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NFL Preview - Seattle (6-4) at Miami (4-6)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - There are steps in the development of any young quarterback.
Rookies Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill will continue those steps on Sunday when Wilson's Seahawks travel to South Florida to take on Tannehill and the slumping Miami Dolphins.
For Wilson it's all about proving he can get it done of the road while Tannehill is attempting to break down a rookie wall which has resulted in a three-game losing streak for the Fish.
As an undersized third round draft pick Wilson has been one of the NFL's most intriguing stories this season. The 5-foot-11 signal-caller has the Seahawks in the thick of the NFC playoff race and within earshot of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.
But most of the rookie's success has come in the Emerald City. Wilson is 5-0 in Seattle with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions versus 1-4 with just four touchdowns and eight picks in his five chances as the visitor.
Seattle had plenty of time to get ready for this encounter, last playing on Nov. 11 when Wilson threw for two touchdowns and Marshawn Lynch ran for 124 yards and a score, as the Seahawks dispatched the New York Jets, 28-7, to stay undefeated at home.
Wilson completed an efficient 12-of-19 passes for 188 yards against the Jets and Golden Tate caught a score and threw for another as Seattle strung together back-to-back wins heading into its bye week and improved to 6-4 for the first time since its last 10-win season back in 2007.
"Good game for us, a lot of guys played well," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. "We wanted to come into the break with a big push."
Miami, meanwhile, has lost the three straight, the latest of which came on Nov. 15 when Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown, Rian Lindell kicked four field goals and the Bills posted a key 19-14 victory over the Dolphins in a battle between AFC East rivals at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Tannehill, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 draft, threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Davone Bess, but was picked off twice in the game's final two minutes, sealing the Dolphins' latest setback.
Tannehill threw for just 141 yards while completing half of his 28 passing attempts although he did break David Woodley's franchise record for most completions by a rookie with 179.
"It was not a good offensive performance. We had nothing going on," said Miami coach Joe Philbin.
The Dolphins are 7-3 all-time against Seattle and 5-1 in the Sunshine State.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Wilson needs to figure it out on the road if Seattle plans on a postseason berth and the good news is the team's four road losses have come by a combined 21 points so they have been competitive.
"(I've been) disappointed in the way we've played on the road that we didn't find a way to get a couple more of those wins," Carroll said. "We've been in every one of them. We understand all of that. I think we're getting harder to beat."
Wilson is also 2-0 versus AFC teams this season with five TDs and no interceptions in those games.
"He's a good football player," Philbin said. "I think he's done a nice job so far for their team and he's got a very good arm and it looks like he's made good decisions. Certainly, he's elusive. He's a good football player. Very good."
As usual the Seahawks will rely on Lynch, who is second in the NFL with 1,005 rushing yards and will be aiming for his fifth straight 100-yard rushing day, to move the chains and set up play-action for Wilson, who is much more effective when the opposition has to bring a safety down in the box to deal with the bruising Lynch.
Wilson's primary receivers, Sidney Rice and Tate, have both turned it up a notch recently. Rice, a former Pro Bowl selection in Minnesota, has five touchdown catches in his past five games and Tate has accounted for four TDs in Seattle's past two contests.
The pass rush will be key for the Dolphins but the run defense must also tighten up after faltering recently. Miami's Cameron Wake has 9 1/2 sacks over his past seven games but the opposite side, especially Jared Odrick, has been far too quiet.
"It's safe to say we'd love to continue to get more pressure and disrupt the quarterbacks whenever we're playing, but I don't know that if it's solely we need more pressure out of Jared Odrick," Philbin said.
The Dolphins' run defense has allowed 148.5 over the last two games after giving up less than 84 per game through their first eight contests.
For Miami on offense it's time for Tannehill to move his chess piece in response to the opposition's adjustments to him. The Dolphins offense has mustered just one touchdown over its last 10 quarter and has turned it over seven times in the previous two games, five on Tannehill interceptions.
"It's really frustrating," said Tannehill. "Especially with some of the success we had earlier in the year."
Perhaps the biggest problem has been the Dolphins inability to help their rookie signal-caller with the running game. After a hot start to the season Reggie Bush has averaged only 3.0 yards a carry in his last six games and Miami hasn't run for 100 as a team since September. Bush did amass 141 scrimmage yards in his only previous career meeting with Seattle back in 2007, however.
The Seahawks defense is stout, ranking third in the NFL and allowing just 296.8 yards per game, but Carroll has been preaching getting off the field in third down situations since Seattle has let opponents convert 40.6 percent of the time.
For as good as we can play on defense at times to be at 40 percent, that's not good enough for us," Carroll said. "We need to knock that thing down."
It's hard to imagine either team lightning up the scoreboard here.
Wilson hasn't shown anything on the road yet while Tannehill has been struggling mightily and will be facing off against one of the NFL's best secondaries. Expect a late Dan Carpenter field goal to get Miami back in the win column here.
"I haven't slept as well as I'd like to be sleeping (during the losing streak)," Philbin said. "But at the same time you have to have faith and belief in something, and we're going to stick to this process that we have in place. There's a lot of football left to be played and most importantly excited about this opportunity against Seattle."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Dolphins 20, Seahawks 17
11/22 09:36:05 ET