Miami Dolphins vs. Carolina Panthers Preseason Week 2 Recap: Starters Impressive in Loss

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(Charlotte, NC) — For the second straight week, the starting offense and defense looked very good in a loss as the Miami Dolphins (0-2) were edged by the Carolina Panthers (2-0) by a score of 31-30 on Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium.

“We did some good things,” said Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin after the game. “Certainly, I made a bad decision throwing the challenge flag early in the game. No one to blame but me.”

Ryan Tannehill played another terrific game in limited action, as the Dolphins’ fourth-year quarterback led two touchdown drives en route to 12 of 15 passes completed for 102 yards and one touchdown pass. Miami struck first when backup running back Damien Williams, who went undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft out of the University of Oklahoma, scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 6:25 remaining in the first quarter.

To set up the short touchdown run, Miami starting running back Lamar Miller caught a dump-off pass from Tannehill and put an ankle-breaking juke move on Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. After the swift move, Miller galloped down the sideline for a 36-yard gain and was shoved out of bound at the 5-yard line.

On the Dolphins’ next offensive drive after they forced a Carolina punt, Tannehill drove his offense down the field for a 10-play, 63-yard drive capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Williams. With 14:55 left in the 2nd quarter, the Dolphins took a 14-0 lead over the Panthers after Williams’ second touchdown of the game.

The next Carolina drive only lasted one play, as Dolphins starting cornerback Jamar Taylor picked off Panthers two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton for a 27-yard interception return down to the three-yard line. Unfortunately, Taylor later left the game with a quad injury and his status for next week’s game is questionable.

However, on the Dolphins’ very next offensive play, Williams fumbled the ball through the end zone, which resulted in a touchback. Instead of a 21-0 Dolphins’ lead, the ball was given right back to the Panthers at the 20-yard line.

Despite a 14-play, 79-yard drive by the Panthers-led Newton, they were unable to score on fourth and goal as the Dolphins defense flexed their muscle to force a turnover on downs.

“You never want anyone to run the ball in (the endzone) on you,” said Dolphins star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh after the game.

After they led 14-9 going into halftime, the Dolphins had a very impressive first drive of the second half. After the Miami defense forced a Panthers’ three-and-out, Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore (six of 11 passes completed for 55 yards, one touchdown pass and one interception) hit wide receiver Matt Hazel for a four-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 13-play, 65-yard drive to extend their lead to 21-9 over Carolina.

Following a nine-yard touchdown run by Panthers backup running back Brandon Wegher, the Dolphins’ lead was cut to 21-16 with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Miami third-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson (five of six passes completed for 46 yards) led an impressive drive that resulted in a Caleb Sturgis 49-yard field goal, which extended the Miami lead to 24-16.

Backup running back LaMichael James led the Dolphins in rushing with seven carries for 45 yards, while tight end Gerrell Robinson led the team in receiving with two catches for 61 yards, one of which was a 56-yard touchdown reception from backup quarterback Josh Freeman late in the fourth quarter.

Up next on their Week 3 preseason schedule, the Dolphins will head home to take on the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium. The contest, which is slated to kick off shortly after 7:00 pm ET, will be broadcast live locally on CBS4 Miami.

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Andrew Salmi is a recent graduate from California State University, Fullerton after he previously attended Arizona State University. He is a diehard NFL fan and proud to be an editor and staff writer for Dolphin Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewsalmi.