Falcons Sloppy in 13-9 Preseason Loss to Dolphins

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY SportsJames Stone lets up a sack

The Atlanta Falcons got pushed around in the trenches by the Miami Dolphins in their third preseason action, leading to a 13-9 loss. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked three times in four offensive series that saw the team’s starters fail to score a touchdown for the first time all preseason long. Fourth-quarter rain potentially contributed to a pair of late turnovers by the Falcons in their attempts for a come-from-behind victory.

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T.J. Yates was sacked three times as well

Ryan finished the game completing three of seven passes for 49 yards. He was sacked three times, seeing heat from the Dolphins pass rush throughout the game. T.J. Yates was inserted into the game under center midway through the second quarter and finished the game. He ended completing 18 of 28 passes for 187 yards. He was also sacked three times.

On the ground, the Falcons continued to struggle to move the ball. Jerome Smith led the team for the third week in a row with 20 yards on six carries. Terron Ward added 19 yards on 10 carries. Tevin Coleman got the start in his first action of the summer, rushing for just two yards on four attempts.

Leonard Hankerson led the team with 50 yards receiving on three receptions. Devin Hester started in place of Julio Jones, who was a healthy scratch, and finished with a pair of receptions for 21 yards. Nick Williams added four receptions for 43 yards off the bench.

Kicker Matt Bryant nailed all three field-goal attempts from 43, 50 and 39 yards. Matt Bosher averaged 46.3 yards on six punts, placing one inside the 20-yard line. Terron Ward had 29 yards on his lone kickoff return. Hester had a pair of punt returns for 20 yards with Williams adding one return for 15 yards.

The Falcons struggled to maintain drives, converting just three of 14 third-down attempts (21 percent). The team finished with 254 total yards, gaining just 50 on the ground. The Falcons turned the ball over twice late on a pair of fumbles. The offense gave up six sacks in total and failed to convert either of their two red-zone trips into touchdowns. The Falcons had a fourth-down try at the goal line, but Yates took a sack rather than hitting an open Levine Toilolo in the end zone.

Defensively, the Dolphins didn’t fare significantly better. They totaled 299 yards on offense and converted just two of 12 third-down attempts. The Falcons did recover a fumble and pick off a pass for a pair of turnovers, leading to just six points. Paul Worrilow led defenders with nine tackles, two of which were for losses. Phillip Adams (three tackles), Robert Alford (three tackles), Ricardo Allen (seven tackles), Joplo Bartu (one tackle, one interception), Adrian Clayborn (one tackle, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery), Justin Durant (four tackles), Charles Godfrey (three tackles), Grady Jarrett (three tackles) and O’Brien Schofield (two tackles, one sack, one forced fumble) had notable performances.

On the opening play from scrimmage, Durant did an excellent job making an open-field stop against Dolphins running back Lamar Miller, limiting him to a four-yard gain on a screen pass. After an eight-yard carry by Miller, Paul Worrilow helped stuff him for a four-yard loss to set up a 2nd-and-14. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s ensuing pass fell incomplete thanks to a miscommunication with receiver Rishard Matthews, as the Dolphins passer was looking to throw back-shoulder while Matthews continued up the field. On third down, a draw play went for seven yards and the Dolphins punted. Hester fielded the punt at the goal line and returned it 15 yards to start the Falcons’ opening series.

On his first NFL carry, Coleman got stuffed in the backfield for a two-yard loss thanks to Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell powering his way through Falcons left guard James Stone. Tony Moeaki was flagged for a false start, further backing up the Falcons for a 2nd-and-17. Mitchell then powered through Stone again to get a sack on Ryan. On 3rd-and-21, the Falcons attempted a screen to Ward, but it was incomplete thanks to pressure from Ndamukong Suh. Backed up deep in their own territory, Bosher punted it to the Falcons’ 49-yard line to set up the next Dolphins series.

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Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox coaches up his unit

However the Falcons defense stood strong, holding the Dolphins to minimal gains on the ensuing series despite the favorable field position. Tannehill hit wideout Jarvis Landry on a quick throw for a nine-yard gain on the second play of the series to give the Dolphins a first down. But a pair of penalties on the next two plays pushed the Dolphins back to a 2nd-and-20. Landry dropped Tannehill’s next pass, which was followed by a high throw that tipped off Matthews’ hands on third down. A bad snap from Dolphins long snapper John Denney led to punter Matt Darr being tackled by Vic Beasley for a loss of 16 yards, starting the Falcons’ next series at Miami’s 42-yard line.

Unlike the Dolphins, the Falcons had a bit more luck moving the ball thanks to a 13-yard catch and run by Hester to start the drive. Hester made another reception for eight yards on a quick out to put the ball down at the Dolphins’ 21-yard line. Pressure forced Ryan to throw behind Leonard Hankerson two plays later on a quick slant. A toss to Ward was dropped for a seven-yard loss thanks to a stop by Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon. That set up a 3rd-and-17, with Ryan throwing behind Hankerson again. Bryant trotted out onto the field and connected on his first field goal from 43 yards to give the Falcons a 3-0 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the first quarter.

