Here are five additional notes and observations on the Dolphins:
There will be plenty of speculation over the next two weeks about the future of Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. Owner Stephen Ross was clear this summer that he wanted "improvement" after last year’s 8-8 season, and the Dolphins are currently 7-7. Philbin must win the final two games to make a case to return in 2015. An additional loss could spell the end of the Philbin era in Miami – and there is still a chance that Ross could make a change after a 9-7 finish. Philbin is 22-24 in three seasons and had plenty of time to implement his program. The past two Decembers could be enough proof that Philbin cannot get the Dolphins to the next level.
I criticized quarterback Ryan Tannehill often for his lack of deep throws, so it’s only right that I complement his big plays against New England. Tannehill threw the deep ball as consistently as I’ve seen in his three seasons. He connected twice for 50 and 35 yards to Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace and drew a pass-interference penalty on Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner on another deep throw. Even two deep misses to receiver Brian Hartline and running back Damien Williams were not Tannehill's fault. It remains to be seen if this was an anomaly or a sign of things to come. The Dolphins should continue to try to take deep shots with Tannehill in the final two weeks to see if he can consistently execute.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s motivation of using Dolphins quotes after their Week 1 victory was more manufactured than anything. Miami is not a trash-talking team, and the players were very respectful of New England heading into this week. Belichick had to dig deep and go back to the first week of the season when Dolphins players explained their win – and most of those quotes weren't inflammatory. But credit Belichick for motivating his players. Several Patriots, including cornerback Darrelle Revis, referenced the Dolphins trash-talking even when it can be argued that wasn't the case.
Dolphins rookie receiver Jarvis Landry continues to impress. It was somewhat surprising that Belichick opted to put Revis on Landry often on third downs. That is a sign of respect for what Landry has done this season. Landry made a couple of catches over Revis and finished with eight receptions for 99 yards. The 2014 second-round pick has a bright future and will continue to get better.
Miami starting linebacker Philip Wheeler had two really poor plays that stood out Sunday. His first was the inability to catch Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during a 17-yard scramble that seemingly went in slow motion. Wheeler chased after Brady, stumbled and couldn’t keep his feet, which allowed Brady to get the big gain. The second play was Wheeler one-on-one against Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 35-yard reception that later set up another touchdown. Wheeler was beaten badly on the play. It’s also partially the fault of the coaching staff to expect Wheeler to cover Gronkowski.