AFC East: Miami Dolphins

The San Diego Chargers (5-3) will travel to face the Miami Dolphins (4-3) in an important game with early playoff implications. Both teams could be fighting for a wild card in the AFC, which would make owning the head-to-head tiebreaker important.

Who will prevail in this matchup? ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams and ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker discuss:

Walker: Miami has won two in a row and San Diego has lost two in a row, so momentum may be a factor in this matchup. Where are the Chargers in terms of confidence and ending their losing streak?

Williams: The Chargers are a veteran-led group that understands the ebb and flow of an NFL season, so confidence will not be an issue traveling on the road to face the Dolphins. Two of San Diego's three losses have come on the road, against teams that have one loss apiece (Denver and Arizona). San Diego's other loss was a three-point setback to AFC West rival Kansas City at home.

The Chargers don't make a lot of mistakes and generally force opponents to beat them. Coach Mike McCoy is meticulous in his game-day preparation and his staff is skilled in making in-game adjustments. I expect San Diego will be ready for whatever the Dolphins plan to do scheme-wise on both sides of the ball.

The Dolphins are doing a nice job of running, ranked No. 6 by averaging 138 rushing yards per game. How has new coordinator Bill Lazor turned things around on offense?

Walker: Most people expected Lazor to come in and quickly fix the passing game, but he has made his biggest contribution with the running game. Miami's ground game has been consistent, whether it was Knowshon Moreno early, Lamar Miller lately or even quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has three runs of 30 yards or more in the past three games. Lazor has done a good job of spreading out defenses and calling run plays at the right time. His read-option with Tannehill and Miller has been a huge success. Miami's passing game still needs work, but there is progress.

West Coast teams often don't look the same in Miami; San Diego hasn't won here since the 1981 season. How are the Chargers combating that and will the 10-day layoff help?

Williams: Although West Coast teams traditionally struggle in early games traveling east, the Chargers have been relatively successful of late, posting a 7-5 record in 10 a.m. PT games since 2012. The extra days off have given this banged-up team a chance to get some players healthy, and with Philip Rivers controlling the offense, the Chargers are competitive more times than not. One of the keys for San Diego will be the possible return of running back Ryan Mathews. Out for the past six games with an MCL sprain, the Fresno State product could help provide some much-needed balance to San Diego's offense if healthy and cleared to play on Sunday.

After starting 1-2, the Dolphins have won three of their past four games to get back into the AFC playoff race. What has been the difference?

Walker: Part of it is the schedule. The Dolphins cannot hide from that fact. All three of Miami's victories during this stretch have been against the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7), Oakland Raiders (0-7) and Chicago Bears (3-5). Those are bad teams the Dolphins must beat if they want to be considered playoff contenders, and to their credit they took care of business.

The Dolphins are 1-3 against teams with winning records. That is why this game against San Diego is such a good measuring stick of where the Dolphins stand. Miami's next four opponents have a combined record of 22-9 (.709 winning percentage), so we are going to find out quickly whether the Dolphins are contenders or pretenders.

San Diego was banged up before its previous game against the Broncos. Where are the Chargers injury-wise heading into Sunday's game?

Williams: The Chargers should be in a better place health-wise. Four weeks ago against Jacksonville, the Chargers barely had enough healthy bodies to fill 46 spots on the active roster. Along with Mathews, cornerback Brandon Flowers and running back Donald Brown are possibilities to return from concussions. Pass rushers Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) and Cordarro Law (ankle) also should have a chance to make it back on the field on Sunday. Offensive linemen D.J. Fluker (ankle) and Rich Ohrnberger (back) have been playing with injuries, so the extra time should work in their favor as well.

The Dolphins are No. 3 in passing defense, holding teams to just 212 passing yards a game. How does the front seven set the tone?

Walker: Miami's front four are the strength of the entire team. The Dolphins have waves of good players, starting with defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon and defensive tackles Jared Odrick, Earl Mitchell and Randy Starks. Miami also is getting contributions off the bench from Derrick Shelby, Chris McCain and Dion Jordan, who recorded a couple of tackles in his first game off suspension. This group sets the tone for the defense. The Dolphins' linebackers have been inconsistent with the exception of Jelani Jenkins, who leads Miami in tackles (53) by a wide margin.

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are putting up some astounding statistics in the first half of the season throughout their 4-3 start.

