If we told you the Falcons defense had five sacks, Julio Jones had nine catches for 115 yards, and the Falcons had more passing and receiving yards than the Dolphins, you'd have to think that the Falcons would have won this game.
Unfortunately, that was not the case four our Dirty Birds. The Falcons suffered their second consecutive road loss in heartbreaking fashion, falling 27-23 to the Miami Dolphins.
It started out brilliantly (like it always does), as the Falcons put together what was arguably their most impressive drive of the season, an 8:48 drive that resulted in a brilliant shovel pass to Jason Snelling for a touchdown.
This allowed the Falcons to keep Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins off the field for the majority of the first quarter.
The Dolphins only had one drive, a three and out that ended with Osi Umenyiora's first sack of the season.
The Falcons would get the ball back on their next drive and hit a field goal to take a 10-0 lead. This unfortunately would become a recurring theme. The Falcons would put together good drives only to stall out and have to settle for field goals. Obviously, you can't score on every drive, but those third down conversions reared its ugly head again. It wasn't as bad as it has been, but the Falcons only went 5-11 on third downs, most of those coming on critical drives in which the Falcons could have padded their lead.
The Dolphins would finally answer for their first touchdown as they were able to adjust to the Falcons defense and put together a drive that would cut the lead to 10-7 Falcons.
The next drive, Dirk Koetter unleashed the Falcons running game as both Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers pounded the Dolphins defense into submission, combining for 62 yards on the ground before the drive would stall at the two yard line, where the Falcons had to settle for another field goal.
Despite their running prowess, the Falcons could not punch it into the end zone, but increased their lead to 13-7.
Both Rodgers and Snelling had great days filling in for the injured Steven Jackson. Rodgers had a career high 86 yards rushing on 18 carries, and Snelling had 53 yards on 11 carries. Both of them averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
The Falcons defense applied their bend but don't break philosophy to the next drive as they were able to hold the Dolphins to a field goal to end the first half up 13-10.
The Falcons were able to limit the Dolphins to only three drives in the first half, but they were able to score on two of them. But time of possession kept the Falcons ahead in the first half. Unfortunately, this was a movie we've seen far too many times. Good first half, bad third quarter, heartbreaking fourth quarter.
At first, it appeared that the Falcons were going to come out and actually dominate the third quarter.
On the Dolphins first possession, Osi Umenyiora recorded his second sack and forced fumble of the game. Peria Jerry recovered it deep in Dolphins territory which would set up a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to back up TE Levine Toilolo, his first touchdown reception of his career. This made it 20-10 Falcons.
The defense came up huge with a big turnover that turned into an instant offensive touchdown. Momentum was on the Falcon's side in the second half for once. But from that point, the Falcons would only score three more points the rest of the game and would watch as the Dolphins would slowly take over.
The Dolphins would tack on another field goal before the Dolphins shut down the Falcons offense. On the next Dolphins possession, the Falcons' defense would strike. The Dolphins were driving down the field when the Falcons sent a massive blitz that caused Ryan Tannehill to toss the ball up for grabs, and it was intercepted by William Moore.
But the Falcons couldn't capitalize on the turnover and went three and out, a drive that typified the rest of the Falcons offense the rest of the game.
Near the end of the third quarter, a turnover really hurt Atlanta. Harry Douglas was back to return a punt, he let it bounce, picked it up and was promptly slammed to the ground. On the way down, he fumbled and lost the ball deep in his own territory. The Dolphins recovered, and would score a few plays later on a strike by Tannehill to receiver Brian Hartline to tie the game.
In the fourth quarter the Falcons would manage just one field goal, their loan points of the quarter, before Ryan Tannehill led the Dolphins down the field for an eventual game winning score, a play action fake at the one yard line that gave the Dolphins the lead for good at 27-23. Tannehill and company drove from their own 25 and were unstoppable, their only set backs were passes dropped by wide open receivers.
On the Falcons final drive, Ryan was bombarded by pressure on two plays and was picked off on his last pass attempt to end the game.
Yes, once again, the offensive line let down the offense. Matt Ryan had to utilize his quick strikes in order to avoid the powerful Miami pass rush. The Dolphins did not sack him, but once again, Ryan was under duress for the entire game, particularly in the second half, when the Falcons loan touchdown came when they only had to go about ten yards to score.
With Sam Baker out, Jeremy Trueblood stepped in and did a decent job, particularly in the first half. Lamar Holmes actually played LT and let Trueblood play RT, and it seemed to work for a half. And then the protection wore down in the second half like it has in the last two games.
The Falcons pass rush was formidable and was pressuring Tannehill a lot throughout the game. It was good to see Mike Nolan employ a more aggressive defense this week, even if it wound up not working in the end.
For walking wounded, the Falcons played decently. But it's becoming clearer that this offensive line cannot play a complete game and it leaves Matt Ryan under far too much pressure. Once again, he had no time to go through any of his reads and had his worst game of the year (which was still good) at 23/38 for 231 yards with 2 TD and 1 INT.
But this just can't continue, this continuing collapsing pocket and the inability to convert on third down is killing this team. The defense is still getting beaten, but they're showing signs of adjusting, especially in actually getting to the quarterback. We have no memory of the last time the Falcons had five sacks in a game. Pass coverage is still leaving a lot to be desired, but it's not crippling this team the way the offensive line is in pass protection.
It'll be a long week at Flowery Branch. Coach Smith and the walking wounded have some work to do.
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