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Lazor on target: 20 things we learned Friday night

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The Bill Lazor era in Miami is off to a promising start.

The Dolphins took the opening kickoff on Friday, then took it to the Atlanta Falcons' defense. Ryan Tannehill efficiently guided Miami downfield, capped by a too-easy 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson. The 10-play, 73-yard drive covered five minutes and featured some fine work by Miami's unproven offensive line.

That was enough for Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who pulled Tannehill after one series and six consecutive completions. Lazor -- in his first season as Dolphins offensive coordinator -- looked like a man who took copious notes during his one-year apprenticeship under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia.

All the hype of Lazor's new attack was justified -- at least for one drive.

Atlanta Falcons 16, Miami Dolphins 10


1. First-round pick Jake Matthews had a rough night, getting called for two penalties in 19 snaps. Matthews' first flag, for holding, wiped away a 76-yard touchdown run by Antone Smith in the second quarter.

2. Matt Ryan looks ready for games that count. He led the Falcons to a touchdown in his only possession of work, going 7-for-7 on the drive. Ryan's a major reason why the Falcons shouldn't be an afterthought in the NFC South.

3. Dolphins pass rusher Dion Jordan was on the field for three quarters, playing with the first team and backups. He had one tackle to show for it. He'll be even more invisible during his four-game suspension to start the season.

4. Devonta Freeman got some tough love from the Falcons coaching staff in the premiere of Hard Knocks. He responded with 107 all-purpose yards against the Dolphins. We'll see if that moves him above No. 3 on the depth chart.

-- Dan Hanzus

Jacksonville Jaguars 16, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10


1. The story of the night was No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles. After three long seasons with Blaine Gabbert at the helm, Jacksonville's long-suffering fan base can take heart in what we witnessed: A functioning young quarterback who took chances down the field and energized the offense, going 7-of-11 passing for 117 yards with no interceptions.

2. It was an equally impressive debut for Jacksonville's rebuilt defense. Josh McCown was under duress from start to finish, generating zero points on four drives and throwing a pick six to Jaguars safety Winston Guy before Jacksonville stripped-sacked Tampa's starter on the following march.

3. The most hideous unit I saw on Thursday was the Dallas defense. Today? Tampa's shambles of an O-line.

-- Marc Sessler

Buffalo Bills 20, Carolina Panthers 18


1. Kelvin Benjamin worked with the Panthers' first team and made an instant impact. The first-round pick caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Derek Anderson, beating Stephon Gilmore on a fly pattern. The play was especially impressive because Benjamin tripped and was falling to the ground as he hauled the pass in.

2. Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn looked spry, shooting the gap to stuff a 4th-and-inches Fred Jackson rush from inside the 5 in the first quarter.

3. EJ Manuel looked more comfortable here than in his underwhelming Hall of Fame Game showing against the Giants. Still, he failed to engineer a touchdown drive for the second straight game.

-- Dan Hanzus

Chicago Bears 34, Philadelphia Eagles 28


1. Chip Kelly's much ballyhooed offense came out of the gate sluggish, with Philly's line drawing three holding penalties and a quarterback hit on the first two drives. Flags wiped out gains of 19, 13 and 8 yards for Nick Foles, who threw as many interceptions in one quarter -- two -- as he did all last season.

2. The Bears had early problems of their own, but take heart: Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are still a thing. The quarterback found his favorite receiver five times for 31 yards, including an outstanding one-handed grab by the pass-catcher now calling himself "The Thriller." Like Philip Rivers on Thursday night, Cutler was a man on fire against Billy Davis' defense, ripping off 9-of-13 passes for 85 yards with a beautiful scoring pass to backup tight end Zach Miller.

3. "Making the Leap" entry Zach Ertz caught four passes for 60 yards and showed great chemistry with backup Mark Sanchez on back-to-back receptions of 18 and 35 yards. He's a stirring piece of the puzzle for the defending NFC East champs.

-- Marc Sessler

Minnesota Vikings 10, Oakland Raiders 6


1. Matt Cassel won the day in the Vikings' quarterback competition. The veteran was in the game for one possession, leading a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. Teddy Bridgewater took over, played into the third quarter and struggled to move the offense.

2. Matt Schaub's first official pass as a Raider was very nearly picked off by Captain Munnerlyn. He led the Raiders on three fruitless drives before turning it over to Derek Carr, who also did nothing.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew started and looked spry, finishing with two rushes for 10 yards and two catches for 14 yards. Darren McFadden had a single 23-yard rush. This looks like MJD's job to lose.

-- Dan Hanzus

New Orleans Saints 26, St. Louis Rams 24


1. The Saints have a battle cooking for the backup job behind Drew Brees. My choice is Ryan Griffin, the Tulane product who completed 16-of-23 passes for 179 yards with a touchdown strike. Griffin does a nice job anticipating the blitz to find his targets. He's nine years younger than Luke McCown with more upside from what we saw against St. Louis.

2. Rams rookie pass-rusher Michael Sam made his NFL debut, entering the fray with 5:13 left in the first quarter. The seventh-round pick and the league's first openly gay player showed well, quickly recording a pressure on McCown. That was wiped out by a defensive holding call, but Sam went on to register a quarterback hit that drew cheers from the Edward Jones Dome crowd.

3. Saints rookie wideout Brandin Cooks already looks comfortable in the NFL, burning through St. Louis coverage on Friday night to the tune of 55 yards off five catches. The moves he displayed on a 25-yard touchdown dart from Griffin were a thing of beauty:

-- Marc Sessler

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