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Falcons dominate first half, Dolphins

MIAMI (Sept. 1, 2005) -- The Atlanta Falcons did little to help the Miami Dolphins resolve their quarterback situation, stopping both Gus Frerotte and A.J. Feeley.

Etric Pruitt scored on a 51-yard interception return and the Falcons allowed no first downs in the opening 25 minutes, helping them win 20-17 in the final exhibition game for both teams.

While Frerotte and Feeley struggled, third-stringer Sage Rosenfels threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns against reserves in the second half. New Miami coach Nick Saban didn't rule out giving Rosenfels the starting nod for the season opener Sept. 11 against Denver.

"I was pleased with the way Sage played," Saban said. "It looked like he had some command out there and did a good job. Those things are factors that need to be taken into consideration. ...

"We want to pick the quarterback that's going to give us the best opportunity to win. I'm not prepared after watching that game to make a statement about that."

Atlanta limited the Dolphins to 16 yards in three series with Frerotte. Feeley went 4 for 17 and threw the interception to Pruitt.

Michael Vick and most of the Falcons' starting offense played only one series. Vick handed off on all four plays.

The Falcons finished the exhibition season 4-1, and the Dolphins went 1-4. The teams will meet again in Miami on Nov. 6.

Atlanta opens at home on Sept. 12 against Philadelphia.

The Dolphins punted five times before picking up a first down. By their third series there were boos from the crowd, which totaled only about 20,000.

"It's not the kind of football I like to see from our team," Saban said. "We'll work hard to try to get it fixed. There is no excuse for it. We dropped balls, we didn't execute, we didn't play with the kind of urgency and intensity that good teams play with. Everybody needs to decide what kind of team we're going to have."

Late in the first half, Falcons defensive end Anthony Herron pressured Feeley into a hurried throw behind intended receiver Donald Lee. Pruitt, a third-string safety, intercepted and scored untouched to put Atlanta ahead 13-0.

"I saw a big-play opportunity come to me, and I took advantage of it and made a nice play," Pruitt said. "I just broke on the ball when I saw him getting ready to throw it."

For the Dolphins, the play was all too reminiscent of last season, when they threw eight interceptions that were returned for scores.

Making matters worse for Miami, three players left the game in the first half with injuries: defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (left knee), receiver David Boston (sprained neck) and defensive end David Bowens (right knee). Vickerson's injury was believed to be the most serious, and he was scheduled to undergo an MRI exam.

The Falcons' running game had another good night, totaling 196 yards. Atlanta averaged 145 per game during the exhibition season.

"I hope it carries us into next week," said T.J. Duckett, who totaled 28 yards in seven carries. "We played really hard from top to bottom."

Third-string running back DeAndra Cobb turned in the most impressive run, breaking three tackles to zigzag for a 29-yard score with five minutes left. Another third-stringer, Marlion Jackson, totaled 63 yards in 11 carries.

"I'm proud of the way the young guys fought, especially those hanging on the edge," coach Jim Mora said. "I was very impressed with the way we ran the ball."

Backup quarterback Matt Schaub played most of the first half and went 6 of 12 for 78 yards. He played one series against the Dolphins' first-team defense and led a 31-yard drive, which ended with a 29-yard field goal by Todd Peterson.

Miami's Ricky Williams carried four times for 11 yards in his last game until Oct. 16. He'll sit out the first four regular-season games for violating the NFL drug policy.

Top Dolphins draft pick Ronnie Brown carried five times for 25 yards.

Rosenfels went 17 for 25 and threw touchdown passes of 20 yards to Derrius Thompson and 26 yards to Wes Welker, both in the final nine minutes.

"The guys around me rallied and showed a lot of heart and made some big plays," Rosenfels said.

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