Tua’s Dolphins provide the NFL’s perfect welcome back

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Highlights of the Miami Dolphins against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1 of the NFL

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Highlights of the Miami Dolphins against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1 of the NFL

Highlights of the Miami Dolphins against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1 of the NFL

Hello there, new NFL season. We didn’t hear you get in. Said nobody ever. 

The league bundled home from its hair-down unwind awkwardly trying to locate the door key hole in the dark, before stepping on squeaky dog toys, stumbling up the stairs and waking up the whole house. It was brash and boisterous and much of what you wanted on opening weekend.

Ja’Marr Chase described the Cleveland Browns as elves. Elves help deliver Christmas. This had all the feel of festive goodness.

When did football feel ‘back’, to you? It may have been the sight of Christian McCaffrey reeling off a 65-yard touchdown run behind a booming Brandon Aiyuk block within a masterful Kyle Shanahan run concept. It may have been rookie mutant Bijan Robinson line dancing beyond a defender on his way to a debut touchdown, or Sean Payton attempting an onside kick on his first play as Denver Broncos head coach. It may have been you wondering why, at 4am, you are still sat up at watching the New York Giants stink out MetLife Stadium in their 40-0 demolition to the Dallas Cowboys, or the sound bite of Geno Smith crying “Oh my god” at the sight of Aaron Donald hurtling in his direction.

All worthy answers. Though it was Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, the Miami Dolphins and their tit for tat win over the Los Angeles Chargers that felt as though it spoke perfectly to an NFL Sunday’s resumption of chaos.

With less than two minutes remaining, Tua Tagovailoa found Tyreek Hill once again for the touchdown as Miami edged out the Los Angeles Chargers

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With less than two minutes remaining, Tua Tagovailoa found Tyreek Hill once again for the touchdown as Miami edged out the Los Angeles Chargers

With less than two minutes remaining, Tua Tagovailoa found Tyreek Hill once again for the touchdown as Miami edged out the Los Angeles Chargers

Seven lead changes, 969 yards of total offense, 70 points, a game-winning touchdown in the final two minutes and Mike McDaniel rocking some Don Shula-esque sunglasses. The Dolphins leave Hollywood 36-34 winners and as serious disruptors.

Vic Fangio, Miami’s marquee defensive coordinator appointment this past offseason, spent the majority of the game distancing himself from the blitz, such is his renowned system in which he deploys two high safeties and favours rushing only four men in order to cut off the downfield splash plays. When the moment to blitz arrived he did not miss, an epic finale having been teed up by Jason Sanders missing his extra point on the go-ahead touchdown, leaving the Chargers needing only a field goal.

With two minutes to play and the game on the line, Fangio sent the attack dogs. Zach Seiler got home first to sack Justin Herbert for a loss of eight on second-and-21, before Jaelan Phillips iced the win as he and Justin Bethel converged on Herbert for a sack on fourth-and-12. Have yourself a thriller to see in the new year.

The night had been about Tua, though, and the unerringly accurate and anticipatory arm of a quarterback who was in the hunt for MVP not so long ago. Some seemed to forget as much this summer, and so too of the contender traits with which Miami had been shimmering before losing their play-caller to concussions down the stretch.

Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is pleased with the connection he's formed with wide receiver Tyreek Hill on the pitch as the Dolphins secured a hard-fought opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers

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Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is pleased with the connection he’s formed with wide receiver Tyreek Hill on the pitch as the Dolphins secured a hard-fought opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers

Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is pleased with the connection he’s formed with wide receiver Tyreek Hill on the pitch as the Dolphins secured a hard-fought opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers

Sunday was a bullish wake-up call. Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns – a stat line even he was taken back by upon being told after the game – while Tyreek Hill began his quest for a 2,000-yard campaign with 215 receiving yards and two scores.

It was high-octane shoot-out Dolphins offense at its most ruthless when it mattered.

