Rough Night on Special Teams

In perhaps the most significant game of the preseason, the Dolphins offense and defense acquitted themselves well against a very good Carolina team. But the special teams had a very difficult night in a 19-10 at Charlotte.

The special teams gave up a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 44-yard punt return that set up a game-clinching field goal in the last two minutes and also had a fumble that set up another field goal.

The big story in many circles was the return of Daunte Culpepper to Carolina, where he sustained his devastating knee injury last October.

It was, by all accounts, a pretty good evening for Culpepper.

Culpepper played the first half and completed 14 of 19 passes for 130 yards, with no touchdown and no interception.

Perhaps most significantly, he took off running under pressure in the second quarter and scrambled for 8 yards before sliding.

Joey Harrington took over for Culpepper in the third quarter and looked sharp, completing 7 of 14 passes for 81 yards with one touchdown and no interception.

The defense had a strong performance, coming up with sacks by Jason Taylor and Matt Roth among several big plays.

As was the case against Tampa Bay, the Dolphins started very slowly on offense, with only one first down in the first two drives.

The third drive was impressive but ended when Ronnie Brown was stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

After holding Carolina without a first down, the Dolphins again marched inside the red zone, but this time Nick Saban decided to go for a field goal on fourth-and-inches from the 6.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Carolina rookie DeAngelo Williams found an open lane up the middle and then took off down the right sideline for a 98-yard touchdown.

It was the second special teams blunder of the evening for the Dolphins, the first of which led to the first score of the game.

After the defense held Carolina to a three-and-out on the opening series of the game, Wes Welker dropped back to field a punt but waited too long to call for a fair catch, first-round pick Jason Allen blocked Carolina's Thomas Davis into him and he fumbled.

Carolina recovered at the Miami 37, leading to John Kasay's 45-yard field goal.

The Dolphins held Carolina without a first down after the fumble; actually held the Panthers without a first down in their first five series.

Carolina's initial first down came on a 32-yard completion from Jake Delhomme to Drew Carter, and that set up Kasay's 43-yard field goal just before halftime.

The Dolphins cut into Carolina's 13-3 halftime lead on the first drive of the third quarter when Harrington completed five passes, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Chris Chambers.

Carolina pushed the lead back to six points when Kasay nailed a 53-yard field goal and clinched the victory with a short field after Efrem Hill's 44-yard punt return.


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