One impressive but overlooked stat is Miami's NFL-best 259 yards on interception returns. The Dolphins are on pace to break their franchise mark of 522 yards for interception returns set in 1966. Miami's 43.2 return yards per interception also would be a new NFL record for a single season.

[+] EnlargeLouis Delmas
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP PhotoDolphins free safety Louis Delmas returns an intercepted pass 81 yards for a touchdown past Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts.
The Dolphins have interception returns of 81, 50, 43, 32, 31 and 22 yards this season. Two interceptions from safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Brent Grimes went for touchdowns in Sunday's 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Miami's lengthy interception returns are not an accident. Dolphins' defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he's making a conscious effort to practice interception returns more than any time in his three seasons with Miami. His focus is quickly getting all 11 players in sync after a turnover and in position to advance.

"We've done drills in the past, but we came up with a new one this year that I think is getting everybody on the same page as to where to go, how to set the blocks up and how to return the ball," Coyle explained. "It's been effective for us and hopefully we'll see it continue as the year goes on. We've just got to keep getting interceptions and see how much it works."

Miami's drills on interception returns are detailed. According to Dolphins' coaches, players practice specific blocking assignments after turnovers each week, similar to what you may see on a long kickoff or punt return. One of the best examples was two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears when Dolphins safety Reshad Jones picked off quarterback Jay Cutler and benefited from several clean blocks downfield during a 50-yard return.

"There's semi-art to it, if you will. ...It's something we like to teach a lot and they take pride in it," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said.

The Dolphins' defense excels at changing field position after turnovers and providing the offense a boost with hidden yards. In addition to the 259 yards on interception returns, Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan also has a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders. The Dolphins are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers with three defensive touchdowns this season.

Miami's defense certainly knows what to do with the ball in its hands, and its third-rated pass defense will get a stern test Sunday against MVP candidate and San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

"As a defensive player, our mindset is to go against the best," Delmas said. "We have a [Hall of Fame] yellow-jacket quarterback coming in that we know has some interest in making every DB look bad."

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

After a solid start, the Dolphins' pass protection has suddenly dropped to 2013 levels the past two games. That is a major concern as the Dolphins (4-3) prepare to face the San Diego Chargers (5-3) on Sunday in a big game for both teams.

The Dolphins' offensive line allowed seven sacks in victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears. Miami's offensive line allowed only 10 quarterback sacks on Ryan Tannehill in the first five games.

Miami is having trouble with its interior offensive line. Guard Daryn Colledge has struggled. Fellow guard Mike Pouncey, who missed the first five games with a hip injury, is still shaking off the rust and making uncharacteristic mistakes. The Jaguars and Bears brought pressure up the middle with a lot of success.

The best solution is for Miami to put Pouncey back at center, his natural position. I've said from the start Miami was making a mistake by making an elite, top-five center into an average or slightly above-average right guard. The Dolphins need that strength and athleticism in the middle and can find someone else (Samson Satele? Nate Garner? Shelley Smith? Dallas Thomas?) to fill in at right guard.

The Dolphins probably won't make any drastic changes on their offensive line this week, especially if they continue winning. But things could change if pass protection remains an issue.

Miami Dolphins Stock Watch

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
The Miami Dolphins improved to 4-3 with a 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) on Sunday.

Here is a look at whose stock is up and down this week in Miami:


1. Louis Delmas, safety: Delmas’ season had been fairly nondescript during the first six games. But he made he made a major impact against the Jaguars. Delmas returned an interception 81 yards for a touchdown of Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blake Bortles and also recovered a fumble. Delmas said he read Bortles' eyes on the pick and took advantage of the rookie. Miami’s defense can use more big plays from Delmas in the second half of the season.

2. Brent Grimes, cornerback: Miami’s Pro Bowl cornerback also found the end zone with a pick-six of his own off Bortles in the third quarter. Grimes returned his 22 yards and scored a touchdown for the second time in his eight-year career. Grimes leads the Dolphins with two interceptions this season.

3. Dolphins on the road: Miami has issues at Sun Life Stadium. But the team has been steady on the road this year. The Dolphins are 3-1 on the road, which includes consecutive road victories against the Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears and Jaguars. The Oakland win could have an asterisk because the Dolphins were designated the road team in London. However, the Dolphins have found ways to win outside of Miami.


