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Tua Tagovailoa proves he’s the Miami Dolphins’ true NFL MVP candidate in 22-20 victory over Dallas Cowboys

Tua Tagovailoa
Credit: Jim Rassol / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tua Tagovailoa ended last season looking like a weekly concussion casualty with a short NFL shelf life. But this season he’s started every game, he’s looking better than ever, and he has the Miami Dolphins back in the playoffs for a second straight season.

The Dolphins’ 22-20 victory Sunday over the Dallas Cowboys clinched a playoff berth and showed there’s only one player Miami can’t win without.

No , it’s not wide receiver Tyreek Hill, arguably the most explosive player in football. No, it’s not Raheem Mostert, the 31-year-old running back who’s an amazing story of resilience while leading the NFL in touchdowns.

That player is the lefty-throwing quarterback out of Alabama.

With the Dolphins trailing 20-19 and 3:54 left, Tua Tagovailoa put that theory to the test. And he proceeded to lead Miami on a 12-play, 64-yard drive. He completed 5-of-6 passes for 31 yards and put the Dolphins in position for Jason Sanders’ fourth field goal of the game, a 29-yarder, as time expired.

The Dolphins’ No. 4 ranked ground game failed to reach 100 rushing yards against a Cowboys’ defense that was particularly susceptible to the run on the road. But that didn’t matter as long as Tua Tagovailoa was taking the snaps.

Tagovailoa threw for 293 yards and a touchdown, but just as important was the fact he also didn’t turn the ball over for the fourth straight week. He now leads the NFL in passing yards (4,214) and completion percentage (70.5 percent).

Quarterbacks with his numbers who play on one of the league’s best teams are almost automatic MVP candidates. But Tagovailoa is rarely if ever mentioned. Instead, Tyreek Hill gets all the attention, with his pursuit of 2,000 receiving yards placing him squarely in the spotlight.

Hill still needs 359 yards to become the first player in NFL history to reach 2,000 receiving yards. While that total is not impossible, it’s not likely either. Either way, someone has to get Hill the football each week. And this season, it’s been no one but Tagovailoa.

Related: Tua Tagovailoa on narrative that he’s a product of Tyreek Hill: ‘I keep receipts’

Tua Tagovailoa needs to be great

Tua Tagovailoa
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins, the No. 2 seed in the AFC, came into Week 16 with the hardest schedule over the final three weeks. Their final three opponents? Dallas (now 10-5), Baltimore (11-3) and Buffalo (8-6).

If any schedule will show a team’s mettle, it’s that one. Getting through that gauntlet of games will require excellence from Tagovailoa. He can’t just be good. He must be great.

But those mighty obstacles are nothing compared to what Tagovailoa has faced physically. Last season he suffered three concussions and missed the Dolphins’ lone playoff game after leading them to it.

In the offseason he faced questions about whether he should retire early. Instead, Tagovailoa did what the great ones do. He adapted. He took jiu-jitsu courses to learn how to adjust his body and learn how to fall and avoid any further head trauma.

With Tagovailoa upright and slinging passes every week, the Dolphins have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. Next week against the top-seeded Ravens, who’ll be coming off a game against the San Francisco 49ers, they’ll get to prove whether they are the best team in the AFC.

If they do, it’ll be time to prop Tagovailoa up as Miami’s true NFL MVP favorite instead of Hill.

, with a career-best 4,214 with 70.54

Tagovailoa led the Dolphins into position for The Dolphins (11-4) clinched a playoff berth with a 22-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, with Tagovailoa leading a

If the Dolphins aren’t the best team in the AFC, then the Baltimore Ravens. And the two teams meet next week

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