFLPA investigation has not begun. But others in the medical community weigh in. Chris Nowinski, a neuroscientist, tweeted: “This is a disaster. Pray for Tua. Fire the medical staff and coaches. I predicted it and I hate to be right. Two concussions and 5 days can kill someone. It can end a career. How stupid are we in 2022.”

Well, as for the game:

4. Player of the game: Cincinnati safety Vaughn Bell with two interceptions. Teddy Bridgewater came on for Tua in the second quarter and completed six of his first seven passes for 71 yards, a touchdown and a 148.5 quarterback rating. So no rust from sitting for weeks. There was, however, a costly interception as he moved the Dolphins to a potential touchdown in the fourth quarter. On second-and-10 at the Cincinnati 26, safety Bell picked up his second interception at the 9-yard line and returned it to the Miami 45.

5. Dolphins defense He is expected to be tired after a 90-pitch game against Buffalo on Sunday. When Cincinnati took the first down 75 yards for a touchdown, it seemed to reinforce that idea. But the defense didn’t break that night and, until Xavien Howard left, gave Cincinnati fits. Example: Cincinnati ran the ball 28 times for 69 yards (2.5-yard average). The problem was that he couldn’t get off the field again. After Buffalo went 9 of 16 on third down, Cincinnati went 8 of 15. Those kinds of numbers make for long drives.

6. When Cincinnati hosts Ty Higgins went deep into the second scrimmage for a 59-yard touchdown that put the spotlight back on cornerback Xavien Howard. You put him on an island like the Dolphins have this year and he’s going to hit at times, especially when he’s struggling with his groin and then he’s out with a leg problem. As Amazon’s Al Michaels said, “Don’t be afraid to pick on Howard tonight.” Howard has been the Dolphins’ best player over the last couple of years, so Higgins’ touchdown coverage was not unusual. Both Dolphins quarterbacks moved to the other side when they played this game to help a more inexperienced quarterback (Nick Needham, Caher Koch or Keon Crossen, where receivers Ja’Mar Chase and Tyler Boyd worked). That left Howard alone, and Higgins faced Of course, when Howard left the game in the second half, Joe Burrow began to pick apart the Dolphins.

7. How did Kansas City ever get rid of Tyreek Hill? He was the best player on the field in all four games this year. On Thursday night, his 64-yard catch from Bridgewater moved the Dolphins to the Bengals’ 5-yard line in the third quarter. From that they just scored a field goal. But he went deep early in the game and Tua gave him away. He also moved the defense all night, clearing space for others in a way that showed how much they feared his shot. After four games, he is clearly the Dolphins MVP.

8. The Dolphins run game remains a problem. Where was he most of the night? Mike McDaniel had to come into this game looking to eat up time and keep the defense on the sidelines. Then, with the loss of Tua, it only added to the idea. Through three quarters, the Dolphins rushed for 40 yards on 15 carries (2.7-yard average). Cincinnati has a good defense, ranking eighth in the league, but was without its best defensive tackle, DJ Reader. The Dolphins ran for 65, 86 and 41 yards in the first three weeks. It’s not much. Commercial Play: Third and inches at their 34, Chase Edmonds is sacked for a one-yard loss and the Dolphins punt. Raheem Mostert lost a couple of times in the fourth quarter and finished with 15 carries for 69 yards.

9. Quick shots:

* Former Dolphins coaches seem to be everywhere, but Cincinnati’s head coaches are Zach Taylor, former Dolphins quarterbacks coach under Joe Philbin, and defensive coordinator Lou Anaruma, former secondary coach.

* Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders had made 146 of his 148 career extra points before missing Thursday night’s punt just before halftime. That kept Cincinnati’s lead at 14-12 at halftime.

10. Next week: Dolphins at New York Jets on Oct. 9. After a short break, the Dolphins head to the Meadowlands to play the 1-2 Jets. Quarterback Zach Wilson is expected to return for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh after missing the first four games. After New England’s tough opening schedule at Baltimore, Buffalo and Thursday night at Cincinnati, the Jets represent the start of an easier schedule for the Dolphins. After the Jets, the Dolphins will play at home against Minnesota and Pittsburgh before traveling to Detroit and Chicago.



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