Atlanta Falcons survive Tua and Dolphins in wild game
By Joe Carlino
The Atlanta Falcons won a football game. And for the second time this season, the margin of victory was less than three points.
Fresh out of their bye week, Atlanta traveled south the day after the Braves punched their ticket to the World Series and nearly flushed away all momentum the city’s sports teams are generating.
Atlanta managed to break the trend by finishing the game out with a win
If not for kicker Younghoe Koo’s clutch 36-yard game-winning field goal, the Falcons would’ve, yet again, blown another lead of 10+ points in the last decade. Thanks to Koo and the beginning of a nasty combination between Matt Ryan and Kyle Pitts, the Falcons emerged from Miami with a close 30-28 victory, improving to .500 for the first time in nearly three years.
Leading up to this contest, an article was written about how there wouldn’t be any excuses if Atlanta lost this game. And yet, even in a win, it feels like they got lucky today.
Let’s be real here—for the first 25 minutes of this contest, the Falcons were playing from behind. This was against a team with only one win, and that was in week one. Since then, the Dolphins have been awful, only being exacerbated by last week’s loss to Jacksonville.
Only at the 4:53 mark of the second quarter did the Falcons take their first lead on a pass from Ryan to the recently returning Calvin Ridley, and this drive came after rookie Ade Ogundeji blocked a 49-yard field goal which would’ve given Miami a 10 point lead. 25 minutes to take a lead? That’s a little unacceptable if we’re being real.
Fortunately, the Falcons did enter the break with a 13-7 lead and possession to start the second half, but after the way the first half was, the second half was going to be another roller coaster.
Next, let’s move into the second half, which is where some positives arose but also had numerous negatives.
We’ll start with the positives. Kyle Pitts continued to prove why the Falcons picked him fourth overall, as his catches helped set up Atlanta’s next touchdown, a 49-yard bomb to Russell Gage. A negative on this play is very simple—for six weeks, the Falcons had yet to record a single play of 45+ yards prior to this.
Of course, nothing can be said about negatives in the second half without one word—turnovers.
Matt Ryan was directly responsible for two turnovers that gave the Dolphins excellent field position late in the game. The first one was an interception on third and 8 which he threw a little in front of Ridley and as he was trying to secure it, the ensuing collision with Xavien Howard resulted in Howard winning the battle.
Ryan got lucky, however, because, on the first play for Miami, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had a terrible decision as he threw a pass directly to linebacker Foye Oluokun, who returned the pass 54 yards to the Miami 16. Interesting, huh? Two plays for the Falcons of 45+ yards came in the same contest, one for each side.
That ensuing possession courtesy of Oluokun led to Atlanta regaining their two-score lead by way of Cordarrelle Patterson punching it in from three yards out. From there, Miami went 90 yards on the Falcons defense after a penalty on the kickoff to make it six points.
On the next Falcons possession, this is where Ryan made arguably his worst decision of the entire contest. And it nearly cost the team the game.
Facing a third down from the Atlanta 33, Ryan and the offense lined up in a bunch formation on the left side of the line. The Dolphins were ready for this, and the play was broken. Instead of throwing the ball away and just taking the fourth down, Ryan decided to juke a defender and try to run for more yards.
This was a terrible play by Ryan because, much like Tua almost had happened to him by way of Marlon Davidson earlier in the game, Ryan was tackled from behind by Emanuel Ogbah. The difference between these two plays? Tua didn’t fumble the ball. Ryan did, and Nik Needham picked it up.
That costly fumble by Ryan meant the Falcons defense, fresh off that 90-yard drive, now had to defend the endzone from only 35 yards away. They failed in that quest, with Dolphins’ wide receiver, Mack Hollins, catching the go-ahead score.
Yes, once again, the Falcons blew another two-score lead, and now had to drive into field goal range with only two minutes and two timeouts. Ryan was aided in this drive by Pitts, who made two catches, including one where the pass was easily thrown off Ryan’s back foot, another “no Bueno” decision by a quarterback.
From there, a couple of clutch runs by Patterson and Davis burned the Dolphins’ three timeouts, thus allowing Koo to come out and bring another victory home to the A-T-L.
Again, though, this game was much closer than it needed to. The Falcons should’ve lost this game on multiple occasions, and they very nearly succeeded. Alas, the team’s knack for losing these games decided to take a one-week break, and now the team enters a two-week stretch of games against divisional opponents (vs. CAR, @ NO) before a huge game against the impressive Cowboys.
Let’s see how these Atlanta Falcons approach these games. Their season could very well be hanging in the balance.