Falcons fall to Dolphins in preseason opener

AP/Mike Stewart

Julio Jones

The Falcons started fast in their preseason opener at home against the Miami Dolphins. But ultimately lost the game on a Dolphin comeback by a score of 28-23.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons starters got three offensive series in the first quarter before getting the hook. Ryan started 0 of 4 passing, but managed to complete his next 6 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. John Parker Wilson took over the reins before leaving the game midway through the third quarter with an injury. He finished completing 12 of 19 passes for 111 yards and an interception. He also rushed for 17 yards on 3 attempts and fumbled on a sack. Chris Redman took a single snap as a sub for Wilson, throwing an incomplete pass before giving way to Adam Froman on the next series. Froman completed 6 of 13 passes for 45 yards, throwing an interception as well late which sealed the Dolphins victory. Jason Snelling led the team on the ground with 27 yards rushing on 6 carries. Michael Turner added 21 yards on 4 carries with a touchdown. Jacquizz Rodgers added 16 yards on 5 carries and Antone Smith had 10 on 3 attempts. Harry Douglas caught 3 passes for the team-leading 47 yards passing, as well as being on the receiving end of Ryan’s touchdown strike. Eric Weems, Michael Palmer, and Ryan Winterswyk each had 3 catches for 26, 10, and 9 yards respectively. Julio Jones might have been the star of the show, catching 2 passes for 43 yards, as well as adding a 12-yard gain on an end-around. Brandon Harvey also had 2 catches for 35 yards. Matt Bryant was perfect on three field goal attempts of 27, 24, and 33 yards. Eric Weems was asked to fair catch early in the game, but did have a nice 16-yard punt return when he did get the chance to run with it. Dominique Farnks had 2 returns for 77 yards (38.5 avg). Rodgers had 2 kickoff returns for an average of 22 yards. Antone Smith and Weems also got some reps there.

The game began with Ryan trying to connect to Jones on his first two pass attempts, but both fell incomplete. A penalty and a third incomplete pass later, and Matt Bosher was out to punt the ball on an inauspicious start for the Falcons offense. But John Abraham picked off a pass two plays later on a drop by Anthony Fasano, giving the offense good field position at their own 44-yard line. Turner gained 21 yards on his first two carries of the night. On 3rd and 3, Ryan hit Jones for the first time on a shorting cross route that Jones took 21 yards to put the Falcons at the Dolphin 14-yard line. Snelling’s 12-yard gain up the middle on the next play set up the 2-yard scoring run from Turner. The Falcons defense then forced a three-and-out, and Ryan took the Falcons on a 10-play, 83-yard scoring drive. Ryan hit Douglas in the back of the endzone on a 20-yard scoring strike. Brent Grimes picked off Chad Henne two plays later to set up the newly inserted Wilson at the Dolphin 33-yard line. But the drive stalled at the Dolphins 9-yard line, and Bryant hit his first field goal of the night from 27 yards. The Dolphins would go down the field to score with Chad Henne hitting Brian Hartline on a 44-yard pass over the top to make the score 17-7. Wilson would move the Falcons down the field, but Benny Sapp jumped a throw to Harry Douglas and it was intercepted. The Falcons defense held for another three-and-out, but it was followed up by one of its own on the offense’s part. Dolphin kicker Dan Carpenter missed a 50-yard field goal, but the Falcons were unable to capitalize before the half ended on two opportunities. The second was capped by Wilson being hit by a blitzer up the middle to force a fumble at the Falcon’s own 28-yard line. Matt Moore then hit Roberto Wallace for a score on the next play to make the game 17-14 at the half.

The second half began with Rafael Bush picking off a tipped pass by Darrin Walls. Wilson led the team 70 yards on their next 11 plays, but was then knocked out of the game. Redman came in and missed a fade throw to Harvey in the endzone which forced Bryant’s second field goal, a 24-yarder. The Dolphins then scored on the following drive to take their first lead of the night, 21-17. AFroman entered the game at this point, but the offense stalled with two consecutive three-and-outs that generated 1 yard of total offense. Ken Parrish’s 54-yard punt was then returned 75 yards by Phillip Livas for a touchdown. That was followed up by another three-and-out under Froman, before the team settled on a 33-yard field goal from Bryant on the ensuing series which was set up by a 44-yard punt return by Franks. The Dolphins then took over with 3:31 left in the game, but on a 3rd & 9 with 2:01 left, quarterback Kevin O’Connell burst loose for a 38-yard scramble extending the Dolphins drive. Eventually the Falcons got the ball back with 1:30 at the Dolphin 44-yard line thanks to another big return (33 yards) by Franks. Froman had moved the Ball to the 27 with two completions to Andy Strickland (3 yards) and Kevin Cone (14 yards). His next pass was an overthrow ball in the endzone to Cone. With 59 seconds remaining, he followed up with another overthrew intended for Strickland that was picked off, sealing the win for the Dolphins.

Defensively the Falcons had their moments, stalling the Dolphins first team offense. The Dolphins had 17 yards of total offense in the first quarter with two turnovers. Bear Woods led defenders with 5 tackles. For most of the night, the Falcons were getting a look at newcomers and youngsters, but of their regular group of defenses, Kroy Biermann (1 tackle), Chris Owens (3 tackles), Corey Peters (2 tackles), Mike Peterson (3 tackles), and Sean Weatherspoon (1 tackle) had notable games. Abraham and Grimes each had an interception. Among the unproven guys: Rafael Bush (3 tackles, 1 INT, 2 passes defended), Dominique Franks (2 tackles), Cliff Matthews (3 tackles, 1 sack), Shann Schillinger (4 tackles), Emmanuel Stephens (4 tackles, 1 sack)
Darrin Walls (1 pass defended), and Coy Wire (2 tackles) stood out.

Next week the Falcons get to travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, a usual preseason opponent. This will be the seventh matchup between the Falcons and Jaguars during the preseason in the past decade. The team will hold a scrimmage against the Jaguars the day before the game.

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Aaron Freeman
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