Andy Cohen: Tannehill Steps Up When It Mattered Most

Posted Nov 25, 2012

It was a crucial moment for the team, a crucial moment for its quarterback. And so many good things happened in that fourth quarter.

This was his moment, his time.

A fourth-quarter comeback. The first in Ryan Tannehill’s career. He waited 11 games for this. We’ve waited 11 games for this. This is what separates quarterbacks, the ability to make a difference at the end of a close game.

And what a difference he made.

Throwing. Running. Leading the offense down the field with calm, consistency and confidence. A big pass to Davone Bess. A nice scramble down the middle of the field. Another big pass to Bess. A quick pass to Charles Clay. He looked so in charge.

And when Dan Carpenter’s 43-yard field goal sliced through the uprights as time expired, the Dolphins had themselves an important victory, perhaps most important because it represented a huge step for their prize rookie quarterback.

Tannehill will have many memorable moments during his career. There is little doubt about that. But what he did against the Seahawks, shaking off one interception and getting a reprieve after another, is something he will not soon forget.

The Dolphins were reeling after three straight losses. They desperately needed something good to happen. This had been a seesaw game and when the Seahawks took a 21-14 lead on a 98-yard kickoff return midway through the fourth quarter, things looked bleak.

Tannehill’s time.

First, he led the Dolphins on an impressive 80-yard game-tying drive, hitting Clay for a 29-yard touchdown with just over five minutes left. Then, after the defense did its job, Tannehill finished his job.

The drive started at his own 10-yard line. There was 1:32 left in the game. And then one play after another, one crisp pass, one smart decision. Tannehill did everything right, looked so smooth, so poised. And when Carpenter’s kick ended it all, Tannehill pumped his fist in the air and jogged off the field. One game. One huge statement.

A crucial moment for the team, a crucial moment for its quarterback.

There is still so much for Tannehill to accomplish, still so much to prove. He still throws passes he never should throw. There are still moments when he looks confused, moments when you can tell that there are many obstacles yet to clear and many lessons to learn.

In truth, we really won’t know about the extent of his potential until more important pieces are added to this offense. But that’s for another season, another time.

What’s important now, what’s really important, is for Tannehill to continue to demonstrate that he is the right player for this job and that the Dolphins finally have the answer at the most important position.

Sunday’s performance against Seattle went a long way to proving that they do. Stats are one thing, but fourth-quarter comebacks are the measuring stick. Ask Dan Marino what he is most proud of and he will always point back to those fourth-quarter comebacks.

Tannehill has now thrown for more passing yards as a rookie than Marino did. A nice accomplishment. But that’s really window dressing. This game is all about making a difference and on a powder blue Sunday at Sun Life Stadium, there was no bigger difference-maker than Ryan Tannehill.

“He showed he can do it once,” said coach Joe Philbin of Tannehill. “Now, he can go out and build off of this.”

Because of Tannehill’s late-game heroics, because the defense made just enough plays and because Carpenter came through when it mattered most, the Dolphins can now point to New England with a respectable 5-6 record and those three straight losses in their rearview mirror. It’s too early to wonder what Sunday’s victory means in the big scheme of things. Get past New England, find yourself at 6-6, and then those final four games suddenly have added significance.

Right now, there is simply relief. The Dolphins beat a quality football team in Seattle and they did with their rookie quarterback playing his absolute best at the end of the game. “A great feeling,” Tannehill said afterward. “Everybody did their job.”

But it was Tannehill’s moment. We can only hope it was the first of many.
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