Patriots vs. Dolphins: Analyzing the Week 8 Match-Up

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Oct 25, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback

You’d be forgiven if you forgot that there actually is a quarterback from Texas A&M that was drafted in the first round that’s the team’s undisputed starter.  Ryan Tannehill looked like he was playing Madden on “Rookie” difficulty against the Texans last week, carving up JJ Watt and whoever else plays defense for Houston to the tune of 282 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a that-must-be-a-typo 94.74% completion percentage.

Translation: dude was a freakin’ HOSS on Sunday.

That fireworks show was impressive, but Tannehill has been quietly decent all year, even if the team hasn’t been winning games.  His passing yardage and touchdown totals are pretty darn consistent, aside from one outlier in each column:

Week 1:  Miami vs. Washington – 226 yards, 1 touchdown.

Week 2:  Miami vs. Jacksonville – 359 yards, 2 touchdowns.

Week 3:  Miami vs. Buffalo – 297 yards, 2 touchdowns.

Week 4:  Miami vs. New York Jets – 198 yards, 2 touchdowns.

Week 6:  Miami vs. Tennessee – 266 yards, 2 touchdowns.

Week 7:  Miami vs. Houston – 282 yards, 4 touchdowns.

The vampire sucking Ryan Tannehill’s potential to be a bona fide rock star is, as always, his turnovers.  After starting the season interception-free for the first two weeks, Tannehill is up to seven picks on the season, which doesn’t sound that bad after 6 weeks.  And it wouldn’t be, except that three of them came in one game against Buffalo, and then he threw two picks apiece against the Jets and Titans.

Both the Jets and Bills games were losses for Miami, and not close losses either.  It was actually pretty surprising that Ryan Tannehill only threw 12 interceptions last year, but they do sure seem to come up at the worst possible times.  Like, say, throwing an interception against Minnesota in Week 16 last year in a game the Dolphins would go on to lose 37-35 when they were still in contention for a wild-card spot.

Who Can Stop Him?

One significant wrinkle in Tannehill’s game appears to be missing this season, or at least hasn’t come up yet.  He’s shown that he’s able to escape the pocket in the past if he needs to, but after posting 311 rushing yards in 2014, after seven games in 2015, Tannehill’s rushed for…wait for it…44 yards.

Either he’s working hard to stay in the pocket and throw instead of run, or there just hasn’t been the need to bail and take off.  When you look at Tannehill’s outrageous completion percentages for the past two games against Tennessee and Houston – 75.86% and 94.74%, respectively – the logical deduction is that there’s no need to scramble when your receivers are getting wide freakin’ open.

Where New England can take advantage of Ryan Tannehill’s inexperience and bad habits is tight secondary coverage on the receivers that break big plays for Miami.  Houston’s attempt to defend receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Lamar Miller last game was a complete and utter disaster, but New England is currently ranked 13th in the NFl in passing yards allowed, with 1,490 on the season.

And last week, we saw Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia dial-up steady doses of man-to-man coverage, with Malcolm Butler primarily covering Eric Decker while Logan Ryan covered Brandon Marshall.  If they trust these guys on an island again, it gives the rush more time to force Tannehill to make a throw he shouldn’t.

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