On paper, this was an easy game. After the first half, it still looked like an easy game. It is therefore deeply troubling that Atlanta allowed a scuffling Miami team back into it, and almost unimaginably terrible that they allowed Miami to win this game 20-17.
This one got ugly for Miami early, with the Falcons putting up three point on their first drive, snagging two more touchdown drives before the half was over, and the Dolphins managing zero scores despite actually picking up some yardage on the ground. The Falcons went into the half up 17-0.
They blew the second half in spectacular fashion, however. The Dolphins had a couple of huge, time-chewing drives that closed the gap to 17-14, and the Falcons’ offense did absolutely nothing after a very productive first half. The Dolphins wound up tying things up at 17-17 in the fourth quarter before getting the go-ahead field goal late, and the subsequent Falcons drive was going swimmingly until yet another unlucky interception doomed the Falcons to a loss. The offensive performance was embarrassing and the defense was lousy.
There’s no question this is going to alter the perception of this Falcons team in a significant and lasting way, because there’s no way Atlanta should have lost this. There’s not enough time in the world to digest this, but we’ll have to try.
Here’s the breakdown. Much more to come, obviously.
The Falcons got things moving early with a pass to Austin Hooper and a connection with Taylor Gabriel for a first down. They continued to find success with Austin Hooper and Julio Jones, but ultimately they stalled out and were forced to kick a field goal. Fortunately, Matt Bryant was up to hitting a 50 yarder, and it was 3-0 good guys.
Falcons 3 - Dolphins 0
The Dolphins got off to a great start thanks to an 18 yard run by Jay Ajayi and a Jay Cutler bootleg, but the Falcons clamped down with strong coverage and a nice tackle by Keanu Neal and forced the punt. Back to you, Atlanta.
The Falcons looked like they might get stuck on the subsequent drive, but thankfully Julio Jones is a beastmonster and easily converted a first down. Then Matt Ryan hit Marvin Hall, playing in his first regular season game for the Falcons, for a long touchdown pass. That put the Falcons up two scores.
Falcons 10 - Dolphins 0
The Dolphins got things going with Jay Ajayi, who picked up 20-plus yards in short order. The run defense has had a lot of trouble with big, physical backs, and that continued here.
The Dolphins thankfully stalled out when they finally had to pass on third down and Jay Cutler couldn’t connect. Huzzah!
Unfortunately, the next Falcons drive started with a false start and moved into uselessness in short order, and the team went three and out and had to punt.
The Dolphins got favorable field position on a short Matt Bosher punt and managed to roll up some yards before winding up on fourth and third in Atlanta territory. They decided to go for it, and Dontari Poe tipped the pass, stopping the drive cold.
Atlanta wasted no time on their subsequent drive. With some nice blocking in front of him, Devonta Freeman ran for 44 and then 9 yards, bringing the Falcons into the red zone in no time flat. Tevin Coleman then took it in from six yards out for his first rushing touchdown of the season, and the Falcons now had a three score lead.
Falcons 17 - Dolphins 0
That should have been it, but two unnecessary roughness penalties (one of them offset, thankfully) and some bad tackling got Miami down the field in a hurry. Fortunately, Deion Jones got his first interception of the year off a bad Jay Cutler throw, and that was that.
Atlanta had very little time left but decided not to waste it, driving and giving Matt Bryant an opportunity at a 59 yard field goal which he missed. Can’t hold that against him.
The Dolphins got cooking early and ended up eating nine dang minutes off the clock with their opening drive, which featured a lot of running, short passes, and Falcons sloppiness and penalties. Deion Jones was a tick late on a couple of plays, Duke Riley continued to miss tackles, and penalties kept the Dolphins alive when they otherwise might have faltered. Jay Cutler ultimately hit Kenny Stills for a touchdown pass to close the gap.
Falcons 17 - Dolphins 7
The Falcons got a quick three and out, though they got close on an Austin Hooper catch.
The Dolphins took the ball back on a short Matt Bosher punt and drove down the field thanks to a comedy of errors from a melting Falcons defense, which got penalty after penalty to drag Miami down the field. A Grady Jarrett penalty on a Deion Jones interception was particularly awful, and Jay Cutler hit Jarvis Landry from seven yards out to finish out the drive.
Falcons 17 - Dolphins 14
The Falcons got a 20 yard Tevin Coleman run to help cap the third quarter, which proved to be a nightmarish one for Atlanta.
An 18 yard pass to Julio Jones was an excellent start for the fourth quarter, but things swiftly went downhill. The Falcons got a Jake Matthews penalty and were ultimately forced to punt, with a fumbled snap on the punt that led to the Dolphins once again taking over at midfield.
Impossibly, the Falcons went three and out on the following drive, including a big loss on a sweep to Tevin Coleman. They punted, yet again.
The Dolphins got an 18 yard gain by Jay Ajayi on the subsequent drive, putting them across midfield yet again. The Falcons ultimately got the stop, but they did get a 38 yard field goal from Cody Parkey, putting them up 20-17 with little time remaining in the game. The nerves were jangling at this point.
Falcons 17 - Dolphins 20
The next drive saw an 18 yard pass to Julio Jones and some early movement for Atlanta, and the Falcons got in field goal range before a pass went through Austin Hooper’s hands and the Dolphins got a pick, ending the game.