Talk about saving your best for last.
There are a few reasons the Dolphins have won their first three games in December to put themselves in the position where they control their fate when it comes to the playoffs, and the play of quarterback
Tannehill has been at his best this month, with 73 completions in 113 attempts for 843 yards with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions. Tannehill’s passer rating so far in December is 103.2, by far his best for any month this season. By comparison, Tannehill was at 85.3 for the games in September, 76.4 for October and 85.0 for November.
Three of Tannehill’s five best games this season in terms of passer rating have come in December, topped by his season-high 120.6 in the victory against New England on Sunday.
The eight touchdown passes already have surpassed Tannehill’s previous high for any month in his career. His previous high was the six he threw in four games this October.
Tannehill’s eight TD passes this month are the third-most in the NFL behind the 11 thrown by Peyton Manning and the nine by Kansas City’s Alex Smith. The 843 yards ranks sixth, just 1 yard behind the total of Philadelphia’s Nick Foles.
Tannehill is also one of seven NFL quarterbacks to have played three games this month and compiled a passer rating of 100 or more. The others are Smith, Manning, Foles, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer.
That’s pretty good company, but so is this: Tannehill is one of four quarterbacks averaging 15 or more passes for first downs in the first three December games. The others: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees.
Tannehill’s strong showing so far this month isn’t merely one of the best in the league, it’s one of the best the Dolphins have ever had from their quarterback in December.
The eight TD passes already are the most ever in December by a Dolphins quarterback other than Dan Marino, who had 12 in 1984, 11 in 1985 and 1986, and 10 in 1991. No Dolphins QB had had eight TD passes in his first three December games since Marino in 1991.
Tannehill will head into the game at Buffalo on Sunday coming off consecutive outings with three touchdown passes. The last time a Dolphins quarterback had done that was 1994. The last time a Dolphins quarterback had done in two December games was 1991.
Tannehill’s 843 passing yards also represents the second-highest Dolphins total for the first three games of December in the past 15 years. The only higher total was the 904 for Chad Henne in 2009.
Based on passer rating, Tannehill is on track to have the second-best December for a Dolphins quarterback behind only the tremendous run of Chad Pennington in 2008. But it should be pointed out that Pennington didn’t throw nearly as often that season as Tannehill is doing this year — Pennington finished with 772 passing yards in four December games that season.
The top December passing ratings in Dolphins history:
1. Chad Pennington (2008) 112.6
2. Don Strock (1983) 106.5
3. Dan Marino (1984) 105.2
4. Dan Marino (1991) 104.1
5. Dan Marino (1086) 103.6
6. Ryan Tannehill (2013) 103.2
7. Dan Marino (1985) 97.9
9. Sage Rosenfels (2005) 91.3
10. Bob Griese (1968) 90.0
Tannehill also has contributed with his running this December and his 48-yard dash at Pittsburgh set a franchise record for longest run by a quarterback — in any month.
But Tannehill has work to do to catch the Dolphins record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single December. It’s actually Tannehill who owns the record, with his 148 yards in five games in 2012. He has 77 in three games this December, meaning he needs 72 yards in the final two games to top his own mark.
It’s safe to assume that Tannehill and the Dolphins are a lot more concerned about his passing than his running. In that regard, Tannehill has three 300-yard passing performances in the last four games and five on the season. That last figure already has matched the team’s highest total since 1989.
The challenge for Tannehill now is to finish off what has started as a December to remember.