Miami recovers from a drubbing in Dallas to beat the Falcons 17-6, showing some resiliency and continued improvement on the offensive and defensive lines.
After a long week of questions and fretting due to a bad defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, and the loss of pro bowl center, Mike Pouncey, to a recurrent hip injury, the Dolphins came out in primetime Thursday night, and put a beating on the Atlanta Falcons. The Dolphins got some key performances from Ndamukong Suh, Arian Foster, and Ryan Tannehill, in the third game of the preseason, which is usually billed as the dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Foster especially looked good, in his first game action since suffering an Achilles tendon injury last year. He had 5 rushing attempts for 10 yards, including a nice cutback run touchdown, where he showed some of the nifty moves that have made him a star. Though he didn’t have a ton of yards, it was nice to see a Dolphin running back attack the defense and not go down on first contact. Foster also had 2 receptions for 20 yards, so he was an active part of the offense. In fact, the running backs had a bunch of touches in head coach Adam Gase’s offense. The Dolphins stuck with the run even though they didn’t gain a bunch of yards, with 31 rushing attempts, which kept the Falcons defense guessing.
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Gase was on his game, constantly mixing up his play calls, and allowing his playmakers to get open in space. By alternating the timing of short passing to the flats, and quick screens, with some longer drop backs, the Falcons defense was unable to tee off on the Dolphins quarterbacks. The Falcons didn’t have any sacks; even though they are a team known for having a weak pass rush, it was still impressive to see the Dolphins offensive line keep the quarterbacks clean, especially without Pouncey. So far, so good with Gase’s playcalling. If he can keep mixing it up, and if left guard Laremy Tunsil can keep up his rock solid blocking, the Dolphins offense could be a pleasant surprise this year. The offense’s success may be a good omen for their week 1 matchup with the Seahawks, since the Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn, runs a similar cover 3 defense to what Miami will see in week 1.
As for the defense, Suh and Reshad Jones both played very well. Suh racked up 4 tackles, including one in the backfield, before leaving the game with a minor ankle injury. Jones had a big play interception in the Falcons end zone, which stopped a long Atlanta drive. The linebackers, including Koa Misi, played much better than they did last week, which is a testament to their resiliency and the improved game plan of defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph.
Unfortunately though, there is only but so much game planning that can make up for the lack of talent in the defensive secondary. You don’t have to be a football expert to see that Tony Lippett, especially, is not yet ready for a starting role. And all the hopes for Xavien Howard to be a playmaker are probably too much wishful thinking when you consider that Howard is a rookie who missed the entire training camp. Vance Joseph is going to have to cook up some serious “gumbo” to help this secondary. Or else the Dolphins general manager, Chris Grier, will have to scour the waiver wire or make a trade to get a cornerback who can stay within 5 yards of the opposing wide receiver. Because the separation that the Falcons receivers were getting on Lippett was embarrassing.
All in all, it was a good night of football, as we even got to see Cameron Wake make an appearance, pass rushing on some third downs, and looking healthy. Wake is a true professional, and one of the few bright spots for our team over the last few years. May the football gods shine upon him. Like Arian Foster, coming back from an Achilles tendon injury, Wake is truly an inspiration. It’s good to see him back on the gridiron.
The Dolphins will finish up their preseason schedule when they face the Tennessee Titans in the grand opening of their refurbished stadium, now dubbed the Hard Rock. That game will be on Thursday, September 1, at 7PM eastern. The last time these two teams played one another, the Dolphins beat the Titans with a drumstick, 38-10, in Dan Campbell’s first game as interim head coach. We will see if the Titans are able to exact any measure of redemption from that loss.