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Top News: Brendel Steps Up, Pouncey Updates
October 16, 2017 08:31 PM | Alain Poupart
Jake Brendel was pressed into action for what really was the first real NFL action of his career Sunday, and he answered the call in fine fashion.

Brendel stepped in for three-time Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey late in the first half of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and helped the Dolphins offense score on all of its second-half drives (not counting the final kneel-down) in the 20-17 comeback victory.

"It always sucks to see a fellow player go down like that," Brendel said. "It was just an opportunity for me to kind of show the NFL what I can do and this team. I kind of just saw it as an opportunity to kind of just put my skills out there.

"It was my first time really playing in an actual (regular) season game. It was a pretty big night for me. I just kind of fed off the guys next to me and just kind matched their intensity."

Brendel technically had appeared in five other NFL regular season games before the Atlanta game, but he had played one snap on offense -against the San Francisco 49ers last November on a play when the Dolphins used six offensive linemen.

The Dolphins, though, like Brendel's potential, which is why he's been one of the two active backups for every regular season game this season.

What happened Sunday will only give the Dolphins more confidence should Brendel be called into action again.

"This what we've been seeing at practice," Head Coach Adam Gase said. " That's what this game is about. You just gotta go next man up and you expect that guy to play well."

Pouncey and Parker status: The Dolphins began the week uncertain whether they'll have either Pouncey or wide receiver DeVante Parker in the lineup for the game against the New York Jets on Sunday. Parker was inactive against the Falcons because of an ankle injury that kept from practicing all week. Pouncey is in the concussion protocol after leaving the Atlanta game in the second quarter. Parker said the decision to make Parker inactive Sunday came late. "After what he proved to me last year where there was 0.01 percent chance of playing (against Baltimore) and then he played, he proved to me that he's got a toughness level and a pain tolerance that I hadn't really heard about or seen before," Gase said. "We just kind of waited as long as we could and then we finally just were good with the direction we were going and we decided not to play him. We'll just see how this week goes. We'll just keep taking our steps. The training staff is doing a good job of just bringing him along. I know he's itching to get back out there. Whether or not he does, time will tell."

Fourth-down story: The Dolphins converted 2 of 3 fourth-down situations against Atlanta, their most fourth-down conversions since 2015 when they went 3-for-3 against the San Diego Chargers. Gase said being aggressive in going on fourth down is the approach he wants to take, something that's a popular move among his players. "The message (it sends) is that I believe in you guys," tight end Julius Thomas said. "Some of those fourth-down conversions were at crucial points in the game. We had to have them. When you're down, you need to score points. Converting those allowed us to put ourselves in position to score points. They were big, big conversions. When you look at a team, how you convert on third and fourth down is really important. We just hopefully cannot be in so many fourth downs that we need." The fourth-down conversions, on passes to Damien Williams and Jarvis Landry, came before the touchdown that made it 17-7 and the field goal that made it 17-17, respectively.

Looking ahead: As much as they enjoyed the thrilling victory at Atlanta, Gase and his players already were thinking about the Jets on Monday. "If you want to be a team that has success in this league, whatever happened last week, you've got to forget about that, you've got to head into the next week," Julius Thomas said. "We just talk about being in the moment. There's nothing you can do about what happened last week. The only thing you can do is focus on the next day. For us, it'll be practice on Wednesday. We've got to continue really working hard, really making sure that we're pushing each other to be the best Wednesday, and then Thursday and then we'll go out and play Sunday."

X marks the spot: Second-year cornerback Xavien Howard was faced with the unenviable task of covering Falcons star Julio Jones one-on-one for a good portion of the game Sunday, but he did a solid job in that assignment. Jones ended up with six catches for 72 yards, but his long gain was a modest 18 yards. It was Jones' second-lowest receiving yardage total this season for a full game. "I thought he did well," Gase said. "X is playing with a lot of confidence right now. And we have a lot of confidence in him. He knows that. We'll just keep bringing him along. He's as tough as they come."
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