MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Now the NFL's highest-paid running back, Devonta Freeman looked the part in a brief appearance Thursday night, scoring on a 15-yard reception from Matt Ryan as the Atlanta Falcons lost to the Miami Dolphins 23-20.
Freeman, who agreed to terms Wednesday on a $41.25 million, five-year contract extension, scored to cap the Falcons' first preseason possession. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian's unit drove 36 yards for the touchdown after a 39-yard punt return by newcomer Andre Roberts.
The Dolphins' exhibition season began badly. Second-round draft pick Raekwon McMillan, the front-runner to start at middle linebacker, hurt his right knee on Roberts' punt return and walked to the locker room accompanied by trainers.
Miami backup safety Walt Aikens also left the game in the first quarter with a back injury.
Undrafted rookie Damore'ea Stringfellow caught a 99-yard touchdown pass from David Fales in the fourth quarter. Neither is likely to make the team.
The Falcons, who blew a 28-3 advantage against New England in last season's Super Bowl, this time let a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead get away.
Starters for both teams saw little or no action. New Miami quarterback Jay Cutler sat out, and backup Matt Moore played one series, which went three-and-out after confusion forced the Dolphins to call timeout before their first snap.
Ryan played one series and went 3 for 3, hitting three receivers for 32 yards. His touchdown pass came on fourth and 1, when he faked a handoff to Freeman, who then circled out of the backfield to make the catch in the flat and score untouched.
Freeman and Ryan celebrated in the end zone with a flying shoulder bump and hug.
Miami's second-team offense drove 40 yards to the Falcons' 20 before Atlanta's first-teamers came out of the game. The Dolphins then settled for a field goal.
Dolphins receiver Leonte Carroo, a disappointment as a rookie last year, outmaneuvered C.J. Goodwin to catch a 33-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Doughty.
The Falcons were on their third quarterback before the first quarter ended.
Stringfellow hauled in Fales' pass at the Miami 30, cut twice to elude safety Marcelis Branch and raced down the sideline for his score to put Miami ahead to stay.
Matt Bryant, who's entering his 16th season, missed a 47-yard field goal attempt for Atlanta, while second-year pro Mike Meyer made kicks of 30 and 53 yards.
Atlanta's Terron Ward carried 11 times for 48 yards and a touchdown. Kenyan Drake led Miami rushers with 21 yards in five carries.
Falcons first-round draft pick Takkarist McKinley and receiver Julio Jones sat out. Among those not playing for the Dolphins were running back Jay Ajayi, center Mike Pouncey and left tackle Laremy Tunsil.