For all the talk about Ryan Tannehill taking control of the Miami’s offense at the line of scrimmage, the Dolphins had their most success of the season Sunday, at least in part, because they huddled.
“I think huddling for us has helped us a little bit,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said on Thursday. “We’ve taken a little bit more of a step back and doing less at the line of scrimmage. I think we’re used to doing it; guys are more comfortable.”
The stats suggest he’s right. In their win over the Steelers, the Dolphins had a season-high 474 yards. They didn’t allow a sack for the second time in 2016. They scored 30 points and controlled the ball for 36 1/2 minutes.
Their offense was so overwhelming, it left Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons literally sick to his stomach. Timmons puked on the Hard Rock Stadium turf after a Dolphins touchdown just before halftime.
“Family television at its best,” quipped offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen.
That was always the plan, particularly when it’s hot and humid down our way.
Yet the Dolphins wore down the Steelers with power, not speed. On average, Miami snapped the ball every 32 seconds on Sunday. By way of comparison, the Dolphins averaged 23 seconds between plays in their loss to the Patriots (albeit, a game they trailed throughout).
Granted, some of that is from running the ball as often (and well) as they did against the Steelers. The clock only stopped eight times for Dolphins incompletions Sunday.
But huddling slowed things down, too.
Christensen explained: “We have tried to clean the thing up, where there’s less communication at the line of scrimmage and guys know what they’re going to do. I think guys have benefited from that, too. The huddle, that takes a little bit of stress off him not having to communicate to everybody, everything. We’re going to keep working between them and mix in the tempo stuff. He’s done a good job with it.”
Tannehill still has freedom to get out of bad plays and did so a number of times against the Steelers, both Gase and Christensen said.
“He did a good this week of getting us in the right play,” Gase added.
And yet, the Dolphins might have discovered that their best chance to win comes when they don’t ask Tannehill to impersonate Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage.
Tannehill had his best game of the season Sunday, completing 75 percent of his passes for 252 yards. He didn’t turn the ball over, and he was not sacked. Tannehill’s passer rating was 97.4.
“You want to be efficient,” Tannehill said. “I think that’s the biggest key is being efficient, completing the ball when you do have opportunities to throw. A big emphasis for us has been on third down, staying on the field and getting those first-down conversions. We did that, took a step in the right direction last week.”
Christensen agrees. The Dolphins are “moving toward” establishing an offensive identity, he said.
Other issues he covered during his weekly meeting with reporters:
▪ DeVante Parker: The Dolphins’ second-year wide receiver took a while to realize what it meant to be a professional. That no longer seems to be a problem, and his play reflects that; Parker has been a force in practice the past month.
“I really think he’s coming on,” Christensen said. “He’s just getting better and better and better. He looks like a pro. He’s a guy who can tip these games. I think he’s going to have some big moments down the road through this thing.”
▪ The offensive line: The Dolphins had their five starters together for the first time. The impact was huge; Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards on 25 carries.
“Continuity is huge,” Christensen said, before making a joke about Laremy Tunsil’s unfortunate bathroom spill that kept him out of the Titans game. “Getting those guys together and the shower mats in the team hotel helped.”
▪ Branden Albert: The left tackle is fully healthy after missing Week 5 because of illness. “I think once it was good, it was gone. I haven’t seen any residual effects of that.”