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Monday, December 16, 2013
Miami Dolphins Stock Watch

By James Walker

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins won their third straight game with a 24-20 win over the New England Patriots.

Here is a look at whose stock is up and down in Miami:

Rising

1. Ryan Tannehill, quarterback: Tannehill picked up his first career win over the Patriots in four attempts. He had arguably his strongest game of the season with 312 yards and three touchdowns. Tannehill also had a 120.6 passer rating. Tannehill’s final touchdown drive with four minutes remaining was a thing of beauty. He was 6-of-8 passing for 56 yards and a touchdown to put the Dolphins ahead by four late in the game. Tannehill now owns head-to-head wins this year over Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck.

2. Michael Thomas, defensive back: The biggest defensive plays by the Dolphins came from an unlikely source. Thomas, who was undrafted in 2012 and claimed off the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad last week, had a huge pass defense and interception off Brady to close out the win for Miami. Thomas was inserted late in the game after injuries to starting cornerback Brent Grimes (cramps) and Nolan Carroll (knee). Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Thomas is more of a nickel corner and safety. He’s certainly earned more opportunities for playing time in the near future.

3. Playoff chances: Miami’s playoff chances got a nice boost by beating the Patriots. Now, the Dolphins are in control of their own playoff destiny. The Dolphins simply have to beat the Buffalo Bills (5-9) and New York Jets (6-8) to get into the postseason for the first time since 2008. These are winnable games, but Miami cannot take either opponent lightly. Up first is the Bills, who beat the Dolphins earlier this year in Miami.

Falling

1. Field goal unit: Miami’s field goal team hasn’t been always sharp in the second half of the season. The Dolphins botched another attempt Sunday when the snap was premature and bounced off the helmet of holder Brandon Fields. There is some speculation of whether the fake was on, but Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin would not confirm that after the game. Either way, the Dolphins have either missed or botched a field goal attempt in four straight games.

2. Dolphins' pass protection: Miami allowed four quarterback sacks to four different players against New England. The Dolphins had trouble keeping Tannehill clean at times, which has been an issue all year. Miami’s pass protection was improved for a few weeks before Sunday. The Dolphins need to get back to form in the final two regular-season games.

3. Secondary depth: The terrific play late from Thomas overshadowed the fact that Miami has lost three starters in its secondary the past two games. Former starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson was put on injured reserve last week with a groin injury, and Carroll and Grimes both suffered in-game ailments on Sunday. The status of Carroll and Grimes for this coming weekend is still up in the air. The Dolphins need all the depth they can get in the secondary to complete their playoff push.