MIAMI (CBSMiaim) – The Miami Dolphins welcomed their home fans into the newly renovated Sun Life Stadium on Saturday night for preseason game number three against the visiting Atlanta Falcons.
Miami played a solid sixty minute game for the first time during the preseason and came away with a nice 13-9 win.
The Dolphins starting offense had a little more trouble against the Falcons defense than in either of the first two preseason games but still moved the ball reasonably well.
Ryan Tannehill continued his strong play, leading Miami’s offense until late in the first half.
Miami’s lone first half touchdown was a quick slant from Tannehill to Rishard Matthews on a goal to go situation. The score capped off a 6-play, 79-yard drive that took just 3:32 thanks to a 46 yard catch by Jarvis Landry.
Tannehill finished the game 15-of-19 for 145 yards and a touchdown.
The majority of his damage went to his favorite receiving target from 2014, the aforementioned Landry.
The second-year wideout finished the game with 5 receptions for 84 yards.
It’s likely that the Dolphins starting quarterback is done for the preseason, but he played extremely well during his limited reps, finishing the exhibition slate with a 121.8 passer rating while completing 80.5% of his passes.
Lamar Miller also remained on his streak of strong appearances, making plays both as a runner and a pass catcher. He tied with Landry for the team lead with five receptions and finished with a combined 53 all-purpose yards.
Miller has looked quite good throughout the preseason and appears poised for a big year in 2015.
While it seems a foregone conclusion that Damien Williams will be the number two back behind Miller, it’s been up in the air as to who will be next on the depth chart.
Rookie Jay Ajayi was given a chance to show his stuff after injuries have kept him limited throughout the preseason. Ajayi carried the ball 7 times for 25 yards and made a pair of catches as well.
The starting defense continued to play well, led by Cam Wake, Ndamukong Suh and that scary defensive line.
Miami’s top unit gave up a pair of field goals, the first points they’ve surrendered all preseason.
One of the field goals came after a botched snap on a Dolphins punt which set the Falcons up deep in Miami territory, but the defense held them out of the end zone. The other field goal, a 50-yarder, came as time expired on the first half.
Aside from the usual defensive suspects, Derrick Shelby had a great game and was all over the field, finishing with three tackles.
Saturday was the third time in as many preseason games that the Dolphins took a lead into halftime, this time a slim 7-6 advantage.
Atlanta got the ball to start the third quarter and tested Miami’s second string defense.
The Falcons went on a long drive that took them all the way down to the Dolphins 1-yard line but that’s as far as they got.
A fourth down sack by rookie linebacker Mike Hull capped off the impressive goal line stop. Hull had a big tackle on third down as well.
Between Hull and fellow LB Zach Vigil, the Dolphins appear to have struck gold in the undrafted rookie department. Both players finished the game with a team-leading five tackles.
Another undrafted rookie linebacker, Neville Hewitt, came away with the game-winning play after forcing a Falcons fumble late in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta was driving towards a go-ahead score when Hewitt popped the ball loose from running back Jerome Smith at the Dolphins 18-yard line.
From there all quarterback Josh Freeman had to do was take a few kneel-downs to run out the clock.
Freeman had his best showing in a Dolphins uniform, completing 4-of-5 passes for 35 yards while leading Miami on a scoring drive.
He looked better than backup Matt Moore, who completed just five of his ten pass attempts for 68 yards and an interception. His arm was hit on the interception thanks to a missed block by Jeff Linkenbach, a backup offensive guard.
The final thing to report is an update on the battle for the kicking job.
Caleb Sturgis, the incumbent, handled duties in the first half and only had to kick an extra point, which he made.
Andrew Franks took over in the second half and made a real case for himself to be Miami’s everyday kicker.
He hit two field goals, one from 32 yards and one from 51 yards, that proved to be the difference in the game.
Franks also knocked both of the post-field goal kickoffs out of the Falcons end zone for touchbacks. He has some serious power in his right leg and if he can become a bit more consistent with his accuracy, the sky is the limit.
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