Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones hits Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan during Sunday’s game, which Miami won to drop Atlanta to 1-2 on the season. (Reuters)
MIAMI - The Miami Dolphins are 3-0 for the first time since 2002, and they can give special thanks to Ryan Tannehill, their second-year quarterback.
Tannehill lofted a soft 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Dion Sims with 38 seconds remaining to lead the Miami Dolphins to a 27-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday before 70,660 fans at Sun Life Stadium.
Tannehill engineered a 13-play, 75-yard comeback drive that took 4:08. Sims' reception was the first of his career.
"He's a monster," Dolphins center Mike Pouncey said of Tannehill. "He's taken the next step, and everyone can tell."
Dolphins defensive back Jimmy Wilson intercepted a Matt Ryan pass with 26 seconds left in the game to put the Falcons away.
Atlanta, which was one play away from making the Super Bowl last season, is 1-2.
"We had a ton of opportunities to win," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We just didn't make plays when they were presented to us."
Tannehill, who had been bothered by a right shoulder injury earlier in the week, absorbed five sacks on Sunday and has been sacked 14 times in three games. But he still praised his blockers.
"Sometimes (the opposition) gets a good pass rush," he said. "It's football. It's going to happen. What I'm proud of is (his blockers) stepped up at the end and protected me when it counted."
Tannehill completed 24 of 35 passes for 236 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Atlanta had taken a 23-20 lead with 11:39 left in the game on a 33-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. But Bryant missed wide right on a 35-yard try with 4:56 left in the game, setting up Miami's final drive.
The Dolphins tied the score 20-20 with 56 seconds left in the third quarter on an 18-yard TD pass from Tannehill to Brian Hartline. It was a third-and-nine play, and Hartline was wide open on what appeared to be a busted coverage.
Hartline said he had trouble with the pass because the sun was in his eyes.
"I couldn't see it," he said. "I decided to catch the black dot, and it worked out pretty well."
Miami's drive was set up when Harry Douglas fumbled a punt. Douglas was hit hard by Don Jones, and the fumble was recovered at the 29-yard line by long-snapper John Denney.
"There was some wrestling going on down there," Denney said of his second career fumble recovery in the NFL. "But what matters is when the refs finally get to the bottom of the pile that you are the one with the majority of the ball."
The Falcons' defense came up with a big play to start the second half as Osi Umenyiora sacked Tannehill, who fumbled. The ball was recovered by defensive tackle Peria Jerry at the Dolphins' 12.
Atlanta cashed in with a two-yard TD pass from Ryan to Levine Toilolo. The short drive was aided by a third-down pass-interference call in the end zone on Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll.
Miami came right back with a 50-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis.
The Falcons took the opening kickoff and scored on a seven-yard shovel pass from Ryan to Jason Snelling. The methodical drive went 80 yards on 14 plays, consuming 8:48 of the play clock.
Atlanta made it 10-0 with another long drive on its next possession, leading to Bryant's 52-yard field goal. The march went 11 plays and 42 yards and consumed 5:58.
Lamar Miller's 49-yard run up the middle on Miami's second possession got the Dolphins back in the game. That led to a six-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Daniel Thomas' five-yard touchdown run during which he broke a couple of tackles.
The Falcons answered with a third long drive, going 78 yards on 13 plays before settling for a 20-yard field goal to put Atlanta up 13-7. The Falcons chose not to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 2-yard line.
Miami closed to 13-10 on a 46-yard field by Sturgis on the final play of the first half.
It was a small Falcons' lead, considering Ryan completed 15 of 17 passes and Atlanta had a 22:48 to 7:12 advantage in time of possession.
"We can't leave there without scoring touchdowns," Smith said. "We've got to be more efficient."
NOTES: Dolphins LBs Cam Wake (knee) and Koa Misi (shoulder) were both injured Sunday. ... Falcons LT Sam Baker (knee/foot sat out and was replaced by Lamar Holmes, who moved over from RT. Jeremy Trueblood started at RT. ... Falcons RB Stephen Jackson (hamstring) also sat out. ... Dolphins DT Randy Starks started in place of Paul Soliai (knee injury). ... Dolphins CB Nolan Carroll started in place of Dimitri Patterson (groin injury). ... Two Falcons making a homecoming - safety Zeke Motta (Vero Beach, Fla.) and OL Harland Gunn (former University of Miami) - were on the inactive list. But ex-University of Miami standout Matt Bosher punted and kicked off for the Falcons, and CB Asante Samuel, who is from the Fort Lauderdale area, also played.