Tua Tagovailoa leads TD drive in preseason debut to help Dolphins over Texans 28-3

Miami quarterback plays for first time since concussion on Christmas
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looks to pass in preseason game at Houston Texans, Aug. 19, 2023
Posted at 10:39 PM, Aug 19, 2023

HOUSTON — Tua Tagovailoa was intercepted on his first play of the preseason Saturday for the Miami Dolphins against the Houston Texans.

His second drive went much better.

Playing in his first game since sustaining a concussion on Christmas Day, Tagovailoa led a 14-play, 93-yard drive capped by a 2-yard scoring run by Raheem Mostert to give the Dolphins an early lead in a 28-3 win Saturday.

Tagovailoa sat down after that, ending his day 5 of 7 for 61 yards for the Dolphins (1-1).

"It was just a bad play," Tagovailoa said. "That's really all it was, bad quarterback play there. That's not how you want to start a drive any way you look at it. Bad play, but I'm glad with the way we responded."

Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert scores TD in preseason game at Houston Texans, Aug. 19, 2023
Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert scores a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the first half of a preseason game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Houston.

Miami coach Mike McDaniel was glad Tagovailoa was able to knock some of the rust off before the season opener Sept. 10 against the Chargers.

"That is exactly what preseason is for," he said. "That is why you want someone to play. I'm glad he got it out of the way, but more importantly, the team didn't blink."

Tagovailoa said he wasn't concerned about taking hits after having two concussions last season.

"It's a physical sport. It's tough," he said. "I went out there and was expecting to get hit. I was expecting to go to the ground, all of that."

Houston rookie C.J. Stroud was much sharper Saturday than he was in his NFL debut last week when he was picked off on his first possession and finished with 13 yards passing on two drives.

Playing the entire first half Saturday, the second overall pick was 7 of 12 for 60 yards and helped the Texans (1-1) to a field goal on his second drive.

"I feel like I took a step," Stroud said. "Definitely got to clean up some things but I feel like overall I got in a good rhythm and I started playing football like I’m used to."

He had five straight completions on that drive, highlighted by a 14-yard throw on the run to Noah Brown. Stroud hasn't yet been announced as the team's starter. But he has started both preseason games and works almost exclusively with the first team in practice, making it seem increasingly likely that he'll replace Davis Mills this season.

Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud hands off football during preseason game vs. Miami Dolphins, Aug. 19, 2023
Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud prepares to hand off the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of a preseason game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Houston.

Coach DeMeco Ryans discussed the ways Stroud improved from his previous game.

"I think overall just with the operation of the offense," he said. "I thought that C.J. was more efficient and more comfortable and I think that everyone around him played better and that allowed him to play better. So, I'm proud of the progression that CJ took this week."

While Stroud showed improvement Saturday, perhaps the biggest play of the day for Houston came early in the second quarter by defensive end Will Anderson Jr., who was taken third in this year’s draft.

Anderson came off the line unblocked and plowed over running back Salvon Ahmed to sack Skylar Thompson for an 11-yard loss and force a fumble. Thompson quickly jumped on the ball to get it back.

"I thought Will did a really good job of disrupting by playing on their side of the line of scrimmage," Ryans said. "That's what we want from our defensive linemen."

Anderson, who had 58 1/2 tackles for losses and 34 1/2 sacks in three seasons for Alabama, is expected to help improve a defense that has struggled to get to the quarterback in recent years.

So what does Anderson think when the only person between him and the quarterback is a running back?

"They called the play. They knew what was going to happen," Anderson said with a laugh. "I'm just going out there and doing my job."

That drive ended in a punt for Miami, but Thompson got going after that, throwing two touchdown passes in the second quarter to make it 21-3 at the half.

Ahmed scored the first one on an 8-yard reception before Thompson connected with Braxton Berrios on an 18-yard score. That touchdown was set up by a 65-yard run by Ahmed three plays earlier.

Tagovailoa was picked off on the first play of the game by Denzel Perryman, who returned it 19 yards. The Texans couldn't capitalize on the turnover as Stroud was called for a delay of game on third down from the 1 and his pass on fourth down fell incomplete.

Thompson's third touchdown pass came on an 18-yard throw to undrafted free agent rookie Chris Brooks that made it 28-3 late in the third quarter.

Thompson threw for 157 yards.