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Livas Returns Punt For TD, Dolphins Beat Falcons

Dolphins 28, Falcons 23
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ATLANTA - AUGUST 12: Ray Willis #64 of the Miami Dolphins blocks against Cliff Matthews #98 of the Atlanta Flacons during a preseason game at the Georgia Dome on August 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

ATLANTA – AUGUST 12: Ray Willis #64 of the Miami Dolphins blocks against Cliff Matthews #98 of the Atlanta Flacons during a preseason game at the Georgia Dome on August 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (CBS4) — Linebacker Karlos Dansby hopes the Miami Dolphins can build some momentum after winning their preseason opener.

“I want to turn the tide this year, and we’re on the way, I think,” Dansby said. “Tonight, I hope we set the tone for the entire season. It’s all about wins, man.”

Phillip Livas scored on a 75-yard punt return in the third quarter to help Miami overcome a difficult start by quarterback Chad Henne in the Dolphins’ 28-23 preseason victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Friday night.

Atlanta rookie receiver Julio Jones, quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner contributed on first-quarter scoring drives that gave the Falcons a 17-0 lead.

Henne threw interceptions on two of Miami’s first three possessions before connecting with Brian Hartline for a 44-yard touchdown pass that made it 17-7 early in the second quarter.

Henne, who completed 4 of 8 passes for 77 yards, did his best work against Atlanta’s defensive reserves.

But the same could be said, too, of Ryan, who completed just one of his first passes against Miami’s defensive starters. The difference, however, was that the Atlanta QB threw one TD pass and didn’t have an interceptions. Ryan finished 6 of 10 for 90 yards.

For the Dolphins, who host Carolina at home next week and open the regular season at home Sept. 12 against New England, it was more a matter of who didn’t play as coach Tony Sparano decided to avoid injury risk.

Running back Reggie Bush, receiver Brandon Marshall, defensive end Jason Taylor wore uniforms, but not helmets, and stood on the sideline. Left tackle Jake Long wasn’t in uniform.

“The goal this year is to turn the franchise around,” Taylor said. “We know the talent is here. It’s just a matter of transitioning to what we know we can do and be.”

Daniel Thomas started in Bush’s place and ran four times for 5 yards. Davone Bess subbed for Marshall and caught two passes for 8 yards.

Miami is coming off 7-9 season after which Dolphins owner Stephen Ross considered firing Sparano but brought him back when Jim Harbaugh took the San Francisco job.

Atlanta, which went 13-3 last year to earn the NFC’s No. 1 seed, will visit Jacksonville for a preseason game next week. The Falcons open the regular season Sept. 11 in Chicago.

On Henne’s first interception, tight end Anthony Fasano was running right to left when the pass arrived behind him. Defensive end John Abraham, who had dropped into coverage, grabbed the bobbled ball to set up the offense at the Atlanta 44.

“I think we played well as a defense,” Abraham said. “I want to see a little more out of the younger guys, but I think they’re growing and helping our defense a lot.”

Three plays later, Ryan threw a soft pass over the middle to Jones, who was running a left-to-right drag route just outside the line of scrimmage against cornerback Vontae Davis and advanced to the Miami 14 behind before safety Reshad Jones pulled him down.

Turner had a 2-yard TD run one play later.

Atlanta’s next drive started at the 17 before Ryan connected with Jones, the NFL’s No. 6 overall draft pick, for a 22-yard gain on an end route down the right side. On the next snap, Jones took a reverse handoff and sped 12 yards to the Falcons 49.

Ryan and Harry Douglas made it 14-0 seven plays later, connecting on a 20-yard touchdown pass that beat cornerbacks Nolan Carroll and Nate Ness.

“Harry ran a great route,” Ryan said. “That was the key there. He kept his speed up towrds the top of the route and then broke towards the post. He made a really good catch in between two guys.”

Henne’s second interception, which came on the Dolphins’ next play from scrimmage, was a poorly thrown ball intended for Bess and picked off by cornerback Brent Grimes on the right side.

“It was the wrong route, and I had the ball in my hands and made a bad decision out there,” Henne said. “For the touchdown, it was just to keep an attack mentality out there and be resilient. I tried to get the team down there and help score a touchdown.”

With Ryan and Atlanta’s other offensive starters out of the game, Third-string quarterback John Parker Wilson took charge of the offense and oversaw a six-play drive that ended with Matt Bryant’s 27-yard field goal and a 17-0 lead.

Wilson, who completed 12 of 19 passes for 111 yards and one interception, was knocked out of the game with an undisclosed injury midway through the third and had to be escorted off the field.

He lost a fumble near the end of the second quarter that led to Roberto Wallace’s 28-yard TD pass from Matt Moore and cut it to 17-14.

Moore connected with Edmond Gates on a 6-yard TD pass in the third quarter.

Adam Froman, a rookie from Louisville, played the rest of the game at quarterback for Atlanta, ending the game with an interception deep in Miami territory.

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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