Reggie Bush, Tannehill offer Dolphins hope

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
7:20
PM ET
Reggie BushRobert Mayer/US PresswireReggie Bush led a Dolphins running game which outgained the Raiders' by 259 yards to 23.

MIAMI -- Reggie Bush doesn't care about next season. The Miami Dolphins starting tailback only has one year left on his contract, and Bush wants to win now.

The same goes for Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. All summer he's heard critics talk about his growing pains would hold the Dolphins back in 2012. But Tannehill made huge strides in his second NFL start to put together a winning performance.

Bush and Tannehill shined together in Miami's 35-13 trouncing of the Oakland Raiders. Bush ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Tannehill threw for 200 yards, passed for a touchdown, ran for a TD and had a career-best 91.0 passer rating. They embody the biggest hopes of what the Dolphins can be -- this year and in the future.

Miami is a rebuilding organization. But these are the games the Dolphins must win to begin turning their franchise around.

Oakland (0-2) is a bad team coming off a short week and a long road trip. The Dolphins (1-1) took advantage to get back to .500 and set up a huge divisional game next week against the New York Jets (1-1).

"All we wanted to focus on was winning this first game, and everything else didn't matter," said Bush. "I think this game is huge for the confidence of this team. Obviously we're a very young team and we got a long ways to go."

Bush had one of the best games of his career. He worked very hard this offseason to have a career year and continue to prove that he can be a feature back. Bush said his goal is to lead the NFL in rushing. He's averaging an impressive 120.5 rushing yards per game so far this season.

Bush's best play against the Raiders was a 65-yard touchdown run up the left sideline. But it was his consistency and toughness that was most impressive. Bush isn't the biggest running back, but he continued to grind out tough yards and run through Raiders defenders until it became easier to run the football in the second half.

"We kept hitting them," Dolphins guard Richie Incognito said. "Then eventually those 8-, 9-yard runs, those will start breaking for 20, 25."

Bush agreed that Miami's offense pounded Oakland's defense into submission. The Raiders led 10-7 at halftime but were outscored 28-3 in the third and fourth quarters.

"Once we continued to press that tempo against them, we felt like we wore them down," Bush said of the Raiders. "We wanted to wear their defensive line down and just continue to pound the ball. I think it showed throughout the game."

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireRyan Tannehill threw for a touchdown, ran for a score, and had no turnovers.
Tannehill showed maturity passing well and bouncing back from his poor Week 1 performance. The Houston Texans confounded Tannehill last week by forcing the rookie into three interceptions. Tannehill made the proper adjustments and played much more efficiently in this game. He had no turnovers.

Tannehill also avoided having any batted balls at the line of scrimmage after getting six batted down last week. Tannehill is quickly developing good chemistry with his new favorite receiver in Brian Hartline, who had nine receptions for 111 yards.

Miami was winless in the preseason and after Week 1 of the regular season. It's been a five-week journey for the Dolphins to finally get a victory. But it comes at a good time for a team in need of confidence in the second week of the regular season.

“That feeling in the locker room after celebrating with the guys after a big win, that’s what you play for,” Tannehill said. “After five tough weeks of losses and rough locker rooms, we knew we were improving every week. We knew were going to get the wins. But to finally have the win come in our first home game was a lot of fun.”

This also was the first win of the Joe Phibin era in Miami. The Dolphins' rookie head coach brought in an up-tempo, West Coast offense. But Philbin did a good job Sunday of playing to the strength of his personnel. This is a trend Philbin must continue to win games.

The Dolphins' strength lies with their running backs and defense. If the Dolphins can run well, play physical defense and let Tannehill make the throws when needed, Miami can be a tough out on most weeks, particularly at home.

Philbin found the right mix this week. The Dolphins had a run-to-pass ratio of 43 to 30. Philbin was doused with Gatorade after his first win, which caught the coach off-guard.

“I think it’s great for the entire organization,” Philbin said. “Everybody, since the day I’ve gotten here, has been 100-percent supportive behind the program, whatever we’ve tried to do."

How far can Miami go this season? That remains to be seen.

The Dolphins have a lot of holes on their roster. That is something they cannot control. But Miami can control its ability to play smart, tough and efficient football on a weekly basis. If the Dolphins can do that, they should be competitive.

It was a wild weekend in the AFC East. The New England Patriots (1-1) and Jets (1-1) both lost, while the Buffalo Bills (1-1) picked up their first win of the season.

One good win by the Dolphins Sunday suddenly put them in a four-way tie for first place. Who would have thought?

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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