Surely, Marcus Thigpen’s 72-yard punt return for Miami’s only touchdown would count as a positive.
I’d also mention that the Dolphins’ run defense looked very strong, limiting Houston’s premier back, Arian Foster, to 79 yards on 26 carries, a scant 3-yard average.
“Their front is very stout,” Texans quarterback Matt Schaub said.
But negatives also glared Sunday, and three were ugliest:
• One was the pass defense, which Andre Johnson alone beat for eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.
• Another was that Miami doesn’t have an Andre Johnson of its own or anybody close — no premier wide receiver to make Tannehill’s job so, so much easier.
Those two things don’t have quick fixes in sight.
But the third negative does. Turnovers. Those are fixable to a degree, especially when Tannehill’s first interception was borne of his inexperience and the other two were on balls batted at the line.
Tipped balls are partly the offensive line’s fault and partly the passer’s.
“We’ve got to do a better job knocking [defenders’] hands down,” Philbin said. “And Ryan maybe has to move and slide a little bit and adjust his throwing angle.”
Said Bush: “That’s something that’s easily fixable. I thought Ryan did a great job for the most part throwing the ball and finding open receivers.”
Hartline called Tannehill’s poise and demeanor “phenomenal.”
“Never got rattled,” said tackle Jake Long of the rookie quarterback. “He had confidence.”
Tannehill’s development into something special (if that is his destiny), let us not forget, is the priority of this 2012 Dolphins season. With that in mind Sunday was encouraging — and I don’t care that the statistics sheet says otherwise.
“The game didn’t appear too big for him,” as Philbin put it.
Tannehill himself dressed nattily in an ash-gray suit after the game and sounded like you’d want him to before boarding the team bus to the airport.
Disappointed, in other words. But seeing the good, too.
“Any time you turn the ball over you can’t be happy with yourself, no matter how they happen,” he said, but added, correctly, “We hurt ourselves more than they stopped us. It gave us a look at what we could be if we play to our full potential.”
In Tannehill, Sunday offered the first real peek at the one player whose potential provides the intrigue to this season, and who will most define and steer this franchise the rest of this decade and perhaps beyond. That potential is big and looming, and not a bit less so because a couple of tipped passes Sunday happened to land in the wrong hands.