During Aaron Rodgers’ otherworldly 2011 season – a run that helped Joe Philbin become head coach of the Miami Dolphins – the Packers MVP had a passer rating over 100 in each of the year’s first 12 games.
Rodgers is Philbin’s problem this Sunday, when the Packers visit Sun Life Stadium. And in the battle of quarterbacks, Green Bay has a decided edge.
Just one example: Ryan Tannehill’s rating has eclipsed 100 just five times in 36 career stats.
The silver lining for the Dolphins is one of those five came in Tannehill’s previous outing. Against the Raiders in London, he had his best outing in some nine months, completing 74 percent of his passes for 278 yards and two scores in a Dolphins rout.
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And while it’s absurd to think Tannehill will reel off 11 more performances just like it, nobody – from his coach on down – deems it unreasonable to expect at least two in a row.
Philbin, who was Rodgers’ offensive coordinator from 2007 through 2011, said “it would be great” if Tannehill can begin stringing together strong outings.
“Now we’ve kind of tasted close to a 60-minute game,” Philbin said. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you it was a work of art for 60 minutes in London, but it was a good team win in all three phases of the game. We want to continue building that as a football team and certainly [Tannehill is] a part of that. So that would be great.”
Everyone’s job might depend on it. It’s no secret that every Dolphin – starting with Philbin and Tannehill – must perform this year, or they might not be given another chance to do so.
And through the season’s first three weeks, Tannehill wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain. He wasn’t the only reason the passing game struggled, but he was a big reason. And Philbin’s now-infamous non-endorsement before the Raiders game only ratcheted up the intensity.
But after torching the Raiders in one his finest games as a pro, coming into work has been far more pleasant for Tannehill.
Now, will he remain hot Sunday, with a full two weeks between starts? We’ll soon find out.
“You have to go out and play every week regardless of how things went last week or how things went the play before,” he said. “You have to be able to correct it, take a deep breath, reset yourself and make the next play. … Bad things are going to happen at some point during the game, during the week. You have to be able to reset yourself and make the plays.”
Never truer than this week. The Packers have totaled 80 points in their past two outings. Oddsmakers think the two teams will combine for seven touchdowns Sunday, meaning if the Dolphins are going to win, they’ll probably need to win in a shootout.
(That’s doubly true considering the Dolphins’ dicey situation in their secondary. Starting corner Cortland Finnegan is dealing with a neck injury, and his availability for Sunday is uncertain.)
At the very least, the Dolphins probably need to score 25 to 30 points Sunday to have a reasonable chance of upsetting the Packers.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take,” Tannehill said. “We never know until the game starts. We have a lot of respect for their offense and their playmaking ability. As an offense, it’s our job to score more points than the other team no matter how many points that is.”
He continued: “If defense plays great and we have a shutout, then we’ve got to get three. If the defense has a bad day and it takes 40, then that’s our job no matter what the other side is doing.”
The bad news: The Dolphins haven’t scored 40 in a game since 2003, and have cracked 30 just five times since Philbin took over in 2012.
The good: Of those five scoring spikes, two have come in the first four weeks of the season. Miami dropped 38 on Oakland, and would have had more if not for three turnovers.
That gives Tannehill reason to believe the Dolphins can win in a shootout – even against the superbly efficient Rodgers.
“I think we have the playmakers across the board to do it,” Tannehill said. “I think we started the momentum going the right way a couple weeks ago in London. Just establishing the run game – it’s been consistent for us over the past few weeks. Keeping that going and getting the passing game going. I think we have to build on that.”