1. Pass protection: After a solid start, Miami’s pass protection is starting to show flashes of its 2013 form – and that’s not good news for the Dolphins. Miami has allowed seven sacks in the past two games, which included three sacks in Sunday's victory. The Dolphins are having their most trouble up the middle between the guard and center. Veterans Daryn Colledge and Mike Pouncey are having some issues picking up middle rushers. This recent trend hasn’t cost Miami any of the past two games, but it’s certainly a concern heading into a tough November schedule.

2. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback: The offense, as a whole, underachieved. Tannehill, as the leader, gets most of the blame for Miami’s slow start and underwhelming performance on offense. Miami had just 56 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half. The Dolphins’ defense (14 points) scored more than their offense (13). Tannehill said after the game that it was an “unacceptable” performance and the offense needs to make corrections. After lighting up the Bears in Week 7, Tannehill threw for just 196 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Jaguars.

3. Brian Hartline, receiver: He is off to a slow start. New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor hasn’t done enough to get Hartline involved in the offense early, and on Sunday he appeared out of rhythm. He had just one reception for 19 yards and also had at least two drops. Miami’s coaching staff and Hartline must do a better job of getting more involved.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On a day when the Miami Dolphins finally won two games in a row and took a step in the right direction, their offense continued its season-long trend of inconsistent play.

Miami’s offense was outscored by its defense in Sunday’s 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7). The Dolphins (4-3) rode the momentum of two defensive touchdowns, while the offense settled for one touchdown and two field goals. This came one week after the Dolphins and quarterback Ryan Tannehill lit up the Chicago Bears in Week 7.

The Dolphins were outgained by the Jaguars 377-326. But perhaps the ugliest stat was Miami had just 56 yards and three first downs in the first half.

“We have to play better. We have to perform better,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said of the offense. “I don’t have the halftime stats in front of me. But let’s face it – offensively, we didn’t do a whole lot in the first half.”

The Dolphins also continued their trend of inconsistent quarterback play. Ryan Tannehill started last Sunday's game against Chicago with 14 consecutive completions. This week he only completed 5-of-12 passes in the first half and finished with 196 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

In typical Tannehill fashion, his passer rating went from 123.6 in Chicago to 73.3 in Jacksonville. Most of his production came in the second half, when the defense scored two touchdowns and gave Miami the lead. Tannehill was sacked three times.

"We're not happy about how we played offensively," Tannehill said. "We have to be better. We have to get this corrected Monday, Tuesday. But I'm proud of the way the defense played. They made big plays, scored 14 points for us and I don't know how often that happens."

Miami's defense scored two touchdowns for just the fifth time in team history. The last time the Dolphins had two interception returns for touchdowns in a game was during the 1998 season.

“That what teams are for,” said Dolphins safety Louis Delmas, who had one of the two pick-sixes. “One day the defense is going to play bad and the offense has to pull us out the hole, or special teams sometimes. That’s the definition of team.”

The Dolphins were good enough to beat Jacksonville comfortably with just one side of the football playing well. But that won’t be the case going forward.

Miami’s upcoming schedule in November includes games against four teams currently with winning records. The Dolphins will play the San Diego Chargers (5-3), Detroit Lions (6-2), Buffalo Bills (5-3) and Denver Broncos (6-1).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars:
  • Grimes
    Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes knows it's rare for a defensive player to get into the end zone. Therefore, he savored every moment of his pick-six Sunday off Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. Grimes had a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter and gave the football to his wife, Miko Grimes, as a keepsake. It was Grimes’ second career touchdown in eight seasons. "You know, I always do that," Grimes said, laughing.
  • Defensive lineman Jared Odrick said he was cheering the whole way for his teammates to get in the end zone during Miami’s interception returns. Grimes’ 22-yard return was of the shorter variety. But safety Louis Delmas had an 81-yard return in the second quarter that opened the scoring. "It's an awesome thing," Odrick said after the game.
  • Delmas said he was gassed after his 81-yard return. "Dead tired," Delmas said, laughing. "I never thought I'd be out of shape. But I definitely have to go back to Miami and rush a couple gassers."

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 27-13 victory Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

What it means: The Dolphins (4-3) finally won two consecutive games this season with a victory over the lowly Jaguars (1-7). This game was special in that Miami’s defense scored more than its offense. Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes and safety Louis Delmas both returned interceptions for touchdowns against Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles to give Miami 14 of its 27 points. Miami is above .500 for the first time since its Week 1 victory against the New England Patriots.

