NFL Winners and Losers: Tyreek Hill trade has revived Tua Tagovailoa and Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins gave up a lot for Tyreek Hill.
Miami traded five draft picks to the Kansas City Chiefs for Hill: a first-rounder, a second-rounder, two fourths and a sixth. Then the Dolphins gave Hill a $120 million deal over four years. It was one of the biggest moves of the NFL offseason.
That's what the Dolphins have done. They make huge offseason headlines and they rarely pay off with playoff wins. But the Hill trade, while costly, was exactly what the Dolphins needed. They needed it to figure out what they had with Tua Tagovailoa.
The Tagovailoa-Hill combo is working out pretty well. The Dolphins had one of their best wins in years on Sunday, coming back from 21 points down to beat the Baltimore Ravens 42-38. Tagovailoa had by far his best NFL game, throwing six touchdown passes.
Give Tagovailoa credit, but also give the Dolphins' front office credit for understanding how Hill would change Miami's entire offense.
Hill had 190 yards on 11 catches, including two long touchdowns in the comeback. He has a unique ability to make defenses look slow. Because teams have to account for his world-class speed on every play, it opens up a lot elsewhere in the field. That's a reason Jaylen Waddle had 171 yards and two touchdowns.
Hill's presence is also the main reason Tagovailoa looks like he might have a new start to his career.
Tagovailoa was criticized and not all of it was fair. He had played only two NFL seasons, and was still working back from an awful hip injury he suffered in his final season at Alabama. It wasn't his fault he was drafted before Justin Herbert, who he'll always be compared to. But mostly, he had nothing around him. He needed Hill, and a coaching staff that believed in him. Ownership didn't believe fully in Tagovailoa either, considering the tampering with Tom Brady that cost Stephen Ross a $1.5 million fine and a suspension.
The Dolphins got Hill, hired offensive guru Mike McDaniel as their new head coach and they look better than they have in a long time. Hill has changed everything about Miami. He's one of the rare non-quarterbacks who has that type of an impact. The Dolphins haven't always hit on their high-profile moves. But the Hill trade looks perfect so far.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 2 of the NFL season:
Denver Broncos, kind of: The Broncos won, but there will be another week of Nathaniel Hackett criticism coming.
The Broncos' rookie head coach made an unpopular decision to try a 64-yard field goal in the season opener, and Sunday was another string of sloppy errors. The Broncos wasted timeouts for things like not having a returner deep when the Houston Texans were ready to punt. There were weird play calls. The offense wasn't good.
The Broncos won 16-9, which is good because the heat on Hackett would be ridiculous if Denver lost at home. But the Broncos need to get much better, and in a hurry.
Jimmy Garoppolo: This isn’t how Garoppolo wanted the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback job back, with Trey Lance suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
But he did pretty well with his opportunity Sunday. Garoppolo came in for Lance and completed 13 of 21 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown, and added a rushing touchdown in a 27-7 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
It was a typical Garoppolo performance. He wasn’t splashy but he was solid and the 49ers won. San Francisco didn't know what it had with Lance, and the quarterback controversy could have followed the Niners around all season. They know what they have with Garoppolo. And they know they can win games with him.
Joe Flacco and the Jets: The New York Jets were bad in Week 1 and they were trailing 30-17 with less than two minutes to go in Sunday's game at the Cleveland Browns.
And the Jets somehow won.
Flacco, starting in place of injured Zach Wilson, threw a 66-yard touchdown to Corey Davis to give the Jets hope. Teams rarely get onside kicks anymore due to new rules. But a great spinning onside kick was mishandled by Browns receiver Amari Cooper, and the Jets recovered. Then Flacco led a scoring drive that was capped by rookie receiver Garrett Wilson's second touchdown of the game with 22 seconds left. The Jets picked off Jacoby Brissett after that and the Jets escaped with a 31-30 win.
Flacco has had a great career but he's in the backup phase of it. He showed Sunday he's still capable of big moments. His magic act was enormous for the Jets to get some momentum early this season.
Buccaneers defense: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense hasn't done much this season, though Tampa has good reasons. It's without several key players, including a few linemen and receiver Chris Godwin.
The defense looks great though.
A week after throttling the Dallas Cowboys, the Buccaneers shut down the New Orleans Saints in a 20-10 win. The score was 3-3 into the fourth quarter. The defense kept the Bucs in it until Tom Brady hit Breshad Perriman for a 28-yard touchdown pass to give Tampa Bay a 10-3 lead. Mike Edwards' pick-six off Jameis Winston put the game away. The Saints had a meaningless touchdown after that to make the stat sheet look better. The Bucs picked off Winston three times.
Tampa Bay's offense will get healthier and better. We can already see that the defense will be more than good enough this season.
Trevor Lawrence: Maybe Lawrence just needs to play the Indianapolis Colts every week.
