It would be hyperbole to say the praise is rolling in for Ryan Tannehill. He has been very good in Miami’s six-game winning streak with nine touchdown passes and only one interception.
But the reaction nationally and among many Dolfans has been closer to a suspension of condemnation and doubt than to unequivocal approval.
Because he not only isn’t done proving yet; rather, his proving has only just begun.
Tannehill’s 94.7 passer rating is on pace for a career high and is fifth-best in the AFC — which alone might put him in the discussion, at least, for a first Pro Bowl selection.
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It has never been about numbers or stats with Tannehill. The issue always has distilled to this question: Can he lead Miami to the playoffs and end the franchise’s eight-year postseason drought? He is 0 for 4 on that.
This is the season he must, because it is the first time he has entered December — the stretch run — with his team on playoff pace and in control.
His career December record is 9-11. That better change. In 2013, Miami had won three in a row to go 8-6 and had the playoffs in its grasp, but it lost the last two games to the division rival Bills and Jets by a combined 39-7. In 2014, the Dolphins were 7-5, the playoffs in reach again, but they ended 1-3.
That is why Tannehill must prove now that things have changed, that he can be the closer, and it is fitting that his December starts with a huge challenge at Baltimore, because it is the Ravens who eliminated Miami in its past two playoff appearances. Those were on Jan. 13, 2009, and on Jan. 4, 2002, by a combined score of 47-12.
There will be symbolism on Sunday if Miami can take a giant step closer to the playoffs by beating this opponent in particular.
The narrative defining Tannehill will change not with statistics or ratings, but with how his team — his team — performs over the next month.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Patriot Tom Brady became fifth player to surpass 60,000 career passing yards. He needs 1,133 yards in final five games to jump over Dan Marino into fourth all-time.
▪ Titans’ Marcus Mariota has multiple TD passes in eight games in a row. Only longer single-season streak by a QB in his first two seasons: 10, by Marino in 1984.
▪ A hallmark of consistency: Falcons’ Matt Ryan has become first to pass for at least 200 yards in 50 games in a row.
▪ Ravens’ Justin Tucker became ninth kicker with three field goals of 50-plus yards in one game. He has the NFL’s only perfect FG record this year, 27 for 27.
▪ A record-pace 135 games have been within one score in fourth quarter this season, including every one played by the Lions, Giants and Redskins.
▪ Chiefs rookie receiver Tyreek Hill became first player since Gale Sayers in 1965 with TDs via catch, run and kickoff return in same game.
▪ Still with five games left, Lions' Matthew Stafford already has tied season record by leading seven fourth quarter or OT comeback wins this season.
▪ Finally time to admit Ted Ginn might not have been such a bad Dolphins draft pick after all? Now with Panthers, he's only fourth player ever with TDs of at least 85 yards by catch, kick return and punt return in his career.