The Atlanta Falcons did all the right things for most of Sunday. They controlled the clock, they won the battle up front on both sides, and Matt Ryan got the ball out of his hand quickly. But the Falcons couldn't close.
Ryan Tannehill, not Ryan, was the quarterback who played his very best with the game on the line, leading the Miami Dolphins to a 27-23 win over Atlanta. The Dolphins are 3-0 for the first time since 2002.
We can't help but see this game through the prism of the young quarterbacks. We've been expecting Tannehill to catch up with his 2012 draft class. He was sensational last week and terrific in the fourth quarter this time around. These are the types of wins that will get the rest of the country to notice. Fourteen years after Dan Marino's retirement, the Dolphins finally have a franchise quarterback again.
Here's what else we learned from Miami's win:
1. The Dolphins missed nose tackle Paul Soliai badly. Atlanta rushed for 146 yards and held the ball for more than 37 minutes. Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers were perfectly capable of carrying the load with Steven Jackson out with a thigh injury.
2. Atlanta's offensive line troubles have caused the Falcons to focus on a quick-release, short-passing offense. It worked for most of the day, but the Falcons really need Roddy White to get healthy. He caught two passes for 16 yards while hobbling around once again. Julio Jones had 115 yards, but Snelling was the next most effective receiver. Tony Gonzalez has only 93 yards through three games. That whole "skipping training camp" plan isn't working out.
3. The Falcons' defense did a lot of good things considering they lost Kroy Biermann and Sean Weatherspoon for the season last week. But the unit gave up three touchdowns in three Dolphins red zone trips. Atlanta was only two for five in the red zone. The Falcons already trail the Saints by two games in the NFC South.