The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

FINS WIN INCONSISTENT BOWL

The Fins traveled to Chicago this week to play the bears in a game pitting two of the more inconsistent teams in the NFL.  Da Bears came into the game 3-3, having not won at home.  The Fins came into the game 2-3, having not won two in a row.  So the natural question before the game was: Which team would show up on both sides of the field?  The Fins provided a solid answer to that question, putting up perhaps their best effort of the season and coming away with an impressive 27-14 win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.  A loss would have put them in need of winning 8 of the last 10 to make a serious run at the playoffs and that would have been a terribly uphill climb for a team that would have been 2-4.  At 3-3 they hope they have something to build upon over the last 10 weeks of the season.

Much has been written lately about the success of the team when Ryan Tannehill has a QB rating of at least 90.  When he has done so, the Fins had been 13-1, impressive totals for a team perennially out of the playoffs.  The problem is that Tannehill too frequently has passer ratings well below 90.  But that was not the problem against Chicago.

Tannehill started the game red hot, completing his first 14 passes en route to a first half in which he completed 14 of 15 for 176 yards and 2 TDs.  His first half QB rating was an off-the-charts 155.1.  No wonder the Fins would leave the field with a 14-0 lead at the half.  But could he keep it up in the second half and deliver a win?

The second half started poorly when Chicago took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards for a touchdown to close the gap to 14-7.  If the Bears could hold the Fins on the next series, they would be in a position to tie the game with another touchdown.  That’s when the offense needed to make a statement by answering the Bears’ score and that’s when Tannehill needed to show he could play 60 minutes.  Well, for a change Tannehill did just that.  He came up big on the Fins’ next possession, completing first down passes to Lamar Miller, Dion Sims, and Daniel Thomas and himself converting huge a 4th and 1 with a 30-yard run that set up a first and goal.  A Lamar Miller TD run put the punctuation mark on the drive.  That may have been the most impressive drive of the season as it showed that the Fins would not let the Bears back in the game.

Tannehill’s second half numbers were not as impressive as his first half numbers, but that would have been asking a bit much from any QB.  His second half numbers were 11 of 17 (64.7%) for 101 yards, and that was clearly good enough.  Although he did not throw a second half TD pass, he avoided mistakes and guided the Fins to a nice road win.  His QB rating obviously fell off in the second half, but for the game as a whole it was still an impressive 123.1.  Dolfans would gladly take that bottom-line number every week.

There was one area in which Tannehill could have done better.  Three times he faced a third down in field goal position.  He was sacked twice after he held the ball too long.  The third time he threw over the middle of the end zone where there were absolutely no receivers and drew an intentional grounding call.  He needs to learn not to take sacks in such situations as well as to make a safe “over” throw to the appropriate sideline to avoid getting flagged for grounding.  The result of his 3 miscues was having to punt once and twice forcing Caleb Sturgis into longer than necessary field goal attempts.  Although these were 3 correctable mistakes, one would hope that he would have left those types of mistakes behind him before he arrived at his third season as the starting QB.

In the wake of the difficult last-second loss to the Packers the previous week, one statistic this week stood out in particular.  Perhaps the main reason the Fins lost last week was that they were unable to control the game clock in crunch time.  The story was entirely different this week; the Fins held an impressive 10:44 to 4:16 fourth quarter time of possession edge over the Bears.

The defense certainly made a number of plays against the Bears.  Cameron Wake had an impressive sack in which he forced Jay Cutler to fumble and then recovered the fumble.  Derrick Shelby absolutely bulled his way to a sack.  A third sack was contributed by defensive back Louis Delmas.

This was one game when the stats really told the story.  The Fins won the net yardage battle, 393-224.  They won the first down battle, 24-14.  They won the time of possession battle, 37:22-22:38.  They limited Chicago to a mere 52 yards rushing and held Jay Cutler to 172 net yards passing.  So give credit to Ryan Tannehill and the defense for this team win.

Meanwhile, the Bears are still looking for their first home win of the season.  The Fins, on the other hand, will look for their first 2-game winning streak when they travel to play the Jaguars (1-6) next Sunday.  Hopefully, Ryan Tannehill will follow up his consistent performance against the Bears when he faces the Jaguars next week.  If the Fins’ season is to have any playoff hopes, Tannehill & Company must avoid the inconsistency that has all too often plagued them.

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