The Miami Dolphins hosted the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, a Week 7 matchup featuring two teams trying to get the ship moving in the right direction. The game turned into a really entertaining contest late, as the Dolphins tried to make a furious comeback, then the Falcons had to make their own comeback.
The result drops Miami to 1-6 on the year, while the Falcons improve to 3-3. This marked Miami’s sixth straight loss after starting the year with a win against the New England Patriots.
Falcons 30 - Dolphins 28
The Dolphins received the opening kickoff after the Falcons deferred to the second half. Miami started with the ball at their own 25-yard line after a touchback on the kickoff, and they came out with a balanced attack, something they have not had this year. The running game split between Macolm Brown and Myles Gaskin on the drive, with each player getting three carries, picking up 10 and 13 yards respectively. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 52 yards on 7-for-8 passing on the drive, including two passes to rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle for 26 yards and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Ford. Dolphins 7-0.
As I did last week with the reactions, rather than separate the reactions from the recap, I will just add them in the recap, but they will be a paragraph in italics. The opening drive for Miami was impressive. They were balanced and they were aggressive. The running game showed up and Tagovailoa was accurate with his throws. The question is, can Miami continue that momentum because it seems like every week they have a good first drive, then disappear. Also, congratulations to Ford who scored the first touchdown of his career.
The Falcons could not answer Miami’s opening drive. Cordarrelle Patterson picked up a yard on the first play, but a 3-yard loss on a pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to Patterson on second down and an incomplete pass on third down led to a three-and-out punt from the Falcons.
Good defense there. The team swarmed to the ball on the pass to Patterson and shut it down. The incomplete pass on third down was forced because the pass rush forced Ryan to roll out and never let him get comfortable. Need that the rest of the game.
Miami’s second possession was not as effective as the first. An incomplete pass, a run for no gain, and a seven-yard pass from Tagovailoa to tight end Adam Shaheen led to a three-and-out punt for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins took a shot on the first play, but then stayed behind the chains the rest of the possession.
The second drive from the Falcons was more effective, with the possession starting with a Ryan to rookie tight end Kyle Pitts pass for 23 yards. Ryan continued to look through the air, picking up another 11 yards on the next play when he connected with Hayden Hurst and Less Smith for another seven yards. Patterson also continued to find success with runs for seven yards and 13 yards. Dolphins safety Jevon Holland recorded a sack for an 11-yard loss, pushing the Falcons into a 2nd-and-21 play, which was a two-yard pass to end the quarter,
Great blitz from Holland to get to Ryan. He came unblocked around the end of the line of scrimmage and pulled down Ryan. Pitts is just a beast.
The Falcons picked up the drive after the break, with Ryan finding Pitts for 13 yards but it set up 4th-and-6. Atlanta settled for the field goal. Dolphins 7-3.
The Holland sack effectively ended the drive for the Falcons. Great job by the defense to make a play when it was needed.
Tagovailoa came out throwing - and running - on the next possession, picking up 26 yards through the air and eight yards on the ground on the drive. Running back Salvon Ahmedpicked up 10 yards on two carries. The drive ended, however, as two incomplete passes from Tagovailoa toward Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki hit the ground and led to a Jason Sanders field goal attempt. The kick was blocked and Miami got nothing out of the drive.
It was a solid-looking drive, and the blocked field goal was unfortunate, but the story of the drive may be the injury to Waddle. He was blocking on an Ahmed run and he got his leg rolled up from behind. He went to the tent and then was walking around the sidelines, but the drive ended before he could come back in. Will he return when Miami gets the ball back?
Starting with the ball at their own 39-yard line, Atlanta took advantage of the field position, quickly marching down the field. Ryan threw for 51 of the 61 yards the team needed to get to the endzone, with Patterson adding another eight while running back Mike Davis had two. The drive ended with a Ryan pass to Calvin Ridley for the score. Falcons 10-3.
The Falcons came straight down the field on the Dolphins. The field position did not help, but man Ryan made that look easy. The Dolphins defense needs to play better than they did on that drive.
