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How refreshing to finally have no fourth quarter suspense, no game-defining moments, no gut-wrenching finishes.
The Dolphins, for a change, won a game the easy way on Sunday. It was nice, wasn’t it? Nice to take a deep breath. Nice to relax a little. Nice to dispose of the New York Jets 23-3 without any unnecessary drama. Just a dominating performance all-around.
The Dolphins played like the better team and that’s exactly what they were. They had the better quarterback, the better receivers, even the better defense. Sure, they struggled to score deep into the first half. But was there ever really any doubt? Total yards: Dolphins 453, Jets 177. That should tell you all you need to know.
The Jets are in search of something to feel good about – anything to feel good about, even a first down, for crying out loud. The Dolphins are in search of bigger goals. They are 6-6 and want to create a blueprint for a meaningful December. Sunday’s win was an impressive way to start.
Indeed, hope remains on the Dolphins side of the field for yet another week. It is genuine hope, a realistic belief that despite everything that has gone on this season, this team and these players have a finishing kick left in them. Wouldn’t it be special if that finishing kick began against the Jets?
There are no guarantees. The Dolphins have four games left and they are now one of several teams with a realistic shot at a 17th game. That’s why Sunday’s game was so crucial. Make a statement. Stay in the hunt. Add significance to next Sunday and the Sunday after that. Try to separate yourself from the Jets.
The Dolphins accomplished all of that and more. You think 6-6 is just one game better than 5-7? Sure seems like a lot more than that with only December to play out.
I said before the game that Ryan Tannehill held the key to this win and that’s how it played out. Tannehill was the best quarterback on the field Sunday and he stepped up with a highly efficient performance. The Jets have all sorts of problems, especially on offense. But that’s for them to worry about, for them to try and solve.
Our focus is on the Dolphins and, now deep into his second season, Tannehill showed Sunday he can help carry this team. Over the next four games we’ll get to find out how far he can carry them.
We know that running game is limited, though we saw some better things against the Jets. We know what the offensive line has been through. That’s been well documented. But the strength of this offense going down the stretch – and the key to this team’s fortunes – has to be Tannehill and his receivers, just as they proved Sunday against the Jets.
There was Tannehill hitting Brian Hartline for a nice 31-yard catch and run for the first touchdown. There was Tannehill hitting Mike Wallace on a 28-yard catch and run for the second score. There was Tannehill hitting Charles Clay for one key first down after another. Those three receivers combined to catch 23 passes. That’s the type of multi-faceted passing game that must continue.
Tannehill threw the ball 43 times. He missed on only 15 and those 28 completions produced 331 yards. Tannehill against Geno Smith? That’s what you call a mismatch.
Afterward, Tannehill spent more time talking about a fourth down pass he missed than all the receivers he found. “I have to make that fourth down throw to Charles Clay,” he said.
It’s good to see Tannehill with that kind of mindset, a clear sign of maturity.
But even though Tannehill’s performance was the biggest difference Sunday; it wasn’t the only difference. The defense thoroughly manhandled the Jets, led by Olivier Vernon with 2 ½ sacks – giving him 10 for the season — interceptions by Dannell Ellerbe and Brent Grimes and a fumble recovery by Philip Wheeler.
Indeed, it was a feel-good Sunday for the Dolphins. They made all the important plays, got a game up on one of their most heated rivals and had a long list of players who contributed in a big way.
They also didn’t have to worry about a heart-pounding ending. And for this team this season that, in itself, is something to savor.
On Tuesday, AC in the AM takes a look back at the Jets and a look ahead to the Steelers.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.