Osweiler ready when called up to replace Tannehill
MIAMI GARDENS — Well before Brock Osweiler passed for a careerhigh 380 yards and led the Dolphins to a thrilling, come-from-behind 31-28 overtime defeat of the Bears on Sunday, he received significant news via a text message. He was starting.
“I was excited,” Osweiler said, of learning Sunday morning that Ryan Tannehill would be ruled out. “I was very excited.”
Well before Osweiler had thrown three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter to Albert Wilson, he was driving his car to Hard Rock Stadium as emotions began to course through his 6-foot-7 body.
“There’s a lot of things going through my head, but it’s really mostly just make the most of this opportunity, have no regret at the end of the day,” Osweiler said. “Today was different because I was playing for people I truly care about and that means a lot.”
Osweiler signed with the Dolphins to play for coach Adam Gase, the coach who injected him with confidence in Denver. This was before Osweiler was branded a colossal bust in Houston. This was before the Browns acquired Osweiler last year with the strategy to pick up a draft pick, quickly dump him, and absorb a giant salary cap hit.
“He knows this system in and out,” Gase said. “He knows how to operate at the line of scrimmage, in the huddle. He takes care of the ball. He does things the right way, prepares the right way. Every week he treats it as though he’s going to have to go in the game.”
Some fans thought it was funny that Miami praised Osweiler’s snap count and huddle etiquette after his arrival. But with former Bronco Peyton Manning in attendance, it’s worth noting that Osweiler’s poised mannerisms are intended to be a reflection of the legend.
“I felt comfortable from the first play, I really did,” Osweiler said.
Osweiler conceded it wasn’t perfect. He threw interceptions on consecutive drives, one at the end of the second quarter and one at the start of the third quarter.
The Dolphins had held a 7-0 lead at halftime and now threeand-a-half minutes into the second half, Miami was in a 14-7 hole. The second Osweiler interception was intended for Wilson but intercepted at the Miami 47 and nearly returned for a touchdown.
Those types of plays have appeared too often on the Osweiler resume. But to his credit, on Sunday, he bounced back. Osweiler compared operating Gase’s offense to being a point guard and after that play, he essentially posted five assists.
Osweiler led two touchdown drives (smartly passing to the dynamic Wilson for two long catch-and-runs) and three field-goal drives, including the game-winning 47-yarder in overtime.
Gase declined to give specifics about the details of Tannehill’s shoulder injury in his postgame news conference, aside from saying they had worked him out earlier in the morning, without success.
“I do not know,” Gase said. “I do not know. I don’t know. I know today (Tannehill) couldn’t go.”
Osweiler didn’t single-handedly lead the Dolphins to victory on Sunday. Miami ran for 161 yards. The Dolphins’ defense forced two critical fumbles and an interception.
But Osweiler’s outing was a netplus. And that’s good enough to qualify as a competent backup quarterback.
Osweiler had offered little to no reason to inspire confidence in the spring and the summer (and slightly more in the preseason). But on Sunday, his performance did enough to lead Dolphins fans to believe their season isn’t completely over if Tannehill misses a few more games.
And, more importantly, Dolphins players seemed to genuinely believe Osweiler would give them a chance.
“We always want our main guy but our next man up, Brock, prepares like he’s a star every day,” running back Frank Gore said.
“He definitely knows what he’s doing back there,” Wilson said.
Because it was unclear if Tannehill would be able to play this week, Osweiler took only a few reps at practice on Thursday and Friday.
In one of the game’s most critical moments, Osweiler operated a two-point attempt he has never actually practiced before.
“I’ve been hearing that play get called since 2013, so I’ve ran through it mentally in my head probably at least 500 times even though I’ve never rep’d it physically,” Osweiler said.
Miami trailed 21-19 and it was the fourth quarter and this was a critical play. Danny Amendola was the first option but he ended up on the ground. So too did the second option. Osweiler spotted Kenny Stills in the back of the end zone and threw the perfect strike.
“You know, today felt like a heavyweight title fight,” Osweiler said.
Osweiler’s record in the arena? 14-12 as a starter now, 1-0 as a Dolphin.
“This is the best one because it’s the most recent, and that’s really the truth,” Osweiler said. “This football team needed a win. We were coming off of two losses, two really tough losses, and we needed to find a way to get a win and we did.”
Tannehill update: Tannehill has been fighting through a problem with his right shoulder for at least three weeks, but he was able to play in recent losses to the Patriots and Bengals. Those games were two of the 10 worst performances of his career.
He did not miss practice time until Friday’s walk-through, when he was limited. That prompted the Dolphins to list him as questionable for the first time, though there was still hope that two more days of rest would allow him to play through it against the Bears.
The coaching staff worked him out Sunday morning, and he received treatment, but his shoulder did not progress to a point where the team thought he could be effective. Tannehill’s status remained undecided until shortly before the team was required to declare its inactives an hour and a half before kickoff. With news about Tannehill’s injury swirling on Sunday morning, the betting line in Las Vegas quickly jumped from 3.5 to 6.5 points in favor of the Bears.
Staff Writer Jason Lieser contributed to this report.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler went 28 of 44 for 380 yards and three touchdowns Sunday against the Bears. He improved to 14-12 as a starter, 1-0 with Miami.