The Falcons defense stood tough again with a three-and-out, thanks to Worrilow shooting a gap and tackling Miller in the backfield for a one-yard loss on 3rd-and-1. Hester fielded another punt deep in Falcons territory, this time only gaining five yards on the return to set up the ensuing Falcons series at their 10-yard line.

Off play action, Ryan took a deep shot to Hankerson for a 28-yard gain. Coleman’s next run went for six yards thanks to a good second effort. But Brent Grimes was able to shoot a gap on the next play and stop Coleman for a five-yard loss to set up 3rd-and-9. Ryan was sacked by Jelani Jenkins and the Falcons were forced to punt after a four-and-out.

The Dolphins took over with a minute left in the first quarter and Tannehill found Landry behind Justin Durant over the middle for a 46-yard gain to get the ball into Falcons territory. Two plays later on the first play of the second quarter, Tannehill connected once again to Landry for a 14-yard gain on a screen pass. Greg Jennings’ nine-yard catch on a smoke route put the ball at the Falcons’ four-yard line but a holding call on left guard Jamil Douglas backed up the Dolphins 10 yards. Miller made a 12-yard gain on a catch in the flat to put the ball back near the goal line. On 1st-and-goal, Tannehill hit Matthews on a quick slant to beat Alford for the two-yard touchdown. The Dolphins took the lead 7-3 with with 12:32 left in the second quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Hester and Williams collided as they both tried to field the kick, leading to a muff. Hester fell on the loose ball, starting the Falcons drive at their 17-yard line. Ryan couldn’t connect with Hankerson once more on second down, and was again sacked on third down. This time defensive Cameron Wake got to him and the Falcons had another three-and-out.

An unsportsmanlike penalty on the ensuing punt gave Miami more yardage to work with, starting their drive at Atlanta’s 45-yard line. However the Falcons defense held and forced a three-and-out and a quick Dolphins punt with nine minutes left in the first half.

T.J. Yates was inserted into the game at quarterback and connected on his first pass to Hankerson for 13 yards. Pressure forced Yates to throw away his next pass two plays later, setting up a 3rd-and-9. Yates hit Hankerson and forward progress gave him the conversion on a nine-yard gain. But three plays later on 3rd-and-3, pressure flushed Yates and forced an incompletion. The Falcons punted one more and the Dolphins took over at their 14-yard line with six minutes to go in the half.

On the fourth play of the ensuing series, Worrilow nearly broke up a pass, yet Kenny Stills managed to snag it for an 11-yard gain. Two plays later, Kroy Biermann got penetration and stopped Damien Williams for a two-yard loss to set up a 3rd-and-12. Tannehill’s pass to Landry failed to convert and the Dolphins were punting it back to the Falcons with 2:21 left in the half.

Yates felt the heat on the opening play of the series, and was dropped for a two-yard loss after scrambling. After the two-minute warning hit, Yates missed on a throw to Nick Williams on 3rd-and-7, throwing behind the receiver and forcing another Falcons punt after a three-and-out.

Matt Moore stepped in at quarterback for the Dolphins and was immediately sacked for a nine-yard loss by Adrian Clayborn. Damien Williams was able to get that yardage back with a 10-yard gain on second down before Moore hit Stills on a 15-yard throw to convert on 3rd-and-9. Moore’s next pass to Stills didn’t connect on a stop-and-go route thanks to good coverage by Phillip Adams. On 3rd-and-2, Moore was sacked by Schofield, who also knocked the ball out with the big hit. Clayborn fell on the loose ball and the Falcons took possession at the Dolphins’ 47-yard line with 28 seconds left.

Yates hit Nick Williams for a nine-yard gain, but the Falcons let too much time bleed off the clock before calling the timeout with 15 seconds left. Yates then scrambled for a six-yard gain and the Falcons called their final timeout with two seconds left. Bryant hit on a 50-yard field goal try to cut the Dolphins’ lead to 7-6 going into halftime.

Yates continued to work with the Falcons offense to start the third quarter. On 3rd-and-10 of the opening series, Yates was sacked by defensive end Derrick Shebly, but fellow Dolphins defender Terrence Fede was flagged for illegal use of hands, wiping out the sack and giving the Falcons a first down. Tony Moeaki gave the Falcons another first down two plays later on a nine-yard reception. However a bobbled snap stalled the Falcons’ momentum on the very next play, setting up a 2nd-and-14. Justin Hardy made a nice sliding 13-yard catch on the next play to set up a 3rd-and-1, but Ward was stuffed for no gain by Shelby to force another Falcons punt. Falcons cornerback Travis Howard downed the punt at the three-yard line, but was flagged for illegal touching by going out of bounds, giving Miami possession at their 20-yard line with 10:42 left in the third quarter.

