The Falcons got their first preseason win of 2012 by taking down the Miami Dolphins 23-6. The Falcons had seven straight preseason games, their last victory being a road win over the Dolphins on August 27, 2010.
Matt Ryan had another solid performance, completing 18 of 26 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. Dominique Davis had another impressive night in limited work, completing 2 of 3 passes for 53 yards and a score of his own. Chris Redman had 36 passing yards on 4 of 7 passing. Michael Turner led rushers with his most extensive work, getting 35 yards on the ground on 10 carries. Dimitri Nance added 3 carries for 12 yards, and Antone Smith had 10 more yards on 4 carries. Julio Jones led receivers with 4 catches for 90 yards. Tony Gonzalez also had 4 catches for 24 yards. Turner (3 catches, 36 yards) and Harry Douglas (3 catches, 20 yards) also contributed. Roddy White caught Ryan’s touchdown, ending his night with 2 catches for 28 yards. Tim Toone’s only catch of the night was a 39-yard touchdown from Davis. Matt Bryant hit on all 3 of his field goal attempts of 45, 44, and 51 yards. Erik Folk missed his lone field goal attempt of 32 yards. Matt Bosher punted 5 times for an average of 43.6 yards with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers returned 1 kickoff for 40 yards. Toone had 2 punt returns for 21 yards, while Dominique Franks had a pair of punt returns for 8 yards. The Falcons offense had some struggles converting on third downs early in the game, with only 2 successful conversions on 7 attempts in the first half.
Defensively, the Falcons held tough. The Dolphins were plagued by a ton of dropped passes, which was also a cause of why they only converted 3 of 15 third down attempts. The Dolphins offense was held to 246 total yards, were sacked twice and had two turnovers. Thomas DeCoud led defenders with 5 tackles and an interception. John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), Akeem Dent (3 tackles), Cliff Matthews (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery), Dunta Robinson (3 tackles), Asante Samuel (3 tackles), Lawrence Sidbury (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) all had noteworthy games.
The game began with an 18-yard gain by Reggie Bush on the Dolphins first offensive snap, but the defense held and did not give up another yard on the next five plays, forcing a punt. The Falcons kicked off their first offensive series with two runs by Michael Turner for 7 yards. A defensive holding penalty on the next play gave the Falcons a first down. Three plays later Ryan hit Roddy White for an 8-yard pass to convert another third down. Two plays later, Ryan hit Julio Jones for 18 yards. But later on 3rd & 4, Ryan’s pass to Harry Douglas was stopped two yards short. The Falcons fourth down attempt, a toss to Jacquizz Rodgers, was stopped short giving the Dolphins the ball back at their own 35-yard line. Ryan Tannehill’s 15-yard scramble on third down extended the Dolphins next drive. But three plays later, his pass was tipped over the middle by Sean Weatherspoon and landed in the hands of Thomas DeCoud who returned it 19 yards to the Falcons 45-yard line. On the ensuing drive, besides a 20-yard pass to Michael Turner the Falcons were unable to move the ball into the redzone. Ryan’s scramble was a few yards shy of the first down marker on 3rd & 5, and the team settled for a 45-yard field goal by Matt Bryant to give the Falcons a 3-0 lead with about 2 minutes to go in the first quarter. The Dolphins offense finally started to have some success moving the ball, able to push the ball into Falcon territory and the redzone as the quarter came to an end. A couple of runs by Daniel Thomas put the ball down to the Falcons 4-yard line. But the defense held on 3rd and goal, and the Dolphins settled for a 22-yard field goal to tie the game. On the next Falcons drive, Ryan hit Jones for a 19-yard gain and then a few plays later for 4 yards to convert a 3rd & 2. But they came up short once again on 3rd down this time inside the redzone, as Ryan was sacked by Cameron Wake. The team settled for another Bryant field goal, this time from 44 yards out. The defense stood up on the next drive, with John Abraham sacking Tannehill and getting the strip, although the Dolphins recovered. After the Dolphins punt, the Falcons took over at their own 25-yard line. But after a false start on first down, the Falcons suffered a three-and-out leading to another Bosher punt. But once again the defense stepped forcing the Dolphins to a three-and-out of their own. Ryan and the Falcons got the ball back at their own 11-yard line with 3:46 left in the first half. On the first play of that drive, Ryan hit Jones deep down the middle for a 49-yard strike. But again the Falcons offense struggled to convert a few plays later on third down, and Bryant trotted out on the field for a 51-yard field goal to push the lead to 9-3. The Dolphins began their next drive on their own 7 thanks to a penalty on the ensuing kickoff. But they were able to get the ball to midfield before they failed to convert on a 4th & 1 pass. The Falcons got the ball back with 20 seconds left in the half, but Wake found Ryan again for another sack and the team was satisfied to let the clock tick down to end the half.
The starters came out again in the second half, but the Falcons and Dolphins traded three-and-outs. On the next Falcon drive, the team started to find more success on moving the chains on third downs, with two Ryan passes to Tony Gonzalez and Jacquizz Rodgers. The team then fed the ball to Turner, who gained 12 yards on three carries before Ryan found White in the back of the endzone for a 20-yard scoring strike giving the team their first touchdown. The Dolphins offensive reserves came into th egame and were able to answer with a quick field goal, thanks in part to a kickoff out of bounds by Bosher to give them good field position. Chris Redman entered the game and on four straight passes, only moved the ball 14 yards before the team was forced to punt once more. The next Dolphin drive ended when Lawrence Sidbury took down Matt Moore with a sack-strip from behind. Cliff Matthews fell on the ball to give the Falcons the ball back at the Dolphin 36-yard line at the close of the third quarter. The first play of the fourth quarter was a 21-yard pass from Redman to Antone Smith. Redman couldn’t connect with Tim Toone on a third down pass a few plays later, and Erik Folk trotted out to try his hand at the field goal. But his 32-yard attempt hooked wide left and the Dolphins took over with 13 minutes remaining at their own 22-yard line. The defense held the Dolphins offense to another three-and-out. Dominique Davis entered the game, but the Falcons handed the ball off on four of their next five plays, with Dimitri Nance receiving 3 of those carries for 12 yards. Davis then found a streaking Toone for a 39-yard touchdown pass down the sideline to put the Falcons up 23-6. The Dolphins offense once again stagnated on a five-play drive ending in another punt. But the Falcons could not answer with a three-and-out. The two teams traded three-and-outs with the Dolphins getting the ball back with a minute to go. Lamar Miller rushed twice to run out the clock and end the game.
The Falcons will end the preseason next Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Monday, all NFL teams will have to get their rosters down to 75 players. The final roster cutdown occurs Friday night at 9 pm Eastern.