For all the plaudits thrown Ryan Tannehill’s way the first half of the season, Sunday’s 37-3 loss to the Titans was the ultimate reality check.
Tannehill looked very much like a rookie, throwing three interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and failing to get his team into the end zone.
“I think they did a good job, obviously, defensively against us,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said after reviewing the game tape. “I think they played well. They played fast. They played decisively.”
And for the most part, they played it safe. The Titans blitzed on just 10 of the Dolphins’ 40 pass plays, a sign that they were content to sit back and wait for a mistake.
The strategy worked. All three of Tannehill’s interceptions came when he faced no pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. And the Dolphins attempted just three passes of 20 yards or more, none of which were completed. That’s a turnaround from earlier in the season, when Tannehill was one of the league’s most efficient deep passers.
“We have vertical guys running down the field, but if the coverage dictates that you go to someone else, you go to someone else,” Philbin said. “Once or twice, there was protection issues where we would have liked to get the ball down the field, but didn’t have time.”
Philbin was far more critical of the team’s short-yardage offense, which converted just one of four third-and-1s against the Titans.
The Dolphins gave up running in that situation after their first try, as Jorvorskie Lane couldn’t get past the line of scrimmage. But throwing was an even worse option. Tannehill had two of his three interceptions on third-and-shorts.
“I told [the players], I feel better on third-and-7-to-10 than I do on third-and-1 right now,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “We’ve got to get that cleaned up.”
When asked to explain the struggles, Philbin listed defensive penetration and poor reads by the running backs.
Odds and ends
• Philbin, on Tannehill’s diving, touchdown-saving tackle on his third interception: “I was delighted. He is a football player. If you heard me on the phone [to the coaches’ booth], I said, ‘Damn good tackle.’ You’re playing football. You’d better stop a guy from scoring a touchdown. I thought it was an excellent play actually.”
• Running back Jonas Gray, who practiced the past three weeks after being on physically unable to perform list all season, will remain on non-football injured reserve for the duration of the season.
• Bills running back Fred Jackson sustained a concussion Sunday and won’t play against the Dolphins. C.J. Spiller will start in his place.