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Dolphins Start Strong But Drop 16-10 Decision In Preseason Opener

Posted Aug 8, 2014

Ryan Tannehill was flawless on the opening drive, completing all six of his passes for 62 yards.

The Dolphins preseason schedule kicked off Friday night, and things couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.

With a lot of anticipation as to how the new offense would function against an opponent, the Dolphins answered the call by marching 73 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 4:59 into the game.

To put it into perspective, the Dolphins hadn’t scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the preseason since 1988 when their quarterback was a fellow by the name of Marino.

“It was a great first series, just the way we wanted to start the game,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said after halftime. “We had good balance on the drive.”

The Miami touchdown came on a 6-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to wide receiver Brandon Gibson, who provided more proof he’s back from the knee injury that cut short his 2013 season.

Tannehill was flawless on that drive, completing all six of his passes for 62 yards. Among his completions was a 36-yard hook-up with Rishard Matthews, the longest preseason completion of Tannehill’s NFL career.

His previous long had been a 33-yard pass to Mike Wallace at Houston last August.

Along with Tannehill’s passing, the rest of the drive consisted of four Lamar Miller runs good for 11 yards, including a 4-yard gain to convert a third-and-1 from the Miami 48-yard line.

Making it all possible was the new-look offensive line, which provided Tannehill with great pass protection, although the quarterback helped his cause with nice play fakes.

“They did a good job today in pass protection and opening the running game,” Miller said of the offensive line. “We still got a lot of room for improvement. It’s only the first preseason game; we’ve just got to get better as a unit.”

Making that first drive more impressive was the fact it was accomplished with Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Charles Clay all watching the game from the sidelines.

“We looked good the first drive,” Gibson said. “We still have tons of work to do. We’re missing Clay, Mike, Brian. I think they’re a big part of our offense. Once we get to full strength, we’ll be even better.”

The Dolphins ended up losing 16-10 in a penalty-filled game after a fumble by rookie quarterback Seth Lobato ended a late Miami drive that had reached the Atlanta 5-yard line. The Dolphins had one last shot after getting the ball at midfield at the two-minute warning, but their final drive ended on downs.

“I thought our guys played hard, I thought our guys played tough; unfortunately, there’s some things that have happened in practice that reared their ugly head at a bad time in the game,” Philbin said. “If you would have asked me when we had the ball on the 5-yard line, I would have bet my ranch and everything I have that we were going to win the football game.”

The first drive was all the action Tannehill saw against Atlanta on Friday night as he gave way to Lobato while both Matt Moore and Pat Devlin sat out the game with minor injuries.

Left tackle Branden Albert, Miller and Gibson also were done after the first drive, but the rest of the starting offensive line — left guard Daryn Colledge, center Samson Satele, right guard Dallas Thomas and right tackle Ja’Wuan James — continued to see action throughout the first half and James even got snaps in the third quarter.

While clearly the highlight of the evening for the Dolphins, the performance of Tannehill and the first-team offense was far from the only noteworthy performances.

Rookie wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who has attracted a lot of attention with his strong performance in training camp, didn’t catch a pass, but he set up a 42-yard field goal by Daniel Hrapmann — kicking just two days after being signed — with an electrifying 48-yard punt return.

Landry began the return with a quick move to elude the first defender and later broke a tackle to gain an additional 20 yards. The return was the longest for the Dolphins in a preseason game since Phillip Livas had a 75-yard touchdown in 2011, also at the Georgia Dome.

Landry’s punt return came after Marcus Thigpen had brought back a punt 28 yards.

On defense, second-year cornerback Will Davis broke up a handful of passes, although he did get flagged for pass interference late in the second quarter. Early in the second half, rookie defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Garrison Smith both dropped Atlanta running backs for significant losses.

“It felt like they were coming at me every time I was out there,” Davis said. “It was kind of crazy. That’s what you want, especially in the preseason. You want the opportunity to make plays and come in here and get action.”

Tight end Brett Brackett, re-signed this week days after being released, had two long receptions, a 22-yard gain in the first half and a 30-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Brackett also had a 5-yard catch on the Dolphins’ last possession.

In the end, though, the Dolphins left the Georgia Dome knowing they still have plenty of work to do in the weeks leading up to the start of the regular season. That includes the defense, a group that wasn’t happy about a fairly significant number of missed tackles.

“Just one thing that we need to work on, especially myself, is tackling right now,” linebacker Koa Misi said. “That’s something I’m going to concentrate on doing better.”

“We definitely found out what we need to work on this week.”
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