MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins benched Josh Rosen after three quarters of offensive struggles Sunday against the Washington Redskins. They replaced him with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick at the start of the fourth quarter of a 17-16 loss to Washington.
The Dolphins were down 17-3 when the switch happened.
Coach Brian Flores said the move was made because they "needed a spark" on offense, but he reiterated that Rosen will remain the starter for next week's game against the Bills.
"Josh has done a good job. Today, he wasn't having a good day. We're always going to do what we feel is best for the team. Today that was Fitz going into the fourth quarter," Flores said. "Josh is the starter. But as we continue to move along, there's always competition. Everyone needs to feel that. I need to feel that. The players need to feel that. Fitz was ready to go today. I think he played well."
Flores told both players of the change on the sideline, where Rosen watched the rest of the game as Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins to a season-high two touchdowns.
"I was disappointed. But I understood the situation," Rosen said. "It obviously was a smart decision given how the game almost ended. Flo's job first and foremost is to win football games. I respect the decision. It's my job to not put him in that position. "
Fitzpatrick, who began the season as Miami's starting quarterback, led the Dolphins to their first second-half points of the season immediately after he entered the game. Miami had been outscored 98-0 in the second half before Fitzpatrick's nine-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a Kalen Ballage rushing touchdown, trimming the deficit to 17-10.
Multiple Dolphins players said after the game that the offense had a different energy once Fitzpatrick came in and that, along with the uptempo offense, gave the team extra confidence that they could come back to get their first win.
"That whole fourth quarter was fun. Just to be out there, I think there was a lot of confidence on that last drive," Fitzpatrick said. "That's why I still like to be out there playing the game."
Fitzpatrick led the second touchdown drive, which ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker with six seconds left in the game. Flores said he decided early in the fourth quarter that he was going for the two-point conversion if they tied the game, playing for a win instead of overtime.
The play called for a bubble screen pass to Kenyan Drake, who dropped the pass as Washington defenders converged on him. The Dolphins couldn't complete the comeback, falling to 0-5 with the one-point loss. Flores said they practiced that play all week and felt good about it, but he commended Washington for defending it well. He noted that Drake would have had to make a spectacular play to score even if he had caught the ball, but they wanted to give their best playmaker that opportunity. Drake lamented dropping the pass. He noted that fellow running back Mark Walton was in practicing that play during this week so it was a bit unfamiliar, but he relishes the opportunity to make those game-winning plays.
"Regardless of what the situation is, I have to hold up my end of the bargain," Drake said.
Flores added: "They made a good play. They were ready to go on it. We were going to try to win the game in that situation with the amount of time left... It's something we've run a lot in practice. We feel good about it. We just didn't execute it well."
The mood in the locker room was a mix of anger after another loss and satisfaction that the team showed resolve in its first competitive game of the season. It's the first game that Miami didn't lose by 20+ points. Fitzpatrick finished 12-of-18 for 132 yards, 1 touchdown and a 106.7 quarterback rating.
"Moral victory, whatever, I don't know if we believe in those but it's much more fun to be involved in a game like that than you look up and you're losing by 40 points," Fitzpatrick said.
Flores said earlier this week that Rosen was "settled" as the team's quarterback, but Sunday's decision showed that there will continue to be in-game competition if Rosen struggles.
The Dolphins' offense was stagnant throughout the first three quarters Sunday. Rosen was 15-of-25 for 86 yards, zero touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 5 sacks and a 32.9 QB rating. He was 1-of-7 for 12 yards and two interceptions on passes thrown more than 5 yards downfield, per ESPN Stats & Information data.
Fitzpatrick started the first two games of the season before Rosen was named the team's starter before the Week 3 game vs. Dallas.
Rosen said Wednesday that he hoped to use these past 12 games as an audition to prove to Flores and Dolphins general manager Chris Grier that he could be the team's long-term quarterback.
Miami is expected to be active in searching for a franchise quarterback in the 2020 NFL draft.