Entering the second to last week of the NFL season the Dolphins were clinging to their playoff lives with several different scenarios needing to play out in order for Miami to squeak in as the 6th seed in the AFC. To begin with, the Dolphins needed to win out, however they would have also needed the Bengals and Steelers to both finish 8-8 and for the Jets to lose at least one of their remaining games. Unfortunately, only two of those three requirements to keep Miami's playoff hopes alive happened.
With the Buffalo Bills in town, the Dolphins took care of business with a 24-10 win against their division rival, improving their overall record to 7-8 and 5-3 at home. Ryan Tannehill built off his impressive performance from last week's victory by completing 13/25 passes for 130 yards, 2 touchdowns and zero turnovers. Although those numbers aren't flashy, Tannehill's poise and decision making are what enhanced his performance. In the process, Tannehill evened his touchdown-interception ratio to 12 a piece on the season. The rookie quarterback chanelled his inner wide reciever in the win, using his speed to elude defenders on route to 44 yards rushing, highlighted by a 31 yard dash into the redzone. Reggie Bush had his best game of the year as he recorded all three of the team's touchdowns, one rushing and two recieving. Lamar Miller who could very well be the future of the Dolphins backfield led in rushing with 73 yards on 10 carriers.
The Dolphins quietly boasted one of the league's top defenses this season however the unit is near the bottom of the league in takeaways. That changed on Sunday. Safety Reshad Jones led the charge, recovering 2 fumbles and made an interception with the Bills threatening on the goal line to seal the Miami victory. The interception gave Jones 4 on his Pro Bowl calibre year, making him the first Dolphin to do so since 2005. Cam Wake's relentless pass rush forced one fumble and allowed him to record his 15th sack of the season, a new career high. In total the Dolphins defense came up with four takeaways and two sacks.
The excitement amongst Dolphins fans lasted for about six minutes as many watched the Bengals game winning field goal sail through the uprights, giving them the sixth and final playoff spot. Despite the Jets loss, the Dolphins had already been knocked out of postseason contention.
Miami has now missed the playoffs in ten of the last eleven seasons, however this time around there is a feeling of optimism for the future of this organization. Even though the Dolphins didn't accomplish the goal of every NFL team when training camp began, this season was going to be a success all along as it meant that Ryan Tannehill will have a chance to develop. In his first season, Tannehill was even better than advertised. He showed, with limited options in the passing game, that he is more than capable of being the face of the franchise and proved that he was deserving of being selected with the eighth overall pick. He put up solid numbers over the course of the year, displaying the skill set that most successful quarterbacks possess, however arguably the most significant aspect of his play was the fact that he continued to improve on a week to week basis.
The quarterback that walked onto the field in Houston four months ago was vastly different from the one that left Sun Life Stadium following the win. With an improved supporting cast next year the sky is the limit for Ryan Tannehill.