Miami Dolphins a Legitimate Contender?

The Dolphins headed into yesterday’s match-up 2-0, coming off of a road win against a Colts team who last year won eleven games and qualified for a wild card berth into the playoffs. Yet many pundits still questioned Miami, saying Sunday’s matchup against a vaunted Atlanta Falcons team (whom many have picked to represent the NFC in this year’s Super Bowl) would be a truer test of whether Miami is finally ready to break out of its decade-long slumber of mediocrity. If indeed yesterday was a test for the Dolphins, the team passed with flying colors.

Atlanta began the game with the ball and promptly shoved that ball down the throats of the Miami defense. Of particular concern was the ease with which the Falcons were able to run the ball on that first drive (and the rest of the game for that matter), given the absence of all-pro running back Steven Jackson. The Falcons were forced to start second year back Jacquizz Rodgers who in his brief stint in the league has averaged less than four yards per carry, yet managed to put up 86 yards on only 18 carries in yesterday’s game.

However the Dolphins bounded back, and at halftime found themselves trailing 13-10 after, for the second week in a row, quarterback Ryan Tannehill led the offense down the field for a first half-ending Caleb Sturgis field goal.

After a half where they possessed the ball for just over seven minutes, Miami had to be ecstatic at the prospect of being down only a field goal and getting the ball to start the second half. However, any enthusiasm that they’d brought with them out of the locker room was quickly quashed when on the second play of the half, Osi Umenyiora ran past rookie tight end Dion Sims and forced a fumble on his second sack of the game. Atlanta quickly turned their great field position into a Matt Ryan touchdown, and it appeared for all the world that the Dolphins of yesteryear had finally reared their ugly heads again.

But against all odds, Miami rallied back once again and sent the game into the fourth quarter tied 20-20. On their first drive of the quarter, Atlanta would score a field goal to take a tenuous three point lead. With a little less than five minutes remaining in the contest, Miami found themselves down three and with just about the length of the field between them and their third win of the season; situations like these are where quarterbacks earn their keep in the NFL and Ryan Tannehill would go on to do just that. He led his team on a masterful 75 yard drive, completing 9 of his 12 passes, including the game-winning, one yard touch pass to tight end Dion Sims.

For the first time since 2002, the Miami Dolphins have started a season with three victories, and have put the rest of the league on notice with two quality wins in a row. The road doesn’t get any easier for Miami as next week they travel to New Orleans to face-off with the Saints in a Monday night matchup of two unbeaten teams.

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