=MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The “MVP!” chants for Tua Tagovailoa began early in the second half and didn’t stop until late in the game when Tagovailoa flashed a smile and waved his way off the field.
Tagovailoa has maintained his searing form since returning from a concussion, throwing three touchdown passes as the Miami Dolphins defeated the Cleveland Browns 39-17 on Sunday for their fourth straight win.
In a game that was a blowout in the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa hit with three receivers for his third straight three-touchdown performance.
“Tua plays football at a very, very high level,” said Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel. “It’s phenomenal to watch.”
Since returning in Week 7, Tagovailoa has had 10 TD passes and no interceptions. He finished Sunday’s 25-of-32 for 285 yards.
Miami (7-3) advanced alone to first place in the AFC East, overtaking Buffalo, who lost to Minnesota in overtime and fell to a stout division tie with the New York Jets (6-3).
Tagovailoa said he was flattered by the crowd who hailed him as an MVP candidate.
“It would be cool,” Tagovailoa said. “But we have bigger goals and aspirations of what we want to do as a team.”
Jeff Wilson ran for 119 yards on 17 carries as the Dolphins finished with 491 yards of offense.
The Browns (3-6) scored a touchdown on their first drive, thanks in part to a 48-yard kickoff return from rookie Jerome Ford, but Miami leveled the game with their first possession en route to 24 straight points. Cleveland never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
“We really didn’t do any of the things you have to do against this football team,” said Browns coach Kevin Stefanski.
Cleveland’s Jacoby Brissett completed 22 of 35 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown against one of his former teams. Nick Chubb had 11 carries for 63 yards, including a 33-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Tight end Harrison Bryant caught the Browns’ other TD, a 1-yarder.
Wilson had a 33-yard run on the Dolphins’ 10-play, 84-yard opening drive and set up Tagovailoa, who played a pump fake and found fullback Alec Ingold for a 13-yard score.
“We knew they were unique in what they did and they would have a lot of different looks at us,” Brown defensive end Myles Garrett said. “It’s really kept us on the back foot, kept us hesitant and they capitalized on that.”
Miami held the Browns to 10 points after Cleveland’s opening drive, sacked Brissett three times and recorded its first turnover since Week 7, a fumble by Chubb before halftime.
Bradley Chubb, the Dolphins’ newest edge-rusher, combined in the first half with Christian Wilkins at defensive end for a sack, Chubb’s first since being acquired by Denver at the close.
“It felt good,” Chubb said. “It’s only half. So I can’t feel too good about it, but I just have to keep working. The numbers will come and I’m just happy to be here.”
The Dolphins went into play 27th on third-down defense and 15th against run. They kept the Browns in third place on 5 of 12 and a season-low 113 rushing yards. Receiver Amari Cooper, who was on a 131-yard game in a win over Cincinnati, was pinned for 32 yards on three catches.
Jaylen Waddle had four receptions for 66 yards for Miami, and fellow fast receiver Tyreek Hill caught five passes for 44 yards, including a 2-yard TD catch in the third quarter that made it 30-10.
Tagovailoa’s other TD throw was a 14-yarder for Trent Sherfield 32 seconds before halftime, capping an efficient seven-play 53-yard drive that lasted just 50 seconds. Sherfield’s TD was his first of the season.
“You have some offenses where the ball doesn’t come to you, and you know it,” Sherfield said. “But with a guy like Tua and the offense and how he understands offense and how he can distribute the ball, you always have to be prepared.”
Browns: S D’Anthony Bell left the team with a head injury.
Dolphins: DE Emmanuel Ogbah (elbow) left in the second quarter. … CB Keion Crossen left with a shoulder injury just before half-time.
A week after scoring a rushing touchdown on his Dolphins debut, Wilson had the best performance by a Miami running back this season.
He has 26 carries for 170 yards and two touchdowns since the Dolphins took him over from San Francisco at the close.
Wilson’s fourth-down conversion in the first quarter resulted in Miami’s first touchdown Sunday. He also had 18-yard and 11-yard rushes on the drive. Wilson capped the goal with a 20-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“We have guns all over this team. And that’s no exaggeration,” Wilson said. “And it’s not because I’m on this team. I even said that when I was on the other side of it too. They are very explosive. It’s exciting for me to come here and help add to that.”
The Dolphins distributed 66,563 tickets to the game, the most since Hard Rock Stadium’s renovation in 2015.
“That’s a cool stat,” said Tagovailoa. “It just shows you the belief our fans have in our team and sort of a resurgence of organization for us. We will try to continue that after this bye week.”
Browns: Next Sunday in Buffalo.
Dolphins: After a bye, Houston will host on Sunday, November 27th.
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Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) takes aim in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, November 13, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) celebrates a touchdown with fullback Alec Ingold (30) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/ Lynne Sladky )
Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) tackles Miami Dolphins running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (23) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky )