Miami Dolphins Offensive Line Keyed Ryan Tannehill's 4th-Quarter Heroics in Win
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill marched Miami down the field on three consecutive scoring drives to end the game, marking Tannehill's first fourth-quarter comeback in the process.
He was far from the only one responsible, though, and head coach Joe Philbin made sure to remind everyone of that on Monday.
I think, again, sometimes we attribute everything positive to one player and obviously he performed well on [on the game-winning drive]. There’s no question about it. Again, I think the unit performed well. There was good execution. Guys were where they were supposed to be route running. Guys protected relatively well in that drive.
From Tannehill to the receivers to the running game to the offensive line—and yes, the defense, which has been whisked away in the hoopla of the late-game surge from the offense—everyone stepped up.
The Dolphins have struggled in late-game situations this year, and Tannehill had fallen to 0-4 in fourth-quarter comeback situations (with losses to the Jets, Cardinals, Colts and Bills) before picking up his first win in such a situation on Sunday. They overcame those struggles with a healthy dose of practice.
"It was almost like being in practice," running back Reggie Bush said. "We practice so many situations against our defense, so today I don't think anybody was nervous, anybody was pressing. It just felt really relaxed and calm out there."
Tannehill's poise was evident; he held onto the ball, waiting for receivers to get open. The pressure got there at times—as is to be expected when the quarterback holds the ball for upwards of 3.5 seconds—but even when it did, Tannehill moved well in the pocket and found his open receivers.
Tannehill's 39-yard throw to wide receiver Davone Bess wouldn't have been possible were it not for Tannehill finding the open lane up front and subsequently finding a wide-open Bess with no defenders within a 10-yard radius.
Make no mistake, Tannehill hung in the pocket to deliver several throws, but he got some help from the guys up front. The Dolphins needed nothing less than a stout performance from their offensive line if they wanted to pick up the win over the Seattle Seahawks.
"Stout" would be an understatement. Tannehill was sacked just once all day, but his protection was especially sound in the fourth quarter, where he had an average of 3.21 seconds in the pocket to throw (not including a spike to stop the clock).
The Dolphins offensive line gave him in excess of 3.5 seconds four times on his eight "real" throws in the final 15 minutes of regulation, and that protection was a huge factor in Tannehill's ability to find open receivers.
Just look at the protection here. Tannehill had 3.6 seconds to survey the defense on his 29-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Charles Clay that tied the game at 21 apiece.
The hand of Seahawks defensive tackle Red Bryant nearly grazes Tannehill's jersey; nothing a subtle shift up in the pocket can't fix.
Pass protection was far from the only strong point of the Dolphins offensive line on Sunday. The Dolphins averaged 6.8 yards per rush attempt as a team against a Seahawks defense that yielded just 4.3 YPA headed into Sunday's contest. Miami's total of 189 rushing yards was its second-highest total of the season, and was also the second-highest allowed by the Seahawks.
In the eight weeks since Miami's last 100-yard rushing game, the Dolphins have averaged just 3.2 YPA.
The Seahawks have held opponents under 100 yards rushing in eight of 11 games. This was not one of those games.
Reggie Bush has been up and down this season, but he had a huge game, and has his offensive line to thank (at least in part). On his 22-yard touchdown run, he got a great lead block from center Mike Pouncey, who may be one of the only centers in the NFL who is capable of effectively pulling as a lead blocker following the snap.
Bush followed his block from Pouncey, along with a nice downfield block from Jake Long, and hit paydirt after he wrestled through what could only be described as a feeble attempt at a tackle by Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor.
The Dolphins found balance, and Tannehill benefited.
"It's huge. We want to be a balanced team," Tannehill said. "We don't want to go out and throw it 50 times a game or run it the majority of the time either. So when you're able to gain yards on the ground in crucial situations, it helps the offense just go."
Easier said than done, especially when the offensive line has played as poorly as it has over the past few weeks, but the Dolphins know it's essential to their sustained success.
"Everything that we do is predicated on the success of being able to run the football," Sherman said after the game. "You really want to be able to avoid as best you can the third-and-12, the third-and-10s, the second-and-12s and so forth. We were able to do that a number of times yesterday, even with 2 or 3-yard runs better than the some of the ones that we had maybe in weeks past. So it definitely got things going for us and it allowed us to do some things throwing the football."
It all started with a big performance up front, and if things go well for the Dolphins, it could end the same way.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained via team press releases.
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