The Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons faced off Thursday night in a Preseason Week 1 contest. While the results of the game itself do not really matter, the Dolphins came away with the 34-27 victory.
The Dolphins had defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, who lost an arm in a car accident earlier this summer, on the field as the team’s honorary captain.
First Quarter Recap
The Dolphins received the opening kickoff and relied heavily on Kenyan Drake on the first drive, giving him the ball four times for 12 yards. Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting at quarterback, was 2-for-3 on the drive for 20 yards, starting with a 6-yard gain on a slant to tight end Mike Gesicki. His second pass attempt came on a potential screen pass that blew up, Fitzpatrick spun away from the pressure and found DeVante Parker for 14 yards. His third attempt again targeted Gesicki, but was badly overthrown. The Dolphins settled for a 48-yard field goal as the drive stalled.
The Falcons started back at their own 10-yard line after a holding, but they methodically took it to Miami. A couple of penalties helped Atlanta, but they clearly were looking to pick on cornerback Nik Needham and he struggled, as an undrafted rookie will. Matt Schaub finished the drive 7-for-8 for 77 yards. Ito Smith carried the ball four times for seven yards, with a one-yard touchdown capping off the drive.
The Dolphins started the drive with 1:16 remaining in the quarter and were punting with 24 seconds remaining. A two-yard run from Kalen Ballage was followed by two incomplete passes from Fitzpatrick targeting Ballage.
The quarter ended after a two-yard run from Brian Hill, taking the ball to the Atlanta 38-yard line.
Hill picked up four yards after the break, setting up a 3rd-and-4 before a false start backed up Atlanta. On the 3rd-and-9 attempt, the Dolphins came up with a sack by Nate Orchard, forcing a punt.
Josh Rosen entered the game for Miami after the punt, throwing incomplete on his first two attempts. A roughing the passer penalty gave Miami a little life, setting up the Dolphins near mid-field, only to have Ballage lose one. Rosen was flushed out of the pocket on second down, then found Nick O’Leary for two yards. On 3rd-and-8, the Dolphins put both Ballage and Drake on the field, with the pressure somehow getting to Rosen, who threw a jump ball down the field. Somehow, Preston Williams came away with the catch, picking up 14 yards before Miami was forced to use a timeout. Ballage picked up 16-yards coming out of the timeout. Rosen then found Allen Hurns for three yards. Rosen was nearly sacked twice on the third-down play, but somehow danced away from the pressure, rolled out, and threw the ball away. A holding penalty on Atlanta ultimately gave Miami a new set of downs, but it was an extremely well down throw away by Rosen. After a four-yard run from Ballage up the middle, Rosen looked for Williams in the endzone, leading to a pass interference penalty. On the play from the one, Ballage jumped over the pile for the score. The Dolphins re-took the lead 10-6.
The Falcons were able to get some chunk yardage plays on the Dolphins defense after the kickoff, starting with a Hill run for nine yards. A few plays later, Schaub found Devin Gray for 17 yards, then found a wide open CJ Worton for 29 yards. Jomal Wiltz appeared to be called for defensive pass interference on a pass attempt into the endzone, but a facemask on Atlanta offset it and led to a replay. Davon Godchaux and Wiltz then teamed up for a run stuff on Hill, losing a yard. Two incomplete passes later led to a Falcons 38-yard field goal. Miami continued to lead 10-9.
After a holding penalty backed up Miami ten yards, Rosen threw short toward Isaiah Ford, only to completely miss the linebacker and have the pass picked off.
The Falcons then had a holding penalty called on them on 1st-and-Goal from the three, backing up Atlanta to the Miami 13. After a two-yard run from Hill, with a tackle by Miami’s first-round pick, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, Schaub threw two incomplete passes and the Falcons settled for a field goal. They re-took the lead 12-10.
Rosen threw incomplete on first down, then threw away the ball away on second down, with a Jordan Mills hold declined. Rosen was then sacked on third down as the Miami offensive line allowed instant pressure. The Dolphins were forced to punt.
Schaub then started the drive with a six-yard pass to Jaeden Graham, followed by another six-yard pass to Christian Blake. After the two-minute warning, the Dolphins defense struggled to tackle on a screen pass, leading to a 37-yard gain by Kenjon Barner down to the Miami one-yard line. After a ten-second run off, the Falcons had 1st-and-Goal from the one, with Hill scoring on the play. Atlanta extended their lead to 19-10.
Rosen looked deep to Williams on first down, gaining 36 yards on a good touch pass and one-handed catch. Rosen was sacked on the next play, then he found Brice Butler for 17 yards as he went out of bounds to stop the clock. Rosen then found Williams tip-toeing the sideline for 17 yard gain. After an incomplete pass, Michael Deiter was called for a false start, backing up the Dolphins. Rosen then scrambled for six yards, followed by a quick spike to stop the clock. Sanders then came out for a 23-yard field goal.
Halftime with Atlanta leading 19-13.
The Falcons started with the ball for the second half, but it was an ugly drive, with a five-play three-and-out. After a two-yard run, offsetting penalties negated a Dolphins run-stuff, then a one-yard run was followed by a false start. An incomplete pass then led to the punt.
Miami picked up where the two-minute drive left off, with Mark Walton picking up nine yards on first down, then four more on second down. Rosen found Hurns for 16 yards, then Walton lost two but a six-yard pass from Rosen to Butler, then a 27-yard pass to Williams, who used his body to go up and get the ball over the defender, set up Miami at the Atlanta one. No gain by Walton on first down was followed by a one-yard loss on second before a two yard touchdown run on third. Miami climbed back into the lead 20-19.
