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Was there a skip in your step on Monday? Were you still on a post-New England high? Will it take a while to come down from one of the most satisfying Dolphins victories in a long, long time?
Very understandable if the answer is “yes” to all three questions. After all, this hasn’t happened very often over the past decade or so and to do it with a fourth quarter comeback and with Ryan Tannehill holding a clear edge over Tom Brady, well, those are the types of memories you want to keep around for a while.
So before moving on Buffalo, before talking about what has to happen over the next two Sundays to assure an extra game, let’s hold on to this victory a little while longer. Let’s look back at a game – Validation Day — that vaulted the Dolphins into one of the real feel-good stories of this season.
• Yes, he underthrew Mike Wallace on another long pass. But that was it for the negatives on Ryan Tannehill’s performance. He has not had a better overall game in his two years here. His quarterback rating was an eye-popping 120.6 compared to 85.7 for Tom Brady. He looked so comfortable, so right. Is this Tannehill’s launching point? Is this when he ends all doubts? The final two games should continue to answer those questions, but how can you not be encouraged?
• I said it before the New England game and I’ll say it again. Joe Philbin deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year. Tell me one coach in the league – name one – who has endured more than Philbin this season and still owns a winning record.
• As each game goes by, Mike Wallace continues to grow in this offense. He was targeted nine times against the Patriots and caught six passes for 105 yards. He also ran a reverse for 13 yards. You can see a real comfort zone developing between Wallace and Tannehill and you can see the Dolphins coming up with new, innovative ways of taking advantage of Wallace’s unique skill set.
• Michael Thomas is picked up from the 49ers practice squad on Tuesday and has the game-clinching interception off future Hall of Famer Tom Brady on Sunday, this after taking zero reps at defensive back during the week. Can you possibly come up with a better script than that?
• Or how about Jimmy Wilson playing cornerback in the fourth quarter after working exclusively at safety for the past year. Even defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, thinking about what unfolded in those wild last few minutes, said “it was all a little bit surreal.”
• New England’s longest run from scrimmage was 11 yards. Tom Brady’s longest pass completion was 30 yards. You keep the big play out of the Patriots offense and you’re going to have a chance. The Dolphins did just that.
• I’m not one to boggle my mind with tiebreaker scenarios. Just know this: If the Dolphins win their last two games to finish 10-6, they are in the playoffs. At this point, does all that other stuff really matter?
• You shouldn’t be surprised that the coaching staff called Marcus Thigpen’s number on the game-winning touchdown pass. Thigpen, very quietly, has become one of the most trusted players on this team.
• Tannehill completes passes to 10 different receivers. What does this show? To me, it shows that he is no longer locked into his primary receiver, that he has improved significantly at surveying the field. An important step forward.
• Really like the way Philbin uses his timeouts at the end of the first half when the opponent has the ball. He’s always thinking about buying an extra possession for his offense and several times this year, including Sunday, the strategy helped produce an important score.
• Cameron Wake had five quarterback hits and a sack against the Patriots. Wake continues to make a strong late season Pro Bowl push.
• How good was wide receiver Rishard Matthews on Sunday? Awfully good. Brandon Gibson goes down as the slot receiver earlier this season and Matthews steps in without the Dolphins missing a beat. That’s how you challenge for the playoffs.
• The Dolphins red zone offense continues to produce excellent results, another indication of Tannehill’s emergence. “I see a consistent, composed and confident quarterback out there,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said of Tannehill. We see it as well, Mike.
• Remember how down you were when the Dolphins lost to winless Tampa Bay back in mid-November to go to 4-5? Well, they are 4-1 since then.
• And now on to Buffalo. It’ll be cold. It’ll be loud. It’ll be intense. The Dolphins, plain and simple, have to show up with the same mindset they had against New England. I’m not sure anything less will suffice.
On Wednesday, AC in the AM takes a look at Charles Clay’s breakout season.
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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