When your season is on life support, the Jaguars are the miracle cure.
The Dolphins put together perhaps their most dominant four quarters of the season Sunday, blasting dreadful Jacksonville 24-3 for just their second win since Halloween.
The offense churned out 389 yards. The defense made three fourth-down stops in the red zone and ruined Chad Henne’s return to Sun Life Stadium. And, remarkably, the Dolphins (6-8) managed to keep alive their ever-so-slight playoff hopes when a loss would have finished them off for good.
“We want to win out and see what happens,” defensive end Jared Odrick said. “That’s what we can do, that’s what we’re going to do, and that’s our No. 1 goal.”
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Fair enough. But Goal 1A in Dolphins headquarters, for sure, is to see improvement from their rookie quarterback. Their future depends on it.
On an afternoon in which the Dolphins honored the 40th anniversary of the Perfect Season, Tannehill responded with arguably the best game of his young career. The mercurial rookie completed 22 of 28 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
Tannehill exceeded career highs in quarterback rating (123.2) and completion percentage (78.6). He scrambled for 52 yards, most effective after ditching his knee brace at halftime. For the third consecutive game, didn’t throw an interception (although he did lose a fumble).
And most importantly, he outplayed Henne, who is getting a second chance to start in Jacksonville after failing in that role for Miami over the past three years. Henne completed less than 53 percent of his passes and couldn’t get the Jaguars (2-12) in the end zone all afternoon.
“At the end of the day, we’re all judged by how we perform,” running back Reggie Bush said. “At the end of the day, we’re judged by wins.
“Everybody is going to be held accountable at the end of the season, so it’s extremely important for [Tannehill] to finish strong.”
Bush did his part. The pending free agent ran for 104 yards on 21 carries, the first time he has eclipsed the century mark since Week 2.
Brian Hartline, meanwhile, went past 1,000 receiving yards for the first time as a pro. He caught five passes for 77 yards Sunday to put him over the mark.
As for the Dolphins’ defense, it held the Jaguars to 299 yards and no touchdowns, despite Jacksonville’s four trips into the red zone.
A game that was close in the first half shifted not with a bang, but a Whimper. Guy Whimper, to be exact.
With the score tied at 3-3, Jacksonville took over at the Miami 20 after Tannehill fumbled. On the first play, Henne went up top to Justin Blackmon, who plucked a touchdown over R.J. Stanford. But Whimper, an offensive lineman, forgot to declare as an eligible receiver, taking the touchdown off the board on a technicality.
The Jaguars not only missed out on a touchdown, they couldn’t even manage a field goal. Facing fourth-and-1 at the 11, Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey went for it, ordering up a quarterback sneak.
But Karlos Dansby met Henne short of the sticks, starting a remarkable run of red-zone futility for the Jaguars. Jacksonville drives petered out at the Miami 11, 15 and 4 — all without points.
“We knew what their fourth-down plays were — fullback dive and quarterback sneak,” said Dansby, who finished with six tackles. “We just came up, stuffed it, and that comes from watching film and trusting the guys around you.”
Dansby’s stop seemed to be the spark the Dolphins’ offense needed. Tannehill then directed a 14-play, 89-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jorvorskie Lane. On the play, all the motion went to the left, including a play-action fake, and Lane slipped open to the right.
After Dan Carpenter’s third field goal of the day, Tannehill put the game away when he connected with Anthony Fasano for a 2-yard touchdown pass (and then again for a two-point conversion).
If it wasn’t Tannehill’s most complete game, it was certainly among his best.
“I’m not really thinking back through the entire season right now, but it feels good to go out and execute the game plan,” Tannehill said. “Have some fun, have some long-sustained drives, convert third downs.”
Tannehill hasn’t had a whole lot of fun lately. His quarterback rating was below 75 in four of the previous five games. Some were beginning to view his comeback win over Seattle as an aberration, and his late-game shortcomings against New England and San Francisco the norm.
The Jaguars, at least for a week, made those fears subside.
“He played well today,” Fasano said. “He’s just gotten better and better.”