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It was a tough way to head into the bye, a tough way to lose. You come back from 10 down in the fourth quarter, you convert an improbable fourth-and-10 with perhaps the best pass of Ryan Tannehill’s young career and you watch as a 57-yard field goal to tie the game sails wide left.
Pulsating and painful. That about sums up Sunday’s 26-23 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The good news is that the Dolphins are 3-2 today; the bad news is that the Dolphins are 3-2 today.
It’s good because who wouldn’t have taken this record, given the brutal five-game season-opening stretch, when September began. It’s bad news because the Dolphins were sitting at 3-0 and had a real chance against the Ravens to make it 4-1.
Now, they have plenty to think about over the next two weeks. How to stop that deluge of sacks, now having ballooned to 24 after six against the Ravens and prompting Coach Joe Philbin to suggest: “It’s hard to function as a team when you are going backward.”
How to get healthy on defense with so many important front-line players nursing injuries. How to find balance on offense after the running game struggled once again against the Ravens. How to build on the strengths of this team, which are clearly its passing offense and its rushing defense.
But of all of the concerns, all of the questions surrounding this team, all the issues that must addressed during the bye week, all of them rank a distant second to protecting Tannehill. This much is clear after five games. You don’t keep your most valuable commodity upright and you don’t win the game. You give him time and you always have a chance.
It isn’t one player or one position. If it were, then the solution would be easy. But these are equal opportunity breakdowns; everyone has had a hand in it. From Tannehill holding the ball too long, to the linemen struggling to win their one-on-one battles, to the running backs and tight ends not doing their part, this has festered into a widespread problem.
How did it have a direct result in Sunday’s outcome? Tannehill was sacked two times on a fourth-quarter possession forcing the Dolphins to punt from their own 16-yard line. The Ravens got good field position because of it, which ultimately led to their game-winning field goal. Who knows how it might have played out without those sacks.
This was an important game for the second-year quarterback, after struggling last Monday night against the Saints, and he responded admirably. This week there were no interceptions, no fumbles. Instead, there was Tannehill making one clutch throw after another, putting together the type of numbers that you want and expect. And then came the biggest throw of all, a rolling left, across the body throw that turned a fourth-and-10 with under a minute left into a huge 46-yard gain to Brandon Gibson.
I really don’t think I’ve seen Tannehill throw a better pass. The level of difficulty was off the charts. But a spike, another sack and an incompletion couldn’t get Caleb Sturgis close enough to send the game to overtime.
And so the disappointment of what could have been was replaced by the reality of a 3-2 record. Disappointing? Yes, when you think about 3-0. No, when you look at the big picture. How many teams would trade places with the Dolphins in a heartbeat? How many would gladly take what this team has accomplished against the caliber of opponents it has faced?
You can build on 3-2 because you have experienced some success and you understand how you got there, the price you had to pay and the obstacles you had to clear. You also understand what you need to do from here on out.
In the Dolphins’ case, it’s really very simple. Protect Tannehill. Give him the time he needs. Use the bye week to find some solutions. Maybe move him around more, roll him out, let him use his mobility. Put bluntly, two dozen sacks in five games is a trend that simply can’t continue.
The success of this entire football team is depending on it.
Andy Cohen In The Morning will resume on Monday, Oct. 14.
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.
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