MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins had a pretty good crowd on hand for their home opener. Some of those watching were their top defensive players.
But their offensive players were healthy.
The Dolphins drove 13 yards in 75 plays in the waning moments Sunday at Sun Life Stadium. The drive was capped with a with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dion Sims with 38 seconds left for the decisive points in a 27-23 win over Atlanta.
Miami began the game with starters Paul Soliai (knee) and Dimitri Patterson (ankle) out. Then star defensive tackle Cameron Wake (knee) lost for the second half and linebacker Koa Misi (shouder) for much of the second half.
But everybody was healthy on offense. And that ended up making the difference.
Here’s a look at some observations from the win that raised Miami’s record to 3-0:
1. Tannehill keeps maturing.
A week after outdueling Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck in a battle of 2012 rookie quarterbacks, Tannehill showed he keeps getting better.
Tannehill looked very cool on the game-winning drive. He wasn’t rattled at all when running back Lamar Miller dropped what could have been a touchdown pass and tight end Charles Clay had another drop.
Tannehill completed 24 of 35 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He had one bad interception, but that didn’t end up dooming the Dolphins.
2. Sack it to me.
While the Dolphins, who had nine sacks in their first two games, didn’t get to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan even once, Tannehill was dropped five times. That’s way too many.
Miami’s offensive line had some questions marks before the season but had done well in its first two games. That changed against the Falcons, one of the NFL’s better teams that is determined to make the Super Bowl.
The five sacks cost Tannehill 41 yards. He was running for his life far too often, but the Dolphins were able to survive.
3. Grind it out
After a disastrous showing in the opener of 20 yards on 23 carries, Miami’s running game is making strides. The Dolphins have gained 192 yards the past two games, including 90 on 15 carries Sunday.
A problem Sunday, though, was the run defense. The Falcons came in without injured running back Steven Jackson, who has a bad hamstring. Still, Atlanta ran for 146 yards on 30 carries. Jackson’s replacement, Jacquizz Rodgers, led the way with 86 yards on 18 carries.
Miami’s biggest run of the day came courtesy of running back Lamar Miller, who ripped off a 49-yard gain. Miller finished with 62 yards on eight carries.
4. Fans felt the momentum.
The Dolphins had been counting on a good crowd in their home opener after getting off to a 2-0 start.They got one.
Although there were still some noticeable empty seats, the announced crowd of 70,660 was strong. And the big win could result in the crowds continuing to be very good.
After playing at New Orleans on Sept. 30, the Dolphins play host Oct. 6 to Baltimore. The Ravens are simply the defending Super Bowl champions.
5. Where was Wallace?
Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace was frustrated at catching just one pass in the opener at Cleveland for 15 yards. But he bounced back in Week 2, tying a career-high with nine grabs for 115 yards.
But Wallace didn’t build upon that momentum Sunday. He caught just two passes for 22 yards.
The Falcons obviously watch film and were determined to slow down Wallace. Still, the Dolphins needed to do a better job to get the ball to him.