MIAMI — Ryan Tannehill was hardly a rattled rookie as he stood in his end zone, contemplating the long drive the Miami Dolphins needed with the score tied and 92 seconds left.
“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 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. On the last drive he came through with completions of 19, 25 and 7 yards, as well as a 15-yard scramble.
“In this league you need to win some games like this,” coach Joe Philbin said. “It’s important for any quarterback to do that.”
Tannehill pulled off his first fourth-quarter comeback victory, and the Dolphins overcame a seven-point deficit in the final period to win for the first time since 2005. Carpenter hit the winning kick on his 27th birthday to help Miami (5-6) break 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.
“I can’t stop in midair like magic,” Thomas said. “The NFL, they need some goggles.”
Carroll called 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.”
One play after the penalty, Daniel Thomas scored the tying touchdown on a 3-yard run. Tannehill chuckled when asked about the officials negating his turnover.
“They were looking out for me today,” he said.
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 was the better rookie QB for much of the afternoon. He completed 16 consecutive attempts and finished with a hefty passer rating of 125.9.
“We did a lot of great things, but we did some stuff that’s not characteristic of us,” Wilson said.
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-all, 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 Josh 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 over 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.
“We never got rattled,” said Davone Bess, who made seven receptions for a career-high 129 yards. “We just continued to stay poised, and Ryan hit the open guys.”
NOTES: Seattle G James Carpenter left the game in the first half with a left knee injury. ... With Dan Carpenter’s game-winning kick, Seahawks opponents improved to 17 for 17 on field-goal tries this year. ... Miami improved to 12-1 since 1997 at home against teams from the West Coast. ... The Dolphins announced that their annual cycling event raised $2.2 million for Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.