WASHINGTON: Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa threw for 198 yards and a touchdown Monday to spark the Dolphins to a 20-3 triumph at New Orleans, stretching their win streak to seven games. The Dolphins had lost seven games in a row before starting their victory run, during which Tagovailoa has completed an NFL-best 74 percent of his passes. “The guys spend a lot of time outside the building with each other,” said Tagovailoa. “And that’s what has brought us closer inside the building, in the meeting room, the locker room and in the huddle as well.”
By defeating a Saints squad depleted by 22 players on the COVID-19 reserve list, the Dolphins improved to 8-7 and bumped over Baltimore into the seventh and final AFC playoff spot with two weeks remaining in the campaign. Miami’s Nik Needham opened the scoring on a 28-yard interception return touchdown off a pass from Saints’ rookie starting quarterback Ian Book, who was pressed into duty by COVID-19 absences. “The defense gave us some life with the interceptions and the stops,” said Tagovailoa.
Jason Sanders added a 48-yard field goal for the Dolphins while Brett Maher answered from 38 for the Saints to pull New Orleans within 10-3 at half-time. Miami’s Jaylen Waddle scored on a one-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter and Sanderson added a 34-yard field goal to create the final margin. The Saints fell to 7-8, level with Minnesota and Atlanta and one game behind San Francisco and Philadelphia, both 8-7, for the final two NFC playoff spots.
Meanwhile, the NFL on Monday set a new one-day record of 106 players placed on the COVID-19 reserve list by the league’s 32 clubs. The league announced 74 active NFL roster players were placed on the list of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has. Another 22 players went on the list from team practice squads. Ten players landed on the COVID-19 reserve list over the Christmas holiday weekend but were not officially registered until Monday.
Among the notable new players on the list are Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, New England Patriots defender Matt Judon and Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones. A total of 521 players have been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list in December, including 476 since December 13 – 165 players in the week of December 13 and 205 the week of December 20, plus Monday’s latest tally. New NFL COVID-19 protocols allow fully vaccinated, asymptomatic players to get off the list with two negative tests returned within 24 hours. —AFP