Dolphins offense flounders against Falcons
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Joe Philbin wasn't discussing the weather. He was talking about his inept offense.
"When it rains, it pours," said the Miami Dolphins coach, meaning no pun on the torrential downpour that hit Sun Life Stadium in the fourth quarter Friday night, leaving only a few hundred fans in the seats.
Not that many in the announced crowd of 41,550 would have stayed anyhow had it not rained. The Dolphins bowed meekly, 23-6, to the Atlanta Falcons in the supposedly key third preseason game.
This was the game in which the Dolphins were supposed to shake off their offensive woes and show some signs of life. Although rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill had started the previous week, it was his first game since he had been named the opening-day starter on Monday.
Tannehill didn't show a lot. He was 11 of 27 for 112 yards with an interception and had a meager passer rating of 37.9.
But four of Tannehill's passes were dropped. And before you say there should be a quarterback battle still going on between Tannehill and veteran Matt Moore, consider Moore quashed that notion himself by going 4 of 12 for 49 yards.
"Of course, I'm concerned," Philbin, whose team dropped to 0-3 in the preseason, said of having been unable to put together a 60-minute game with the Sept. 9 regular-season game at Houston two weeks away. "We haven't done it yet."
In their preseason losses, the Dolphins have been outscored 66-30. Through Friday, only the New York Jets, at a meager 4.5, were averaging less points per game in the preseason than Miami's 10.0. And wouldn't it figure that the Jets' offensive coordinator is Tony Sparano, whose attack sputtered when he was Miami's coach until being fired last December?
The Dolphins piled up just 246 yards and turned the ball over twice. Tannehill, who played the entire first half and the first series of the third quarter, threw an ugly first-quarter interception, and Moore lost a third-quarter fumble after taking over from Tannehill for the rest of the way.
While Tannehill was mediocre Friday, Miami's receivers were just plain bad. Of the four drops on Tannehill passes, three were by tight end Anthony Fasano, one that should have been a touchdown, and another by wide receiver Legedu Naanee.
"In our room, we're definitely frustrated with the way we played tonight," Naanee said. "The quarterback threw good balls out for us tonight. … Time definitely is ticking against us. … (The drops were) frustrating. Definitely something we can't have in our room on our team."
Miami's receivers have been maligned throughout training camp, and with good reason. While there might be no reason to worry about veteran Davone Bess, who caught four balls for 59 yards Friday, no others have stepped up.
That could make life rough this season on Tannehill, set to become the first rookie in Miami's 46-year history to start at quarterback in the first game. It's tough enough stepping off a college campus and onto an NFL field. But what if you have few guys who can catch anything?
"It's my job to put the ball there," said Tannehill, refusing to use any of the drops as an excuse. "There were some throws that I didn't make. That has nothing to do with the receivers. That's just myself putting the ball in a bad spot. I've got to be more consistent with my accuracy."
That is true. But Tannehill did put the ball in the right spot for what should have been a 4-yard touchdown pass to Fasano early in the second quarter. However, Fasano bobbled the ball at the goal line, and the Dolphins had to settle for a Dan Carpenter field goal, which tied the score 3-3.
The Falcons then outscored the Dolphins 20-3 the rest of the night. The key play was a 20-yard scoring pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White early in the third quarter that put Atlanta up 16-3.
Ryan, who Friday went 18 of 26 for 220 yards, was a starter when he first set foot in the NFL with the Falcons in 2008. Of course, he had some real receivers when he arrived, including perennial Pro Bowler White.
"We didn't have a lot of rhythm out there," Philbin said of Miami's offense. "My guess is, when I watch the film, is that there's probably not going to be one thing. Sure, there were drops. I'm sure there was a couple where the accuracy could have been better. There were others where we could have had better protection."
Then Philbin mentioned his line about the rain. It had nothing to do with Friday's deluge but everything to do with Miami's drought on offense.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter