Cardinals 23 (5-7-1)
Dolphins 26 (8-5)
No stranger to disappointment in December, even the most optimistic Dolphins fan feared the worst entering week 14. A Miami loss to the Arizona and a Denver win in Nashville would all but ruin Adam Gase’s impressive rookie season.
However, unfamiliar happenstance occurred for the first time in five years. The Dolphins got that elusive crucial December win. The Broncos held up their end of the bargain, losing by a field goal to the Titans. And, most foreign of all, the Dolphins will kick off a game without number 17 under center for the first time since 2011.
Mike Pouncey, Branden Albert, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and many, many more Dolphins players came to the side of the embattled Miami quarterback as he sat on the bench with his recently damaged knee elevated with an ice pack gently placed injury.
Tannehill was dominating the second ranked defense in the NFL. He was 15 of 20 for 195 yards and three touchdown passes. The lone interception brought his passer rating on the day down to 124.
Unfortunately, the story isn’t going to be about Tannehill’s day nor his progress through 13 games under Coach Gase. It’s not going to be about the torrential downpour that caused five first quarter turnovers between the two teams.
The story is about the Miami Dolphins sitting at 8-5 for the first time since 2008 (the last time they made the playoffs) and being tasked with a three game round-robin with all of the other AFC East foes without the unquestioned leader of the offense.
Luckily, the last time the Dolphins won in Buffalo, Matt Moore was the quarterback.
That conversation is for another day. Today, we need to talk about the current state of the Dolphins in the midst of a playoff race.
Adam Gase does a lot of really cool things. On a 15 yard reception for Jay Ajayi, he ran a stacked bunch formation tight. From there, Landry and Dion Sims ran little out routes that took the linebackers off the hash marks and opened the red sea for Ajayi.
The goal line offense was pristine in this game. Gase manufactured touchdowns to Damien Williams and Dion Sims with misdirection and a perfectly executed pick play by Landry.
Tannehill was playing so well before the injury. He made things happen with his legs, the touchdown throw to Kenny Stills was textbook quarterbacking and he was maneuvering within the pocket extremely well.
The Dolphins pass protection has been so much better this year and a large part of that is Tannehill’s ability to keep his feet active and his quick escape at the sign of pressure.
One linemen that had a dreadful game was Anthony Steen. He had a hold, allowed the negated sack, had a snap infraction (false start), and was constantly blown up in the running game. He can’t get to the second level nearly the way Mike Pouncey does and is a big reason the inside running game has been stuck lately.
Laremy Tunsil continues to be a wall in pass-protection but he still misses run blocking assignments now and then. All things told, he was very good in this game.
Branden Albert was in and out of this game and wasn’t playing his best when he was on the field. He was beat from the jump on a pair of inside moves from Calais Campbell and basically pushed Campbell into the knee of Tannehill on the infamous play.
His leadership and importance to the team is extremely apparent and the moment he and Tannehill shared on the sideline had me fighting back tears.
Sam Young came into the game and I have nothing negative to say about him, so that’s a net positive.
Jermon Bushrod was better in this game. He won the hand fight in the running game and was formidable in pass protection.
Bushrod, Dion Sims and Ja’Wuan James were much better on a few occasions in the run blocking department. Yardage off that right side is still difficult to come by, however.
I thought Jay Ajayi struggled with the wet surface and football. He had a drop, a fumble and had difficulty finding his footing all day. He is now going to be the horse that takes us as far as we will go with Tannehill out.
Damien Williams looked like the running back I was ready to cut at the conclusion of 2015 with indecision before the hole.
Kenyan Drake continues to show me one or two things every week that gets me excited for his future.
The screen game was looking better until that funky backward pass. Devante Parker had an awesome block on a smoke route for Landry. Besides that, Parker had a rough day. He’s not a fluid guy as it is and the wet surface slowed him even more.
Jarvis Landry’s big catch and run was the stuff legends are made of. I was certain he would finish that run and because we scored and it only cost us three yards on the ensuing kickoff, he gets a pass for yet another unsportsmanlike penalty.
Kenny Stills was the best receiver of the day even if his slip on a comeback route led to an interception. He Is the smartest route runner in the receiver room, that deep speed means so much to this offense and he often beats one-on-one coverage. He needs to be a priority re-sign this off-season.
The big challenge moving forward is going to be with Matt Moore. The deep passing game is a strength to him and he’s not afraid to give his receivers an opportunity to make plays. He needs to play mistake-free football for this team to have a shot.
In today’s game, it was clear Gase wanted to win the game without bring the gun out of the holster, but it was nice to see Moore make two big time throws on the game winning drive.
The Arizona offensive line was supposed to be beatable and the Dolphins didn’t disappoint. Cameron Wake was completely unblockable pressuring Carson Palmer all game. His sack prior to the Catanzaro miss moved the ball back nine yards. With the kick hitting the upright, Wake essentially saved three points – the difference in the game.
His pass rush productivity was off the charts, but so was Andre Branch’s. He has been the best acquisition for the Dolphins this season.
