It's become customary for the Dolphins to lose their season opener. They've now done it six of the past seven years. But they looked particularly bad in Sunday's 19-7 loss in Atlanta.
The Dolphins avoided their first opening game shutout since 1983 when Chad Pennington found Ricky Williams along the right sideline for a nine-yard touchdown with 3:21 left in the game. By then, however, the Dolphins were in desperation mode and the Falcons defense looked to be coming home eased up.
That was the Dolphins' second trip inside the Falcons 20. Two red zone trips, four turnovers, seven points.
Pennington finished the day 21 of 29 for 176 yards and a touchdown. But he fumbled once and threw an interception. The Dolphins had four turnovers for the day.
"They didn't give us any deep shots," Pennington said. "You have to step up and make sure it doesn't get snowballed. We let it snowball on us."
Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes for the Falcons. The guy taken two spots ahead of him in the 2008 NFL Draft, No. 1 overall Jake Long, had one of his worst days, allowing two sacks, several pressures and being part of an offensive line that couldn't make running room against a young defense with six new starters.
Right tackle Vernon Carey also gave up two sacks.
The Miami offensive line, coming at a cost of $156 million, was terrible. Pennington was sacked four times, hurried 13 times and knocked down 6 times. And the disappointing thing is this unit is supposed to be built. Yes, the Dolphins have to improve at WR. Yes, they need more playmakers.
But the players this team is counting on for years on the OL -- Long, Smiley, Grove, Carey -- guys all making tons of money, were horrible today. They got dominated.
Tight end Anthony Fasano, Miami's top TE now that David Martin is on injured reserve, caught two passes. And he fumbled after both catches, losing both.
Miami's vaunted wildcat and spread offense was something of a dud. They ran three plays out of the package and gained four yards. Pat White overthrew a wide open Ted Ginn Jr. on his only throw of the day -- that out of the spread formation.
"When the Wildcat works, everybody loves it," Pennington said. "When it doesn't, everybody hates it."
The few bright notes for Miami? Phillip Merling played well, providing three quarterback hurries. Jason Taylor had one sack. The Miami run defense limited Atlanta's normally outstanding run offense to 2.5 yards per rush. Davone Bess quietly caught seven passes. The special teams didn't collapse.
The Dolphins are 0-1 and in the AFC East cellar as the Jets have already won today. New England and Buffalo play Monday night.
The Dolphins play Indianapolis at home Sept. 21. The Colts beat Jacksonville, 14-12 today.