Tannehill needs breakout December to get Miami to playoffs

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Ryan Tannehill stepped into the pocket of a media throng near his locker Wednesday and took questions, calmly completing every answer despite considerable pressure.

NFL quarterbacks make their reputation at this time of year, and December is historically Tannehill's worst month. That trend intensified Sunday, when he threw a season-high three interceptions in a 38-6 loss at Baltimore that ended the Miami Dolphins' six-game winning streak and hurt their postseason prospects .

For Tannehill bashers who enjoy pointing out he has yet to make the playoffs in five NFL seasons, the performance provided fresh ammunition.

''It wasn't good enough,'' Tannehill said. ''Across the board we weren't good enough, and that includes me.''

That needs to change quickly, with the Dolphins (7-5) now a game behind in the race for the final AFC wild-card spot. With a home game looming Sunday against dangerous Arizona (5-6-1), Tannehill acknowledged it's time to step up.

''Usually teams play their best football in December,'' he said. ''That's just the way it is. You want to improve every day, every week. Other teams are doing that as well. The best football should be played in December. Everyone has to raise their game.''

Or spend the postseason at home, which is what the Dolphins have done since 2008. Tannehill has an 8-12 record in December, his worst for any month. In all other months he's a combined 28-28.

During Miami's winning streak, Tannehill threw nine touchdown passes and only one interception. But he confessed to making bad decisions against the Ravens.

The drubbing undercut the argument Tannehill has blossomed under his latest mentor, first-year coach Adam Gase. Tannehill has a shot at his first winning season, thanks in part to an upgraded ground game, but he ranks only 19th in the NFL in passer rating, 20th in yards passing, and 28th in touchdown-interception ratio.

Gase seems bullish on Tannehill as the team's quarterback of the future. But the next four weeks could change that assessment.

For now, teammates are firmly in Tannehill's corner and quick to praise his durability. Despite being sacked 212 times in five seasons, he has started every game.

''I'm very confident in my quarterback,'' left tackle Branden Albert said. ''The stuff he has been through since I've been here, and the toughness he has - so many times I've seen him get up and not flinch.

''I'll ride with him to the end. You've got to give that guy respect. Nobody is perfect, but as long as you know he's going to keep fighting, that's all that matters.''

The schedule's favorable, with the next three opponents at .500 or below. But the Dolphins might need to sweep them to stay in the race.

''You want to be in the situation where you're playing meaningful games in December, and we're here,'' Tannehill said. ''We didn't put ourselves in the best position, but we're in a good position.''

Tannehill's best previous shot at the playoffs came in 2013, when the Dolphins were poised to clinch a berth by winning one of their final two games, but lost both. What makes him think this year will be different?

''I have belief in this team,'' he said. ''We have all the pieces we need. It's just a matter of going out and playing well, starting this Sunday.''

---

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

---

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/steven-wine

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.