Tagovailoa watched Ford catch the ball and began jumping around in celebration, punching the air. He had made something out of nothing - just as the Miami Dolphins have out of what was once a train wreck of a season.
A team that was once 1-7 and falling apart is now 6-7 and brimming with confidence. Tagovailoa threw a pair of short touchdown passes, and the Dolphins extended their winning streak to five games by topping the New York Giants 20-9 on Sunday.
"I'm glad we won, but I think there's a lot of things that we left out there on the field, a lot of plays that we wish we'd have back," Tagovailoa said.
Mack Hollins had the other scoring grab for Miami. Jaylen Waddle had nine catches for 90 yards for the Dolphins, and rookie Jaelan Phillips had two more sacks - giving him five in his past two games.
Tagovailoa completed 30 of 41 passes for 244 yards and the two scores.
"We're just executing better," Miami linebacker Jerome Baker said.
Mike Glennon started at quarterback for the Giants in place of Daniel Jones, who was sidelined with a neck injury. Glennon completed 23 of 44 throws for 187 yards, and Saquon Barkley had 55 rushing yards on 11 carries.
Glennon finished the game, and the team said he was diagnosed postgame with a concussion.
"We've got to do a better job of taking advantage of all opportunities," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "We have to understand the margin for error in this league is so small."
New York never found the end zone against a defense that has yielded only 55 points during the five-game winning streak. Graham Gano had three field goals for the Giants, including a 51-yarder with 4:59 remaining to get New York within 17-9.
The Giants had a chance to force a three-and-out about a minute later, but Tagovailoa found DeVante Parker with a 16-yard pass that required an acrobatic sideline catch to keep the drive alive. And on another third down with 3:14 left, Tagovailoa lofted one perfectly for Mike Gesicki for a 17-yard gain.
New York was out of timeouts, unable to do anything but watch the Dolphins run the clock down to 1:16 before sending Jason Sanders on for a 48-yard field goal, pushing the lead to 11 and sealing the outcome.
"We talk a lot about those late-game situations, how important they are and finishing the game off the right way offensively, defensively and the kicking game," Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. "I thought we did that across the board."
The Dolphins took the lead late in the first half on a 5-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Hollins, the capper to a 14-play, 89-yard drive. It was quintessential Miami of late, the formula that has worked with Tagovailoa, relying on the short ball to chip, chip, chip away.
He was 11 for 12 on the drive for 77 yards, only one of those throws going for more than 10 yards, six of them going for no more than 6 yards. The only true deep shot in the series came after the Giants jumped offside; Tagovailoa knew he had a free play and let fly with an incompletion that didn't count anyway.
Ford's TD catch capped a seven-play, 61-yard drive with 11:13 left, and that's what Tagovailoa saw reason to celebrate.
"I think Tua does a good job of reading it and he's also a very accurate passer," Giants cornerback James Bradberry. "He has a quick release, too. That's what makes it tough to defend it."
Giants: WR Kenny Golladay (ribs) left the game in the first half, then returned to the game after halftime. Judge said Jones will be evaluated again Monday, like all players are, before the Giants make a determination on his status for the coming week.
Dolphins: Waddle was shaken up in the fourth quarter, pointing to his left knee after a catch. He limped off the field as fans chanted his name, and as he waved his arm to encourage more volume he started walking more briskly and then began to jog. The Dolphins said he was cramping. ... RB Patrick Laird (knee) was lost in the first quarter, on a day when RB Phillip Lindsay was unavailable because of an ankle issue.
The first penalty of the game came with 1:55 left in the first half, when the Giants' Leonard Williams jumped offside. The second penalty, and first on the Dolphins, happened with 7:18 left in the third quarter when left tackle Liam Eichenberg was guilty of a false start.
Giants: visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 12.
Dolphins: bye week, then host the New York Jets on Dec. 19.
Howard triumphs over his own teammate and Slayton for an INT
Xavien Howard leaps up and comes away with an interception instead of teammate Jevon Holland and Giants WR Darius Slayton.