MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., Aug. 11 (UPI) -- A long punt return for a touchdown and interception for a score highlighted what was an otherwise ugly preseason game between the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons on Friday in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Few projected starters played in the matchup, which was filled with miscues and included rare scoring chances.
The Falcons capitalized on the two fourth-quarter Dolphins blunders for the duo of non-offensive scores, propelling the 19-3 victory at Hard Rock Stadium.
Falcons defensive back Dee Alford provided the highlight of the night with a 79-yard punt return with 2:53 remaining. Dolphins punter Jake Bailey booted the ball 41 yards on that play.
Alford caught the kick at the 21-yard line. He shook off an initial defender, before bolting left. He then broke through several arm tackles and slashed to his right. He raced down the right flank until he reached the end zone.
The Falcons scored on the second play of the next drive when Dolphins backup Skylar Thompson threw an interception to defensive back Breon Borders. Borders caught that deflected pass at the Dolphins 26-yard line and ran to the end zone without being touched.
Quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Desmond Ridder, running back Bijan Robinson, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Kyle Pitts were among the starters who were held out of the contest.
Rookie cornerback Cam Smith, a second-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and running back De'Von Achane, a third-round pick, made their preseason debuts for the Dolphins.
Rookie defensive end Zach Harrison, a third-round pick, debuted for the Falcons.
"Preseason is always about process over results, but you learn how to use the results as a teaching tool," Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said.
Dolphins backup quarterback Mike White led an eight-play drive to the Atlanta 9-yard line to start the game. He was then intercepted by Falcons defensive back DeMarcco Hellams, ending the possession.
The Falcons later went on an eight-play, 68-yard drive, which ended up in the end zone. Running back Godwin Igwebuike ended that 4:23 possession with an 11-yard touchdown run.
The Dolphins eventually cut into the lead when kicker Jason Sanders made a 49-yard field goal with 9:29 remaining.
But the Falcons responded with Alford's electrifying punt return and Borders' interception, sealing the victory.
Thompson completed 10 of 16 passes for 104 yards and two interceptions. White completed 9 of 14 passes for 85 yards and an interception.
Achane logged 66 yards from scrimmage on 14 touches in his Dolphins preseason debut. Fellow Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin totaled 77 yards from scrimmage on nine touches.
Falcons backup quarterback Logan Woodside completed 14 of 23 passes for 146 yards in the win. Igwebuike totaled 70 yards and a score on 13 carries for the Falcons.
"It was obviously tough sledding with the turnovers and getting into a rhythm, but it's the preseason," Thompson said. "You learn to grow and it's not always going to be perfect."
The Dolphins will continue their preseason schedule with a game against the Houston Texans on Aug. 19 in Houston. The Falcons will face the Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 18 in Atlanta.