|Tannehill returns as Dolphins attempt to slow Luck, Colts|
Ryan Tannehill is finally back in the lineup for the Miami Dolphins. And they will need him the way Andrew Luck is playing.
Tannehill will return following a five-game absence due to a shoulder injury when the Dolphins visit Luck and the red-hot Colts on Sunday afternoon.
Miami lost three of five games without its starting quarterback and, along with the Colts, are in a logjam of five teams who share 5-5 records and are battling for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Dolphins are also two games behind first-place New England in the AFC East.
"I'm not quite 100 percent," Tannehill said. "But I'm confident I've made all the throws I will need over the course of a game. I don't feel like any aspect of my game has been taken away."
Similar to Miami, Indianapolis trails AFC South-leading Houston by two games but it has roared back into postseason contention with a four-game winning streak, including a 38-10 drubbing of the Tennessee Titans last weekend.
"The good news is that we're out of the hole," first-year Colts head coach Frank Reich said after his team dismantled the Titans. "But the reality is that there is still a mountain to climb."
Luck has been the biggest reason behind the resurgence in Indianapolis. After missing all of last season due to shoulder surgery, Luck is completing 74 percent of his passes -- with just one interception -- during the four-game win streak.
Named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 297 yards and three touchdowns against Tennessee, Luck has guided the Colts to an average of 36.5 points during their four-game run. He has 29 scoring passes on the season, second in the league behind Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes.
The former No. 1 overall pick acknowledged it was satisfying to reclaim his past form, but emphasized there is no room for complacency.
"Satisfy -- I don't like that word. It denotes that work is done in a sense, and by no means do I feel that way," said Luck. "So right now we are doing some decent things and we've got to keep doing them."
Luck is getting excellent protection as he has dropped back to throw 214 consecutive times without being sacked. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in seven consecutive games and another such performance Sunday would tie Peyton Manning for the third-longest streak in NFL history.
"I do think I am getting better every week. I am not going to go and play the game of looking back to different years and comparing and contrasting -- I don't," Luck said. "But I do think that every week I feel a little better and a little better and every day I feel a little better and a little better. So, I'll keep working on that."
The Dolphins have lost five of seven following a 3-0 start and have surrendered at least 27 points in all but one game during that tailspin. They are hoping the return of Tannehill will help end a drought in which they have failed to score on their opening possession in 13 straight games.
"We're excited to have Ryan back," Miami wide receiver Kenny Stills said. "He looks great. There are always details to work out, but (Tannehill) is really competitive. It's something we admire and respect about him."
The Dolphins will attempt to keep the ball out of Luck's hands by feeding ageless running back Frank Gore, who leads the team in rushing with 528 yards. Gore, 35, should have ample motivation after spending the past three seasons with Indianapolis.
Defensively, Miami needs to find a way to contain wideout T.Y. Hilton, who shredded the Titans for nine receptions for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week.
"He's really fast and can stretch the field," said Dolphins head coach Adam Gase of Hilton. "When you have a guy like that, it makes DBs nervous. They back off a bit to make sure they don't get beat over the top. Then, all of a sudden, (Hilton) is catching clean, 20-yard routes and running after the catch."
Pressuring Luck will be a challenge for the Dolphins, who rank 29th in the league with only 17 sacks.
"We've got to slow down their timing," Miami safety Reshad Jones said. "Their offensive line hasn't given up a sack in five weeks. We have to get our hands on their receivers so (Luck) can't get the ball out as fast."