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This is the one Dolphins-Patriots trend that has not gotten enough attention this week

by / 0 Comments / 0 View / December 7, 2018

Hate to be so heavy, but …

There’s a very real chance Ryan Tannehill is playing his penultimate Dolphins home game Sunday.

Better make it count, then, against New England.

It woud be a welcome change.

Much has been made this week of the Dolphins’ inexplicable mastery over the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium lately. They’ve won four of their last five home games against the NFL’s gold standard franchise.

Yet Tannehill hasn’t been on the field for one of those wins since 2015. The head coach that day? Dan Campbell.

So it’s hard to say that applies much today.

What is relevant, however: Tannehill’s long-running issues against a Bill Belichick defense.

He is a replacement level quarterback against the Patriots. The stats are sobering.

Tannehill has completed 60.4 percent of his passes against them (below his 62.9 percent career average).

He has thrown 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 10 starts against New England (compared to 107 touchdowns and 61 picks against anyone else).

And the Dolphins have won just three of those 10 games; they are 38-36 when Tannehill starts against any other team.

Making matters worse: The Patriots are playing their best defense of the year, allowing a stingy 16 points per game over their last five.

“They’re playing physical right now, which you see every year,” Tannehill said. “They still do some of the same stuff, mixing up their pressures. I think over the past five weeks compared to the last time we played them and in years past, they’re bringing a lot more Cover 0 pressures — bringing everyone and trying to get a guy free up front. I would say that’s probably the biggest change-up from what I’ve seen as opposed to what we’ve seen in the past and even earlier this year.”

So expect Tannehill to get hit in the mouth. A lot.

The Bills brought heat last week, and Tannehill took a beating.

Buffalo sacked Tannehill three times and hit him six more.

Not great for a guy who still is not 100 percent after a shoulder injury cost him five games earlier in the season.

One hit in particular last week was alarming. Tannehill got drilled in a way reminiscent of the Carlos Dunlap sack that caused his shoulder issue.

“Physically, I’m good,” Tannehill said. “I got hit a few times but nothing got dinged up or anything like that. I’m feeling really good. … The shoulder is definitely feeling better. It’s still not 100 percent, but it’s definitely trending in the right direction. Every day that goes by, it just feels a little better. A week goes by, it feels a little better. So I’m really excited about how things are progressing there.”

If Tannehill goes down again, he’ll take the Dolphins’ playoff chances with him. And even with him on the field, the offense is sputtering.

While his passer rating the last two weeks is excellent (112.7), the Dolphins are averaging just 245 yards offensively during that stretch.

“I think he’s thrown the ball well,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “There’s definitely areas that we can make improvement on. We need to play better as an offense. He got hit a lot last week; but he stood in there. The touchdown to [DeVante] Parker, he gets hit on that one.

“Early in the game, I think the first 21 plays, he gets hit seven times, which is way too many,” Loggains added. “I was really impressed with him standing there and doing those things. He’s operated the offense at a pretty solid rate. We need to be better on third down. And as quarterbacks, we need to take some responsibility on that. So, there are definitely areas that he can improve on. I think he has thrown the ball as well as he has the last two weeks.”

Will that continue against the Patriots, who have had Tannehill’s number?

It better, or the Dolphins’ playoff hopes will be close to zero.

FiveThirtyEight gives Miami a 6 percent chance to reach the postseason. By beating the Patriots, those odds would triple.

But with a loss, Miami’s playoff odds? A mere 1 percent.

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