Dolphins winning streak validates Gase's faith in Tannehill
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Ryan Tannehill is winning like never before, which doesn't surprise his coach.
Even before Adam Gase was hired last January by the Miami Dolphins, he envisioned success for Tannehill.
''That's why I took the job,'' Gase said Monday. ''When you feel comfortable with the quarterback you're coming in with, that's always a good starting point.''
Gase, Tannehill and the Dolphins (6-4) have won five games in a row, with the latest victory the most improbable yet. Miami scored two touchdowns in the final 4:02 Sunday to rally past the Los Angeles Rams 14-10 and complete an Interstate-5 sweep.
A week earlier, the Dolphins won at San Diego, 31-24. They hope to beat up on California some more when they play at home Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers (1-9).
A victory would give the Dolphins their longest winning streak in 11 years. That's heady stuff for a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2008, and also for Tannehill, a fifth-year pro who has yet to finish a season above .500.
He looks like a winner lately. On Sunday, Miami trailed 10-0 with 6:40 left before Tannehill directed scoring drives of 77 and 75 yards while completing 12 of 13 passes, including two for touchdowns.
''I told the guys right before going on that first touchdown drive, `Hey, everyone take a deep breath, we're going to win this game,''' Tannehill said. ''And that's what we did.''
The performance was especially noteworthy given Tannehill's reputation for struggling at crunch time. But then he also was knocked earlier in his career for inaccuracy on long throws, and that's no longer an issue, as Gase playfully reminded reporters.
''He hasn't done anything to show me that he can't do things in the fourth quarter,'' Gase said. ''When we get in the fourth quarter and it's a close game, I feel confident. Between him being able to play in the fourth quarter and the deep balls, I'm kind of questioning you guys' evaluation skills right now. I'm just glad you're not in personnel.''
Gase was hired because of his success with quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and Tim Tebow, and now he has bonded with Tannehill. The coach's faith in his quarterback is such that Gase took an aggressive approach with his play-calling on the Dolphins' final drive, when they trailed 10-7.
''That game wasn't going to overtime,'' he said. ''It was either going to be a pick or a touchdown.''
Tannehill orchestrated the comeback working behind a patchwork line. Left tackle Branden Albert (left wrist) and center Mike Pouncey (hip) were inactive, and rookie Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) departed before halftime. Sam Young finished the game at left tackle as the replacement for Tunsil, who replaced Albert.
Albert said he might be able to play this week. Gase said he's not yet sure yet who is likely to be available this week.
The Dolphins were also without three inactive defenders against the Rams – linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee), defensive end Mario Williams (ankle) and cornerback Xavien Howard (knee).
Despite the injuries, Miami is in second place in the AFC East and one game behind the Chiefs and Broncos for the conference's final wild-card spot. The schedule's favorable, with only one remaining opponent above .500 – the Patriots, who visit Miami in the regular-season finale.
When asked about the playoff picture, Gase predictably shook his head.
''We're so far away still,'' he said. ''It's not even worth it to me to look at it. We just have to focus on this week. If we just keep doing it right enough times, then good things will happen. We'll just keep playing until somebody tells us not to.''
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.