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NOTEBOOK: Tannehill Spread The Ball Around Efficiently; Other Notes

Posted Dec 15, 2013

Calm and collected quarterback was in a zone in the second half.



Barely two years into his NFL career, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill displayed the type of confidence and command of the offense reserved for the likes of Tom Brady today – against Brady and the New England Patriots no less.

Though he has thrown for more yards in a game since becoming the starting quarterback as a rookie last season, Tannehill can definitely mark this performance as his most impressive to date. He completed his 25 passes to 10 different receivers for the second time this season and connected with a running back in Marcus Thigpen who is primarily a kick returner for the game-winning 14-yard touchdown in Miami’s 24-20 win. That happened to be Thigpen’s first career touchdown catch.

Tannehill now has thrown 23 touchdown passes this season, the most by any Dolphins quarterback in a single season other than Dan Marino, and has quietly led Miami to five wins in its last seven games and right into the thick of the playoff race. Yet even after knocking off the division-leading Patriots and outplaying a future Hall-of-Famer in Brady, he kept things in perspective after the game.

“The guys around me are just really helping me out so much making big plays off of small throws,” said Tannehill, who has thrown for 3,627 yards on the season and still has two games left. “The guys around me are playing big and making big plays out of normal plays but this is just another step in the process. Obviously, it feels good to beat a division team but we have big things ahead of us that I think we have to focus on this week.”

Things really started going right for Tannehill and the offense at the end of the first half after Brady had put New England ahead, 10-0. He engineered an eight-play, 82-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a 39-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace with 32 seconds left.

Tannehill has been very proficient in the two-minute offense at the end of halves and the end of games this season and he showed it again on that drive. Three different receivers caught passes en route to the end zone, with Rishard Matthews hauling in two for 32 yards, including an over-the-shoulder grab for 24 yards on 3rd-and-10 and Marlon Moore making a nifty 11-yard sideline catch for a first down. But the pass to Wallace hit him right in stride on a square in and Wallace was able to shake loose of Maurquice Cole’s attempted tackle and sprint into the end zone to swing the momentum back in Miami’s favor.

“Just coming out of the huddle Ryan told me he was going to look at me first on the glance route,” Wallace said. “I just ran my route and got open and their guys looked a little confused. Everybody’s been breaking tackles around here the last couple of weeks and I had to keep it going.”

Miami has won three straight for the second time this season, the other time was when the team started out the season 3-0, and Tannehill has a 103.2 passer rating in the month of December. He has completed 73-of-113 passes for 843 yards, eight touchdowns and just two interceptions during that stretch.

Tannehill’s 120.6 passer rating was his highest of the season and the second highest of his career and it’s the 12th time he’s had a rating of 90.0 or higher. Meanwhile, Brady finished with an 85.7 rating and Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin liked what he saw on that last scoring drive by Tannehill, as well as the plays called by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.

“He got good protection and good execution in the pass game. I think it was a fitting way to win this game.,” Philbin said. “We got the ball I believe at the 40-yard line at the end and once again, our protection was better, the routes were good. We made a couple of nice throws. The guys executed the plan. You have to credit Mike and the offensive staff with the execution we’ve been getting at two minutes. We’re one of the top teams in the league and that’s a credit to those guys and the players.”

TURNING POINT

The Patriots had just taken a 20-17 lead with 4:07 remaining in the game but had given the Dolphins excellent field position at their own 40 when kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoff went out of bounds for a penalty. A sack of Tannehill on 2nd-and-10 for a 6-yard loss put the offense in a deep hole and he completed an 11-yard pass to Brian Hartline on 3rd-and-16 to set up a crucial 4th-and-5.

Tannehill lined up in the shotgun and had to wait an extra second for tight end Charles Clay to get open in the flat, causing his throw to be a bit off the mark and made Clay take a backwards step upon catching it. Clay made one defender miss and kept his feet churning up the field to gain six yards and pick up the first down just across midfield, keeping the game-winning drive alive.

“We usually want to hit it a little quicker,” Tannehill explained. “He had press coverage and the guy came in my face with his hands up so I had to throw it around him, which brought him backwards and that’s one thing you don’t want to do. But it’s just a great effort by Charles being able to make the catch first and foremost and then being able to make guys miss and get the first down.”

STATISTICAL MILESTONES

Wide receiver Mike Wallace put together his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season and 18th of his career this afternoon with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. That’s tied for fourth most in franchise history for a single season. … Wallace’s 39-yard touchdown reception at the end of the first half was his fourth of the season, 36th of his career and tied for the second longest touchdown pass of the season by Miami with Charles Clay’s 39-yarder against San Diego. … Wallace’s 2nd quarter rush of 13 yards was the longest rush of the wide receiver’s Miami Dolphins career. His previous long as a member of the Dolphins was a 12-yard gain against the Buffalo Bills on October 20th. Wallace’s career long came as member of the Pittsburgh Steelers when he registered a 21-yard rush against the Cleveland Browns on October 18th, 2009. … With his 19-yard reception in the third quarter, wide receiver Brian Hartline has now recorded a reception in 24 straight games. It is the Dolphins’ longest current reception streak, Hartline’s current streak of games with a reception dates back to October 28th, 2012. … Marcus Thigpen’s 14-yard touchdown catch at the end of the game was the first of his career. … Tight end Michael Egnew’s two receptions for 25 yards in the first half against the Patriots, with a long of 14 yards, are all career marks for the second-year tight end. It is the first multiple reception game of Egnew’s career. His previous career long was a 13-yard reception on October 31, 2013 against Cincinnati. … Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis’ 32-yard field goal in the third quarter was his 26th of the season, the most ever by a Dolphins rookie. With a 51-yard punt in the first quarter, Dolphins punter Brandon Fields has had a punt 50 yards or longer in every game this season. … Eight of Miami’s 2013 draft picks were active today, with only the injured rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor not playing. That’s the largest number of draft picks to be activated for a game this season.

NEXT

The Dolphins travel to Buffalo next Sunday to face the Bills in their last road game of the regular season at 1 p.m.
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