Ryan Fitzpatrick’s game-winning display for the Dolphins against the Raiders showed why he is nicknamed “Fitzmagic,” according to starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa was benched in the fourth quarter on Saturday and his replacement Fitzpatrick produced a phenomenal final drive, finding Mack Hollins with a 34-yard Hail Mary down the left sideline despite Raiders defensive lineman Arden Key grabbing his face mask.
Key’s infringement added a 15-yard penalty to the play, enabling the Dolphins to secure a dramatic 26-25 win with a 44-yard field goal from Jason Sanders, boosting their hopes of reaching the playoffs.
Miami trailed 16-13 when Fitzpatrick entered the game and his 59-yard touchdown pass to Myles Gaskin helped to create an incredible final four minutes at Allegiant Stadium.
Tagovailoa said: “It always feels good to win. I know outsiders are probably gonna say, ‘Well, it wasn’t you in there that brought he win’. Of course, it was Fitz.
“I think it was a great effort by not just him but the entire offense. Just him understanding how to get in the groove and where to go quickly with the ball … that’s what makes Fitz who he is.
“In a way it wasn’t really that shocking in a way what happened. They call him Fitzmagic for a reason.”
There was a career first for Fitzpatrick even before he headed onto the field, with the backup quarterback having to make a trip to the locker room toilets during the game.
“The tunnel thing was weird because it was the first time in my 16-year career that I had to go to the bathroom so bad that I had to go to the bathroom during the game,” said Fitzpatrick.
“So I ran in there to take a pee and when I came back out Flo [coach Brian Flores] said, ‘Get ready, you’re going in’. So I took the obligatory seven warm-up throws and went out there and tried to make something happen.”
Fitzpatrick passed for 182 yards in the fourth quarter – the most by a non-starting QB since Sage Rosenfels had 202 in 2005, also for the Dolphins – tying his career best.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, his 34-yard pass to Hollins, which Fitzpatrick called the best of his career, had a completion probability of just 10.9 per cent, making it the third-most improbable completion of the season.
On that play, Fitzpatrick said: “In that case you’re really throwing up a prayer a little bit.
“I didn’t know that it was complete, initially. My face mask was getting pulled, and my head was getting ripped off. I turned around to make sure they saw the face mask, then [Dolphins right tackle] Jesse Davis or [running back] Myles Gaskin had to tell me it was completed.”
I know I’m late but best no look pass of all time
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) December 27, 2020
Flores was delighted his decision to call on Fitzpatrick worked out and praised rookie Tagovailoa’s maturity for the way he handled the situation.
“If we got to go to a relief pitcher in the ninth [inning], that’s what we’ll do,” Flores said.
“Fitz, he’s always ready to go. … I have a lot of confidence in Tua. He’s made a lot of plays for us. He’s made plays today. We just felt like we needed a spark. Fitzy gave us that.
“There’s a lot of people in that locker room who are trying to win. That’s at the forefront of the decisions I’m going to make here today and moving forward as long as I’m here.
“Tua is a resilient kid. He’s a tough-minded kid. He’s happy that Fitzy went in there and we won the game because he’s a selfless, team-first guy; that’s why he’s here.”