Among Tua’s sizzle reel was a 47-yard sideline heave to Hill to move the chains on third-and-10 with under four minutes to play and Miami trailing, Tagovailoa climbing through a fractured pocket to freeze the high safety and allow his receiver extra time to create separation before dropping the perfect ball over the covering cornerback. He would then cap the decisive drive with a floated four-yard strike to Hill, McDaniel clearing out all but his star receiver’s covering defender with a four-man flood to the left, making for a one-on-one matchup to the right of the end zone in which Tua’s exquisite flight and ball placement dictated there would only one winner.

He was throwing his receivers open and pre-meditating soft spots in the defense, he was rolling to his left and creating while off-platform, he was winding up the arm and dropping deep balls in the bread bin, he was chiselling the time between snap and release to blistering rates.

Tua was bored of the ‘should have drafted Justin Herbert’ jibes along with the arm strength card, and played like it. In the AFC’s arms race to overthrow the Kansas City Chiefs, his Dolphins have both the firepower and immediacy to dunk on any team at any moment.

Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa brilliantly found wide receiver Tyreek Hill for the touchdown in the third quarter

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Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa brilliantly found wide receiver Tyreek Hill for the touchdown in the third quarter

Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa brilliantly found wide receiver Tyreek Hill for the touchdown in the third quarter

Now also feels like a fitting time to remind that Tyreek Hill is the most devastating field-flipper in the NFL, and quite possibly most impactful weapon to which there is no current comparison. If Geno cried ‘oh my god’ with Aaron Donald rhino-ing in his direction, Brandon Staley’s secondary might well have uttered similar at the sight of Hill buying himself a running start with pre-snap motion offset to Tua’s right before curving his route into a dagger look with ludicrous speed and leaving the ankles of nearby Chargers defenders stuck in toffee. No other wideout in the league does what he does.

While Staley is left to answer more uncomfortable questions, McDaniel’s jet-fuelled offense are a match for anybody. Thought it feels like we already knew that.

Ridley marks his return

Calvin Ridley scored his first touchdown for the Jacksonville Jaguars as they took the lead at the Indianapolis Colts

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Calvin Ridley scored his first touchdown for the Jacksonville Jaguars as they took the lead at the Indianapolis Colts

Calvin Ridley scored his first touchdown for the Jacksonville Jaguars as they took the lead at the Indianapolis Colts

Elsewhere, a year out seemed to make little difference to Calvin Ridley, who marked his return from a season-long suspension by making eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown on debut in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ win over the Indianapolis Colts. His night including a stunning hitch-and-swivel catch-and-run for 29 yards in the second quarter, teeing up Zay Jones’ 18-yard score moments later. Trevor Lawrence will make his next step towards a place among the elite quarterbacks of the league with a proven lead receiver at his disposal.

“We lost to some elves”

Mentioned elves earlier, so probably ought to explain why.

“It’s frustrating because I called [them] a** elves and we just lost to some elves. So I’m p***** on my part, I’m p***** on that end,” said Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase of the Browns, whose mascot is named Brownie the Elf.

The Bengals, popular Super Bowl picks heading into the new season, were dealt an early knockback to their Championship hunt as they were beaten 24-3 by the Browns, who limited quarterback Joe Burrow to a career-low 82 passing yards in his first game since becoming the league’s highest-paid player.

Love in the air?

A clever play from Green Bay saw Aaron Jones gain 51 yards in their season opener with Chicago

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A clever play from Green Bay saw Aaron Jones gain 51 yards in their season opener with Chicago

A clever play from Green Bay saw Aaron Jones gain 51 yards in their season opener with Chicago

Some teams have spent many gruelling years in search of their long-term successor to a veteran quarterback stalwart, but did the Green Bay Packers find theirs in one? It is incredibly unfair, should that be the case.

Jordan Love enjoyed a blissful start to life as starting quarterback following the departure of Aaron Rodgers, completing 15 of 27 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-20 win over the Chicago Bears.

