DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Ryan Tannehill is playing lately like a quarterback under duress, which he is.
During the Miami Dolphins’ three-game losing streak, Tannehill has been sacked 12 times and committed seven turnovers. Tannehill ranks fourth in the NFL with 11 turnovers, including three that made a difference of at least 13 points in the Dolphins’ 23-21 loss last week to the Buffalo Bills.
Tannehill has been sacked a league-high 26 times, and he was limited in practice Wednesday because of a sore right shoulder. Pass-protection problems prompted Miami to trade this week for tackle Bryant McKinnie.
But Dolphins coaches acknowledge Tannehill’s choice of targets has also contributed to a flurry of interceptions.
“The decision-making has to improve,” coach Joe Philbin said. “And our protection at times has to improve.”
Cutting down on turnovers and sacks will be the top priorities Sunday when Miami (3-3) plays at New England (5-2). Tannehill is throwing interceptions at a faster rate than a rookie than last year, when he finished with 13.
Even so, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, Tannehill has showed improvement in his second NFL season.
“It looks like he’s much better at seeing the field and using all of his players in the passing game, whereas last year I think there were times where it seemed like he was more locked into either one side or one guy,” Belichick said. “Now I think his vision has definitely improved, as has his accuracy, particularly on the outside throws.”
But Tannehill is tied for second in the league with four lost fumbled, and tied for sixth with seven interceptions. By comparison, two other members of the banner rookie QB class of 2012, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, have thrown seven interceptions combined.
“He needs to do a better job,” Philbin said.
Tannehill said each interception is an education.
“It’s definitely something I’ll continue to work on,” he said. “You have to learn from a good play or bad play. Turnovers or interceptions you overanalyze and get as much of it as you can.”
Tannehill is the only Miami player with a turnover this season, but his giveaways leave the Dolphins at minus-one in turnover differential, a category Philbin listed as the team’s No. 1 priority during training camp.
“We’re killing ourselves right now,” guard Richie Incognito said. “Turnovers, sacks, that’s stuff that we can eliminate. That’s stuff that we can control. That’s the most frustrating part.”
Tannehill threw a career-high three touchdown passes Sunday and wasn’t sacked until the fourth quarter. But with the game on the line, the Dolphins’ pass protection again crumbled, and one disastrous play served as a symbol for their recent slide.
With Miami leading 21-20, Tannehill tried to throw from midfield but fumbled when hit by Mario Williams. The Bills recovered to set up their winning field goal in the final minute.
Tannehill said that as he was hit, receiver Brian Hartline was breaking into the clear.
“He was going to come open right when I was letting it go. It was that close,” Tannehill said. “If we have another half-second, no one is talking about this.”
Williams used a power rush to beat tackle Tyson Clabo, who took the blame for the play. Tannehill said the timing and ferocity of Williams’ hit made the turnover difficult to avoid.
“You don’t want to fumble the ball, but I’m in the middle of my throwing motion, so it’s tough,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman agreed.
“He had no chance of getting out of that,” Sherman said. “It happened rather quickly.”
Tannehill seemed intent on getting rid of the ball quickly Sunday, and he made poor decisions on both interceptions. The first occurred when Nickell Robey jumped a short route and stepped in front of Brandon Gibson for a 19-yard touchdown return.
It was a play the Dolphins apparently have called too often.
“I’ve seen it, and I jumped it,” said Robey, a rookie backup. “It was on film plenty of times.”
Sherman predicted Tannehill will shake off his turnovers, and the pounding he’s taking from opposing pass rushes.
“He’s very resilient physically and mentally,” Sherman said. “I think that is what is going to make him a very good quarterback in this league.”