With three offensive linemen hurt, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was feeling the heat Monday.
From his critics, that is.
Tannehill took a pounding in the Dolphins’ latest defeat Sunday, 27-17, at Cincinnati, and then caught plenty of blame for his team’s second ugly loss in a row. Coach Adam Gase, ever loyal to Tannehill, mounted a modest defense by noting problems with pass protection.
‘‘I don’t think he was horrible,’’ Gase said. ‘‘When a [teammate] gets beat so fast he can’t defend himself unless he’s Houdini, not many guys are getting away.’’
The Dolphins are 3-2 and tied with New England for the AFC East lead, but it hardly feels that way. In the past two weeks they've lost at the Patriots, 38-7, and blown a 17-point lead at Cincinnati, leaving Gase forced to address the question of whether Tannehill remains his starting quarterback. (The answer was yes.)
Tannehill took responsibility for the Dolphins’ collapse Sunday, when they were outscored 27-0 by the Bengals in the final 21 minutes left. His ill-advised pass under pressure was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, and a strip sack produced Cincinnati’s final score.
‘‘It all started with the turnovers,’’ Tannehill said. ‘‘That’s on me.’’
In Tannehill’s defense, he was hit 11 times in the second half. Protection by Miami’s injury-riddled line disappeared after left tackle Laremy Tunsil was sidelined with a concussion.
This season’s offensive line was expected to be the best Tannehill has played behind, but instead the perennial problem of poor pass protection persists. The Dolphins lost left guard Josh Sitton and center Daniel Kilgore to earlier season-ending injuries.
‘‘Any time starters go down, it’s hard,’’ Tannehill said.
When Miami was 3-0, Tannehill had a quarterback rating of 121.8. But in the past two games it’s 54.0, with one touchdown pass, four turnovers, and five sacks. He has struggled mostly on third down and late in the game, a career-long pattern.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald was still steaming about a receiving a costly penalty, said rules protecting the safety of offensive players are hurting the game.
‘‘It’s getting out of hand, man,’’ McDonald said. ‘‘We've got a job to do. It’s not fantasy football. It’s getting kind of crazy.’’
McDonald was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty when he hit intended Bengals receiver C.J. Uzomah. The penalty came on a third-down incompletion and extended a Bengals’ touchdown drive.
McDonald said his coaches agreed he wasn’t at fault.
‘‘I was just trying to make sure he didn’t catch the ball,’’ McDonald said. ‘‘I didn’t take the kill shot. What do you do?’’
X-rays clear QB Ryan
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had negative results on an X-ray of his foot following Sunday’s 41-17 loss at Pittsburgh.
Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said Ryan is ‘‘100 percent good to go’’ this week against Tampa Bay after getting sacked six times and hit 11 additional times. Quinn did not say which foot Ryan injured.
Ryan, an 11-year veteran and the 2016 NFL MVP, has been sacked 16 times, tied for third-most in the league. He was sacked 24 times last year.
Ajayi down with knee injury
The Eagles placed Jay Ajayi on injured reserve because of a knee injury, a person familiar with the situation saying the 25-year-old runnng back tore an ACL and will miss the rest of the season. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hasn’t announced the severity of the injury.
Ajayi had 29 yards rushing on eight carries and lost a fumble at the Vikings’ 5 in a 23-21 road loss Sunday. He was acquired by the Eagles from Miami at the trade deadline last season and helped the team win the Super Bowl.
Giants done with Flowers
The Giants are parting ways with 2015 first-round draft pick Ereck Flowers.
Coach Pat Shurmur said the offensive tackle, who was the ninth pick overall, was going to be cut or traded by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The move isn’t a surprise for the Giants (1-4). Flowers lost his starting job at right tackle to Chad Wheeler after the second game of the season and the play of the line picked up.
Flowers has been a disappointment since being taken out of Miami. He was supposed to be the team’s left tackle for the next decade. His play was so poor that New York signed former Patriots left tackle Nate Solder to a four-year, $62 million contract this spring .
New general manager Dave Gettleman also decided after last season not to pick up the option on the final year of Flowers’s rookie contract. He is making almost $2.4 million this season.
