The New England Patriots are inching toward a first-round bye, but although there are multiple scenarios that could see them get that much-needed week of rest, none of them includes losing to the Miami Dolphins.
The defense "held" Miami to 16 points, but the Dolphins left a lot of points on the field, thanks to some misfires from Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. They'll have to play much better as a whole if they want to win, and that's gotten tougher since the last time the Patriots played the Dolphins.
Not only has Miami's coaching staff finally begun utilizing Tannehill's mobility with bootlegs while mixing in some read-option runs, but also he has been more careful with the football recently. In fact, he hasn't been intercepted in four consecutive games and 136 consecutive passes headed into Sunday's game against the Patriots.
The Patriots have thrived off turnovers, but they were able to find a way to win with just one turnover.
Oddly enough, when Tannehill misses throws, it's usually when he's in the pocket.
Take, for example, the deep ball he misfired to wide receiver Brian Hartline the last time these two teams met. Hartline had broken free through the secondary and was wide open for a would-be touchdown.
Obviously, the Patriots don't want to let receivers run free through the secondary, but this could be a valuable teaching tool: Tannehill is not awful from the pocket, but he's surprisingly less accurate from the pocket than he is when on the run.
If the Patriots can keep him in the pocket, they could be a lot better off.
That being said, it may be easier said than done.
Recently, the Dolphins have made it a point to get Tannehill outside the pocket, taking advantage of his ability to throw while on the run.
The element of misdirection helps open up windows in the passing game, and the Dolphins used that to their advantage inside the red zone against the Jaguars. Reggie Bush (blue line) motioned across the formation and toward the quarterback, faking the run to the left side of the line.
That sent the defense moving toward Bush, while Tanehill rolled out to his right, against the grain and into the opening.
The defense bit so hard, even 277-pound fullback Jorvorskie Lane was able to get wide open. This pass was all too easy for Tannehill.
Those are the kinds of plays the Patriots must prepare to stop if they want to put the brakes on Tannehill.
That being said, two of Tannehill's best performances of late have come against defenses that run very vanilla schemes—the Jaguars and Bills.
The Patriots started out the season with a very vanilla scheme of their own, but they have evolved over the course of the season. They got burned by the Jaguars, so they are still quite vulnerable through the air, but the improvements they've made over the season are hard to ignore.
They'll have to mix up coverages and contain Tannehill to avoid letting him get in rhythm and avoid letting him do what he does best: throwing on the run.
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.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!