The Dolphins got their first victory after a 0-2 start. There’s little reason for Flores to lose games with Fitzpatrick on the field while the NFL development of Tagovailoa, the former Alabama star taken fifth overall in the NFL draft in April, remains on hold. But if Fitzpatrick can keep the Dolphins competitive and in the playoff mix, his time as the place-holding starter probably will continue.

“This is a group that’s coming together,” Fitzpatrick said during a postgame appearance on the NFL Network. “Today was just a little bit, one little step of where we’re going. But I think we’re on the right path.”

He completed his first 12 passes Thursday on his way to an 18-for-20, 160-yard passing performance. He set a single-game team record for completion percentage with 20 or more passing attempts. He added 38 rushing yards and even completed a pass to himself on a deflection. Fitzpatrick had touchdown throws to wide receiver Preston Williams and tight end Mike Gesicki. He and tailback Jordan Howard provided one-yard rushing touchdowns.

“The 0-2 start, we knew we were a better team than that. … We really wanted this one,” Fitzpatrick said.

The way of the NFL these days is for quarterbacks taken early in the draft to play right way, or close to it. Joe Burrow, Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert were selected within the top six choices of this year’s draft. Burrow was a starter from Day 1 with the Cincinnati Bengals. Herbert is backing up Tyrod Taylor with the Los Angeles Chargers, but made a fill-in start Sunday with Taylor sidelined and played well in an overtime loss to the mighty Kansas City Chiefs. Herbert will start again this weekend.

But Tagovailoa, who had his final collegiate season cut short by a hip injury, continues to sit and wait with the Dolphins. The franchise was accused of tanking the 2019 season in pursuit of the No. 1 pick in the draft. But Flores and his players exceeded expectations and won five games. The Dolphins dropped in the first-round draft order but still landed Tagovailoa, thanks to his hip injury and Burrow’s ascent. Hopes were higher for this season, then were dented by losses at New England and at home to the Buffalo Bills.

Another defeat might have intensified the calls for Flores to sit the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick in favor of Tagovailoa. Instead, the night ended with former Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas lobbying on the NFL Network’s postgame show for Tagovailoa to continue to wait until Miami’s Week 11 bye.

“I think Tua should sit and watch,” Thomas said. “Fitzpatrick is a great guy to learn from. Look at the way he played tonight. … You got that Christmas present under the tree. Let’s not rush it. Let’s wait till Christmas morning. We can open it then and we can really enjoy it. But let’s not open it before it’s ready. Give that hip a little bit of extra time.”

Fitzpatrick was resplendent for his postgame TV appearance with an unbuttoned shirt decorated with colorful pineapples. He’d had a playful public back-and-forth this week with Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew about Minshew’s mustache and Fitzpatrick’s beard and age (37). Fitzpatrick got the final word.

“The mustache is his look,” Fitzpatrick said. “He rocks it. I saw him in pregame warmup with the cutoff sleeves. I mean, he’s got a good thing going. But I’ll stick with the beard and the chest hair and the senior citizen look.”

The Jaguars are the latest team to be accused of tanking, after their roster-paring continued into the preseason with moves that included the release of tailback Leonard Fournette. That talk quieted with the Jaguars’ season-opening triumph over the Indianapolis Colts. But they’ve lost two straight since. Minshew’s time to prove he’s the answer at quarterback — instead of a would-be franchise savior who would arrive via next spring’s draft — dwindles with each loss and disappointing performance.

“We had too many mistakes tonight,” Minshew said in a postgame video conference with reporters. “That’s kind of plain and simple. No matter what the score is, we should be able to go out and execute. We just didn’t do a good enough job of that.”

Minshew threw for 275 yards on 30-for-42 passing. Undrafted rookie tailback James Robinson ran for two touchdowns. But the Jaguars mostly struggled. Minshew lost a fumble, setting up a Miami touchdown, and missed wide-open receiver Chris Conley for what should have been a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter. He also threw an interception late in the game.

“It just felt like we weren’t playing in sync, how we want to play,” Jaguars Coach Doug Marrone said in a video news conference.

