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MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – Football was in the air Thursday night in Miami Gardens following a long summer of waiting.
Head coach Adam Gase and his Miami Dolphins opened the 2018 preseason against cross-state rival Tampa Bay at Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami’s first team offense started the game, putting together a solid drive that ended with rookie kicker Jason Sanders missing a 53-yard field goal.
“I think we got off to a good start,” said quarterback Ryan Tannehill. “It obviously wasn’t perfect. We definitely have a lot of room for improvement but to get on the field and move the ball down the field – obviously we didn’t end up with points, which is what you want to do – but I thought for our first time hitting the field, my first time hitting the field in a long time, it felt good to be back out there. I think we started off on a good foot and now we just have to be able to finish that drive and execute in order to get the ball in the end zone.”
Tannehill completed his first three passes, finishing 4-of-6 for 32 yards.
Two of Tannehill’s completions went to Kenny Stills, including a 15-yard catch on a crossing route on the first play of the game.
“That was [Head Coach Adam] Gase all the way,” Tannehill said of the play. “He dialed up a good one and got us off on the right foot there. Kenny [Stills] did a good job coming across. He wasn’t open early but kept fighting his way across and was able to make a nice grab on the sideline.”
Fans who stayed with the game until the end were treated to what was nearly a thrilling Dolphins comeback, led by fourth string QB Bryce Petty.
With under two minutes to go, Petty completed a pass to camp standout Isaiah Ford inside the Bucs five yard line.
Ford fought his way into the end zone to bring Miami within one point of Tampa, 23-22.
Instead of kicking an extra point and potentially tying the game, Gase elected to go for the lead.
Petty threw a perfectly placed ball to Ford in the corner of the end zone, giving Miami its first lead of the game at 24-23.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, the lead was short lived.
Tampa marched right down the field on a 7-play, 67-yard drive and kicked a game-winning 26-yard field goal with :23 seconds left.
“I liked the energy,” Gase said after the game. “I liked the focus that we had. Leading up to the game, I thought before we even got out there, guys were wired in and they were ready to go. Then when we got out there, there was a lot of good execution. There was some things that we have to work on.”
Tampa’s top two quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston, combined to complete 17-of-21 for 147 yards during the first half, with each leading a touchdown drive.
Overall they had plenty of time to throw, as Miami’s defense come up with little pressure aside from back-to-back plays by defensive tackle Vincent Taylor, one of which ended in a sack.
It was a theme that played out during every quarter as the Dolphins failed to consistently limit Tampa’s passing game.
FALES PASSES THE FIRST TEST
The battle to be Miami’s backup quarterback is shaping up to be one of the better competitions of the preseason.
As they have done throughout training camp, David Fales and Brock Osweiler rotated reps during Thursday’s game.
Osweiler finished the game completing 10 of his 21 passes for 83 yards.
Fales threw nearly half as many times as Osweiler but he was much more efficient. Fales hit on 8-of-11 passes for 115 yards.
This is a position battle that will likely come down to the final days of the preseason, but for now it seems that Fales has the edge.
Miami’s first round pick flashed some of why he was one of the top defensive players coming out of college this year.
Minka Fitzpatrick had a pair of big hits during the first quarter, including a pass breakup of what would’ve been a long gain for Tampa.
Fitzpatrick has had a quiet training camp but don’t be surprised to see him show up as a playmaker during preseason games.
“I think right now, I’m at a good place,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m at a good spot and I still have three more games before the actual season, so hopefully by that point I’ll be at 110 percent, maybe fly around, make calls, see the offense, and all that stuff.”
RUNNING BACKS ROLLING
Rookie Kalen Ballage received the majority of the runs out of Miami’s backfield.
He picked up 37 yards on ten carries, showing some of the burst and quick feet that led the Dolphins to draft Ballage in the fourth round of this years draft.
Unfortunately, he also lost a fumble while trying to hurdle a Bucs defender during the first half.
“That’s just a young kid trying to make a big play and making a mistake and he’ll learn from that and he’ll get better from it,” said Gase.
Senorise Perry only received four carries but he made the most of them, gaining 35 yards and scoring Miami’s only touchdown.
Three Dolphins players participated in a protest during the national anthem prior to Thursday’s game.
Wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson took a knee while defensive end Robert Quinn raised his right fist in the air.
Petty finished 4-of-6 for 32 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
Linebacker Chase Allen forced a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Jordan Lucas. Allen finished tied for the team lead in tackles with five.
Rookie kicker Jason Sanders made 2 of his 3 field goals, converting from 23 and 29 yards away. He also made an extra point.
Miami’s other rookie kicker Greg Joseph hit his only kick attempt of the game, a 48-yard field goal late in the third quarter. Joseph is a South Florida native, growing up in Boca Raton and attending college at Florida Atlantic University.
Linebacker Mike Hull sustained what appeared to be a left knee injury on a play near the goal line during the second quarter. He was carted off the field but the team has yet to provide an update on his status.
“I just know it’s a knee,” Gase said. “I don’t know the exact details of what’s the timeframe and things like that.”