Three or so hours ago the Miami Dolphins took the field in front of one of their largest home crowd in years. The Atlanta Falcons quickly quieted them down with an opening drive TD. They followed that up with a FG drive. Miami kept pace while staying one step behind. At the half, the Dolphins engineered a drive that culminated in another Caleb Sturgis FG to put Miami down by three.
The second half opened with Atlanta recovering a fumble deep in Miami territory and quickly got the lead open to 10 points.
The Falcons wore down the Dolphins with a heavy dose of running that worked. Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for over 85 yards and Jason Snelling added 56. The pass happy Falcons nailed 115 to Julio Jones. Through it all, the Miami Dolphins kept their poise and never panicked.
As the 4th quarter was set to begin Ryan Tannehill hit Brian Hartline after one of the biggest hits in Dolphins history. After failing to move the ball on the series before, Brandon Fields’ punt was taken deep in Atlanta territory where rookie Don Jones hit the return man in a picture perfect tackle. The ball popped out and long snapper John Denney fought under the pile to recover it.
The score tied 20-20 the Falcons brought the ball down the field and took a 23-20 lead. The Dolphins couldn’t do anything on the next possession and the Falcons brought the ball again to score but a 35 yard FG attempt sailed just right and the Dolphins took over with four minutes left in a three point game.
…And Ryan Tannehill grew up.
Tannehill engineered a perfect drive that ate clock and moved the sticks. He took no risks and on three 3rd and long plays found enough poise to move the sticks. Brandon Gibson was stellar on the drive bringing in not one first down but two. Tannehill was not perfect on the drive with a drop by Lamar Miller that would have been a touchdown or come close to one on the outside and another by Charles Clay on the outside.
…And Tannehill didn’t flinch.
Tannehill called the plays at the line until a pass on first and goal put the Dolphins on the 1 1/2 yard line. The second down pass faded off the line where rookie Dion Sims caught a one handed pass in tight coverage over his shoulder for the game winning TD.
With .38 seconds left in the game the Dolphins opted to put pressure on Atlanta rather than play back. It paid off as three plays into the drive Jimmy Wilson picked off a wobbly air ball for the game sealing victory.
The Dolphins played the game without star pass rusher Cameron Wake who went down with a knee injury early in the game. No word on his status for next week or the severity of the injury.
For Miami it’s the first time since 2002 that they have started 3-0. The toughest stretch of their schedule in full swing, Miami will travel next week to New Orleans to face the pass happy Saints. For now, they can relish in the maturation of the Miami Dolphins.