Jacksonville left tackle Cam Robinson was ejected for pushing away the arm of an official in the pileup of players on the ground grappling for the loose football on Minshew’s fumble. “I have a hard time seeing a guy get kicked out of the ballgame for something like that,” Troy Aikman said on the NFL Network broadcast. Rules analyst Mike Pereira, the former NFL officiating czar, concurred by saying: “I understand it. But I don’t agree with it.”

September 24, 2020 at 11:19 PM EDT

Dolphins add to lead with field goal

By Mark Maske

The Dolphins padded their lead with a 30-yard field goal by kicker Jason Sanders. The Jaguars had turned the ball over on downs when Gardner Minshew was sacked on fourth and five from Jacksonville’s own 26-yard line. (Dolphins 31, Jaguars 13 with 3:49 left in the 4th quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 10:58 PM EDT

Robinson’s touchdown pulls Jaguars closer

By Mark Maske

The Jaguars have not given up quite yet. Rookie tailback James Robinson scored on a one-yard touchdown run after a defensive pass interference penalty called against the Dolphins in the end zone, but the Jaguars missed the extra point. (Dolphins 28, Jaguars 13 with 9:03 left in the 4th quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 10:49 PM EDT

Jags fail on fourth-down try, replay challenge after Minshew misses TD throw

By Mark Maske

The Jaguars came up just shy of a first down with a 10-yard completion to running back James Robinson on a fourth-and-11 try from the Miami 33-yard line. Jaguars Coach Doug Marrone challenged the spot of the football, hoping to be awarded a first down on what may have amounted to his last-gasp effort to stay in this game, but the call on the field was upheld. Earlier on the drive, Gardner Minshew overthrew a pass to wide-open receiver Chris Conley for an incompletion instead of a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter. The Dolphins had a would-be interception by cornerback Jamal Perry overturned on a replay review, as the ball hit the ground and was called an incompletion. (Dolphins 28, Jaguars 7 with 14:38 left in the 4th quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 10:34 PM EDT

Fitzpatrick touchdown extends Dolphins’ lead

By Mark Maske

The Dolphins cashed in on the Gardner Minshew fumble to extend their lead. They had to travel only five yards, and Ryan Fitzpatrick scored on a one-yard run. (Dolphins 28, Jaguars 7 with 2:01 left in the 3rd quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 10:28 PM EDT

Jags’ Cam Robinson ejected after Minshew loses fumble on sack

By Mark Maske

Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson was ejected from the game as part of a calamitous sequence. They had a catch for a first down negated by an offensive pass interference penalty, then Gardner Minshew lost a fumble on a third-and-13 sack. The Dolphins recovered at the Jacksonville 5-yard line. Robinson’s ejection came for making contact with an official. He was on the ground in the pile of players trying to recover the fumble and reached up and pushed away the arm of one of the officials.

“I have a hard time seeing a guy get kicked out of the ballgame for something like that,” Troy Aikman said on the NFL Network broadcast. Rules analyst Mike Pereira agreed, saying: “I understand it. But I don’t agree with it.” (Dolphins 21, Jaguars 7 with 4:04 left in the 3rd quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 10:15 PM EDT

No fourth-down gamble for Dolphins

By Mark Maske

The Dolphins, with a two-touchdown lead, opted against a fourth-down try in Jacksonville territory. Miami had fourth and one from the Jaguars 40-yard line and Coach Brian Flores left his offense on the field. But the Dolphins got to the line of scrimmage with only a few seconds left on the play clock. Ryan Fitzpatrick called some signals but the Dolphins didn’t snap the ball, taking a five-yard delay-of-game penalty and then punting. (Dolphins 21, Jaguars 7 with 6:53 left in the 3rd quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 9:53 PM EDT

Plenty of ‘FitzMagic’ in the first half in Jacksonville

By Mark Maske

The Dolphins played an excellent first half in Jacksonville as they attempt to get their first win of the season. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed his first 12 passes and ended the half 12 of 14 for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He even added 24 rushing yards. The Dolphins lead the Jaguars, 21-7.