Stock watch: Miami's pass rush continues to perform well and rattled Bortles with four sacks. The Dolphins also stripped Bortles on a scramble that caused another fumble from the young quarterback. Their defense now has seven sacks in the past two games.

Head injury for Colledge: Starting left guard Daryn Colledge was knocked out of the game in the first half due to migraines and head symptoms, according to the team, and didn't return. Colledge will have to be evaluated for a concussion to determine his status next week.

Game ball: Delmas had his best game as a Dolphin, recording an 81-yard interception return for a touchdown, two tackles and a fumble recovery. Miami signed Delmas to a one-year contract in free agency.

What's next: The Dolphins will start November with a tough home game against the San Diego Chargers (5-3), who have lost two in a row but have 10 days of rest and preparation entering their matchup with Miami.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here are the players you won't see Sunday for the Miami Dolphins (3-3) against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6):
Dolphins backup linebacker Jason Trusnik will start in place of Misi, who has been dealing with an ankle injury. It’s also important to mention that former first-round pick Dion Jordan is active for his first game this season. Jordan came off a six-game suspension on Saturday.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Although it hasn't been publicized much on a national level, Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins has quietly been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL during the past three weeks.

Tannehill has been lights out in 10 of his past 12 quarters, with the exception being the first half in a Week 6 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The Dolphins are 2-1 in that stretch and 3-3 overall heading into Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6). Tannehill appears to be finding his groove at the right time. This is an important part of the season where we will find out if Miami is a contender or pretender this season.

“It’s a natural progression, right?” Tannehill said this week. “As a play-caller, as an offense, as you get in the flow of things, you figure out the things that your team is good at, that your players are good at, and you try to highlight those things. You can’t only do those things because you have to be balanced. But I think [offensive coordinator] Bill [Lazor] has done a great job of game-planning, and then when the games come around, calling great games.”

Tannehill’s numbers are up across the board during his three-game run. He is completing 72.3 percent of his passes in that stretch and making fewer mistakes. Tannehill also is using his legs more and produced runs of 40 and 30 yards in his past two games.

Tannehill’s recent play has fueled newfound optimism that he could potentially develop into Miami’s long-term solution at quarterback. Just before this three-game run, there was speculation that Tannehill was in danger of being benched.

Miami head coach Joe Philbin refused to name a starting quarterback before the Week 4 game against the Oakland Raiders. That fueled questions of whether Tannehill needed to play better quickly or risk being benched. From that point, Tannehill has played some of the best football of his career.

“I’m just glad we’re playing good football, myself and the team,” a happy Tannehill said. “You want to improve every week, and you know I think we’ve done that. Sometimes it’s been obvious, sometimes not so obvious. But I think we’re improving consistently, and that’s what you want is guys getting more comfortable on the field, myself included and things start clicking.”

The next step for Tannehill is to prove his hot streak isn't just a short-term solution. It is easier for NFL quarterbacks to get hot, but franchise quarterbacks are able to consistently stay hot.

Tannehill has 10 more games to get the Dolphins in the postseason and prove he is Miami's long-term answer under center. A good game against the lowly Jaguars Sunday would be another step in the right direction for Tannehill's development.

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (3-3) held their first practice of the week Tuesday in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6).

Here are some notes and observations from Miami’s practice:
  • Joseph
    Former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan returned to practice Tuesday. Following a six-game suspension, this was the first time Jordan put on a Dolphins uniform since the final preseason game Aug. 29. Jordan worked with the defensive line and on special teams in the early portion of practice open to the media. Miami’s coaching staff said they must see where Jordan is physically before determining his role.
  • Dolphins backup safety Jimmy Wilson did not practice in the portion open to the media. Wilson missed his first game of the season last week with a hamstring injury. Backup safety Michael Thomas replaced Wilson in the nickel.
  • Miami Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes practiced Tuesday, which is good news considering he did not finish Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

The Film Don’t Lie: Dolphins

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

This is a difficult week to nitpick the Dolphins (3-3) following a complete, four-quarter performance in a 27-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. However, the Dolphins did allow a season-high four sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and that is a concern heading into Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The good news for Miami is it’s easy to identify the issue. Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was a one-man wrecking machine. Ratliff had his way with Miami’s center (Samson Satele) and guards (Daryn Colledge and Mike Pouncey) on his way to a career-high 3.5 sacks. The Dolphins had communication issues up front and must do a better job of picking up stunts moving forward. Opponents have been stunting Miami's offensive line the past few weeks with mixed results. But overall the pass protection for the Dolphins has been much improved compared to last season, when they allowed a franchise-record 58 quarterback sacks.

