Coach Tony Sparano just finished his press conference this morning.
Here's what he said:
He said the Dolphins gave up "172 minus yardage," which he equates to 12 1/2 points. Minus yardage is yards on fumble returns. Yards on sacks. Yards on interception returns. Etc...
The Dolphins also turned the ball over four times. "That's how you lose games in this league," Sparano said. "I told the team at halftime when we had two of them, 'you're aware that two turnovers in this league are hard to overcome. You know what you have to do. We have to work our tail off to overcome these and we have to try to take the ball away from them."
The Miami defense played relatively well. But it did not cause any turnovers.
Tight end Anthony Fasano was responsible for two of Miami's turnovers on fumbles following receptions. To his credit, he was in the locker room Sunday to face tough questions and did the same today.
"Protecting the ball has to be the No. 1 priority," Fasano said.
He added the bad outing is, "something I have to learn from.",
The Dolphins gave up four sacks but Sparano made it clear the problem was physical rather than a coaching issue in which the Falcons came with some new stunts or blitzes or rush schemes. "Nothing they did was any different than what we prepared for during the course of the week or than we seen. They just rushed the passer."
Yes, left tackle Jake Long yielded two sacks and had other breakdowns also. You can see the game's signature sack below as Long had what is easily the worst game of his young professional career. "It was not a winning performance," Sparano said of Long. "I think Jake would tell you that."
Sparano said the team is likely to shorten up the "edges" this week for the tackles, meaning the tackles are allowing too much air between themselves and the pass rusher and so the first contact between the two is too close to the quarterback. That will be adjusted versus Indy Monday night. Good thing because Dwight Freeney is a pretty good edge rusher.
Sparano hinted the interior of the offensive line needs to gel. The physical communication between the players is not good enough and certainly not at the point players pick each other up on twist stunts, which plagued Miami Sunday.
Having said all that, it doesn't sound as if Sparano is confident the offensive line can come out next week and be the unit the Dolphins are paying for -- the $156 million bunch, as I have repeatedly told you. It is, apparently going to be a process.
"It's correctable, I think they're correctable," Sparano said. "I don't think we'll get them all ironed out in a week, but we'll get some of them ironed out. We're going to work hard to do it."
Sparano defended the coaching staff's decision to call the gimmick plays with Pat White and others at the time they did. One of those came after Miami moved the ball into Atlanta territory. The call was a Ted Ginn Jr. pass/run option. It became a busted play and a momentum killer.
No one was open downfield for Ginn, according to the coach. And, by the way, there was "leakage," along the offensive line that caused Ginn to be looking for running room rather than downfield anyway."
As to the timing?
"Nothing there made me feel we should be running it here or anything like that," Sparano said. "From a play sequence standpoint, that wasn't the problem. The problem was execution."
Sparano said some of the usage of Pat White was designed as a "waste pitch," meant to see how the Falcons were lining up -- to get a picture, so to speak.
The Dolphins gave the Falcons two different pictures of their secondary Sunday, one with Sean Smith at right cornerback, the other with Vontae Davis at right cornerback. The two rookies were platooned every two series.
Smith started and took the first two series. Then Davis took over for two series and so on. The players were told beforehand that would happen. And the idea, one supposes, is to bring both rookies along. Davis is also progressing to the point where he's earned playing time.
But here is the problem: Making a hard and fast rule that one player or another will be in for two series basically ices the other player on the bench. Smith was in the first two series and went to the bench with 7:01 left in the first quarter.
Then the Miami offense held the ball for 5:50, then the Atlanta offense held the ball for 7:27, then the Miami offense had the ball for exactly three minutes, then Atlanta got it back for 1:25, then Miami held the ball for 2:14.
So Smith was out of the game for 19:55 or one quarter plus 4:55. That can't happen while expecting Smith to just come back in the game for Atlanta's two-minute offense and be on his game.
On the injury front, Sparano said the Dolphins emerged from the game with, "a couple of bumps but nothing major."
Finally (for now), Sparano said the game did serve a bigger purpose.
"We figured out where we are and what we have to do to win," he said.