WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Tua Tagovailoa didn’t seem to celebrate this stat. Bill Belichick certainly isn’t, either.
Tagovailoa hears all the time about the things he supposedly can’t do — can’t throw the deep ball, can’t stay healthy, can’t get to the playoffs, things of that nature.
So far, when playing the New England Patriots, he also can’t lose.
Tagovailoa is 3-0 in his first three starts against the Patriots, and he and the Miami Dolphins will look to make that 4-0 when they play host to Mac Jones — Tagovailoa’s former Alabama teammate — and New England in Week 1 of the NFL regular season on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t attest that I’m 3-0,” Tagovailoa said. “I would attest that we’re 3-0 as a team. It takes all of us. I’m just the distributor. I’ve just got to get it to our playmakers. They make the plays. Our defense gets us the ball back and the defense makes stops. Special teams, they do their part. And that’s how you win games.”
According to SportRadar, the only other quarterbacks to win their first three starts against the Patriots in the Belichick coaching era there, which goes back to 2000, were Jake Plummer, Vinny Testaverde, Jay Fiedler and Drew Brees.
Nobody has won his first four starts against New England since Belichick took over there; Testaverde, Fiedler and Brees all lost in No. 4, and Plummer made just the three starts.
Tagovailoa has that 4-0 opportunity, though insists his lone priority is getting the Dolphins to 1-0.
“Productive player, knows how to use his weapons, receivers, backs,” Belichick said Wednesday before the Patriots started their game-week practices in West Palm Beach, Florida, trying to acclimate to the heat and humidity that awaits them on Sunday. “Makes a lot of good critical plays, goal line, third-and-1, fourth-and-1. Couple plays that formatted against us last year. Smart football player.”
The Dolphins were the only AFC East team that Jones didn’t lead New England to victory against last season, his rookie campaign.
Tagovailoa and Jones are going to be linked forever, for a lot of reasons. Both were Alabama quarterbacks. Both won national championships there. Jones was the player who came into the game when Tagovailoa hurt his hip at Mississippi State in 2019, on what became his final collegiate play.
And for the second straight year, in Week 1, it’s Tua vs. Mac. Last year’s opener was at New England; this year, it’s at Miami.
“I think sometimes, Game 1, there’s a lot of emotional stuff,” Jones said. “You want to focus more on the details of the plays and everything like that and let the emotions come and go. That’s how emotions are, they come and go. Energy and all that will be there. At the end of the day, it’s just the start of something. You have to learn from it and grow regardless of the results. So, we’re going to go out there and compete and see how it goes.”
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, who’ll be making his debut as a head coach Sunday, got to know Jones during the draft process when he was with the San Francisco 49ers and evaluating quarterbacks such as Jones.
He raved about him then, and still does.
“I really like his play and I think the best is right in front of him for his career,” McDaniel said. “And I look forward to watching it 15 out of the 17 games of the NFL season.”
NOTES: The Patriots said OT Isaiah Wynn (back), WR Jakobi Meyers (knee) and RB Ty Montgomery (knee) were limited in practice. … Among those limited for the Dolphins was WR Jaylen Waddle — who caught passes from both Tagovailoa and Jones at Alabama. Tagovailoa said he’s hopeful that Waddle (quad) can go Sunday.