The man who was the franchise quarterback for seven mostly losing seasons helped crush the Miami Dolphins’ playoff hopes in the 2021 season.
The Dolphins, stymied by the Titans defense and Nashville’s nasty weather on Sunday afternoon, were blown out by Tennessee and former Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, 34-3, at Nissan Stadium. After other league results on Sunday, Miami was eliminated from postseason contention.
The Dolphins (8-8) had their seven-game winning streak snapped with the loss. And with the New England Patriots topping the Jacksonville Jaguars and Las Vegas Raiders upsetting the Indianapolis Colts, the Dolphins were on the brink of elimination by the end of Week 17′s early slate of games.
The Los Angeles Chargers’ 34-13 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday evening officially put Miami out of the playoff picture before the Week 18 regular-season finale at home against the Patriots.
“Any time you don’t have the performance you’re looking for, you’re disappointed,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said, “but this group, they’re going to stick together, support one another, get back out there [Monday], make the corrections [Monday] and prepare for another big game next week.”
The Titans (11-5) rose into the AFC’s top spot on Sunday after their win was coupled by a Kansas City Chiefs’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
In the rainy conditions with temperatures in the low 40s and high 30s on a field chewed up by cleat divots, Tannehill wasn’t asked to do much in his first game against his former team. He went 13 of 18 for 120 yards and two touchdown passes.
The Titans, even without star running back Derrick Henry, were able to dominate on the ground. D’Onta Foreman went for 132 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries as Tennessee rushed for 198 yards, a season worst for the Dolphins’ run defense.
“We had some missed tackles. We had some guys out of gaps,” Flores said. “They took advantage. We’ve got to do a better job.”
The Dolphins put the game in the hands of their signal-caller, second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, more than Tennessee, and it didn’t go well. Tagovailoa went 18 of 38 for 205 yards, an interception and a lost fumble.
After the game, Tagovailoa, who entered Sunday the NFL’s leader in completion percentage, was asked where he feels his future with the organization stands and about those who may doubt him as a franchise quarterback.
“I think people have their own opinions,” Tagovailoa said. “I’ve heard this the entire time I’ve been here so at the end of the day, I can control what I can control, and that’s to be the best version of myself for this team.”
Miami rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle was held to one catch for no yards through the first three quarters. He finished with three receptions for 47 yards. With 99 catches on the season, he is two shy of Anquan Boldin’s NFL rookie record.
The rainy conditions and wet ball came into play twice for Tagovailoa in the first half with one of the instances costly after the Titans struck first to lead, 7-0. Tagovailoa had the ball slip out of his hands before an attempted pass for a fumble recovered by Tennessee’s Elijah Molden at the Miami 14-yard line. The Titans kicked a field goal from 23 yards out to go ahead, 10-0.
The Dolphins got those 3 points back with a 39-yard Jason Sanders field goal, but only after Tagovailoa mishandled a snap from under center on a third-and-1. It was a moot point after Miami converted on the ensuing fourth down to extend the drive and get into field-goal range.
“It played somewhat of a role,” said Tagovailoa, who also had another fumble that Miami recovered and multiple incomplete passes that could’ve been intercepted, of the conditions. “But at the end of the [day], you got to go out there and you got to execute the plays regardless of the conditions, regardless of what it is. And that, we just didn’t do enough of.”
Added Duke Johnson, who led the seldom-used running game with 49 yards on seven carries: “It wasn’t the best field, but it wasn’t the worst. Both teams played on the same field.”
Leading 10-3, the Titans extended their lead by another touchdown on Foreman’s 21-yard touchdown run with 3:18 remaining in the first half.
Tennessee scored its first touchdown Sunday when Tannehill found tight end Geoff Swain wide open in the end zone off play-action from the 1-yard line in the opening quarter. Foreman had a 14-yard run get the Titans down to the 1 the play before.
The Dolphins gave up a 25-yard pass from Tannehill to A.J. Brown earlier in the drive that could’ve gone for a touchdown after Brown beat Miami cornerback Xavien Howard and safety Jevon Holland didn’t wrap up on a tackle. The contact he made with Brown, though, was enough to barely lead him out of bounds.
Down 17-3 in the third quarter, Miami drove into field-goal range, but on third-and-10 from the Tennessee 27-yard line, the pocket collapsed on Tagovailoa for an 8-yard sack. It made the ensuing field-goal attempt for Sanders a 53-yarder, and it hit off the crossbar and bounced back into the field of play. No good.
The next Dolphins trip into Tennessee territory was stopped with receiver DeVante Parker apparently interfered against on a fourth-down pass, but the penalty went uncalled. Parker, who had four receptions for 46 yards on 13 targets, was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after complaining to officials.
“He said he didn’t see a hook, and that’s his call,” Flores said of the explanation he received.
Tannehill finished off Miami with a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Firkser with 7:42 remaining. A 39-yard touchdown run by Dontrell Hilliard with 1:53 left only added insult.
Tight end Mike Gesicki led Miami with 51 receiving yards on four receptions. He also threw a pass during a string of trick plays the Dolphins tried in the second half to try to get back in the game.
The Dolphins defense, which entered Sunday leading the NFL in sacks, did not get one on Tannehill until linebacker Jerome Baker got to him in the third quarter, the only Miami sack of the afternoon.
The Dolphins finish the regular season at home against the Patriots (10-6) next Sunday.
Source: Berkshire mont