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Dolphins Drop 24-17 Preseason Decision At Texans

Posted Aug 17, 2013

Tannehell to Wallace connection not enough as Miami falls to 1-2 in preseason action.



The Dolphins’ new-look passing game had a coming-out party of sorts Saturday night at Houston.

Mike Wallace caught his first three passes of the preseason on a drive that ended with his 9-yard touchdown and fellow wide receiver Brandon Gibson made two big catches on the Dolphins’ other scoring drive of the first half in a 24-17 loss at Reliant Stadium.

But the performances by Wallace and Gibson were overshadowed by the injury to new tight end Dustin Keller, whose right knee appeared to bend the wrong way after he took a hit from Houston rookie safety D.J. Swearinger on an incompletion in the second quarter. Keller immediately clutched his knee after hitting the ground and when he was put on a cart, his teammates came off the sideline to offer support.

“It’s tough,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said after the game. “Dustin brought a lot to the table for us. He’s a great player and it’s a tough situation. But at the end of the day we have to have somebody step up and play in his shoes.”

Wallace, the Dolphins’ biggest free agent acquisition of the offseason, caught three passes for 58 yards on a TD drive that tied the game at 7-7. After catching a 16-yard pass on the first offensive play of the drive, he added a 33-yard gain on a nifty catch near the sideline and later capped off the drive by running a simple stop pattern and catching a bullet from Ryan Tannehill between two defenders.

“It was a big for us,” Tannehill said. “Our relationship continues to grow, we continue to be more on the same page the more reps we get in practice. It’s exciting to get a couple of balls to him today and hopefully get this ball rolling.”

For good measure, Wallace threw a nice block on Lamar Miller’s 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter when he pushed a defensive back to the sideline to allow Miller to cut back inside.

Gibson, meanwhile, had catches of 15 and 17 yards on the drive that tied the score at 14-14. The drive was kept alive by a nifty 27-yard catch-and-run by Daniel Thomas off a shovel pass from Tannehill on third-and-13. Thomas also had a 13-yard run on that scoring drive, which was kept alive by Gibson’s first catch on third down on the play after Keller was injured.

Tannehill, whose first regular season start as an NFL player came last September at Reliant Stadium, played five offensive series and finished the game 10-for-15 for 141 yards and no interceptions. He also had a nice scramble when he avoided a sack and instead gained 6 yards on the play before he hit Wallace for 33 yards.

It was the second consecutive week Tannehill and the first-team offense left the game after a touchdown drive.

“I thought he played well,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “I thought he managed the game pretty well. His decision-making was good. Overall I thought he played good.”

Backup Matt Moore didn’t have as much luck. He finished 3-for-11 for 15 yards in two quarters of action and was sacked four times. Aaron Corp, re-signed a few days ago, took over for Moore for the Dolphins’ last drive and fumbled on first-and-10 from the Houston 40-yard line after scrambling out of the pocket, all but sealing the Texans victory.

“We had an opportunity at the end of the game to go for the win, but our lack of ball security prevented us from doing that,” Philbin said. “You all saw Dustin Keller get carted off the field. You hate to see any player in that situation. You all are wishing Dustin well. We hope his return is sooner as opposed to later. And that’s really all I have to say about that.”

Philbin said he had no indication after the game as to the severity of the injury. Regardless, it was a scene Keller’s teammates didn’t like seeing.

“I think it’s a shame,” wide receiver Brian Hartline said. “It’s kind of part of the game. There’s not much you can do. People want to talk about player safety, but it’s just kind of playing the game. I would have loved to see a higher tackle, but you can’t fault the guy for trying to make a play in that situation. It’s tough. You don’t really want to point fingers. It’s the game we play. It’s the chance we take and it’s very unfortunate.”

The first-team defense didn’t play nearly as long as the offense, with massive changes coming on Houston’s third drive after the Texans converted a third-and-9 situation.

The Texans’ first two drives were stopped by two big plays by two of the Dolphins’ biggest names on defense. Cornerback Brent Grimes, another free agent acquisition, came up with an interception to stop the first before two-time Pro Bowl selection Cameron Wake sacked Matt Schaub on third down to end the second.

“I just made a break, made a play on the ball,” Grimes said of his interception. “It wasn’t anything.”

The Dolphins’ backups on defense didn’t fare as well, giving up three touchdown passes, including a 38-yard hook-up from Case Keenum to Lestar Jean on fourth-and-2 and a 33-yard connection from T.J. Yates to tight end Garrett Graham in the third quarter.

The two plays that stood out for the defensive backups were a fumble recovery by Lee Robinson after fellow linebacker Josh Kaddu stripped running back Dennis Johnson on a rushing attempt and a sack by rookie defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo, the third consecutive preseason game he brought down an opposing quarterback.

Robinson’s fumble recovery set up the Dolphins’ only score of the second half, a 43-yard field goal by rookie Caleb Sturgis.

A week after being plus-3 against Jacksonville, the Dolphins ended plus-1 in turnover ratio against Houston, and that allowed them to have a chance to pull out a victory late in the fourth quarter despite being outgained 415-208.

“We’ve been focusing on that,” Grimes said about getting takeaways on defense. “It’s a big key and we’re trying to do well at it. It’s always a positive if we do.”

While Dolphins first-round pick Dion Jordan missed the game, second-round selection Jamar Taylor made his first appearance of the preseason, as did guard Lance Louis and wide receiver Rishard Matthews.

“There were some good things,” Philbin said. “I didn’t think we played as clean as we have to. Offensively, it took us a while to get going. We had some pressure early again. We ended up with six sacks. That’s not very good. I thought we did some good things, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. Defensively, we kept them out of the end zone, but they scored when we substituted when they were on our side of the field. Some positives, but long way to go.”

FROM THE LOCKER ROOM

• Head Coach Joe Philbin on the execution on offense: “I think it was better. We made a couple more plays. Again, it just wasn’t clean. We had some penalties and some things that slowed us down a little bit that we’ve got to clean up.”

• Fullback/tight end Charles Clay on how he would describe the Dolphins’ effort: “I wouldn’t say sloppy. Of course there’s some things we can always get corrected. That was a good football team we just played. Our hats off to them. They just played a better game than we did.”

• Wide receiver Brian Hartline on the offense: “We were little more efficient. We did a good job executing. We’ve just got to really catch the ball or make one block. I think the breakdowns are getting less. That’s what the preseason is for. It’s kind of hard to evaluate until it’s really on the line. Guys will always step up and make a few plays.”

• Quarterback Ryan Tannehill on dealing with high expectations: “I think I have very high expectations of myself. Just like missing a throw to Mike (Wallace), yeah, we caught it, we got a completion, but I’m not happy with that throw. I want to continue to be tough on myself and grow as much as I can week to week.”

• Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe: “I felt like we left some plays out there; I felt like overall we played an average game. We have to play better if we want to get into the playoffs or anything like that, but it’s too early to speak on it, it’s still preseason.”

• Cornerback Brent Grimes on the injury sustained by Dustin Keller: “You hate to see stuff like this. You never want to see somebody go down. It’s a game and it happens. Split-second decisions. I mean, you just never want to see something like that.”

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