In a must win game for the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill performs like a rookie and not even a good one. Perhaps playing against his childhood hero was a little overwhelming for the Miami quarterback, but losing to the Patriots falls squarely on the shoulders of Ryan Tannehill.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins playoff hopes were dashed by their QBs lack of big-game experience. Tannehill has performed admirably for most of the season, but when he needed to step up, he made critical mistakes that cost Miami a shot at victory.
The Dolphins lost by a single touchdown to one of the most prolific teams in the NFL, with the defense holding Tom Brady to his worst 74.8 rating of the season. Three times Tannehill had Brian Hartline open for score and three times he missed badly.
Aqib Talib was unable to cover Hartline and midway through the first quarter found himself trailing Hartline by several steps down the middle of the field.
“I just overthrew it; it was a bad throw,” Tannehill said. “You’ve got to hit those; you don’t get many shots like that.”
With Miami trailing 17-10, in the third quarter when Hartline came open again, this time down the right sideline. The throw was uncatchable and Hartline had a wide open field down the sideline.
“It was designed to be a hook up,” Tannehill said. “I looked off the safety and set my feet to throw short. He stuck his hand up and went deep. I just didn’t get enough on it.”
In the fourth quarter, with second-and-4 from the New England 7, Hartline ran a slant over the middle again beating Talib. Tannehill’s throw was late and Hartline couldn’t get his feet down inside the back of the end zone.
“It was a look we weren’t prepared for,” Hartline said. “It threw me off a little bit and I think it threw him off a little bit, too. Just a little hesitation. We ran out of space in the back of the end zone.”
Tannehill also had a sack fumble midway through the 2nd quarter that gave the Patriots the ball on Miami's 25 yard line. Tannehill needed to take one step forward in the pocket and he could have released the pass, but he was unable to feel the pressure and took the sack.
The Dolphins have been patient with Tannehill who has thrown only 2 TD passes and 6 INTs in the last 18 quarters. There has been no hint of replacing Tannehill with Matt Moore and it would seem the Dolphin organization is telling the fans they must endure the rookies' growing pains.
“We just didn’t hit the shots that were there,” Tannehill said. “The early one to Hartline, I’m still kicking myself. You have to make that throw.” The Dolphin faithful would like to kick Tannehill as well when each week they hear how Andrew Luck made the plays that brought his team to victory. Perhaps the Colts "Suck-for-Luck" campaign wasn't such a bad idea.
It has been somewhat taboo to criticize the rookie, but when Tannehill completes just 13 of 29 passes (44.8 percent) for 186 yards and a 66.2 passer rating. The faithful begin to wonder when it will be okay to proclaim Tannehill is another Jeff Ireland bust.
Dolphin coach Joe Philbin is well aware of the stakes, but he downplayed the performance with his usual aloof undefined comments, “against a team like this, you’ve got to make those plays. If you’re wide open and you’ve got a guy like that, you’ve got to make those plays.”
Miami fans cannot bare the thought of Tannehill being a bust, it is the single most disheartening thought any true Dolphin fan could have. It is better to just stick with the rookie proclamation that he will learn from his experience.
The true question looming for Tannehill is, how long are the fans willing to wait? The whispers are getting louder, and in Miami, when they get to a full blown roar, it will not be pretty.