With a revamped offensive line, the Falcons came out Sunday determined to run the football at Miami’s talented defensive front.
And they did so. They started out with a powerful 14-play, 80-yard drive to set the tone with second-year tackle Lamar Holmes making his first start on the left side. Veteran Jeremy Trueblood made his first start as a Falcon at right tackle.
During the tone-setting first possession, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter used several formations and helped his new tackles with extra tight ends for blocking. He used guard Joe Hawley as a “jumbo” tight end and also used backup Levine Toilolo. He even flexed Hawley in a “trips right” formation in the second quarter.
The Falcons also leaned heavily on future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who caught four passes for 24 yards in the first drive.
For a team that has had trouble with the ground game, running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, filling in for the injured Steven Jackson, were productive. The Falcons moved the ball around to four different players and overcame a false start penalty by guard Garrett Reynolds.
Rodgers had four runs for 22 yards, Snelling caught two passes for 21 yards and wide receiver Julio Jones had two catches for 18 yards.
With the first drive setting the tone, the Falcons rushed for a season-high 146 yards on 30 carries. Rodgers, who had several nifty open-field moves, finished with 86 yards on 18 carries. Snelling rushed for 53 yards for 11 carries. Julio Jones has seven yards on one carry.
“That was the plan, for me and Jason to pick up the load because we’ve got one guy down,” Rodgers said. “We had to step in and have no letdown.”
But despite the fine rushing effort, the offense stalled after its hot start.
“For the offense, we have to score touchdowns in the red zone,” Rodger said. “That will help a lot. Instead of having three (points), if we have seven, it will be a different game.”
Snelling had a long run of 17 yards.
“We were able to make some good runs, but they made a lot of good plays when it counted,” Snelling said. “We had opportunities, but we didn’t make the plays and they did.”
Nor was he pleased with the result.
“Yeah, we had great effort, but we expect that,” Snelling said. “We are not out there to try to win the effort battle. We knew all week that we had guys out, so that’s no excuse.”
The team had five red zone possessions and scored just two touchdowns.
“First, we have to be able to score more touchdowns in the red zone,” Snelling said. “We have to keep working on that.”
Miracle ending: Falcons coach Mike Smith was hoping for another miracle ending.
“When they went up there at the end, we had two timeouts and we’re in a situation where we had to score a touchdown,” Smith said. “Where it really got away from us was on that last interception (by Jimmy Wilson in the final 30 seconds). Our guys fought to the very last play.”
Next men up: Several young players played a lot snaps for the injured players.
Defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi made the start for Kroy Biermann (torn right Achilles surgery). Linebackers Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow played for Sean Weatherspoon (ankle). Snelling and Patrick DiMarco played for fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder).
“We had a lot of guys that played,” Smith said. “It was good to see those young guys step up. It will be interesting to watch the film.”
Smith did not have an update on the injuries from the game. Running back Josh Vaughan was announced during the game as having an ankle injury.
“I have not spoke to the trainer,” Smith said. “Certainly, we’ll have information on Wednesday when we give our injury report.”
First touchdown: Toilolo scored his first career touchdown in third quarter on a two-yard pass from Matt Ryan.
“It was awesome to get my first touchdown, but at the same time I’m not happy with the result,” said Toilolo, a rookie from Stanford. “We were trying to get a win.”
Grimes happy: Miami cornerback Brent Grimes, formerly of the Falcons, had three tackles and one pass defensed.
“It’s cool being 3-0,” said Grimes, who signed with the Dolphins over the offseason. “Everybody in this league, it’s a bonus. It’s tough to win games in this league. We won two in a row on the road and now we won our home opener. It’s good, but it’s only three games. We still have work to do, but you always want to come out with wins.”
Etc.: The Falcons finished with seven penalties for 59 yards. The Dolphins had two penalties for 13 yards. … The Falcons outgained the Dolphins 377-285, including 146-90 on the ground. … Jones posted his second straight 100-yard game, catching nine passes for 115 yards. For the season, Jones has 27 catches for 373 yards with two touchdowns. … Wide receiver Roddy White, playing with a high ankle sprain, was essentially a decoy again. He had two catches for 16 yards.