Lawrence has had two fantastic games in the NFL and both were against the Colts. He was very good the last time the Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars met before Sunday, a big upset win in last season's finale that kept the Colts out of the playoffs. Lawrence, who was uneven in a Week 1 loss, looked great against the Colts again on Sunday. He was 14-of-17 for 137 yards, a touchdown and a 119.9 passer rating as the Jaguars took a 17-0 lead into halftime.
The Jaguars won 24-0 against a Colts team that was without receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and linebacker Shaquille Leonard. The win matters a lot, but seeing Lawrence look like a top-end quarterback was even better.
Hunter Renfrow and the Raiders: Renfrow is a fantastic player but he had a rough overtime for the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
Renfrow fumbled twice in overtime against the Arizona Cardinals. The first fumble was recovered by the Raiders. Renfrow wasn't so lucky the second time.
Renfrow was hit hard by linebacker Isaiah Simmons after a short catch and coughed up the ball. Byron Murphy Jr. scooped it and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown and a 29-23 win.
The loss is a bad one for the Raiders. They led 20-0 at halftime. In a rough AFC West they can't drop winnable games, and now they're 0-2.
Sunday's loss came after they led 23-7 going into the fourth quarter and had multiple chances to stop the Cardinals on their final drive of regulation that ended up tying the game. They'll regret Sunday's loss for a while.
Bengals battling the Super Bowl hangover: The Cincinnati Bengals are a bad 0-2 to start the season.
They have lost two games as fairly significant betting favorites. They lost last week to the Pittsburgh Steelers when they were minus-five in turnover differential. The offense didn't get anything moving in Week 2, and they lost 20-17 on the final play to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Bengals had a chance to win against a Cowboys team led by replacement quarterback Cooper Rush. They tied it in the fourth quarter and then forced a punt. But Joe Burrow and the offense went three-and-out, punted from deep in the Bengals' own territory and Rush completed a couple passes to set up the game-winning field goal.
Going three-and-out with the game on the line sums up the Bengals' start to the season.
Teams that lose the Super Bowl often struggle the following season. The Bengals seemed like a good candidate to regress after their hot finish to last season. Losing twice to teams they should have beat, with the offense turning it over too often in one game and not moving the ball in the other, is a discouraging way to follow up on their AFC title.
Los Angeles Rams: The Rams won Sunday and that's the most important thing of course, but it's hard to feel good about them after two games.
The Rams were blown out in the opener against the Buffalo Bills and then were in danger of blowing a 28-3 lead to an Atlanta Falcons team that won't be that good this season. After a Cooper Kupp fumble the Falcons had the ball trailing 31-25, but Jalen Ramsey made a great interception to turn back the comeback attempt. That's the good news.
The Rams aren't yet the team that won last season's Super Bowl though. There's a lot of time to improve, and they played well enough early on to take a 25-point lead, but nobody is going to be impressed with the Rams' start. At least they're 1-1 as they figure things out, and not explaining away how they blew a 28-3 lead and lost to the Falcons.
Carson Wentz: The thing about Wentz isn't that he's bad each week. It's that he's bad sometimes and you never know which Wentz will show up from week to week.
This week, it was bad Wentz, at least in the first half. Really bad. He threw four touchdowns last week and gave hope to Washington Commanders fans that the questionable trade the franchise made to get Wentz would pay off. Then Wentz was bad against a Detroit Lions defense that gave up 38 points to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1.
At halftime, Wentz was 9-of-16 for 59 passing yards and the Commanders were getting trashed 22-0 by Detroit. Wentz heated up in the second half and got his team back in the game, but that awful start was a big reason for a 36-27 loss.
Wentz will have his good days. It will just be hard to remember them when the bad days come.
The Steelers offense with Mitchell Trubisky: There was a report that Mike Tomlin's plan is to not start rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett this season. He might not have much choice.
The Pittsburgh Steelers got a nice win at the Cincinnati Bengals last week, but they also barely escaped in overtime despite a plus-five turnover advantage. There was no escape Sunday. The New England Patriots beat the Steelers 17-14 and it was an ugly game for Pittsburgh's offense. The Steelers had 243 yards. Trubisky had 168 yards on 33 attempts. Pittsburgh rarely did anything positive when it had the ball.
The Steelers' offensive issues aren't all Trubisky's fault, but he's the one in the spotlight and with a first-round draft pick waiting on the bench behind him. Pittsburgh plays Thursday night at the Browns, and if Trubisky doesn't play well again there will be a few questions for Tomlin on whether he's ready to change his mind on Pickett.
Matt Rhule: Rhule barely kept his job after leading the Carolina Panthers to a 5-12 record last season. He was 5-11 the season before.
Rhule is now 0-2 and he can't feel too comfortable. The Panthers, who lost late last week on a long field goal by the Browns, lost 19-16 in a rough game Sunday against the New York Giants. The offense didn't do much, with Baker Mayfield throwing for just 145 yards.
Rhule has a seven-year, $62 million contract. That might buy him a little bit more time. But team owner David Tepper isn't very patient, and he has the money to buy out a mistake and move on.