It was a duel between two hot-shot young quarterbacks all day.
Then, it came down to defensive stops and the plays Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Fields didn’t make at the end to decide things in a shootout between the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears.
As Tagovailoa and Fields matched each other stride for stride — Tagovailoa through the air and Fields with a record performance on the ground — the defenses that looked like they couldn’t stop either quarterback finally stood strong. The Dolphins held on late to edge the Bears, 35-32, on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.
It has been a season of threes in the first nine games for Miami (6-3). The team is now on a three-game winning streak, which it also started the year with, and had a three-game losing streak sandwiched in the middle.
Tagovailoa finished 21 of 30 for 302 yards and three touchdowns, following up what many called the best game of his career the week prior in a win at Detroit. Miami is now 6-0 this season in games Tagovailoa starts and finishes and has won 12 of the last 13 such cases dating back to last season.
Fields, the second-year Bears signal-caller, had a whopping 178 yards rushing and a long score on the ground, plus 123 yards passing with three touchdowns through the air. Fields’ rushing total was an NFL record for a quarterback in a regular-season game.
“Those guys were going at it,” Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill said. “I didn’t know Justin Fields was that fast.”
The combination of Hill and Jaylen Waddle came through once again for Miami. Hill had seven catches for 143 yards, and Waddle went for 85 yards on his five receptions. Each scored a touchdown.
“The complexity of what they’re seeing, guys motioning, guys moving, shifting,” Tagovailoa said of how he consistently had the two open throughout Sunday.
The Dolphins, leading by the final of 35-32, had a nearly costly sequence in the fourth quarter where they burned two timeouts ahead of third-and-2 and then fourth-and-1 and turned the ball over on downs. Tagovailoa threw incomplete into the ground with tight end Durham Smythe open for the conversion in the flat.
“That doesn’t mean I’m a riverboat type guy and that I’m just going to do that all the time,” said coach Mike McDaniel of another decision to go for a fourth down with a field goal available to him, which he said had the Chicago wind factor in. “In this particular situation, had we been going the opposite end, we probably would have kicked it.”
The Miami defense, though, after all the trouble it had getting Fields down, came up with a critical sack of Fields from Melvin Ingram to lead to a stop.
“Super clutch,” Jaelan Phillips said of Ingram’s sack that backed Chicago up 5 yards on first-and-10. “It doesn’t get more clutch than that.”
Tagovailoa then misfired again on a vital third-and-11 where Waddle had separation on Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson, but he underthrew it, allowing Johnson to come up with the deflection.
On Chicago’s final chance, Fields threw to Equanimeous St. Brown on fourth down, but they couldn’t connect. Linebacker Duke Riley had a sack earlier in the sequence. It was kneel-downs from there for Tagovailoa.
After failing to extend their lead at the end of the half due to some questionable clock management and a missed field goal, the Dolphins breezed right through the Chicago defense on the opening possession of the second half.
Chunk plays of 22 yards on a pass to Hill, Jeff Wilson runs of 28 and 7 yards and, finally, an 18-yard touchdown from Tagovailoa to Waddle got Miami into the end zone in four plays and 75 yards.
But the Bears responded quickly with Fields flashing his exceptional open-field running ability for a 61-yard touchdown, the longest quarterback run in Chicago’s long history. The Bears made it a 3-point game, 28-25, early in the third quarter after the successful two-point conversion that followed.
Wilson Jr., the new Miami running back, scored his first touchdown in his new colors with 6:02 remaining in the third quarter, diving for the end zone for a 10-yard receiving score. Chicago again answered with tight end Cole Kmet’s second receiving touchdown, a 4-yard score.
The Dolphins’ lone first-half possession that didn’t result in points came when kicker Jason Sanders hooked a 29-yard field goal attempt wide left before halftime.
Miami scored touchdowns on the ground, through the air and on special teams in the first half.
Jaelan Phillips blocked a Chicago punt with his chest, and fellow outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel took it 25 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Tagovailoa found Hill on a quick out for a 3-yard touchdown, and Raheem Mostert punched in a 1-yard rushing score.
“Execution. We dialed that up in practice and executed it,” Phillips said of the special teams score. “I got there a little quicker than I expected, so it worked out well.”
Added Van Ginkel: “First off, Jaelan was laying on top of it, so I was praying that he would roll over and thank God he did. I just saw it right in front of me, scoop and score.”
Mostert’s touchdown on Miami’s first offensive series was assisted by a 32-yard defensive pass interference that Hill drew against Chicago’s Kindle Vildor. The Dolphins also committed a long pass interference on their first defensive series with Keion Crossen called for a 28-yard penalty covering new Bears receiver Chase Claypool, but Chicago settled for a field goal.
The Bears had leading receiver Darnell Mooney beat Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard for a 16-yard touchdown late in the first half, and early in the second quarter, Kmet scored his first touchdown, 18 yards on a throw to the flat. Howard later had an interception wiped away by offsetting penalties, holding on each side.
The Dolphins, after back-to-back road games in the NFC North, now stay home through the end of November. They have the Cleveland Browns next, followed by their bye week and the Houston Texans on Nov. 27.