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Falcons Victory On Scoreboard Marked by Solid Play Across the Board

For the first time this preseason, everything seemed to come full circle for the Atlanta Falcons Friday night in Miami.

Strengths continued to be strengths, and several problem areas sorted themselves out. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan revealed his plan for the makeup of the starting secondary. The number of penalties committed last week was cut in half. Injuries did not appear to leave a mark.

And when all was said and done, a ‘W’ was entered into the results column for the first time in seven exhibition games.

Frankly, there isn’t much more to say about the skill players on the first team offense. Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones in particular have stood out, and left nothing more to be desired from their performance last night. Ryan threw for 220 yards last night, including a 20 yard strike to Roddy White. Jones, who already has a 100-yard game this preseason, added 90 more receiving yards last night.

While the running game wasn’t explosive, and really hasn’t been all preseason, Michael Turner led the way in both attempts and yardage. He rushed ten times for 35 yards, but was also without the services of top backup Jason Snelling whose leg injury prevented his suiting up.

Turner and Snelling are both bound for the 53-man roster, and while Antone Smith and Dimitri Nance continue to fight for reps behind them, Jacquizz Rodgers looks to have a beat on a roster spot of his own. Rodgers returned a kick 40 yards last night in his only return attempt. He also rushed for four yards.

There were two pleasant occurrences on the offensive line last night, both involving rookies. Peter Konz was plugged into the starting unit at right guard where he split time with Garrett Reynolds, and Lamar Holmes made his professional debut at left tackle.

Konz gave up a sack and Holmes was called for a false start, but all things considered the youthful duo played well in there first big test of the year (and career.) With Konz able to play at both guard and center, and Holmes just now getting into game action, it is still quite possible neither will start on opening day against a formidable Chiefs’ D-line.

With the news that Will Svitek will miss the season with an injury however, Holmes has already been made the Falcons’ top backup at left tackle.

Not much has been said about the quiet preseason play of veteran pass rushers Ray Edwards and John Abraham, but after being questioned by NFL Network analyst Heath Evans prior to kickoff last night, the pair looked just fine. Abraham was especially impressive, finishing with two tackles and a minus-seven yard strip sack of Miami’s Ryan Tannehill.

The pair was aided by the play of Lawrence Sidbury, Jonathan Massaquoi and Kroy Biermann, all of whom have now recorded multiple tackles for loss this preseason. Cliff Matthews was also solid, batting down a pass and recovering a Sidbury-forced fumble. Without question, the defensive line has been the deepest and most consistent unit of 2012 thus far, which means final cut-downs will be tough when they arrive late next week.

Returning to the field after missing the Cincinnati game with a concussion was linebacker Akeem Dent. The optimistic view during the two weeks or so the Falcons were without Dent was that a younger linebacker would emerge and play his way onto the final roster as Dent’s second or third backup. Unfortunately Rico Council, Pat Schiller and a whole host of other roster hopefuls disappointed at the wrong time, and as a result only Spencer Adkins appears to have helped his cause. Adkins has a whopping two tackle total this preseason.

Fortunately the rest of the linebacking corps looks good, with Dent, Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas all performing at a high level.

A final revelation of note came in the defensive backfield, where Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson started outside of the nickel package over Asante Samuel. Samuel entered the game as the left side corner in the nickel and figures to play regularly on that side. All three corners, as well as the safeties, did well to prevent the Dolphins from recording a single passing play of over 20 yards.

Overall, the best news from last night’s win was of course the result. Beating one team’s starters probably outweighs losing twice to two teams’ reserves. But what was also encouraging was a cut down of penalties. Mike Smith called out his team for committing too many undisciplined fouls in weeks one and two of the preseason, and the Falcons appeared to get the message last night, committing only five infractions. Of those five, three were defensive offsides, and another offset.

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