Falcons vs. Dolphins: Postgame Grades, Notes and Quotes for Miami

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaFeatured Columnist IVAugust 30, 2015

Falcons vs. Dolphins: Postgame Grades, Notes and Quotes for Miami

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    Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins (1-2) opened a renovated Sun Life Stadium with their first win of the preseason, defeating the Atlanta Falcons (1-2) 13-9. 

    The Dolphins defense looked the most impressive. In addition to Miami holding the Falcons to nine points in the game, Atlanta's starting offense was only able to gain 49 yards, all in the air on three pass completions from Matt Ryan. Atlanta's starting unit gained no yards on the ground, which was dominated up front by an aggressive Dolphins defensive line. 

    Miami's linebackers were to blame for those 49 yards gained, as all three of those Ryan passes were short passes that took advantage of the linebackers and their subpar coverage skills. 

    On offense, the Dolphins got another impressive and efficient performance from Ryan Tannehill, who was behind a makeshift offensive line missing three-fifths of the regular starters. Dallas Thomas was the starting left tackle, while Jamil Douglas replaced Thomas at left guard.

    Mike Pouncey started at center but left the game early with a knee injury that didn't appear to be too serious. He will have an MRI Sunday morning, per Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post

    Miami's depth, which was an issue in the first two games, held firm in the second half, holding the Falcons to three points. Good field position was the reason for Atlanta's first three points in the first quarter, while its second field goal came in the second quarter on a two-minute drill once the starters were out of the game. 

    Here's a look at the grades as well as some memorable notes and quotes from Miami's victory over the Falcons. 

Miami Dolphins Grades

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
    PositionStarting Unit GradeOverall Grade
    Running BackAA
    Wide ReceiversB+B+
    Tight EndsAA
    Offensive LineBB
    Defensive LineA+A+
    Defensive BacksB+B+
    Special TeamsB+B+

    Miami's linebackers get the lowest marks because of missed tackles. The best way for offenses to beat Miami's defense will be on short passing routes. 

    Running against Miami will be a chore thanks to a defensive line that once again looked dominant. Atlanta only ran for 50 yards throughout the game with starting running back Tevin Coleman running for two yards on four attempts. When the starting defensive line was in the game, Atlanta wound up with zero yards rushing on seven carries. Earl Mitchell and Cameron Wake both recorded sacks. 

    The linebackers were able to take advantage of the defensive line thanks to a sack by Jelani Jenkins. 

    Ndamukong Suh did not record a single tackle, yet he freed up space for the other defensive linemen and linebackers and got to Matt Ryan once. 

    On offense, Ryan Tannehill continued his impressive preseason performance, completing 15 of 19 passes for 145 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He finished with a passer rating of 116. 

    The wide receivers dropped a couple of passes early but then picked up the slack by providing yards after the catch. The best of the bunch was Jarvis Landry, who had five catches for 84 yards. His most impressive reception was a 46-yard catch that saw him run for a good 27 yards after the catch. 

    Lamar Miller looked great once again, showing better vision than we've seen from him in his first three seasons. He finished with 22 yards on six attempts while also hauling in five catches for 31 yards. 

    Jay Ajayi looked good in his first action of the preseason, running for 25 yards on seven carries behind Miami's third-string offensive line. He also had a couple of good blocks in pass protection and reeled in two catches for three yards. 

Ryan Tannehill's Preseason Brilliance Continues

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Due to a makeshift offensive line, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald suggested that the Dolphins sit Ryan Tannehill for this preseason game. 

    The Dolphins chose not to and dodged a bullet. Less important but still big was the fact that Tannehill didn't just survive—he looked fantastic. 

    Tannehill was not sacked on Saturday and instead relied mainly on checkdown passes. This got some critiques from the peanut gallery on Twitter (led by the usual suspects in South Florida sports media), but it was the smart way to play due to the weather conditions and the fact that the offensive line was missing two of its usual starters while a third starter was playing out of position. 

    In the end, Tannehill made some great throws and completed 79 percent of his passes, with two of the four incompletions being drops from his receivers. 

The Suh Effect Was on Full Display

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The box score says Ndamukong Suh didn't produce a single tackle and only hit the quarterback once. 

    The same box score will also tell you that Jelani Jenkins had a sack, as did Earl Mitchell and Cameron Wake, while the Falcons were held to 50 yards rushing in the game with zero in the first half. 

    That's the Suh effect. Throughout the game when he was on the field, two blockers occupied him at all times. This caused a flood of pressure moving up the middle for the Dolphins, who surrounded quarterback Matt Ryan, and the Suh effect was a big reason why Ryan only completed three out of seven passes and was sacked three times. 

State of Confusion on When Branden Albert Will Be Back

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Prior to the preseason game, Dolphins fans were greeted to this news:

    #Dolphins LT Branden Albert (knee) is out tonight, won't play next week, either. Source said don't expect him back until week 3 vs. #Bills.

    — Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) August 29, 2015

    The news from ESPN's Adam Caplan wasn't what Dolphins fans wanted to see. While the Dolphins don't play a strong team up front in Week 1 in Washington, they do have to contend with a Jacksonville Jaguars team in Week 2 that finished sixth in sacks with 45 last year and have added Jared Odrick. 

    However, based on the performance from the Dolphins offensive line on Saturday, it looked like the team could survive without Albert. Atlanta's pass rush has been good during the preseason, but on Saturday the Falcons didn't record a single sack thanks to Ryan Tannehill's quick thinking and Dallas Thomas doing an adequate job at left tackle. 

    Then, after the game, even better news on Albert came through, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald: 

    Dolphins are quite certain Branden Albert will not be out until Week 3. Still hopeful about season opener.

    — Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) August 30, 2015

    Confused? I am too. 

    Either way, Miami's offensive line showed that it could play well without Albert on Saturday, but the team is always better with him. He has practiced all week and participated in full drills, per Chris Perkins of the Sun-Sentinel.

    I could see Albert and the Dolphins wanting to be cautious with his return, but we probably won't know Albert's Week 1 status until Week 1. 

"I Ain’t Missing a Game, so Y’all Don’t Need to Worry About That."

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The Dolphins and Dolphins fans had a scary moment in the first quarter when Mike Pouncey left the game with an apparent knee injury. 

    He tried to go back into the game one play later but then was pulled out for good on the next series. 

    Even scarier for Dolphins fans is the fact that Pouncey will undergo an MRI on Sunday morning, per Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post. As you can see in the picture above, Pouncey did leave the field and the locker room under his own power, but from what I saw while watching the game ,he did have a limp. 

    Despite that, Pouncey is confident, telling the press after the game: "I’m not too concerned about it. I’ll be back in practice next week. I ain’t missing a game, so y’all don’t need to worry about that. Don’t worry. I’m playing. We’ve got a big season ahead of us. We’re all looking forward to it and I ain’t going to miss a moment of it."

    This quote is magic to Dolphins fans' ears; the hope is that the Sunday morning MRI confirms his words as true and not just wishful thinking. 

    Statistics provided by NFL.com.