- By Joe Schad Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Ryan Tannehill completed 20 of 28 passes, threw two touchdowns and led the Miami Dolphins to victory for the eighth time in his last nine starts.
And it wasn’t enough.
Tannehill led the Dolphins to a 27-20 defeat of the Titans on Sunday afternoon (and evening), in a game that took more than seven hours to complete because of two lengthy lightning delays.
And it wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t enough to satisfy Tannehill. It wasn’t enough to totally satisfy coach Adam Gase.
And that is awesome. Because more than anything, this illustrates how much higher the expectations are of Tannehill for himself and from his coach.
“I felt like I left a lot out there,” Tannehill said after it was finally over. “There were a lot of plays that I want to have back. Had a lot of time in between the breaks to think about what happened. Plays you want to have back, where usually you don’t think about those until after the game.”
Tannehill didn’t throw the best ball to rookie tight end Mike Gesicki and it was intercepted by former Patriot Malcolm Butler in the end zone.
“It was on me,” Tannehill said. “Completely on me. We had a 1-on-1 matchup there. And I have to find a way to get him a better football.”
Tannehill tossed another interception, too. But he ended the night with a passer rating of 89.9, better than his career average though not quite as good as his career-best 93.5 two years ago.
When Gase is coaching, and Tannehill is playing quarterback, Miami wins. Perhaps we all underestimated just how different this team can be with Tannehill under center and not, say, for example, Jay Cutler.
“I think it’s been a steady climb for him since we got here and where he is now, where he has more control of the offense,” Gase said.
Then Gase explained that yes, he expects even more.
“There’s still some things he’ll want to clean up,” Gase said. “I know he’ll be mad at a few decisions he made where he might have had some better plays, and that happens.”
The world seems to expect Tannehill to flop. Tannehill finished 12th in the NFL in passer rating in 2016, but was ranked 19th by USA Today in a preseason quarterback ranking, and is considered even worse by ESPN.
But Tannehill and Gase seem to expect Tannehill to shine.
Too often folks who don’t watch Tannehill on a daily basis contribute to the false echo chamber which claims he can’t throw the deep ball.
Hello? Did you see Tannehill load up and uncork a 75-yard touchdown bomb to Kenny Stills on Sunday?
“Well, that’s trust,” Gase said. “Those two guys trust each other.”
Tannehill said it was a great play call. Yes, Gase is a better playcaller with Tannehill under center.
“Just had a post route on, the corner was sitting outside, and I just used my speed, the line protected and Ryan threw a great ball down the field," said Stills, who caught two touchdowns in Miami’s season opener.
If this is the rusty Tannehill, where will he go from here?
If this is the not-sharp Tannehill, how sharp can he get?
Tannehill has weapons — really, really fast weapons — and he plans to use them. Stills, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenyan Drake can all really, really fly.
It had been 637 days since Tannehill played in a game that counts. So long he can’t really remember who all his receivers were then. We can think of one.
“It’s tough to think back that far,” Tannehill said. “But we do have a lot of speed. And I think that’s an asset the offense has to create problems for defenses throughout the year. We have three or four guys that are burners. You saw Kenny stretch the field. Who knows how fast Jakeem was running on the kickoff (return for a touchdown). I could barely see the guy.”
So, yes, the Dolphins and Tannehill are 1-0 on the season. And 1-0 without Jarvis Landry. And 1-0 without Mike Pouncey. And 1-0 without Ndamukong Suh.
And no, this does not mean that suddenly we are predicting the Dolphins are headed for a Super Bowl. But yes, we are predicting that this team — including a defense that seems more stable — will be competitive.
Because the Dolphins with Gase and Tannehill have played 14 times, and they are 9-5 together.
“I wasn’t as sharp as I’d like to be,” Tannehill said. “I left some plays out there. Some plays I’d like to have back.”
“I thought he was good,” Gase said of Tannehill. “We had it rolling there for a little bit. We’ll clean up some of the turnovers and maybe some of the mistakes.”
The Dolphins won. And Tannehill played well. And he played in a game that counts for the first time since December 11, 2016.
Tannehill said that, maybe later on Sunday, he’ll reflect for a minute or two about his long journey back. So few expect much of anything from Tannehill and Gase and the Dolphins this season.
It’s clear Tannehill and Gase expect even more than what we saw on Sunday. And that seems quite perfect.