No NFL starting quarterback has thrown fewer touchdowns this season than Ryan Tannehill’s two.
Only three have thrown more interceptions than Tannehill’s six (Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick).
Only two (Weeden and Jay Cutler) have a lower quarterback rating than Tannehill’s 66.4.
But none of those numbers give an accurate gauge of what the Dolphins are witnessing with their rookie first-round draft pick.
Sunday’s setback in Arizona left the Dolphins at the intersection of hope and heartbreak – heartbreak over a second consecutive overtime loss, but hope about Tannehill’s uplifting performance.
Tannehill’s negative “statistics,’ coach Joe Philbin said, “are a little bit deceiving.”
The Dolphins’ eyes tell them this:
“He’s making good progress. We like what we see,” Philbin said. “We’re interested in overall development and is he making progress in terms of becoming a consistent production starter in the NFL? I think we’re seeing signs he’s doing that. He’s diligent, prepares well, is obviously smart. He’s not surprised by what he sees when he comes back to the huddle. I thought he played well enough to win.”
Tannehill’s 431 passing yards Sunday were just one short of Cam Newton’s record for an NFL rookie and catapulted him to 14th in the NFL in passing yards.
Asked if Tannehill deserves any blame for his two costly turnovers late in the game, Philbin said, “It’s more of the blitzers” – meaning the Dolphins’ pass protection was deficient on those plays.
Fullback Jorvorskie Lane took responsibility for not picking up the blitz on Daryl Washington’s sack of Tannehill that forced a fumble with the Dolphins protecting a 21-14 fourth quarter lead. Vonnie Holliday recovered and Arizona went on to tie the game.
“Lane’s blocking was a little sporadic at times,” Philbin said.
On the overtime interception, Richie Incognito decided to help Mike Pouncey on Sam Acho, leaving Paris Lenon a clear path to Tannehill, who was hit by Acho as he threw the interception to Kerry Rhodes.
“Our pass protection was not good enough,” Philbin said. “We need to do a better job of recognizing” the blitz.
Generally, Tannehill did very well against the blitz. According to ESPN’s Stats Inc., Tannehill faced extra pressure on 25 of 44 dropbacks and completed 16 of 22 passes for 306 yards, with a touchdown and interception.
ESPN reported that’s the most passing yards by any quarterback against at least five pass rushers since the start of the 2008 season.
What’s more, Tannehill’s 94.8 rating in the fourth quarter this season is 11th-best in the league.
Philbin said where Tannehill has shown the most growth is his accuracy. Though his completion percentage ranks 26th in the league, he has been victimized by at least 12 drops. And he completed 63.4 percent of his passes Sunday (26 of 41).
Tipped balls remain an issue, Philbin said. “We had a couple tipped [Sunday] – first play of the game, I thought we were going to have a good completion.”
Among Philbin’s other remarks Monday:
### He said the running game, which averaged 3.0 yards per carry on 29 attempts, “was sporadic – too many negative runs.”
Asked if Lamar Thomas (four carries for 13 carries) or Daniel Thomas (four for four) has emerged as the No. 2 running back, Philbin said: “It’s by game plan more. We have confidence in both of those guys. Both have skill. Both do some very good things.”
### Though Brian Hartline set a Dolphins record with 253 receiving yards (on 12 catches), Philbin said: “The passing game is not predicated on he’s our No. 1 guy.”
### On Legedu Naanee’s fumble after a 19-yard catch: “I thought it was a heck of a throw. You’ve got to hold onto the ball.” He said the ball that Charles Clay dropped after being smacked by Adrian Wilson “was an excellent throw. You’ve got to catch those.”
### The Dolphins have allowed the league’s fewest rushing yards but third-most passing yards.
“We do give up a few too many pass explosives,” Philbin said. But “you have to caution that when you look at our run game statistics, some head coaches or offensive coordinators will say: “Why are we running the ball against those guys? I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud.”
### He said Sean Smith “did a lot of good things” but was responsible on Andre Roberts’ 15-yard touchdown reception that tied the game with 22 seconds left. “The guy ran a semi-double move,” Philbin said. “We’ve got to have tighter coverage over there.”
Regarding Roberts’ 46-yard touchdown catch earlier in the fourth quarter, Philbin said: “Richard Marshall has got to be in better position to play that ball.”
### Philbin bemoaned Miami’s three turnovers in the final 11 minutes of the game. The Dolphins have a minus five turnover differential this season (five takeaways, 10 giveaways).
### Philbin said he told his team “we have to be accountable to one another to do better. We’re all men. This is not a profession for the faint of heart. I told the team in the locker room: “We’ve got a heck of a challenge this week [Sunday at Cincinnati]. We’re coming off a west coast trip, coming off two tough losses, going to play a very good team on the road. It will be a test for our staff to see how good of a staff we have.”