ATLANTA -- Again. Let’s see it again.
Because it was oh so good, but oh so quick.
After seven months of worrying and spending and scheming, the Dolphins took the protective wrapping off their new toy Friday night. And for one blinding drive, it all came together against a generous Falcons defense.
(For the record, the Dolphins lost to the Falcons 16-10. It was irrelevant.)
Early on, the Dolphins’ protection was great. The pace was spot on. And Ryan Tannehill couldn’t miss.
In the first 4 minutes 59 seconds of the 2014 preseason, everything clicked. Touchdown. The ball never hit the ground. The Dolphins didn’t have a single negative play. Tannehill’s completion percentage (100) and passer rating (149.3) were both preseason career highs.
And then, just as quickly, it was over. Tannehill was done for the night. Always leave them wanting more, they say. Tannehill did just that. He completed all six passes. Threw for 62 yards and a 6-yard touchdown to Brandon Gibson.
His touchdown drive, a 10-play, 73-yard jaunt, was impressive on paper. In person, it was doubly so.
“We had good balance on the drive,” said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, whose team called six passes and four runs on the drive, the precise ratio he wants.
Plus, Tannehill consistently had the Dolphins at the line with some 20 seconds left on the play clock. He sold play-action, thanks largely to the Dolphins’ commitment to running the ball. And he made the right, and often easy, throw.
The touchdown pass was illustrative. The Dolphins sold the play-action left. Gibson motioned from that side and was all alone on the right.
And they did it with a bunch of backups. Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace and Charles Clay caught a combined 218 passes last season. None of them even dressed Friday, all working through various injuries. Knowshon Moreno, the Dolphins’ most accomplished running back, is still healing from offseason knee surgery.
Didn’t matter. Tannehill found Rishard Matthews twice for 40 yards, with 36 coming on a play-action call. He connected twice more with both Gibson and Lamar Miller, who will apparently be used in most every way this fall.
And the offensive line, that weakest link of a Dolphins roster? It did just fine. The interior line of Daryn Colledge, Samson Satele and Dallas Thomas held up. Zero sacks. Zero pressures.
A big part of the reason: the ball was out of Tannehill’s hands before the protection had time to break down. Exactly how Bill Lazor, the Dolphins’ celebrated new offensive coordinator, planned it.
It was a welcome development Friday. Because the first-string defense couldn’t stop a paper cut.
The Falcons’ starting offense, with its own preseason-opening touchdown drive of 77 yards in 9:16, was just as effective as the Dolphins’.
It’s not like the Dolphins’ defense put up much resistance. The positions might have changed among the linebackers, but the issues have not.
Both Koa Misi and Philip Wheeler missed tackles, and penalties in the secondary twice extended drives. It was fitting that Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers moved the pile and willed himself into the end zone for the tying touchdown.
And that was with Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones on the field. Neither will be available for the first four games after failing performance-enhancing drug tests.
“Well, we’re disappointed, but I have extreme confidence in our defense,” Philbin said of Jones’ suspension, which was announced Friday. “We have an excellent defense. I have a lot of confidence in our secondary, and we’re going to be ready to play.”
• Along with Hartline, Wallace, Clay and Moreno, tight ends Michael Egnew and Gator Hoskins, quarterbacks Matt Moore and Pat Devlin, running back Daniel Thomas, defensive end Olivier Vernon and kicker Caleb Sturgis all got the night off.
• Seth Lobato spelled Tannehill and played deep into the second half. He completed 14 of 28 passes for 124 yards but fumbled a snap on Atlanta’s 5-yard line late in regulation to essentially end the game.
• Running back Damien Williams was carted off the field after a fourth-quarter run. He appeared to injure his lower right leg.