NE-MIA grades: Ryan Tannehill ends up-and-down season on high note
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Miami Dolphins’ 20-10 victory over the New England Patriots.
New England Patriots
– For the second straight week, the passing game lacked rhythm, and this time, the quarterback was more at fault. Tom Brady hasn’t been the same statistically since losing Julian Edelman and a plethora of offensive linemen in recent weeks, but his grades haven’t suffered, as we’ve been able to separate his play from the results. It was a different story against the Dolphins, as Brady missed open throws, namely at the 3:53 mark of the second quarter when he hesitated and overthrew TE Scott Chandler (lucking out with a pass interference penalty), and overthrew WR Danny Amendola on an open seam route early in the third quarter. Beyond that, the passing offense was a number of conservative screens and downfield jump balls, neither of which were productive.
– Aside from one impressive 29-yard run by RB Lamar Miller, New England’s run defense was stout, holding him to 31 yards on his other 18 carries, and backup running backs were held to 13 yards on 10 carries. DT Alan Branch moved blockers and got in on four stops, while rookie DT Malcom Brown continued his second half growth with a +2.5 grade against the run and team-high five stops. Stout play along the defensive line put Miami in difficult third down situations all afternoon.
– New England’s conservative game plan called for a number of tight formations and the usage of two general run concepts: counter and power. While the offensive line did a nice job moving defenders at the point of attack (LT Cameron Fleming, +1.1 run block; LG Josh Kline, +1.3 run block; RT Marcus Cannon, +1.4 run block), the compressed formations relied heavily on blocks from TE Michael Williams (-3.1 run block) and WR Keshawn Martin (-2.6 run block), and that’s often where the runs failed. Williams struggled with LB Kelvin Sheppard and DE Olivier Vernon, while Martin was often moved back by FS Michael Thomas, making it difficult for New England to get much going on the edge.
LB Jamie Collins +4.0
DT Akiem Hicks +2.7
DT Malcom Brown +2.6
DT Alan Branch +2.3
C Bryan Stork +1.8
– After posting negative grades in five of his last six games, QB Ryan Tannehill finished strong at +3.7 on Sunday. He made a number of big-time throws, including well-placed deep balls late in the second quarter to Greg Jennings, then at the 10:06 mark in the third as he led WR DeVante Parker between defenders on a double move. He also got some luck on a deep jump ball to Parker in the fourth quarter, as Parker went up and over CB Logan Ryan for the 46-yard gain. Besides the deep stuff, Tannehill missed on only a handful of throws, and he protected the ball well. Throw in his key 19-yard run on 3rd-and-11 to set up the game-clinching field goal, and Tannehill heads into the offseason on a high note after a tumultuous year.
– DE Olivier Vernon capped a monster second half of the season with a +5.8 effort that featured a sack, two QB hits, and a hurry to go with a +2.7 grade against the run. He beat Fleming for a sack with 5:33 to go in the fourth quarter, thwarting any comeback attempt from the Patriots, and Miami’s run defense was clearly better when Vernon was on the edge. After a few plays where backup DE Damontre Moore was bullied by TE Rob Gronkowski, Vernon came back in and had his way with Gronkowski to get in on five run stops. Vernon finishes the season as the No. 3 overall edge defender, and his second half was the very best at the position.
– Miami’s receivers had a strong day, all providing their own value to the offense. Parker was the downfield threat, catching the aforementioned deep passes and finishing with five catches for 106 yards. WR Jarvis Landry (+1.3 receiving) moved the chains on four of his six receptions, while WR Greg Jennings (+0.7 receiving) caught all four of his targets for 74 yards. This is the type of attack Miami was hoping for all season, and with Landry’s ability in the short game, combined with Parker’s intermediate and downfield ability, there are young pieces in place to build for the future.
DE Olivier Vernon +5.8
QB Ryan Tannehill +3.7
DE Derrick Shelby +3.3
CB Brent Grimes +2.6
RB Damien Williams +1.7