MIAMI -- Doug Johnson played better than most of his teammates.
Promoted to a starting job because of Michael Vick's broken leg, Johnson threw for 148 yards and a touchdown, but three Miami quarterbacks reached the end zone and the Dolphins beat the winless Atlanta Falcons 30-21 in an exhibition game Friday night.
|Atlanta's Doug Johnson does a serviceable job of filling Michael Vick's enormous shoes.(AP)|
"There's always room for improvement," Johnson said. "We struggled early. The good thing was the way we bounced back."
Vick broke his right leg last weekend and is expected to miss the opening month of the season.
Jay Fiedler, Brian Griese and Sage Rosenfels each had a hand in a touchdown for Miami. Newcomer Griese directed a 64-yard scoring drive in his only possession before leaving the game with a sprained left big toe. The injury wasn't believed to be serious.
Miami won for the first time in three exhibition games.
"There's nothing like getting a win, even if it's preseason," coach Dave Wannstedt said.
The Falcons fell to 0-3 and must win Thursday at Cleveland to avoid their first winless exhibition season since 1979.
"As I've always said in the preseason, you're never as good as you think you are, and you're never as bad," coach Dan Reeves said.
The Falcons weren't too good, though. They committed eight penalties, lost three turnovers, had the ball for less than 22 minutes and totaled 26 yards rushing.
"We have to get better," running back Warrick Dunn said. "We made one mistake after another."
One positive was the run defense. Ricky Williams, last year's NFL rushing champion, gained 20 yards on a swing pass but otherwise found little running room against Atlanta. He carried nine times for minus 1 yard and has just 9 yards in 14 carries in three games.
Williams and Miami's other starters saw their most extension action so far. Fiedler completed his first six passes and finished 16-for-22 for 115 yards and a touchdown.
"I felt very comfortable," Fiedler said. "We were able to sustain some things. We took the game to Atlanta a little bit, and everyone had a confident air about them."
"The brightest spot of the whole day was our special teams," Wannstedt said. "We were able to come up with some big field position."
Rookie J.R. Tolver caught a 16-yard scoring pass from Rosenfels, and Leonard Henry scored on a 1-yard run.
Atlanta trailed 24-7 before third-string defensive end Demetrin Veal scored on a 40-yard fumble return after Rosenfels fumbled when sacked by Karon Riley. Kurt Kittner threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Farris with five minutes left.
Johnson hit two long passes on an 80-yard drive for the Falcons' first touchdown. Brian Finneran beat Jamar Fletcher for a 32-yard reception, and Price got open between Sam Madison and Brock Marion on third-and-8 for the score.
"I let it go early, and he ran under it," Johnson said.
Johnson had the Falcons on the move again at the end of the first half before he was intercepted by Terrell Buckley.
"Doug made some good plays," Reeves said. "What we're missing is consistency. For his first start, I was overall pleased with what he was able to do."
Fletcher sprained his left ankle in the second quarter and sat out the second half. The Dolphins are already without cornerback Patrick Surtain, who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
The game was nearly 10 minutes old before Johnson took his first snap. Miami gained 1 yard on the first series and punted, but Allen Rossum fumbled the return and the Dolphins' Morlon Greenwood recovered.
Miami then marched 52 yards in 12 plays, and fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo capped the drive by catching Fiedler's 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth down.
A 30-yard punt return by Miami newcomer Rogers set up Olindo Mare's 31-yard field goal. Mare also hit from 38 and 37 yards and barely missed a 61-yard attempt wide left on the final play of the first half.
The Associated Press News Service
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