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17

NFL Preview - St. Louis (3-2) at Miami (2-3)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Rams find themselves in a rare position as they get ready to invade South Florida to face off with Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins.

The Rams are above .500 for the first time in six seasons and will be aiming for their first three-game winning streak since December of 2006.

Standing in the way is the rookie Tannehill, who has been a bit uneven during his freshman campaign but has certainly flashed the big play ability the Dolphins were hoping for when they selected him with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft.

The Texas A&M product has passed for 1,269 yards, and is the first rookie in NFL history to pass for 1,250-plus yards and record two or more wins in his team's first five games.

Last Sunday, the dynamic Reggie Bush ran for a third-quarter touchdown, Tannehill had 223 passing yards and the visiting Dolphins stunned the Cincinnati Bengals, 17-13, at Paul Brown Stadium.

Tannehill completed 17-of-26 throws for the Dolphins, who were coming off back-to-back overtime losses.

"It was a great team win," said Miami coach Joe Philbin. "All three components (offense, defense and special teams) contributed to the victory."

Things could continue to go well this weekend for Tannehill and the Dolphins since Miami is 4-1 all-time against the Rams at home and St. Louis will be without the services of star receiver Danny Amendola, who is sidelined with a sternoclavicular joint separation.

Despite losing Amendola, Sam Bradford connected on a pair of touchdown passes and was aided by a stifling defense as the Rams downed the Arizona Cardinals, 17-3, back on Oct. 4

Bradford completed just 7-of-21 passes for 141 yards, the second lowest total of his career, with an interception for St. Louis, which has won its last two games to push its record over the .500 mark for the first time since 2006.

Steven Jackson carried the ball 18 times for 76 yards, while Chris Givens and Lance Kendricks each caught a touchdown in the win.

Robert Quinn collected three sacks to lead a defensive unit that racked up nine in all against Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb.

"We knew it was going to be a hard day at work offensively, so our defense had to step up and they did," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.

The St. Louis defense gave up just 45 rushing yards in Arizona and has given up just 16 points in its last two games.

"Those guys played outstanding," said Bradford. "They've played great all year and they have kept us in a lot of games."

The Dolphins lead the all-time series with the Rams 9-2, including two straight wins. The two teams haven't met in the Sunshine State since Oct. 24, 2004 when Miami took an easy 31-14 win behind then-quarterback Jay Fiedler.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Rams offense, which is ranked 29th in the NFL with 278.0 yards per game, struggled mightily after Amendola went down against the Cardinals and it's hard to imagine their passing game getting too much going against any competent defense.

"Obviously, losing Danny is big," Bradford said. "Everyone knows that he's a big part of our offense. A lot of what we do runs through him."

Amendola's absence puts a lot on the shoulders of Jackson, who has been hampered at times by a hamstring issue, as well his rookie caddy, Daryl Richardson. The Dolphins' run defense is tops in the NFL at 61.4 yards allowed per game as well as just 2.7 yards per carry, however. In fact, Miami hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 19 games.

"We're getting the run shut down well and getting favorable down and distance where we can tee it up and go after the quarterback a little bit," Philbin said. "That's only going to help us as we move forward."

For Miami, it has to stop the Rams' impressive edge pass push from Chris Long and Quinn, who has six sacks on the season. Jake Long, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, remains rock solid at left tackle and rookie Jonathan Martin looks to have significant upside opposite him.

If Tannehill is given time to throw, he has proven his ability to get the ball outside the numbers, especially to Brian Hartline, who is averaging an NFL- best 20.8 yards per reception.

Like most rookies, though, Tannehill is prone to the big mistake and St. Louis' corners, Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, are not adverse to gambling.

"He's getting better every single week and you can see it just in the way he puts us in the right spots, checking the plays and putting us on the right people to block," Long told the Dolphins' website. "When stuff breaks down he's able to make plays and the opponents we've faced in these first five games have been great defenses and really tough. He's handled it well and has been playing well in crunch time."

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Rams will want to play ball control and hope an improving defense keeps them in the game late where rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein becomes quite a weapon. Zuerlein is 13-for-13 on field goals this season and has made four from at least 50 yards.

Amendola is a bigger loss than most realize, however, and Tannehill has arrived in South Florida ready to play. The Dolphins just have more big play ability thanks to Bush and Hartline. That should be the difference.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Dolphins 24, Rams 17

10/11 09:55:22 ET