Defense Toughens Up In Preseason Loss To Falcons

Posted Aug 24, 2012

All eyes were on Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill tonight at Sun Life Stadium, but it was the first-team defense that answered some tough questions against the Atlanta Falcons and their high-octane offense in a 23-6 loss.

All eyes were on Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill tonight at Sun Life Stadium, but it was the first-team defense that answered some tough questions against the Atlanta Falcons and their high-octane offense in a 23-6 loss.

Two subpar performances against Tampa Bay and Carolina had left Head Coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle scratching their heads, so they were looking for a spark. They got it from defensive end Cameron Wake to the tune of 1.5 sacks, a stout run defense and an inspired secondary.

Atlanta had to settle for three field goals in the first half as the defense clamped down after the Falcons crossed midfield, with Wake stuffing running back Michael Turner on a 4th-and-2 to kill the opening drive. He got some help from a host of Miami defenders and that stop set the tone for the rest of the half.

“They kept a good offense out of the end zone and they put some pressure on the quarterback, which we haven’t seen,” Philbin said before the start of the second half. “We did a relatively good job on third down. We gave up that one big play there (a 49-yard pass from Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to Julio Jones), but overall I thought it was a good performance.”

Tannehill bounced back from his first interception on his second drive, a pass intended for Davone Bess that was tipped by Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon into the arms of safety Thomas DeCoud. He put together a 13-play, 78-yard scoring drive that stalled at the 4 when his pass into the end zone was dropped by tight end Anthony Fasano. Dan Carpenter’s 22-yard field goal tied the game at 3-3 and Tannehill was 4-of-8 for 54 yards on the drive.

Philbin let Tannehill lead the offense for the opening series of the second half after the defense forced a three-and-out but he had to start with his back to his own end zone at the 8. He aired out a deep pass to Clyde Gates down the left sideline but Gates was ruled out of bounds after making a circus catch. His next pass for tight end Charles Clay fell incomplete and he rushed for 5 yards on third down, setting up another Brandon Fields punt.

Tannehill ended the night completing 11-of-27 passes for 112 yards and that one interception and added 20 rushing yards on two carries. Bess ended up catching four of Tannehill’s passes for 59 yards. Second-year running back Daniel Thomas carried the ball six times for 29 yards.

Atlanta’s two touchdowns came in the second half against the second-team and third-team defenses of Miami, with Ryan and the rest of the starting offense getting the first one on their second series. Ryan found Roddy White in the right corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown as White caught the ball over Jonathan Wade.

Third-string quarterback Dominique Davis found Tim Toone for a 39-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to end the scoring.

The game ended in a torrential downpour similar to the one that drenched the field an hour before the game and the winds kicked up, chasing some of the die-hard fans onto the inner concourses.

Miami dropped to 0-3 in the preseason with the loss.

Philbin Speaks: “I thought out first-team defense played well in the first half and I thought they played pretty well in sudden change. We held them to a field goal off of that giveaway and they had the ball in good field position. I thought they did some good things and it looked more like the defense we thought we’d see.” – on the play of the defense overall

“He seemed to be the same guy. I thought he had a good week in practice. We were talking about it, in fact, we were talking earlier in the locker room and said it would be nice if he used his athletic ability a little bit on third down and scrambled on for a first down. I’m thinking, boy, I’m a smart coach. I felt like a prophet there early. – on if he noticed a difference in Tannehill since he named him the starter

“When you’re not converting, when you’re not moving the chains, it’s hard to play with tempo and rhythm. So it’s a little bit of the chicken and the egg in that regard. I would agree, there were a couple of times where we’d hit a play or a couple of plays and we got it moving, but nothing with real consistency.” – on the speed of the offense

From The Locker Room: “We were just talking about some technique stuff, a couple of coverages that they lined up in and on the snap they were shifting and rolling to another one. We were just trying to stay on the same page.” – wide receiver Davone Bess on the conversations he had with Tannehill during the game

“It’s my job to put the ball there. There were some throws that I didn’t make and that has nothing to do with the receivers, it’s just myself putting the ball in a bad spot. I’ve got to be more consistent with my accuracy and there are a few throws I’d like to have back.” – quarterback Ryan Tannehill on some of the missed connections during the game

“I felt good. I stayed out there a lot longer compared to the other games so I was able to get into a rhythm. I got a lot more carries so it felt pretty good.” – running back Daniel Thomas on leading the team in rushing tonight

“We had a mindset coming into this game and as a defense we talked to each other about the way things were the last couple of weeks. We wanted to make sure when we go back and watch this film we can say this is the Miami Dolphins defense and this is the way we want to play. I think it was a step in the right direction.” – defensive end Cameron Wake on the defense’s turnaround from the first two preseason games

“We came into the game knowing that they were going to pass a lot, so we knew that was going to be a big opportunity for us to work on our pass rush and put pressure on the quarterback. That was our main goal for the night and it was nice to get in a sack, but I’m going to give Cam that one because he’s the vet.” – rookie defensive end Olivier Vernon on Miami’s pass rush and getting his first half a sack

“I thought we were doing pretty good, with the exception of a couple of penalties and a few minor mistakes on our part. Atlanta was an offense coming averaging over 400 yards per game, so we knew we had a big task ahead of us with all of the weapons that they have. I think we held our own.” – cornerback Sean Smith on the first unit keeping the Falcons out of the end zone
Next: Miami travels to Dallas on a short week to take on the Cowboys in the fourth and final preseason game Wednesday night at 8:30.
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