Atlanta started their next possession with a three yard run from Qadree Ollison, then another two-yard gain. After an incomplete pass from Matt Simms, the Dolphins were called for an illegal use of hands and gave up five yards. Tony Brooks-James ran for three yards before Simms ran a naked bootleg for seven yards. Simms then connected with Eric Saubert for seven yards before a sack and forced fumble by Dewayne Hendrix caused the Falcons to lose five yards. Simms then found Olamide Zaccheaus for seven yards, then, on 4th-and-1, the Dolphins stuffed the run, plus Atlanta was called for an illegal shift. After the penalty, the Falcons punted.
Patrick Laird carried the ball on first down for Miami, picking up three yards before Rosen threw a 10-yard pass to Butler. Laird then picked up anther three yards before breaking one for 19 yards. He then added another yard on first down. Rosen took the play action and rolled out to find Butler short, with the receiver turning up field for a 13-yard gain. The quarter ended with Rosen drilling the ball straight through the middle of the defense for a 21-yard pass to Clive Walford.
The quarter began with Rosen attempting to find fullback Chandler Cox, but throwing incomplete. He connected with Hurns on the next play, but the receiver fumbled the ball and the Falcons recovered.
Atlanta could not do anything after the fumble, however, with a three-yard Ollison run followed by a five-yard Simms scramble starting the drive. An interception on third down ended the drive pretty quickly and the Falcons punted.
Miami moved to Jake Rudock at quarterback, finding Trent Irwin for 10 yards before a holding penalty erased that gain. On 1st-and-20, Myles Gaskin picked up nothing, then Rudock connected with him for nine yards. Rudok then found Gaskin for four yards, with an additional 15 yards granted on an unnecessary roughness penalty. Rudock then found Irwin for 22 yards before Gaskin took over the rest of the way. Two two-yard runs from Gaskin was then followed by a six yard pass from Rudock to Gaskin for the touchdown. With the extra point, Miami extended the lead to 27-19.
The Falcons saw Simms throw incomplete on first down, then a dropped pass on second down appeared to set up 3rd-and-10, but a holding penalty on Needham gave Atlanta a first down. Then a four-yard Ollison run was backed up by a 15-yard pass from Simms to Kahlil Lewis, with Ollison then adding 11 more yards on the ground. After an incomplete pass on a dropped ball, Brooks-James picked up 18 yards. The drive ended with a 15-yard run from Ollison for a touchdown. Atlanta then went for two, tying the game at 27.
Laird picked up three for Miami to start the drive, then Rudock found Saeed Blacknall for 14 yards. After Laird lost five yards, two incomplete passes - luckily one of those did not turn into what should have been an easy pick-six - led to a Miami punt.
The Falcons did not do any better, with an incomplete pass followed by a six yard gain on a pass from Simms to Blake. Then Simms was sacked by Jonathan Ledbetter and Tyrone Holmes, with Atlanta going for it on fourth down and Haskins coming away with a sack.
Miami took over on the Falcons six-yard line, with Gaskins picking up nothing on first down. On second down, however, he ran up the middle of the six-yard touchdown and Sanders connected for the extra point. Miami once again pulled into the lead, now 34-27.
Simms found Graham for eight yards on first down, then another eight yard pass from Simms to Worton moved the Falcons out to the 41-yard line. A dropped pass on first down from Brooks-James set up 2nd-and-10. Simms found Lewis open across the middle for 18 yards, then, after an incomplete pass, Miami was called for holding, giving Atlanta five yards and a free first down. Simms threw incomplete on first down. Simms threw the ball to no one on second down, setting up a 3rd-and-10 at the Miami 26. Hendrix then tackled Simms just as he crossed the line of scrimmage to avoid the sack, leading to a 4th-and-9 from the Miami 25 with 32 seconds remaining. Atlanta called time out, setting up the 4th down play. Miami called timeout after Atlanta lined up, building the tension at the end of the preseason contest. The Falcons were then called for a false start, backing them up and making it 4th-and-14, with 32 seconds still remaining. Jalen Davis broke up the deep pass, giving Miami back the ball.
Rudock then knelt to kill the clock.
Miami won 34-27.
Preston Williams should be considered a lock for the roster at this point. Unless the wheels completely fall off, his performance tonight should be enough to lock him into the 53-man roster. He needs some playing time against the number one defenses coming up in the three remaining preseason games, and that could change things if he disappears, but it was impressive.
Josh Rosen was also impressive throughout the night. He showed touch as well as some laser throws. He looked comfortable, even under pressure, and made some good choices. The interception was not pretty, but it was a mistake a young player in a preseason game can make. He finished the game 13-for-20 for 191 yards with the pick, giving him a 75.2 passer rating. It was one performance, and it may not be enough to surpass Ryan Fitzpatrick on the depth chart, but it sure tightens up the race.
Both Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage looked really good running the ball. It does not seem to matter who is the “starter” as the two of them should split carries pretty evenly. Chandler Cox playing fullback was a needed addition to the offense, and it allowed Miami to get physical when they needed.
The defensive secondary had some really good moments, covering longer than they really should have to on a play. The pass rush needs to step up, but the Dolphins were also playing a pretty vanilla defense most of the night, so no increased concern at this point.