Dolphins focused on finding solutions

Omar Kelly Sun Sentinel (TNS)
Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa (1) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) warm up prior to a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 1, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Brian Flores silenced talk that the Miami Dolphins could have a brewing quarterback controversy by reiterating that the team's investment in rookie Tua Tagovailoa will continue.

Even though Flores made the decision to replace Tagovailoa with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the closing minutes of Sunday's 20-13 loss to the Denver Broncos (4-6), hoping the veteran's experience running the hurry-up would jump-start Miami's struggling offense and help the Dolphins (6-4) tie the game, his commitment to Tagovailoa is unwavered.

Fitzpatrick drove the Dolphins to the red zone, but threw an interception on an end zone pass intended for DeVante Parker toward the end of the game.

Favorable outcome or not, Flores reiterated Monday that he's still going with the former University of Alabama standout Miami selected with the fifth pick in April's NFL draft the rest of the season.

"I'm always going to try to do what I feel is best for the team in a particular game, and that's kind of how we felt yesterday. That's really it. We couldn't get into a rhythm really the majority of the first three quarters. It became a two-score game and we felt like we needed a spark and we stuck Fitz in there," Flores explained. "We felt like that was the best thing for our team to try to win a ball game.

"This is clearly a very talented player. He's played well," Flores said explaining why Tagovailoa will remain Miami's starter. "He's a young player, an improving player. He's a developing player.

"We all have to play better. We got to coach better. He has my full support," Flores said. "I don't want to make too much of this. He's the starting quarterback. He knows that. ... He's played well and I expect him to continue to play well"

So expect Tagovailoa to continue to develop as Miami's starting quarterback the rest of the season, as long and he remains healthy, and gives the Dolphins a chance to win games and remain in the playoff hunt.

Everyone is clear on this, including Fitzpatrick, who talked with Tagovailoa multiple times during and after the game about Sunday's change at quarterback.

Fitzpatrick understands his role and will continue to serve as a mentor for Tagovailoa, and that means throwing all his support behind the young quarterback who is set to make his fifth NFL start this Sunday against the winless New York Jets.

As for this week, Flores' focus is on fixing problems that have stewed most of the season, but weren't as problematic during the team's five-game winning streak. However, Denver's ability to bully the Dolphins at the line of scrimmage made it apparent that Miami needs to improve its play on the line of scrimmage in the final six games of the regular season.

"We don't accept bad play here. We expect a lot of every one of our players. Rookies to veterans. Everyone in the organization. Coaches, everyone," Flores said. "We need to do a better job on the O-line, D-line, secondary, receivers. All positions. ... We didn't play well enough to win the game."

Miami can't afford too many performances like last Sunday's game if it wants to remain in the hunt for the AFC East division title or an AFC wild-card playoff spot.

The Dolphins play two opponents - the Jets (0-10) and then the Cincinnati Bengals (2-7), who just lost starting quarterback Joe Burrow to a season-ending knee injury - where they should be favored to win.

After that, the Dolphins have one of the toughest closing stretches in the NFL, hosting the Kansas City Chiefs (Dec. 13) and New England Patriots (Dec. 20) before ending the season on the road against the Las Vegas Raiders (Dec. 26 or 27th) and the Buffalo Bills (Jan. 3).

It's too early to tell, but it is possible that Miami needs to get to 10 wins to keep its postseason dreams alive. That means the Dolphins will likely need to win four of their final six games to keep pace with the rest of the AFC's playoff contenders.

Flores' focus isn't on the playoffs because he maintains a one-game, one-day, one-opponent-at-a-time approach. And on today's agenda is fixing the Dolphins' line play considering the offense allowed six sacks and the Dolphins managed only 56 rushing yards, and the defense allowed a season-high 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns to the Broncos.

"As a team, offensively, defensively and special teams we need to play better," Flores said. "This team doesn't point fingers. We don't make excuses and we don't complain."