Jason Jones makes an impact on the rotation and he was a menace today. He had a lot of different assignments with twists, stunts, spy’s and some straight bull rushes and he got it done all game long.
This is becoming a broken record with Ndamukong Suh. He’s such an imposing physical force stacking up the run game and opening things up for the pass rush. His strength at the point of attack is immeasurable.
Jordan Phillips was too much for A.Q. Shipley to handle for most of the game. The same could be said for Earl Mitchell. Phillips’ PAT block really saved team that went lifeless after the quarterback injury.
The entire defensive line got it done today. That even includes Terrance Fede and Nick Williams.
Mike Hull might be a player in the Dolphins future plans. He has good instincts, he plays really fast, he just needs more seasoning. He’s in the wrong hole at times but he’s a massive coverage upgrade over what we’ve had with Jelani Jenkins and, at times, Kiko Alonso.
Spencer Paysinger was the goat today. He was slow to the spot, he looks completely disinterested in coverage and took an atrocious angle on the long JJ Nelson touchdown run.
Bacarri Rambo took just as bad of an angle but had a nice interception and played well otherwise.
Michael Thomas had his best day as a defender and Isa Abdul-Quddus continues to quietly put together good film.
Byron Maxwell has the most forced fumbles by a Dolphins corner ever (four) and it’s purely attributed to effort. His tackling may be frustrating and he may commit some costly penalties, but he has played extremely well during the last eight games for Miami. David Johnson beat him on a slant as a wide receiver – something running backs should not be able to do. David Johnson isn’t an ordinary running back.
Tony Lippett was having a fine day until the last couple of drives. Xavien Howard will probably take that job if he ever gets healthy.
Bobby McCain was on Darren Fells like glue and broke up the pass that led to the Hull interception. He did get beat for a touchdown with poor technique later in the game and was up and down for the most part.
David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald did almost nothing until late in the game. The defense brought their A game but things just changed when Tannehill went down.
This problem is league-wide and it seems to be expanding at an inconceivable rate. I counted the officiating gaffes just in the first half alone. There were five, FIVE egregious calls that were blatantly wrong against the Dolphins.
- Ajayi recovered that fumble on the goal line and they missed it live and on the replay.
- Arizona was awarded a timeout after a 3rd and 8 run play was completed and they ended up getting to retry the down. They were given five downs.
- On the ensuing play, Cameron Wake is clearly held in the end-zone.
- With 7:24 to go in the second quarter, Jermain Gresham caught a pass on second down and at least a half yard shy of the marker, but he was given a first down.
- On the first down prior to the 56 yard field goal from Chandler Catanzaro, Ulrick John Cam Wake in a headlock after he was beat – clear hold.
- The one in Miami’s favor was a hold against Kenny Stills when Anthony Steen was beaten for a sack.
The NFL is lucky it has such an incredible product that people cling to more than anything else in their lives. This officiating problem is an absolute epidemic and it needs to be rectified immediately.
Has there ever been a more bittersweet win for our Phins? Even as the field goal went through at the buzzer, I was emotionless. Ryan Tannehill crying on the sideline and all the lads coming to his side was difficult to see.
It was, however, awesome to see him celebrating with the guys from his spot on the bench. Remember when Omar Kelly and MIko Grimes swore that no one in the locker-room liked Ryan Tannehill? Well not like you should’ve listened to either of those mouth breathers before, but now you can definitely cease on that nonsense.
The Dolphins were just as impacted by the wet turf and ball as the Cardinals were and it was nice to see them overcome the late collapse to pick up the win.
Matt Moore needs to work extremely hard the next couple of weeks to get ready for some crucial games. The Broncos loss would have put the Dolphins in the driver’s seat for that sixth seed if not for the Tannehill injury.
Mike Pouncey and a healthy offensive line along with a dominating pass rush is the formula for how this team can break the eight-year playoff drought.
The Jets were down by 14 for much of the game in San Francisco today and salvaged an over-time victory. They won’t get back into New York until early Monday morning and have a short week. Their quarterback doesn’t belong in this league and that stout defense has, by and large, given up on the season.
So the Dolphins are about to be 9-5 heading into Buffalo with a chance to put a stranglehold on playoff positioning.
I really wish Ryan Tannehill got to be a part of that.
Speaking of that future, plenty of people have asked me what I think this means for the former Aggie’s future with the Dolphins.
I can give you a resounding vote of confidence that Tannehill will be back. They might rework that deal that escalates to $18 million next year, but there’s no way Adam Gase is going to cut bait after the progress everyone’s new favorite Dolphin has made.
Over the last eight games, this is what Tannehill has done:
7-1 team record
100.1 passer rating
13 touchdowns (5.6 TD%), 5 interceptions (2.1 INT%)
1,723 yards on 233 pass attempts (7.4 yards per pass.)
Those are pro-bowl, top 10 quarterback numbers. There’s no reason, with his work ethic, a strong rehab and more growth in this offense to think he won’t come back even better under this head coach.
His numbers including the entire season:
93.5 passer rating (a career high)
19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
7.7 yards per pass
Number 17 will be back, and we will win a lot of games with him.
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