Miami scored a touchdown on each of first three possessions of the night. Fitzpatrick threw touchdown passes to wide receiver Preston Williams and tight end Mike Gesicki, sandwiched around a touchdown run by tailback Jordan Howard.

The Jaguars struggled. Undrafted rookie tailback James Robinson had a touchdown run. But quarterback Gardner Minshew threw for a modest 83 yards on nine-for-14 passing. The Jaguars failed on a fourth-and-six try from the Miami 36-yard line late in the half when Minshew was sacked for a 10-yard loss. (Dolphins 21, Jaguars 7 at halftime)

September 24, 2020 at 9:28 PM EDT

Fitzpatrick continues hot start with second touchdown pass

By Mark Maske

Ryan Fitzpatrick is off to an 11-for-11 passing start and the Dolphins have three touchdowns on their first three possessions of the game.

Fitzpatrick threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki after a debatable defensive pass interference call on a third-down would-be incompletion gave the Dolphins a first down. The Dolphins converted on a fourth-and-one quarterback keeper earlier on the drive after the Jaguars won an instant replay challenge on the spot of the football to make it fourth down. Fitzpatrick connected with wide receiver DeVante Parker on a third-down slant pattern for another first down. (Dolphins 21, Jaguars 7 with 5:58 left in the 2nd quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 9:12 PM EDT

Rookies help Jags to touchdown to get to within 14-7

By Mark Maske

The Jaguars are on the board in Jacksonville, cutting the Dolphins’ lead in half with an 11-yard touchdown run by undrafted rookie tailback James Robinson. Another rookie, wide receiver Laviska Shenault, had a key catch for a first down on the drive. Gardner Minshew connected with wideout Keelan Cole, who made a nice catch along the sideline, for a third-down conversion just before the touchdown. (Dolphins 14, Jaguars 7 with 13:04 left in the 2nd quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 8:58 PM EDT

Dolphins add to lead as first quarter winds down

By Mark Maske

The Dolphins made it two touchdowns on two possessions with a one-yard run by tailback Jordan Howard. Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose elder-statesman status was pointed out during the week by Gardner Minshew during the two quarterbacks’ good-natured back-and-forth over facial hair, had a 13-yard scramble, and wide receiver Jakeem Grant went 29 yards with a toss on an end-around for a first down at the Jacksonville 6-yard line. A defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone gave Miami a first down at the 1, and Howard plowed into the end zone from there. Minshew and the Jaguars, after punting on their first possession, need to get moving. (Dolphins 14, Jaguars 0 with 2:37 left in the 1st quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 8:39 PM EDT

Fitzpatrick’s touchdown pass puts Dolphins in front

By Mark Maske

The Dolphins, seeking their first win of the season, are off to a great start in Jacksonville. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Preston Williams on third and goal. That capped a 12-play, 84-yard opening drive for Miami. (Dolphins 7, Jaguars 0 with 8:09 left in the 1st quarter)

September 24, 2020 at 7:31 PM EDT

What to watch for during Thursday night’s Dolphins-Jaguars game

By Mark Maske

What about those allegations that “Thursday Night Football” features unattractive matchups? Alas, sometimes they’re on target, as with this meeting between the Dolphins and Jaguars in Jacksonville.

These are the most recent two NFL teams to face accusations that they are tanking a season to improve draft position. The Dolphins were accused by some observers of tanking last year, but Coach Brian Flores and his players outperformed expectations, winning five games. That raised hopes for this season, but the Dolphins have disappointed so far by losing their first two. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to start at quarterback while Flores faces a decision about when to turn to prized rookie Tua Tagovailoa. There’s little point to losing games with Fitzpatrick while Tagovailoa’s NFL development remains on hold.

The Jaguars continued to pare their roster before the season, with moves that included the release of tailback Leonard Fournette. That led to them facing some tanking allegations. An opening victory over the Indianapolis Colts quieted that talk a bit, but the Jaguars lost Sunday at Tennessee. Second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew has played well so far with six touchdown passes, two interception and a passer rating of 115.7. He and Fitzpatrick traded playful long-distance barbs this week about the relative merits of Fitzpatrick’s beard and Minshew’s mustache.

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