New kids on the block

Who had fifth-round rookie Puka Nacua making 10 catches for 119 yards during his competitive debut on their bingo card? Thought not. The Los Angeles Rams wide receiver starred alongside Tutu Atwell and two-touchdown running back second-year Kyren Williams in beating the Seattle Seahawks to restore some partial faith in a rebuilding team that just lost Cooper Kupp for four games to injured reserve.

Don’t trust Arthur Smith with your Fantasy needs!

Atlanta's Bijan Robinson beat three Carolina defenders before scoring his maiden touchdown in the NFL

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Atlanta’s Bijan Robinson beat three Carolina defenders before scoring his maiden touchdown in the NFL

Atlanta’s Bijan Robinson beat three Carolina defenders before scoring his maiden touchdown in the NFL

What to do with these Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks is anybody’s guess. Arthur Smith cares not for your Fantasy Football preferences and only for his smash-mouth goodness. Rookie Bijan Robinson announced himself with a ‘see ya!’ catch-and-run touchdown on his way to 83 yards from scrimmage in his debut, while Tyler Allgeier carried the ball 15 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t even see the field due to injury. Start them all. Start all the Falcons running backs.

Best clips from Sunday

Christian McCaffrey completed an incredible individual score, running in a 65-yard touchdown as San Francisco continued to dominate Pittsburgh

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Christian McCaffrey completed an incredible individual score, running in a 65-yard touchdown as San Francisco continued to dominate Pittsburgh

Christian McCaffrey completed an incredible individual score, running in a 65-yard touchdown as San Francisco continued to dominate Pittsburgh

New England's Hunter Henry took an awesome one-handed catch in their season opener with Philadelphia

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New England’s Hunter Henry took an awesome one-handed catch in their season opener with Philadelphia

New England’s Hunter Henry took an awesome one-handed catch in their season opener with Philadelphia

After making an interception, Talanoa Hufanga attempted a rugby pass to San Francisco teammate Tashaun Gipson!

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After making an interception, Talanoa Hufanga attempted a rugby pass to San Francisco teammate Tashaun Gipson!

After making an interception, Talanoa Hufanga attempted a rugby pass to San Francisco teammate Tashaun Gipson!

Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence fumbled and DeForest Buckner capitalised to score for Indianapolis

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Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence fumbled and DeForest Buckner capitalised to score for Indianapolis

Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence fumbled and DeForest Buckner capitalised to score for Indianapolis

Dallas Cowboys defensive back Noah Igbinoghene opens the Cowboys' 2023 NFL season with a 58-yard touchdown after blocking the New York Giants' field goal

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Dallas Cowboys defensive back Noah Igbinoghene opens the Cowboys’ 2023 NFL season with a 58-yard touchdown after blocking the New York Giants’ field goal

Dallas Cowboys defensive back Noah Igbinoghene opens the Cowboys’ 2023 NFL season with a 58-yard touchdown after blocking the New York Giants’ field goal

Quay Walker's moment of brilliance saw him score his first touchdown in the NFL as Green Bay pulled further clear of Chicago

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Quay Walker’s moment of brilliance saw him score his first touchdown in the NFL as Green Bay pulled further clear of Chicago

Quay Walker’s moment of brilliance saw him score his first touchdown in the NFL as Green Bay pulled further clear of Chicago

Brandon Aiyuk somehow took the catch in the corner of the endzone as San Francisco extended their lead over Pittsburgh

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Brandon Aiyuk somehow took the catch in the corner of the endzone as San Francisco extended their lead over Pittsburgh

Brandon Aiyuk somehow took the catch in the corner of the endzone as San Francisco extended their lead over Pittsburgh

Kirk Cousins completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordan Addison as Minnesota got on the scoreboard against Tampa Bay

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Kirk Cousins completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordan Addison as Minnesota got on the scoreboard against Tampa Bay

Kirk Cousins completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordan Addison as Minnesota got on the scoreboard against Tampa Bay

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