By this juncture, an Atlanta Falcons victory is in all likelihood one that will come with it’s share of bumps and bruises. Their Week 7 encounter with the Miami Dolphins was one that featured a script that has been seen very often before.
A solid start by the Falcons, a sizable lead ensues, a comeback by the opposing team materializes, and the result is an ending that elevates the blood pressure of the fan watching. This past contest, the Falcons wound up on the winning end of that formula. Here are five things we learned in their 30-28 win over Miami.
#1: Matt Ryan and the clutch factor
Facing a 28-27 deficit, the Falcons were in need of their veteran quarterback to steer the ship in the right direction. Two big plays to rookie tight end Kyle Pitts (more on him later) put the Falcons in field goal range and once more, Ryan was able to put the team in a position for a scrappy win.
On the day, Ryan passed for 336 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and has continued his streak of quality quarterback play. In the past, these type of games sometimes still meant tough ending for the Falcons, but their veteran signal caller made sure things turned out differently.
#2: Kyle Pitts and the comfort factor
That statement alone makes you shudder a bit if you’re an NFL defender, because a 21-year-old tight end who is 6’6 and 240 pounds is starting to get comfortable in his NFL offensive scheme. For the entire game, the Dolphins had issues covering Pitts, regardless of whether he was doubled, draped with an All-Pro corner, or matched up with a bigger safety.
In just his sixth game as a professional, Pitts hauled in seven of his eight targets for 163 yards and left a lasting impression on the Dolphins and the entire league. Pitts was vital on the game-winning drive with two of his catches going for 51 yards to help put the team in position to win. His 471 receiving yards are the most by a rookie tight end after six games in NFL history. You can easily sense the trust component between Pitts and Ryan. As the season progresses, enjoy every bit of Pitts because he is a treasure, and one that is helping this offense thrive.
#3: Injuries are cramping the defense significantly
We are a couple of months into the season and every team is facing a number of key injuries. Speaking on the Falcons defense specifically, the injuries are starting to mount for a unit that had very little depth to begin with coming into the season.
During their contest with the Dolphins, the defense saw both starting corners A.J. Terrell and Fabian Moreau exit the game with the injuries, as well as veteran safety Erik Harris getting hurt late in the second half on a tackle attempt. Coming into the game, the unit was already without their top pass rusher, Dante Fowler Jr., and a key reserve in rookie corner Avery Williams because of injuries. It is a group that is had a tough time finding any kind of consistency this season, and missing key faces doesn’t help their cause.
#4: Falcons offense airing it out
The scheme brought to Atlanta by Arthur Smith was known for its reliability in terms of the run game and its meticulous approach in the passing game. However, the Falcons recorded their best yards per pass attempt average this season with 8.4 yards per attempt, showing that things are starting to click.
It helped somewhat that the Falcons were going up against a unit that was 29th in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed coming into this week, but once the team saw favorable matchups with 1-on-1 situations, they attacked. This probably won’t be the norm this season, but it was refreshing to see big plays in the passing game.
#5: Speaking of the run game...
It appears that we may be the seeing the beginning of an significant shift in the run game pecking order. In back-to-back contests, we’ve seen receiver Cordarrelle Patterson lead team in total carries.
On the season, Patterson leads the team in rushing yards, yards per rush and rushing touchdowns. I am not going to go to great length and say that Patterson is the “RB1” in Atlanta but I think it is telling that what positive the run game experiences, it is mainly with Patterson toting the rock.