The Dolphins punted after another three-and-out, with pressure from the Falcons front forcing an incomplete pass from Moore on third down.

Yates hit Eric Weems on a crossing pattern for 15 yards to get the ball into Dolphins territory on the ensuing Falcons possession. Nick Williams then gained eight yards on a screen pass two plays later to set up a 3rd-and-2. Jerome Smith converted on a three-yard run up the middle. A pair of runs by Ward got the Falcons into the red zone. Two plays later, Ward gained nine yards on a shovel pass from Yates to put the ball at the one-yard line. But his 3rd-and-goal run was stuffed for no gain. The Falcons opted to go for it on 4th-and-goal at the one-yard line, but Yates hesitated to pull the trigger on an end-zone throw to tight end Levine Toilolo, instead taking a sack and giving the Dolphins the ball back on a turnover on downs.

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Joplo Bartu snags the interception and returns it 41 yards

Matt Hazel got behind Falcons defenders on a crossing pattern, gaining 27 yards and helping the Dolphins move the ball into Falcons territory as the third quarter came to a close. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Allen Bradford broke up a pass to Matthews. Moore then overthrew wide receiver Kevin Cone to set up a 3rd-and-15. Tyler Starr got pressure, tipping the ball out of Moore’s hands. The ball wobbled up in the air and Joplo Bartu was able to pick off the errant throw, returning it 41 yards to the Dolphins’ 44-yard line.

Yates then hit DiMarco on a pass for 16 yards to start off the Falcons drive, but then missed a wide open DiMarco in the flat on the very next play. A seven-yard scramble by Yates set up a more manageable 3rd-and-3. But Yates could not convert and the Falcons settled for another Bryant field goal, this time from 39 yards. The Falcons had finally regained the lead 9-7 with 13:11 left in the game.

Josh Freeman entered the game at quarterback for the Dolphins and handed the ball off to Mike Gillislee three times to start the series, gaining 12 yards. Freeman then hit LaRon Byrd on a 17-yard post, with Ricardo Allen being flagged on the tackle for unnecessary roughness by lowering his helmet. That gave the Dolphins an additional 15 yards to set up shop at the Falcons’ 33-yard line. Freeman hit tight end Tim Semisch for a 13-yard gain to put the Dolphins in the red zone. However three plays later on third down, Howard was in Cone’s hip pocket to help break up Freeman’s pass. The Dolphins settled for a 32-yard file goal from kicker Andrew Franks to retake a 10-9 lead with 7:05 left in the game.

The rain began to pick up at this point. Yates was sacked on the second play of the series by Anthony Johnson, but the Dolphins defensive tackle was flagged for offsides on the ensuing play to give the Falcons a more favorable 3rd-and-1 to convert. They did so with a four-yard run by Jerome Smith. After a nine-yard carry by Smith, Yates fumbled the snap due to the slick ball and defensive tackle Deandre Coleman fell on it.

The Dolphins took over at the Falcons’ 41-yard line and failed to move the ball on three plays before settling for another Franks field goal. The rookie Dolphins kicker hit from 51 yards this time to push Miami’s lead to 13-9 with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Yates and the Falcons went into no-huddle after he connected with Williams on an eight-yard throw to start of the ensuing series. Carlton Mitchell then made a pair of grabs, including a leaping 21-yard catch to put the ball into Dolphins territory with under three minutes to go. Williams made a nice spin move on a screen pass, gaining 18 yards as the two-minute warning hit. The Falcons then had the ball at the Dolphins’ 29-yard line as Yates hit Bernard Reedy on a nine-yard slant pattern. But then Yates threw into double coverage over the middle to Williams, leading to his first incomplete pass of the drive. On 3rd-and-1, Smith got the carry once more, gaining two yards. But the ball came out as he was going to the ground, with Dolphins linebacker Neville Hewitt recovering. The officials ruled it a fumble and reviewed the play. Despite what appeared to be Smith’s knee down on the ground before the ball came out, the officials upheld the initial call and the Dolphins took over with 1:21 left in the game. After two kneel-downs by Freeman, the game was over.

The Falcons’ preseason record under new head coach Dan Quinn falls to 1-2. The Falcons will return home to face the Baltimore Ravens in their preseason finale next Thursday, hoping to finish 2-2 in Quinn’s first preseason.

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Aaron Freeman
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1 Comment on "Falcons Sloppy in 13-9 Preseason Loss to Dolphins"

  1. O line was disgraceful last night…clearly the weakest part of our team
    Three reasons Tommy D should have been fired with Smith last year
    Sam Baker, Lamar Holmes, and Peter Konz
    All high draft picks that were big time busts !

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