Miami was back at their own 25-yard line after the touchback, with Gaskin picking up five yards on first down. Tagovailoa targeted Waddle on the next two plays, with the rookie picking up seven yards then 19 yards on the two plays. After an Ahmed run for two yards, Liam Eichenberg backed up the Dolphins with a false start. Tagovailoa then threw to Preston Williams for five yards, but he was tackled by his facemask and Miami picked up the first down on the penalty. Taking the clock to the two-minute warning, Miami systematically looked to eat the clock while positioning themselves to score. Tagovailoa found tight end Durham Smythe short, but he fought his way for a nine-yard gain and a first down. Tagovailoa then ran for a three-yard gain, before looking to Smythe in the endzone but not delivering on the pass and having it picked off.
Waddle came back on the first play of the drive. That was a good sign, then Tagovailoa targeting him on his first two throws of the drive was a great sign. That was not a pretty throw to the endzone by Tagovailoa, and it could be the crusher that haunts Miami throughout the rest of the game.
Atlanta, with just 36 seconds remaining, rookie over at their own 20-yard line and immediately picked up 39 yards on a perfectly placed pass and a one-handed catch from Pitts. After a pass to Hurst for nine yards, Atlanta called a timeout. Ryan then found Tajae Sharp for a six-yard gain, followed by another time-out. Two quick passes to pick up eight yards, with the receiver getting out of bounds immediately, set up a 36-yard field goal. Falcons 13-7.
Ryan was effective on that drive, taking exactly what the defense would give him and not pressing anything more. The catch from Pitts was ridiculous, even with Eric Rowe hanging on his arm. Miami cannot give up any more of this, especially with the Falcons getting the ball to start the second half. They have to get back to playing like they did in the first quarter - which it feels like we can say every single week.
The half ended on the kickoff.
The Falcons received the second-half kick, then immediately looked toward Pitts again, picking up 26 yards on the play. Patterson picked up two yards on the next play before Ryan looked to Gage deep down the middle for a 49-yard touchdown pass. Falcons 20-7.
What just happened? Where was Holland looking? Howard played the outside and it looked like Holland was supposed to be supporting with inside coverage. He was late reacting to the post route, and it never looked like he fully committed to it.
The Dolphins opened their first drive of the second half on the ground, with Gaskin picking up eight-, six-, and no-yards on the first three plays of the possession. Tagovailoa was sacked on the second-down play, leading to a 3rd-and-20, with Smythe sliding for an 11-yard catch. Miami was forced to punt.
The Dolphins are just being outplayed at this point.
Atlanta could do nothing with the ball on their possession, picking up just six yards before having to punt.
Miami’s defense is trying to find a rhythm. The return on the punt from Holland was nicely done.
Miami set up at their own 42-yard line after a 16-yard punt return from Holland. Tagovailoa found Shaheen to start the drive with a five-yard gain. Gaskin then picked up 16 yards on the ground with a nice cut back to the left. Preston Williams continued Miami’s trends of dropped passes this year on the first-down play, but then Tagovailoa was able to connect with Waddle deep on an out pass for a 14-yard gain and the first down. Gaskin picked up three yards, then Shaheen added six, coming up just short of the first down marker and setting up 3rd-and-1. Ahmed then ran for six yards up the middle, setting up a 1st-and-Goal from the Atlanta eight-yard line. After a Gaskin run for two yards and offsetting holding penalties, Tagovailoa threw a jump ball to Gesicki in the endzone for the score. Falcons 20-14.
That was a much better drive from Miami’s offense. They were effective and they were able to pick up both short-yardage and chunk plays. The throw to Gesicki in the endzone, despite multiple defenders around and hanging off him, was something we need to see more.
The Falcons began at their 25-yard line after the touchback, with Ryan throwing two quick incomplete passes. On 3rd-and-10, however, he found Pitts in the middle of the field after the tight end was able to throw safety Eric Rowe off of him. Patterson picked up two yards before Ryan was again able to pick up a chunk of yards, this time on a 12-yard pass to Sharpe. Three straight incomplete passes, including a big hit from Holland to break up a pass to Ridley and Howard able to reach around Patterson to break up the third-down play, led to a punt.
I cannot argue that the NFL rules say that Ridley incomplete pass should have been a fumble, but that felt like a fumble. Great play by Holland either way.
