Tua Tagovailoa threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers and sparked the Miami Dolphins to a 42-21 comeback victory over the winless Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Tagovailoa was 21 of 31 for 262 yards and has an NFL-leading 1,876 yards passing this season.
After Miami (5-1) fell into an early 14-point hole, Tyreek Hill flipped the lead back in the Dolphins’ favor with a 41-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter. He celebrated by grabbing someone’s phone near the end zone and recording himself doing a backflip — he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for the second straight game.
Hill caught six passes for 163 yards to bring his NFL-leading season total to 814 yards receiving. Jaylen Waddle added 51 yards on seven catches.
Miami scored 35 straight points before Mike White replaced Tagovailoa with about four minutes left and threw an interception that was returned by cornerback Troy Hill for a touchdown.
The play brought Carolina within 14, but Salvon Ahmed scored on a 9-yard run to give Miami, the NFL’s leading rushing team, 169 yards rushing for the day.
The Panthers (0-6) took advantage of an uncharacteristicly slow Dolphins start with a 6-yard rushing touchdown by Chuba Hubbard in the opening quarter. Then, Adam Thielen caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Young.
Young finished 23 of 38 with 217 yards and was sacked four times.
Thielen topped 100 yards receiving for the second straight game with 115 yards on 11 catches. Hubbard, starting for the injured Miles Sanders (shoulder) had 19 rushes for 88 yards.
After going three-and-out on their first two drives, the Dolphins scored touchdowns on their next three.
Raheem Mostert had a 3-yard touchdown catch that cut the early deficit in half — set up by catches of 27 and 14 yards by Hill and Waddle, respectively.
Mostert had 17 carries for 115 yards, including a 48-yard run in the second quarter that set up the tying TD catch by Waddle.
Mostert took over as Miami’s lead ball carrier after rookie De’Von Achane was placed on injured reserve last week with a knee injury. He also had rushing scores of 1 and 4 yards for his fourth multiple-touchdown game of the season.
Carolina’s Eddy Pineiro missed a 43 yard field goal in the second quarter.
HALL OF FAME CELEBRATION
The Dolphins honored linebacker Zach Thomas at halftime. Thomas, a fifth-round pick by Miami 1996, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in August. Thomas had seven Pro Bowl selections during his career — the most all-time by a Dolphins defender — and five first-team All-Pro nominations. He was an honorary captain Sunday.
“I love you Miami,” Thomas said to the crowd of 65,529 at Hard Rock Stadium. “This is my home. I am a Miami Dolphin for life.”
The Dolphins punted on their opening drive for the first time this season. Before Sunday, Miami had three touchdowns, a field goal and a fumble on their opening drives and had moved the ball inside the opponent’s 10 on every opening possesion.
Up by 7 in the second quarter, Carolina ran a fake punt on fourth-and-8 at its 49. Duke Riley and Elijah Campbell forced Panthers receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. out of bounds just shy of the first-down marker, giving the Dolphins the ball with good field position. Miami scored three plays later.
Panthers: Shenault left in the second quarter with an ankle injury. … LB Yetur Gross-Matos left with a hamstring injury. … LB Frankie Luvu injured his hip.
Dolphins: Hill left briefly in the third because of cramping. … CB Xavien Howard left with a groin injury. … RB Chris Brooks was helped off the field in the fourth with a leg injury and immediately ruled out.
After a bye week, the Panthers host the Houston Texans on Oct. 29.
The Dolphins visit Philadelphia next Sunday night.