Ryan Tannehill has annually been one of the most fired quarterbacks in the NFL.
When you add up how he has consistently taken more sacks (349) than all but a handful of quarterbacks in each of his eight seasons as a starter, it’s safe to assume that his pocket presence makes him easy to plan.
Come after the quarterback and the offense should crumble, right?
Problems are Tannehill’s intellect and ability to handle what’s going on on the pitch, making him a difficult quarterback to flash. And that makes creating press packages a riddle, a riddle that the Miami Dolphins (8-8) failed to solve during 34-3 shellacking, the Titans (11-5) handed over the Dolphins Sunday.
The Dolphins came into Sunday’s critical showdown with the Titans, who had playoff ramifications for both teams, as NFL firing leaders, possessing one of the league’s best defenses in the second half of 2021.
Still, the Tannehill-led Titans neutralized them, producing 308 yards of offense in a game in which Tannehill, the NFL’s second-most fired quarterback season, was fired only once.
“I think they just found out about us,” said Dolphins defensive lineman Christian Wilkins. “They were able to run the ball efficiently and just stayed consistent with the run. A few yards here, a few yards there.”
The Titans’ rushing offense got 198 yards on 40 carries and kept Miami’s defense out of balance throughout the game.
The ground game allowed Tennessee’s play-action passing attack to create problems for Miami’s defensive play-caller Josh Boyer, who was apparently less aggressive than usual with his unit’s approach.
When Miami brought pressure in the few obvious passing situations, Tannehill, who completed 13-of-18 passes in 120 yards and threw two touchdowns (127.0 passing rating), found his warm receiver.
In the second quarter, he identified a Dolphins blitz and hit AJ Brown on a slant that contained only daylight with Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard after him.
The Dolphins were lucky enough to minimize that reception to just a 25-yard win, but it provided a sampling of why it’s a bad idea to blow Tannehill, leave receivers and tight ends one-on-one downfield with cornerbacks and safeties.
He’s not Jets rookie Zach Wilson, Giants backup Mike Glennon or Ian Book, Saints’ COVID-19 replacement starter. Tannehill is a veteran starter and has seen it all.
In other cases, when Miami brought pressure, the Titans rolled the pocket on Miami’s seven-man pressure and bought Tannehill time to move around to find an open receiver.
There was also a case where Tennessee saw Miami’s amoeba blow packs, which typically have seven to nine defenders on or near the line of scrimmage, and caught the Dolphins’ secondary nap by throwing a screen pass backwards.
With the attack fighting, and Tennessee successfully controlling Miami’s pressure, the Dolphins’ defense eventually withered.
After two months of dominating his opponents during the seven-match winning streak, Boyer’s unit found its match.
And it was a Tannehill-led Titans team, which eliminated Miami from qualifying for the off-season.
Combine that with tackling problems Miami had in the second half, and it was the worst defensive performance Brian Flores’ team has delivered since a 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in October.
“The Titans are a good team,” Flores said of Tennessee, which won its second straight title in the AFC South Division with Sunday’s victory. “They had a good plan and we did not play well enough at any stage. And it starts with me.
“I did not train well enough either, so we go back and make the corrections and try to play better next week.”
Flores typically falls on the sword when his team’s execution falls short.
“Of course it was a great victory for us. A lot was at stake for us as a team and I am happy for us [came] out and played well, played a whole game as a team, “said Tannehill, if Titans teammates said he had more of an animated personality on match day against his former team. “It was important to me.”
Tannehill can now hold his head high against his former team because in a match where he won a division title and the accompanying playoff spot, he proved to be a Dolphins blitz killer.