Miami started on their own 12-yard line, with Tagovailoa finding Mack Hollins for nine yards on first down. After no gain on second down, Gaskin appeared to pick up the first down with a four-yard run, but a holding penalty on Austin Jackson backed up Miami into a 3rd-and-11. Tagovailoa extended the play and tried to wait as long as he could before having to scramble, but only managed to pick up nine yards, and Miami was forced to punt.
Damn. Penalties just kill Miami this year. Every week they have drives just destroyed by a penalty. How Miami has had two weeks in a row where a punt has somehow slid through a returner without touching him.
Patterson picked up two yards on first down, then Ryan was incomplete on second down. On 3rd-and-8, Ryan looked to Ridley over the middle, with Xavien Howard able to come away with the interception.
The Dolphins are in this now. Howard coming away with that pick, rolling over and somehow finding the ball in his hands, could be the play of the game here for Miami.
And Tagovailoa tries to throw the ball as he is getting sacked on first down and it is picked off.
Or not. Tagovailoa has to learn, and learn quickly, to not try to force throws like that. What a miserable interception.
After a 56-yard return on the pick, the Falcons started their drive at the Miami 14-yard line. A one-yard run from Patterson was followed by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Raekwon Davis. From the three-yard line, Patterson punched it in for the score. Falcons 27-14
There was not a lot the defense could do there. Just a bad spot after the interception.
Tagovailoa came out throwing on the next drive, finding Smythe with a beautiful touch pass for 18 yards, then two strong throws to Gesicki for 27- and 9-yards. Ahmed converted the first down on a five-yard run, then Tua found Waddle on the sideline for an 11-yard gain. Gaskin ran up the middle for three yards to ensure no challenge could be made on the Waddle catch. Tagovailoa then threw on a wheel route to Gaskin, but he was only able to pick up one yard. Tagovailoa was flushed out of the pocket on the next play, scrambling and breaking tackles to pick up nine yards on a 3rd-and-6 play. On 1st-and-Goal, Tagovailoa threw a pass to the flat for Gaskin, who turned up the field and scored. Falcons 27-21.
Tagovailoa put the interception behind him and made some really good throws. A 90-yard drive for the Dolphins to get back to within a score. Tagovailoa running through tackles - and actually injuring Erik Harris in breaking the tackle - despite his ribs was impressive. Miami is trying to stay in this game.
Atlanta started back at their own nine-yard line after a penalty on the kickoff return, then had two-straight incomplete passes from Ryan. On 3rd-and-10, however, Ryan was able to find Ridley for an 11-yard gain. After Patterson picked up 11 yards, Davis added two yards followed by Howard breaking up another pass intended for Patterson. On 3rd-and-8, Ryan was flushed out of the pocket and as he took off to scramble, Emmanuel Ogbah was able to strip Ryan from behind and Nike Needham fell on the ball for the Dolphins.
Great play from Ogbah. The Dolphins still have a life.
Starting at the Falcons’ 40-yard line, Tagovailoa found Waddle for 10 yards only to have a holding penalty on Isaiah Ford bring it back and push Miami into a 1st-and-14 play. Miami was then called for an illegal formation, backing them up another five yards. Now back at the 49-yard, Tagovailoa threw complete to Ahmed on a screen pass, who turned it up field for 17 yards. On second down, Ahmed picked up three yards to convert for Miami. Gaskin then picked up 10 yards on a run before losing five yards on the next play. After an incomplete pass, Miami faced a 3rd-and-15, with Tagovailoa finding Gesicki in the middle of the field for a 16-yard gain. Gaskin picked up four yards, then Tagovailoa hit Hollins in the back of the endzone for the score. Dolphins 28-27.
Still not sure how Ford was called for a holding penalty, especially as his head was turned from a clear facemask, but it was ignored. Miami is trying to kill this drive before it even starts with these penalties. Do not know how they managed to overcome the repeated penalties, but the Dolphins finally took the lead. Now on the defense to hold it.
Of course, the Falcons immediately turn to Pitts, who catches a pass over the middle of 23 yards. After the two-minute warning, Ryan again went to Pitts, dropping the pass perfectly between Howard and Holland, for a 28 yard gain. At the Miami 24-yard line, the Falcons began eating clock, looking to milk it all the way to the end of the game to kick a winning field goal. After repeated runs and kneels, the Falcons set up for the 36-yard field goal try with three seconds remaining in the game.