The Dolphins have one more game to play before another lengthy offseason as quarterback Ryan Tannehill gears up for the final contest of his rookie season.
Tannehill, whose successor at Texas A&M recently won the Heisman Trophy, has had an up-and-down season.
Things have straightened out this past month as Tannehill has helped lead the Miami offense both with his arm and his legs — and he hasn’t made many mistakes.
“Certainly, he’s making good decisions as of late,” coach Joe Philbin said on Monday. “He’s not forcing the ball into where they have more guys than we have.”
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In Sunday’s 24-10 victory over the visiting Bills, Tannehill completed 13 of 25 for 130 yards and two touchdowns to Reggie Bush.
Tannehill also ripped off a 31-yard run that led to Bush’s only touchdown run of the afternoon.
“I think Ryan is doing a great job,” Bush said after Sunday’s win. “It looks like he is improving and maturing. I feel like our offense is really getting into a rhythm. I think we hit a low point midway through the season where we were kind of struggling to run the ball, and I think that really hurt us.”
The biggest positive turn for Tannehill is that he didn’t throw an interception for the fourth consecutive game.
In fact, Tannehill hasn’t been picked off since the opening quarter of Miami’s 24-21 win over Seattle on Nov. 25.
Tannehill has now thrown 136 consecutive passes without an interception.
“I think he’s had some pretty good protection,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “We’ve been able to protect him so he hasn’t been under duress too much. But he’s made some good decisions.
“The more he plays, the more he’s aware that the decisions a quarterback make certainly, in many cases, determine the outcome of a game. He’s growing as a quarterback.’’
Said Tannehill: “I think it’s just trying to make better decisions, not forcing the ball in situations where I shouldn’t be forcing it. I’ve gotten more comfortable as the season’s gone on, and the coaches are doing a great job with preparing me.”
Sherman knows a little something about Tannehill. He was his coach at Texas A&M and was a factor in the Dolphins taking him with their first draft pick this year.
On Monday, Sherman said that he had held back on running Tannehill too much earlier in the season as he thought the extra pounding wouldn’t be good on his body or his psyche.
“Ryan had an awful lot on his plate early in the season,” Sherman said. “Getting hit in the backfield as a quarterback is significant enough. I didn’t want him to endure too many of those as he progressed through the season.
“He ran against New England for a touchdown; we’ve done it a few times. It takes its toll.”
With improved play from the offensive line, Tannehill hasn’t been pressured as much as he had earlier in the year. That has played a factor in Sherman giving Tannehill the green light to take off on run options.
In Miami’s win over Jacksonville the previous week, Tannehill ran the ball five times for 54 yards — including a 30-yard gain. Tannehill told teammates that having his knee brace removed after he bent it during a slide he felt much quicker.
“He’s feeling good, and it shows,” receiver Brian Hartline said after the win over the Jaguars.
Tannehill’s legs almost got him in trouble Sunday. At the end of his big run down to the 2, Tannehill appeared to fumble the ball out of the end zone.
Officials ruled he had already gone out of bounds, but had that not been the case, the Bills would have taken possession at the 20.
“Thankfully, it wasn’t a touchback, but it actually was a great run by him getting that far down the field and making a play,” Bush said. “Obviously, you want to be careful toward the end sticking that ball out there. I’ve been told that plenty of times, so I just try to remember that.”
Said Tannehill: “I wish I was a little bit faster. It may have been a touchdown.