Tannehill's closing touch nets Dolphins best start in decade

Sun Sep 22, 2013 10:13pm EDT
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By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - "End the half, end the game" has been Miami coach Joe Philbin's mantra and on Sunday his team did just that, beating the Atlanta Falcons 27-23 in a statement comeback that took them to 3-0 for the first time in 11 years.

Road wins against Cleveland and Indianapolis had raised the question as to whether the Dolphins were emerging as legitimate contenders for a playoff place and in beating an Atlanta team that had made the postseason the past three years, Miami gave a firm affirmative answer.

"We've got a damn good football team," said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross as he left a dressing room where the floor was covered with the ice of a celebratory 'Gatorade shower'.

Years of disappointment with just one playoff game since the 2001 season have left Dolphins fans wary of false dawns, skeptical of talk of corners being turned.

But Ross, whose early decisions since taking control of the franchise in January 2009 led many to question his and his management team's credentials, can be forgiven for a bit of euphoric optimism after a win against one of the NFC's top-rated teams.

Since 1990, 75 percent of the teams that start the season 3-0 have gone on to make the playoffs.

Crucially, 14 years after Dan Marino retired, the Dolphins finally have, in second year Ryan Tannehill, a quarterback with the necessary quality and composure.

"He's a monster. He's taken the next step and everyone can see he's been playing well for us all season," said Dolphins center Mike Pouncey.   Continued...

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill throws a pass during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, Ohio September 8, 2013. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk