‘He looks what he once looked like,” Gase says of Tannehill practicing
But red, hot, volcanic anger.
Anyone in earshot of a usually mild-mannered Frank Gore knew how he felt after the Dolphins’ latest collapse, a 27-24 loss to the Colts Sunday that could have enormous playoff implications.
“We didn’t finish,” Gore said. “S---. We’ve got to finish. That’s the key. Especially when they got a f------ guy over there that can get hot, who I respect, plays the game how it’s supposed to be played, the quarterback. Finishing, man.
That “f------ guy” is Andrew Luck, Gore’s former teammate.
And he gutted the Dolphins defense with an MVP-caliber fourth quarter.
Down 10 points with 13:36 to play, Luck dissected the Dolphins, completing 11 of his final 12 pass attempts for 143 yards, including a touchdown to Eric Ebron.
But it was Luck’s David Blake-like escape that led to a 34-yard completion to Chester Rodgers and sealed the deal, making Adam Vinatieri’s 32-yard game-winner at the gun a fait accompli.
If you watched the game, you knew Luck was going to find a way to win if given the chance.
And Adam Gase, through his conservative approach, helped give him that chance.
Yes, the defense was bad.
But so was Gase’s game management.
The most egregious decision? Hard to say.
It might have been when the Dolphins had the ball at their own 25, up a touchdown, with 8 minutes, 26 left in regulation.
Their next three plays? Incompletion, incompletion, Kenyan Drake draw, which lost five yards. A whopping 43 seconds came off the clock before they punted back to Luck.
Or was it with the game tied and the Dolphins starting inside the 10, Gase called run, pass, run, netting 4.
He seemed to not trust Ryan Tannehill, who was playing in his first game in a month and a half, to throw the ball downfield on third-and-long.
Gase played not to lose. But lost nonetheless.
For the record, Tannehill’s injured shoulder felt “really good,” and he showed arm strength with a deep heave downfield in the first half.
So he wanted to take a shot on third-and-10 with the lead and third-and-10 with the game tied. But Gase called a run each time.
“Of course I understand, [but] I’m a competitor and I want the ball in my hands,” Tannehill said. “I want to make that play.”
Did he consider trying to change Gase’s mind?
“It’s tough to do that when you’re standing in the middle of the field and he’s on the sideline,” Tannehill said. “My job is to execute the calls that come in and do the best I can. I understand the call. I think it had the chance to work.”
It didn’t. The Colts got the ball back at their 42 with 2:38 left.
“Honestly, I thought our defense was going to come up with a stop,” Tannehill said. .”... We had them at third-and-9, I was thinking, we’ll get a stop, get the ball back and we’re going to go win the game.
That’s when Luck made the play of the game.
The Dolphins brought a four-man rush, and Andre Branch might have gotten to him had Anthony Castonzo not ripped at his jersey, getting away with a pretty blatant hold.
But Akeem Spence should have dropped Luck. He had a clear shot at him. And whiffed. Luck pump-faked and then slipped under Spence’s grasp.
By that point, Colts recevier Chester Rogers found an opening along the left sideline. Luck threw the perfect pass, and third-and-9 from the Colts’ 43 turned into first-and-10 from the Dolphins’ 23. All that was left: a chip shot for Vinatieri.
“Can’t get it back,” Spence said. “Luck made a great move stepping up in the pocket. He’s a big guy, hard to bring down with one hand. That’s a play I’ve got to make.”
Said Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard: “We’ve got to get there. We’ve got to get to Luck. He ended up finding a spot that was open and threw a good pass. Players got to attack. The calls that we have, they have to take advantage of it.”
Howard had every right to hold his teammates accountable. He more than did his job, picking off Luck on back-to-back plays late in the first half to keep the game tied heading into halftime.
It was part of an insane 109 seconds, in which the Dolphins and Colts both scored touchdowns and Mike Gesicki lost a fumble.
Those interceptions were the only mark against Luck, who completed 30 of 37 for 343 and three touchdowns Sunday.
Tannehill, meanwhile, was 17 of 25 for 204 yards and two scores. The Dolphins had 113 yards on the ground and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. They won the turnover battle 3-1.
And none of it was enough to beat the Colts, who improved to 6-5 and remained tied with the Ravens for the second Wild Card spot.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, fell to the ninth seed at 5-6 and will need a ton to go right for them to get into the playoffs.
“We’ve just got to win out,” Howard said. “Do that and everything will take care of itself.”