Shurmur moved Flowers to right tackle after Solder was signed and said he was getting a fresh start.
Flowers was not at the Giants’ practice Monday.
‘‘It has run its course,’’ Shurmur said of the decision to drop Flowers. ‘‘We appreciate Ereck’s efforts. We wish him the best. Sometimes a change of scenery is good for a person.’’
Browns to miss WR
Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins could miss some games with a sprained knee.
Coach Hue Jackson said that an MRI taken on Higgins revealed he sprained his medial collateral ligament while blocking during Sunday’s overtime win against the Ravens. Higgins, who is having a breakout season, had three catches for 66 yards and a 19-yard touchdown before getting hurt.
Jackson said surgery has been ruled out; the team did not specify which knee Higgins injured.
Undrafted rookie Derrick Willies replaced him Sunday and made perhaps the game’s biggest play, turning a short catch into a 39-yard gain to help set up the game-winning field goal.
The Browns are also working out veteran free agent Rishard Matthews. He was released last month by Tennessee.
Jaguars put pair on IR
The Jaguars are placing tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and running back Corey Grant on injured reserve.
Coach Doug Marrone said Seferian-Jenkins will have core muscle surgery but could return later in the season; Grant will miss the rest of the year with a foot injury.
Seferian-Jenkins has 11 receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. Grant has 13 carries for 40 yards to go along with nine receptions for 67 yards.
The Jaguars likely will add a running back since starter Leonard Fournette (hamstring) is unlikely to play at Dallas on Sunday.
Jets activate Robinson
The Jets activated cornerback Rashard Robinson and released safety J.J. Wilcox.
New York had until 4 p.m. Monday to activate or release Robinson, who returned to the team last week on a roster exemption following a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Robinson was arrested and charged with drug possession and carelessly driving in Morris County, N.J., last December. Police accused Robinson of having marijuana-laced candy in his car.
Robinson could help immediately with Trumaine Johnson (quad) and Buster Skrine (concussion) uncertain to play Sunday against Indianapolis.
The Jets acquired Robinson from the 49ers last October for a fifth-round draft pick.
Bears lose Acho
The Bears placed backup linebacker Sam Acho on injured reserve because of a torn pectoral muscle and signed offensive lineman Bryan Witzmann.
Coach Matt Nagy said last week that Acho will miss the remainder of the season. He was injured against Tampa Bay on Sept. 30.
Witzmann started 13 games for Kansas City last season. He was released by Minnesota on Friday.
Watson, Texans escape trouble
Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson has a knack for making big plays, whether it’s with his arm or his feet.
But after the quarterback took a few too many unnecessary hits in a 19-16 overtime win against the Cowboys on Sunday night, his teammates wondered if maybe he should dial things back a bit.
‘‘I be in the huddle telling him to get down,’’ receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. ‘‘I need him. That’s what I tell him honestly. Don’t take those hits unless you [have to]. But he’s a warrior. He wants to get in the end zone every time the ball is in his hands.’’
Watson threw for 375 yards with a touchdown and an interception and ran 10 times for 40 yards for the Texans, who won in overtime for the second straight week.
Houston coach Bill O'Brien agreed with Hopkins that Watson is taking too many blows, but added that he doesn’t want to cut down on the hits at the cost of changing the way he plays.
‘‘We've got to do a better job of making sure that he doesn’t take as many,’’ O'Brien said. ‘‘At the same time, it’s a fine line because that’s part of his game. That’s the way he plays the game.’’
‘‘He enjoys that part of the game to be honest with you,’’ O'Brien continued. ‘‘I think it’s something that we continue to coach and obviously, it’s something we don’t want an abundance of him getting hit, but sometimes it does happen.’’
The Texans were driving late in the fourth quarter when Xavier Woods intercepted Watson, who threw under heavy pressure, with 10 seconds left and returned it 15 yards to give Dallas the ball at its 47. Watson was taken down hard by two defenders on the play and was slow to get up. He was checked out in the medical tent after that, but returned to throw a 49-yard pass to Hopkins in overtime that set up the game-winning field goal.
He took a huge hit earlier when he tried to scramble for a touchdown near the goal line.