Orlando Sentinel

Gabriel’s family touched by outpouring of support

Tagovailoa carted off field in crushing divisional loss in home opener

- By David Furones

UCF quarterbac­k’s mother thanks friends and fans for affection following news that he had broken his collarbone in loss to Louisville.

MIAMI GARDENS — Not only did the Miami Dolphins lose a big divisional game against the rival Buffalo Bills — they lost their quarterbac­k.

Tua Tagovailoa suffered a rib injury and was carted off the field during the first quarter of the Dolphins’ 35-0 loss in their home opener and Week 2 AFC East matchup with the Buffalo Bills.

Tagovailoa was ruled out to return to Sunday’s defeat at Hard Rock Stadium by the end of the third quarter after originally being deemed questionab­le to return. He suffered bruised ribs, according to the NFL Network. X-rays came back negative, according to the Dolphins’ radio network. He was not seen back on the sideline for Miami the rest of the game.

“Don’t know the severity of the injury right now, but we’ll run some tests [Sunday night, Monday morning], and we’ll have a little bit more informatio­n,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said.

The Dolphins (1-1) missed out on a chance to take a two-game lead on the division-rival Bills (1-1), who many expect to win the AFC East at the end of the season and potentiall­y compete for a Super Bowl.

Between Sunday’s mauling and the 56-26 result that ended the Dolphins’ 2020 season, Miami has lost its last two meetings with Buffalo by a combined 65 points. It’s the sixth consecutiv­e loss for the Dolphins in the series against the Bills and the team’s first shutout since losing 43-0 to the New England Patriots in Week 2 of the 2019 season.

“Like a funeral,” Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard said of the mood in the locker room.

Tagovailoa took the big hit to the midsection from Bills defensive end A.J. Epenesa on a fourthand-2 attempt from the Buffalo 48-yard line on Miami’s second offensive series. Tagovailoa’s pass fell incomplete as the Dolphins turned the ball over on downs on the play that knocked him out.

He was down on the field for a few minutes, struggling to walk on his own to the sideline and holding his right side. Once he reached the sideline, Tagovailoa was put on a cart and taken into the Dolphins’ locker room.

Backup Jacoby Brissett entered at quarterbac­k for the Dolphins following the injury to Tagovailoa as Miami already faced a 14-0 hole. Brissett’s first drive saw him sacked by former University of Miami defensive end Greg Rousseau, who added another sack later for a Buffalo defense that totaled six and 11 quarter

back hits. His second series ended in an intercepti­on thrown to Bills cornerback Levi Wallace.

Brissett began to settle in early in the second quarter. A pair of firstdown passes to Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki worked the Dolphins into the red zone, but the drive was

marred by a drop in the end zone by DeVante Parker and another one by Albert Wilson that could’ve set up a first-and-goal. On the next play, Jakeem Grant made a catch, but then fumbled the ball to the Bills, recovered by Matt Milano.

“That’s not deflating. It’s too early in the game for it,” said Brissett of how the drive’s miscues, with a chance to cut the two-touchdown deficit in half, affected the Dolphins. “It’s never deflating. It’s part of the game. Drops are part of the game. Bad throws are part of the game.”

After giving up touchdowns on the Bills’ first two drives, the Dolphins defense got into a groove, keeping the team in the game until halftime.

The unit forced two first-half turnovers. Linebacker Jerome Baker forced a fumble that got into the hands of Brandon Jones before he coughed it up and fellow safety Jevon Holland secured the fumble recovery. Howard, the Dolphins’ All-Pro cornerback, had an intercepti­on on a pass intended for star Bills receiver Stefon Diggs.

Diggs got Howard on his touchdown that put the Bills up, 14-0, in the first quarter after Howard lost his shoe on a play where Bills

quarterbac­k Josh Allen extended the play.

Buffalo’s first touchdown came on the team’s second offensive play as FAU and American Heritage-Delray High grad Devin Singletary ran up the gut for a 46-yard touchdown two and a half minutes into Sunday’s action.

“We didn’t play well in any area. We beat ourselves: Penalties, dropped passes, missed tackles,” Flores said. “That starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job getting us ready to go. That wasn’t the case [Sunday].”

Following a first half where Allen was held in check, he came right out to start the second half and led a 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox. It pushed the Bills lead to, 21-0, and heavy rain began falling at Hard Rock Stadium afterward.

With the rain clearing up quickly, the Bills extended the lead, 28-0, when Hallandale High alum Zack Moss, who played his college football at Utah, broke a pair of tackles to power his way into the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Diggs, who finished with 60 receiving yards, had an impressive deep-ball catch in single coverage against Howard earlier in the series. Moss scored again from a yard out later in the fourth to put Buffalo up five touchdowns.

Allen finished 17 of 33 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and an intercepti­on. He added 35 rushing yards. Singletary went for 82 rushing yards and the touchdown.

Brissett was 24 of 40 for 169 yards and the first-half intercepti­on in relief of Tagovailoa, who was 1 of 4 for 13 yards at the time he left the game.

Tagovailoa, Miami’s secondyear signal caller who was taken with the No. 5 pick of the 2020 draft out of Alabama, was also sacked twice on the Dolphins’ opening series in which Miami went three and out. He took hits from unblocked blitzers Taron Johnson and Micah Hyde on first and third down, respective­ly.

“You never want to see your quarterbac­k hurt or on the ground,” Dolphins left tackle Austin Jackson said. “Those are two terrible things that we all kick ourselves over.”

Added guard Robert Hunt on the offensive line play: “It was a rough day for us. Everybody saw that.”

Tagovailoa had an injury history in college, including a hip injury in 2019 that cut his third and final college season short with the Crimson Tide and an ankle injury earlier that year.

The Dolphins suffered more injuries Sunday with right tackle, Jesse Davis, who was culpable for allowing Epenesa to get to Tagovailoa on the hit that took him out, not coming back out in the second half due to a knee injury. Rookie Liam Eichenberg, after replacing left tackle Austin Jackson last week, entered for Davis.

Wide receiver and kick returner Jakeem Grant sustained an ankle injury. Waddle was in on a punt return for him and fumbled it away near the end of the first half.

“Twenty-four-hour rule in the NFL,” said Miami defensive lineman Christian Wilkins. “Win or lose, 24 hours, flush it. Just got to get better, make the correction­s for the next week.”

The Dolphins travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders in Week 3.

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 ?? DAVID SANTIAGO/AP ?? Dolphins quarterbac­k Tua Tagovailoa (1) is assisted off the field during the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Bills in Miami Gardens.
DAVID SANTIAGO/AP Dolphins quarterbac­k Tua Tagovailoa (1) is assisted off the field during the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Bills in Miami Gardens.

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