AC In The AM: Impressive Performance From So Many

Posted Jan 4, 2016

The win over the Patriots was about Ryan Tannehill standing taller than he has all season, about DeVante Parker truly showing his first-round skills, about a defense that harassed Tom Brady.

(Andy Cohen In the Morning – AC in the AM – will appear on Dolphins.com during the offseason as events warrant. You can also follow AC in the AM by Twitter at @acohenfins).

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They could smile. They could laugh. They could celebrate a 20-10 victory over the New England Patriots and know, without a shred of doubt, that they truly earned it. Who says you can’t save your best for last?

Certainly, it can’t wipe away the frustration and the disappointment of a 6-10 season. Nothing, in truth, can do that. But what it can do is offer hope for the future and, at the very least, give these players and coaches a sense of accomplishment heading into what promises to be an offseason of significant changes.

I only wish we had seen this type of performance more often this season. Why we didn’t is something that must be analyzed and dissected over the months ahead. But that’s for another day.

This day was about Ryan Tannehill standing taller than he has all season, about DeVante Parker truly showing his first-round skills, about a defense that harassed Tom Brady and made the Patriots offense look rather ordinary and about a fourth quarter that saw the Dolphins make all the plays that mattered. Wasn’t that nice to finally see?

I mean the Dolphins outgained the Patriots 438-196. How convincing was that?

“I’m so proud of those guys,” said interim head coach Dan Campbell. “This wasn’t the season we wanted, but that’s how you want to finish. This team didn’t check out. The effort was there and I really appreciate that.”

Campbell deserves plenty of credit for keeping these players believing and for instilling his work ethic into this locker room. He is a class act, a good man and he showed over these past few months what he is capable of doing. Whether he gets this job long-term or not, he has earned the respect of an entire organization and that’s something you’ve got to applaud.

But nothing could validate the impact Campbell has had like a victory over the Patriots. The game-winner came with 6:58 left on a nice little throw from Tannehill to Jordan Cameron. It was set up by another Tannehill beauty, this one covering 49 yards to Parker, who leaped and twisted until the ball was safely in his hands, a clear indication of the huge upside he possesses.

Then the defense closed the deal, holding Brady without a touchdown pass for the first time this season, refusing to let him get comfortable, negating the impact of tight end Rob Gronkowski and generally sending the Patriots into the playoffs without the momentum they were looking for.

But as proficient as the defense was, as solid as the Dolphins were in so many areas, it was Tannehill who out-performed Brady and Tannehill who deserves so much of the credit for this impressive victory. He was as sharp as I have seen him in his four seasons here, completing 25 of 38 passes for 350 yards, two touchdowns and – just as important – zero interceptions. And, oh yes, he capped off the day with a nifty 19-yard scramble that helped set up a game-icing field goal.

Tannehill really needed a performance like this heading into the offseason. It was important for his confidence and it reminded us of what he is capable of doing, especially against a defense as formidable as the Patriots.

“We stuck together,” Tannehill said. “We’re didn’t have a lot of play for, but we hung in there as a team and came up with a big victory.”

And now it is time to move on. Now it is time for the Dolphins to put the frustration of this 2015 season behind them and to begin the healing process. That means finding the right head coach, coming up with the right replacement for General Manager Dennis Hickey and scrutinizing this roster carefully and methodically. That’s the challenge. That’s what this offseason is all about.

But for one memorable Sunday we were able to put all of that on hold. We were able to see these Dolphins play the way we expected them to play all along. We were able to see them finish a forgettable season with an unforgettable performance.

Yes, it was only one game. No, it didn’t save the season. But after seeing far too many times this season how poorly this team can play, how refreshing it was to finally see once again how well it can play.

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