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Pass protection an issue for contending Dolphins

November 15, 2014

DAVIE, Florida (AP) — Even with a makeshift offensive line, the Miami Dolphins may yet forge a path to the NFL playoffs.

The Dolphins find themselves back in the mix for a postseason berth, thanks to a victory over AFC East division nemesis Buffalo.

Miami now has 10 days to prepare for AFC West leader Denver, and the top priority will be to shore up a line still adjusting to left tackle Branden Albert’s season-ending knee injury.

The Dolphins are 6-4, their best record at the 10-game mark since 2008, which is the last time they made the playoffs. A 5-2 record in the AFC conference helps their chances at securing a wild card for the playoffs, and so should the two games remaining against the last-place New York Jets.

But the Dolphins need better pass protection than they showed in Thursday’s 22-9 comeback victory over the Bills. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill took a pounding for the second time in five days, getting sacked five times.

Rookie Ja’Wuan James played well at left tackle in place of Albert, who was sidelined Sunday. But new right tackle Dallas Thomas struggled against Mario Williams, who had 3 1/2 sacks, and the offense sputtered until the final 22 minutes.

Tannehill came in with a sore shoulder and ankle, thanks to numerous hits he took in last week’s loss at Detroit. But he has been sacked so often in the past — including a club-record 58 last year — that he found the protection by his teammates on Thursday acceptable.

“I thought that they played well,” he said. “Most of the night I was able to get the ball out of my hands and get through my reads.”

Tannehill threw for 240 yards and two scores with no interceptions, helping Miami end a streak of three consecutive losses to Buffalo. The Dolphins also rushed for 125 yards.

“It’s hard to say we had great protection when you get sacked five times,” coach Joe Philbin said. “There’s definitely room for development there. I didn’t think it was terrible, even though the numbers suggest it wasn’t good, but certainly it has to get better.”

A long break after a busy week will allow time for further review — and a recharge. Philbin appeared exhausted Friday after the quick turnaround between games and said his players would be off until Tuesday.

Tannehill said the break before the final push toward the playoffs will be welcome.

“We all put in a lot of hard work, countless hours getting ready for games,” he said. “Clear your mind and get healthy, I think, is the biggest thing, just to allow the guys that have been banged up to get healthy.”

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