Dolphins fall to Tampa Bay, but Tannehill returns for first time in 606 days

Bucs hold on for 26-24 win in Miami's preseason opener at Hard Rock Stadium

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor
Jeff Romance

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill throws a pass in the first series of an NFL preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Hard Rock Stadium, Aug. 9, 2018. It was Tannehill's first game action since December 2016.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Who says preseason football doesn't matter?

For Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, it was a chance to put the past behind him.

Miami's 26-24 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night was Tannehill's first game action since Dec. 11, 2016. That was 606 days ago. 

"It felt good to be back out there," Tannehill said after the game.

After suffering a season-ending knee injury during Miami's run to the playoffs in 2016, Tannehill went down with another knee injury in training camp last year. The result was a 6-10 season and a stopgap at quarterback.

If the first preseason game was any indication, Tannehill's return was a sign that all systems are a go for Miami's starting quarterback.

"I was just soaking it all up, soaking up every moment that I could, just enjoying it, because I know what it was like not to be able to be out there and have to struggle through missing a whole year, so I definitely didn't take any moment for granted," Tannehill said.

Tannehill was on the mark in his first and only series, completing his first four passes and moving the offense down the field.

The first play of the game was a 15-yard pass from Tannehill to wide receiver Kenny Stills.

"That was (head coach Adam) Gase all the way," Tannehill said of the call.

Tannehill finished the series 4-of-6 for 32 yards, but the Dolphins had nothing to show for it after Jason Sanders missed a 53-yard field goal attempt that sailed well left of the goal posts.

David Fales, Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty filled in the rest of the way. Fales benefitted the most, completing 8-of-11 passes for 115 yards. Petty threw the lone touchdown pass for the Dolphins in mop-up duty.

Gase said after the game that it's still too early to tell who will emerge as the clear-cut No. 2 behind Tannehill.

"This is going to take all of training camp," Gase said. "It's going to take all preseason."

Among the notable players sitting out for the Dolphins was running back Frank Gore. The former Miami Hurricanes star instead watched from the sideline as five other backs carried the load.

Jeff Romance

Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore watches from the sideline during an NFL preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Aug. 9, 2018, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

The Buccaneers got out to a 16-3 lead early, but the Dolphins scored their first touchdown on a 7-yard run by Senorice Perry with 2:49 left before halftime.

Miami rallied for its first lead of the game in the waning minutes, but it didn't last long. After Petty connected with Isaiah Ford on a 6-yard pass in the end zone with just 1:29 left, the Dolphins scored a 2-point conversion to take a 24-23 lead.

But the Dolphins let Tampa Bay move the ball into Miami territory, going 67 yards in 1:27, and Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 26-yard field goal to put Tampa Bay back on top.

The Dolphins had 23 seconds left and one last chance, but Petty was picked off to end the game.

Ryan Fitzpatrick got the start at quarterback for the Bucs. He was 6-of-8 for 55 yards before yielding to former No. 1 overall draft pick Jameis Winston, who will serve a three-game suspension in the regular season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Jeff Romance

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston throws a pass during an NFL preseason game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium, Aug. 9, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Florida.

"We needed to come out and just work on the communication and getting into a game and seeing some different fronts and defenses from what we've seen in training camp," Fitzpatrick said. "So from that part of it, I think it went well. There were a couple communication issues that we'll iron out that are bound to happen."

Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy while guiding Florida State to a national championship in 2013, was 11-of-13 for 102 yards in relief.

For Tannehill, though, just walking off the field on his own at the end of the game was satisfying enough.

"I don't think I was touched, so it was a good night," Tannehill said.

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