ATLANTA, GA- The ball sailed off the kicker’s foot soared thirty-five yards where it was gently corralled by the back of the mesh field goal netting. The crowd cheered and hollered with joy as Matt Bryant’s kick flew by the goal post wide right leaving the fate of the game with the defense on the 25-yard line.
The Atlanta Falcons lost a very close game to the Miami Dolphins 23-27 at Sun Life Stadium last Sunday. The Falcons played their most offensively balanced game this season. They ran the ball 30 times between Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling for 146 yards; Julio Jones played a small role with one carry for seven yards. Matt Ryan, comparatively, only threw the ball 38 times.
This is a definite improvement; it seems that the Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter are trying to take as much unnecessary pressure off of their not-so-mobile quarterback in Ryan.
What went wrong?
The Falcons moved the ball methodically downfield on their first drive in the first quarter and ate up eight minutes and forty-eight seconds. The Dolphins were then forced to go three and out, but not before Osi Umenyiora caused a forced fumble to Ryan Tannehill which the Dolphins luckily recovered. During the subsequent Falcon’s drive to end the quarter, all seemed to bode well for the team as they were moving the ball without too much trouble.
After a Falcon field goal the momentum was shifted when Lamar Miller ripped open the Falcon’s defensive line with a 49-yard run. Besides that run, the defense actually held the Dolphins run game in check allowing only 90 yards rushing on the day. Even with Miami back into the fight, Atlanta outperformed them offensively gaining 377 total yards compared to Miami’s 285 total yards.
Both teams turned the ball over which resulted in both teams getting a short field to score the go ahead touchdown. Osi Umenyiora force fumbled Tannehill again; this time recovered by Atlanta defensive tackle Peria Jerry. While Harry Douglass took a big hit on a punt return and fumbled the ball setting up Brian Hartline for an easy touchdown reception.
So on a day when the defense didn’t allow Matt Ryan to be sacked once and allowed minimal pressures, where the run game was intact and allowed Atlanta to control the play clock, and the defense sacked Tannehill five times; how do the Falcons lose?
Penalties and playmakers, too many of the aforementioned and not enough of the latter; Atlanta basically gave away 59 yards on seven penalty calls to the Dolphins. In a close game this almost always spells disaster.
Julio Jones is great and all, but he can’t be the only one that makes spectacular plays. Either one of these other weapons on the team needs to step up or Roddy White needs to focus on getting back to full health and not his consecutive games-played streak.
The Falcons also worked from tough field positions on crucial drives that they failed to turn into points a few times during the game. The most poignant example is when the Falcons essentially started a six minute drive from their own nine-yard-line that ended in a 35-yard field goal whiff by Matt Bryant.
Even if Bryant made the field goal, that wasn’t the issue. Three points isn’t good enough, and scoring only two touchdowns with a team that is supposed to have one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league is downright unacceptable.
The defense was not the problem today. The Falcons, much like many other teams in the current NFL layout, work to outscore their opponent. The defense just has to hold the other team under 30 points. The offense needs to pump out around 27 to 30 points every game with the current system the team is running.
What’s your opinion, which player or member of the coaching staff, needs to step up their game on the Falcons the most?