The Atlanta Falcons were able to score early and allow their defense to prevent Miami from taking the lead in a 16-10 win on Friday night. Solid play early by quarterback Matt Ryan, coupled with second and third team players making contributions were key in the team’s first preseason game of the year.
The team in general was able to show improvement over last season. Here are a few things to take away from the win Friday night, according to the Atlanta Falcons website.
- Running back Jacquizz Rodgers punched in a two-yard touchdown run on the Falcons first offensive possession, capping a 15-play, 77-yard drive and tying the game at seven. Atlanta has thrived on scoring early under Head Coach Mike Smith, notching a League-high 262 points on its first offensive possessions. Last season, the Falcons ranked tied for fifth with 38 first possession points and they have ranked in the top seven in terms of first possession scoring in each season since Smith took the reins in 2008.
- Atlanta continued to show its penchant for methodically moving the chains to set up scores with a 15-play, 77-yard drive to answer the Dolphins opening score. Since 2008, the Falcons have totaled 176 drives lasting 10 plays or longer, with 142 scores and an NFC-leading 76 touchdowns. During that span, the Birds 80.7 scoring efficiency on long drives ranks tied for the NFL lead. Last season, the Falcons averaged nearly eight plays and 60.7 yards per scoring drive.
- In one offensive series of work, WR Roddy White caught all four passes thrown in his direction for 27 yards. Three of White’s four receptions came on third down and resulted in first downs. The ninth-year receiver continues to show he is Ryan’s go-to man in crucial situations. Since 2008, White has compiled a League-best 143 first down receptions on third down. White also leads the League in overall third down receptions during that span with 168.
- Rookie RB Devonta Freeman impressed in his debut totaling 107 total yards on 11 touches. Freeman carried the ball 10 times for 50 yards, including a long gain of 14 yards while posting a game-high five yards per carry. He also added one reception for 57 yards, the longest play of the game.
- Freeman’s 57-yard reception set up a 36-yard field goal by K Sergio Castillo that gave the Falcons their six-point winning margin. The rookie runner out of Florida State was selected by the Falcons in the fourth round (103rd overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. He became the first Florida State running back since Warrick Dunn to rush for over 1,000 yards when he logged 1,016 yards on 173 carries in 2013. Freeman is the sixth player in Seminole history to accomplish that feat.
- After surrendering 73 yards on 10 plays and a touchdown during Miami’s opening drive, the Falcons defense held the Dolphins to 156 yards in the rest of the game. Atlanta’s defense held Miami to 229 total yards, including 51 yards on 21 carries (2.5 yards per carry).
- Rookie linebacker Prince Shembo tied for the team lead with three tackles (one solo) and added the game’s lone sack when he brought down QB Seth Lobato for a nine-yard loss. Shembo was drafted by the Falcons in the fourth round (137th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame. He Started 34 of 51 games for the Irish finishing his career with 145 tackles (71 solo), 24.5 tackles for loss, 35 quarterback pressures, one fumble recovery, and two forced fumbles.
One thing that may not have been noticed is the fact the Falcons struggled on defense early, then was able to recover and produce. For Mike Smith’s system, that is crucial. Too many times last season, Atlanta feel behind and could not mount a comeback or recover.
The team travels to Houston to play the Texans for its second preseason game of the year.