Luck’s comeback could serve as encouragement for Tannehill
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Ryan Tannehill looks across the field Sunday, he’ll see an encouraging sign in Andrew Luck’s comeback.
Six years after the Miami Dolphins drafted Tannehill seven picks behind Luck, Sunday’s starting quarterbacks seem to be following similar paths.
Both missed all of last season with injuries. Each is trying to make a late-season playoff run. And Tannehill hopes to prove he, like Luck, can successfully return from a problematic throwing shoulder.
“I know he was dealing with stuff throughout the offseason,” Tannehill said. “I don’t know exactly what he had going on, but I have a ton of respect for Andrew and he’s playing really well right now.”
Actually, Luck is playing the best football of his career — more than 21 months after undergoing surgery for a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Throughout his extended absence, Luck dealt with physical pain and mental anguish, brought on at least partially because he couldn’t help his teammates when they most needed him.
Tannehill understands after missing the previous five games with an injured shoulder capsule.
Similar to Luck, Tannehill had to be shut down at one point from throwing.
But last week’s bye gave Tannehill enough time to get back. Coach Adam Gase announced Tuesday that Tannehill would be back in the lineup against Luck, even though Tannehill acknowledges he may play the rest of the season through the pain.
“I’m not quite 100 percent, but I feel confident and have made all the throws that I’m going to need to make over the course of a game,” Tannehill said. “Everyone is confident that no further injury is going to be caused by playing through it at this point, with where it’s at in the healing process, and confident moving forward.”
The Dolphins need Tannehill to be at his best. They haven’t scored a touchdown in nine quarters and are one of five teams, along with the Colts, tied at 5-5 for the AFC’s No. 6 playoff spot.
This week’s challenge could be daunting.
During their four-game winning streak, Indy’s defense is allowing just 17.5 points per game and Luck has thrown at least three touchdown passes in seven consecutive games. If the conference’s reigning offensive player of the week throws three more Sunday, he will break a tie with former Dolphins star Dan Marino and tie former Colts star Peyton Manning for the second-longest streak in league history.
Luck also is on pace to set career highs for completion percentage and passer rating — not bad for a guy some thought would never regain his pre-injury form.
“I am not going to go and play the game of looking back to different years and comparing and contrasting,” Luck said. “It just doesn’t fly in my mind. But I do think that every week I feel a little better.”
And if Tannehill’s body starts feeling better, perhaps the results will follow.
“I think you have to step in and play your game. I feel confident,” Tannehill said. “I feel completely confident that we can do all the things that we’ve done in this offense.”
Here are a few other things to know about Miami’s matchup with Indianapolis:
Dolphins running back Frank Gore returns to Indianapolis for the first time since becoming a free agent last winter.
While Gore wants to show his former team what it’s missing, the Colts still hold Gore in high regard.
“He’s legendary, not just in this building,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “I’ve been on other teams and every team I have been on they talk about Frank. He has set the standard for (pass) protections.”
Miami’s Kenny Stills has only 19 receptions this season, but four have gone for touchdowns and he’s likely to see more balls thrown his way with receivers Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant out for the rest of this season.
“We’ve had opportunities where he does get behind the defense and we can’t get the ball to him,” coach Adam Gase said. “It’s a little frustrating probably for me. He doesn’t say much about it.”
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri became the NFL’s career leader in regular-season wins (210) last week. During Wednesday’s team meeting, Reich put the milestone in perspective for his young team.
“I said imagine if you had a 13-year career in the NFL that would be pretty awesome,” Reich said. “Then I said imagine if you went 16-0 for 13 seasons — you’d still be chasing Vinny for the wins record. That’s quite an accomplishment.”
ON THE ROAD...
The Dolphins have lost four straight road games by a combined score of 138-59. And since the middle of last season, they’ve lost nine of the past 10 outside their home stadium.
Miami hasn’t played at Indianapolis since 2013, but it did win that game in Luck’s second season.
AP Sports Writer Steven Wine also contributed to this report.