The Jaguars (1-6) finally got their first victory last week against the Cleveland Browns. Jacksonville will enter this game with a little momentum and feeling good about itself. If the Dolphins allow the Jaguars to disrupt and get hits on Tannehill, Jacksonville has another shot to pull off an upset.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (3-3) are getting another key addition to their roster this week. Former 2013 No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan completed his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancement and substance abuse policies. He became eligible to return on Monday, although a roster move isn't expected until later in the week.

Per NFL rules, Miami's coaches haven’t seen or heard from Jordan since he began his suspension on Aug. 29, one day after the Dolphins' preseason finale against the St. Louis Rams. Almost seven weeks have gone by, and the Dolphins will finally see Jordan back in practice on Tuesday.

“We’re going to have to get him on the field and start working him and see where he's at,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “It will be great to have him back. But we have to take it one day at a time.”

Jordan’s role on the team remains uncertain. He was slotted to be the No. 3 defensive end at the start of training camp behind starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. But Jordan fell behind on the depth chart after the suspension and a lot has changed since.

Miami’s current No. 3 defensive end, Derrick Shelby, is third on the Dolphins with three sacks this season. Rookies such as Chris McCain and Terrence Fede have also flashed and earned playing time. Defensive end is arguably the deepest area of Miami's roster, which will make it tough for Jordan to immediately find a significant role.

The most important aspect of Jordan getting back on the field quickly is his health, which is unknown. But Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is confident Jordan did the right things during his suspension.

“I envision that he will be in good shape,” Coyle said Monday. “He’s the type of athlete that can run all day. We’ve never had issues with him being out of shape. So I hope he comes back and he’s ready to go.”

Coyle, in some ways, is getting a new toy on defense near the midpoint of the season. Jordan is one of Miami’s best pure athletes, although he hasn't come close to reaching his potential in two seasons.

The Dolphins had high hopes for Jordan in 2014, but the suspension to start the year stunted his growth. Miami still has 10 games remaining and could use as much talent as possible to make a push for the playoffs in the second half of the season.

“If you have good players you find ways to utilize them,” Coyle said of Jordan. “He's certainly a talented guy.”
CHICAGO -- So this is what Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks like at his absolute best.

Miami's 27-14 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday finally showed what a consistent, dominant Tannehill looks like under center. Better yet for the Dolphins, it happened over four full quarters -- not the usual one good half or quarter Tannehill has provided this season.

How locked in was the third-year quarterback? On his second touchdown pass of the day, the Bears took away his first and second options. So Tannehill went to his third progression -- which he rarely does successfully -- to complete a 10-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace.

Wallace said after the game that the Dolphins (3-3) couldn't even hit that play in practice. But with Tannehill in the zone, they made it look easy when it mattered most, giving Miami a lead it never relinquished.

"I was the last read on the play," Wallace said. "On that play in practice, I've been working that [route] probably since I was in Pittsburgh and never got the ball, not one time, on that play. That was the first time.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastQB Ryan Tannehill capitalized on short passes to lift the Dolphins over Chicago in Week 7.
"You could fall asleep on that play, but you gotta stay focused. Honestly, I got that same play on Tuesday or Wednesday in practice and he threw it. We didn't connect on it, and I told him I will be better on it the next time. Tonight was our next time, and we were better."

There have been games when Tannehill was good, but never the best player on the field. That changed in Chicago. Afterward, backup quarterback Matt Moore got a chuckle out of Tannehill by telling him, "You inspire me."

Tannehill's day started with 14 straight completions, and he finished with 277 yards and two touchdown passes. He posted a career-high 123.6 passer rating and didn't have his first incompletion until 54 seconds left in the first half.

First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is getting a better grasp of his quarterback's capabilities. The Dolphins used a well-devised game plan that highlighted Tannehill's strengths: throwing short and intermediate passes. His longest completion was for 26 yards to backup tight end Dion Sims. Tannehill also used his athleticism by rolling out of the pocket on passing plays, rushing for 48 yards on six carries.

Dolphins tight end Charles Clay said Tannehill's confidence was at an all-time high, especially after getting hot early.

"It's hard to pinpoint, but it was just something about him," said Clay, who had four receptions and caught Tannehill's first touchdown pass. "It gave me confidence, and I'm sure it gave everybody else in the huddle confidence."

