The Miami Dolphins were leading 21-9 late in the third quarter when they returned an Arizona Cardinals punt to the Miami 44 yard line. Miami came out on offense looking to end the game, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill dropped back to throw. What looked like an 11-yard completion to start a march toward a three-score lead became a nightmare scenario for Tannehill, the Dolphins, and fans.
Tannehill planted and threw the pass, only to have the Cardinals’ Calais Campbell collide with his lead leg, shoulder pad to the knee. Tannehill hopped a couple of times as he tried to grab his now injured left knee, then fell to turf. After 77 straight starts to begin his career, Tannehill’s 2016 season was over in that instant.
After spending time in the locker room, Tannehill returned to the sidelines in street clothes, spending most of the fourth quarter sitting on the bench with his leg up. While he was on the sideline, you could see the emotions in his face as he wiped tears from his eyes.
A player who had never missed a start since being drafted in 2012 and had played every snap of the 2016 season was suddenly faced with missing the remainder of the season. It was clear the passion and love for the game, the team, and his teammates that Tannehill felt - and the love his teammates have for him as they started coming over to hug him.
#Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill in tears after suffering knee injury late against the Cardinals pic.twitter.com/EUe5KzKBH8— Mark Poulose (@mettaworldmark) December 11, 2016
Backup quarterback Matt Moore was able to come into the game and, after struggling to find a rhythm in his first few possessions, was able to save the game with a game-winning drive that ended with a last-second field goal to give Miami a 26-23 win. The Dolphins are still in the AFC Playoff picture with an 8-5 record, putting them in a tie for the sixth seed with the Denver Broncos. It is now up to Moore to be able to take over the offense and lead the team toward that postseason berth.
And the emotion from Tannehill as he faced the fact that he will not be out there to finish what he started this year was clearly visible.