"You're excited," he said. "You know your team needs you to step up."
Tannehill did just that, moving the Dolphins 65 yards in six plays to set up a 43-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter at the final gun, and they rallied to beat Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks 24-21 on Sunday.
Tannehill had drawn criticism for mistakes down the stretch in close games. But he helped Miami score 17 points in the final 8:08 and came through on the last drive with completions of 19, 25 and 7 yards, as well as a 15-yard scramble.
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"In this league you need to win some games like this," coach Joe Philbin said. "It's important for any quarterback to do that."
Carpenter hit the winning kick on his 27th birthday, and Miami (5-6) broke a three-game losing streak. The Seahawks (6-5), unbeaten at home this year, lost for the fifth time in six road games, and coach Pete Carroll said he made poor use of last week's bye.
"I'm disappointed in all phases of the game," he said. "We didn't do the things we needed to do in the week off to get prepared. I screwed it up."
Tannehill and Miami caught a break with Seattle leading 14-7 early in the fourth quarter. Bobby Wagner intercepted a pass by Tannehill in the end zone, but the turnover was negated by a penalty on safety Earl Thomas for roughing the passer.
"They were looking out for me today, and we got it called back," Tannehill said with a chuckle.
On the next play, Daniel Thomas scored the tying touchdown on a 3-yard run. Carroll said he considered the penalty on Thomas questionable.
"He jumped up to block the pass and came down on the quarterback with no intent to hit him," Carroll said. "It was a very big call to make at that point in the game."
Leon Washington returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the eighth time to tie the NFL record and put Seattle ahead with eight minutes left. Miami answered with an 80-yard drive capped by Tannehill's 29-yard pass to Charles Clay, making it 21-21.
Wilson finished with a hefty passer rating of 125.9 in the matchup of rookie quarterbacks. But the Seahawks lost yardage on their final three plays and were forced to punt from midfield, allowing the Dolphins to start at their own 10 with 1:32 left.
"There was no panic," Tannehill said. "Everyone felt confident out there."
Tannehill quickly moved Miami downfield and finished 18 for 26 for 253 yards and a score. He broke the Dolphins' rookie record of 2,210 yards passing set by Dan Marino in 1983.
Wilson went 21 for 27 for 224 yards and two scores, increasing his season total to 17 TD passes. He also ran for 38 yards.
With the score 14-14, Washington took a kickoff on the run, found a seam, juked past Carpenter and was in the clear to score untouched on a 98-yard return. Washington tied the career record for touchdowns on kickoff returns held by Joe Cribbs of Cleveland.
The lawn sprinklers came on between plays in the third period, causing a brief delay and drawing a roar from the amused crowd. Otherwise Miami fans had little to cheer about until the Dolphins' offense suddenly came to life in the fourth quarter after scoring only two touchdowns during the previous 13 periods.
Mindful of Miami's sputtering offense, Carroll played for field position, punting when his team had the ball at the Miami 40, 48 and 38. The conservative strategy helped keep the Dolphins pinned deep, and they started outside their 20 on only one possession.
Their touchdowns came on drives of 94, 82 and 80 yards.
"The guys kept believing," Philbin said. "They never buckled."
- Seattle G James Carpenter left the game in the first half with a left knee injury.
- With Carpenter's game-winner, Seahawks opponents improved to 17 for 17 on field-goal tries this year.
- The Dolphins announced that their annual cycling event raised $2.2 million for Miami's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.