Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Falcons play and win and don't look awful

Matt Ryan completed six passes and called it a night. (David Goldman/AP)

So: Did the Atlanta Falcons look bigger? Tougher? Meaner? Are they ready to "rectify with a vengeance," as general manager Thomas Dimitroff hopes? Is one exhibition victory over the Miami Dolphins cause to fire up the Super Bowl Express?


They looked OK. Not great, not awful. Just OK. They didn't take a lead until the second half, and by then both starting quarterbacks were long gone, neither having played beyond the first quarter, neither having thrown an incompletion. The Dolphins took the opening kickoff and drove to a touchdown. The Falcons answered. That was it for both No. 1's, and that was it for touchdowns.

"We want to be a physical football team, and I think we showed that tonight," coach Mike Smith said, perhaps overstating after his team's 16-10 victory, but what's a coach going to say after a first exhibition? That world domination is at hand?

To return to the first question: The Falcons did look slightly bigger. Paul Soliai is a massive man in the defensive middle, and they ran effectively behind the rookie right tackle Jake Matthews on their first drive. (Alas, Matthews was also flagged twice for holding, the second time negating a 76-yard Antone Smith touchdown burst that wouldn't have been possible without the rookie's grab-powered hole.)

Ryan looked good, which was no surprise because he's a good player. Jacquizz Rodgers ran hard to not much effect. (Steven Jackson didn't play. Neither did Julio Jones.) Smith ran better. The rookie Devonta Freeman caught a Sean Renfree pass for 57 yards and rushed for 50 more. Prince Shembo, another rookie, had a sack.

All the officials showed impressive arm strength to bear up under the burden of casting so many penalty flags. There were 19 accepted penalties -- nine against the Falcons, 10 against Miami -- and two more that offset and another that was declined.

Smith: "We've got a lot of things to work on as we go through this journey of preseason."

Which reminded us, as if we needed reminding: This was the first of four games that do not count. It's meant only to prepare for the games that do.

From The Falcons take a baby step on the road to redemption.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.