Bills vs. Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill's Season of Growing Pains Producing Results

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IDecember 23, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 23: Ryan Tannehill #17 congratulates Reggie Bush #22 of the Miami Dolphins after he scored his first touchdown of the game against the Buffalo Bills on December 23, 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

It's been a season of growing pains for the Miami Dolphins, but their 24-10 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday proved that growth is indeed taking place.

The Dolphins have created some puzzlement this season with their playcalling on offense, but over the past two weeks, they have made improvements in leaps, not strides.

That praise is based mainly on their use of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has rushed 14 times for 96 yards over the past two games. His passing stat line was otherworldly last week. Although it was much more tame this week, he is back to protecting the football like he did in Miami's midseason hot streak, and is now up to four consecutive games and 136 consecutive throws without an interception.

This is the first time all season in which Tannehill's season total for touchdowns has matched his season total for interceptions, with both marks now at 12 apiece on the season.

He was far from the only one showing signs of a long-term future in Miami.

It may depend on what kind of contract he's asking for, but if the Dolphins plan to continue using running back Reggie Bush in a utility role, as he was utilized in Sunday's 24-10 win over the Buffalo Bills, they should strongly consider bringing him back. That being said, running back Lamar Miller looked more ready to step into that role than he has all season after piling up 73 yards on just 10 carries.

When the Dolphins have been playing their best, so has Bush; coincidence or not, the numbers are hard to ignore.

Of course, they got a bit of an assist from the sixth-ranked defense—even more help than usual, in fact. The defense forced three turnovers against the Bills, all on fumbles, after generating just one turnover in the past seven games.

It was a team win, and one the Dolphins should be proud of, but not all the players are thrilled about their late-season situation.

Kevin Burnett: "There are guys in this locker room that are tired of playing for pride. It’s getting old for me."

— Ben Volin (@BenVolinPBP) December 23, 2012

With Sunday's win, though, the Dolphins proved they're building toward something. Who would have thought the Dolphins would be in the hunt for a playoff spot in Week 16? Granted, they were eliminated just minutes after the final whistle had sounded on their game.

If the Dolphins continue trending upward, they won't be playing for pride forever.


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 firsthand or via team press releases.