Tannehill said he has never completed 14 straight passes to start a game at any level. He did complete 14 straight between the second and third quarters this season against the Oakland Raiders, but this performance was from the start and more dominant.

On this day, if you were open, Tannehill easily identified it and made the right decisions. He completed 78.1 percent of his passes, and eight Dolphins players had at least two receptions.

"Everyone was getting open," Tannehill said. "It's fun to be able to spread the ball around like that."

Was this a one-game performance or a potential career turning point? That remains to be seen.

One of the biggest critiques of Tannehill is he rarely strings together strong games in back-to-back weeks. This season alone he has struggled from half to half. That is one of the major reasons Tannehill is just 18-20 as a starter and still trying to prove he is Miami's long-term solution.

But Sunday's lights-out performance at least provided a one-game snapshot that Tannehill is capable of dominating a game. He has good athleticism and can make most of the throws needed to thrive in the NFL, with the exception of a consistent deep ball.

After six games, it's clear the Dolphins will go only as far as Tannehill takes them this season.

"We're definitely playoff-caliber, and if he's playing like [Sunday], we could be Super Bowl-caliber, honestly," Wallace said. "But we got to put in the work every day. We know it's not going to just come to us. We have to keep grinding and stay focused."
CHICAGO -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 27-14 win over the Chicago Bears:

On the rebound: The Dolphins felt vindicated after their bounce-back performance Sunday evening. Many questioned if Miami would bounce back from last week's deflating, last-second loss to the Green Bay Packers. But the Dolphins put forth one of their most impressive games on both sides of the football, proving they have the talent to play with most teams. Now, the Dolphins must work on their consistency. "People just last week were telling us we were trash," receiver Mike Wallace said. "So we've got to keep our head up and stay focused, no matter good or bad."

Win for the little guys: Much was made of the size difference this week between Bears receivers Brandon Marshall (6-foot-4) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3) against Miami cornerbacks Brent Grimes (5-10) and Cortland Finnegan (5-10). But the corners won this matchup. Marshall and Jeffery combined for just eight receptions for 57 yards. Finnegan and Grimes were physical and covered well for most of the game. "You guys made a story of it," Finnegan said afterward. "But Brent said it earlier; we go against receivers who always are bigger than us. It's just one of those things."

Tannehill's wheels: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is running the ball more and it's paying dividends. Head coach Joe Philbin praised Tannehill's wheels after the quarterback rushed for 48 yards on six carries. Tannehill made a long run of 30 yards that gave the Dolphins a lot of momentum. He now has a 30-yard run and a 40-yard run in back-to-back weeks. "He's done a very consistent job in it," Philbin said. "I think it's repetition, repetition, repetition. It paid off today a couple times."

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19

CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 27-14 win Sunday over the Chicago Bears.

What it means: The Dolphins continue their roller-coaster ride by picking up a key road victory and improving to 3-3. This was a complete performance on both sides of the ball. Miami cashed in on three red zone touchdowns and forced three turnovers on defense, bouncing back from a last-second loss in Week 6 to the Green Bay Packers. The Dolphins, who have yet to win two in a row, will try to work on their consistency.

Stock watch: Dolphins fans have been clamoring about the lack of fast starts. Miami finally got it going early by jumping out to a much-needed 14-0 halftime lead on the road. The offense moved the chains and had early touchdown catches by tight end Charles Clay and receiver Mike Wallace. The defense also picked off quarterback Jay Cutler and held the Bears scoreless in the first half. The second half wasn't as clean. The Dolphins allowed two touchdowns defensively and had a field goal blocked. However, Miami was good enough in the first half that it didn't matter.

Jones, Shelby make impact: The Dolphins received key contributions from two players who were recently suspended. Miami starting safety Reshad Jones had his best performance of the season in his second game back. He recorded seven tackles and a second-quarter interception to set up a Miami touchdown. Sunday also marked the first game back for Derrick Shelby, who missed one game after being arrested at a nightclub. He registered an early sack off the bench.

Game ball: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill gets his second game ball of the season. Tannehill was locked in and threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 123.6 passer rating. Tannehill produced a near-perfect first half by completing his first 14 passes. His first incompletion happened with 54 seconds left in the second quarter.

What's next: The Dolphins will continue their stretch away from Miami with another road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6). The Dolphins will play four of their next six games on the road.