Jay Ajayi rushed for 130 yards and Miami scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to beat Atlanta 20-17 for its second straight loss at Atlanta Mercedes Benz Stadium.
The Falcons second loss looked a lot like its first as the offense failed to score in the second half after jumping out to a double-digit lead. “We had a tale of two halves,” explained Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn. “I thought we had opportunities today in all three phases, and in the second half we did not own those.”
Miami limited Atlanta’s offense in the second half with ball possession and solid defense. The Falcons had one possession in the third quarter due in part to the 11 minutes the Dolphins ground out on their two scoring drives.
With their first drive of the third quarter, Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler completed 6 of 7 passes for 57 yards including an 11-yard strike to a sliding Kenny Stills in the back of the end zone for Miami’s first score of the game.
Atlanta didn’t help itself much allowing three sacks in their first two possessions. When Ryan wasn’t on his back, the Phins defense was pressuring him. All five of the Miami defense’s hurries came in the second half. “We forced situations to where they had to throw the ball and that’s where we thrive,” said Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake. “We have a great front seven and we are going to put the offense in a situation where they can’t just dink and dunk.”
Matt Ryan’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Hall in the first quarter was in no way a dink nor a dunk. The big play was made possible by the consistency by which the Falcons were able to gain positive yardage. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman combined for 82 yards rushing on 12 carries and Ryan threw for 151 more in the first half.
The offensive production dried up in the second half because the opposite happened. Atlanta played three of their four possessions dragging negative yardage. “You know, the first drive of the second half, I think the first play we got backed up with a sack and did a good job on second and third down, but we were a little bit too far behind the chains to come away with a first down,” explained Ryan.
Atlanta’s second drive ended with a punt that never was. The snap bounced 5 yards short forcing Matt Bosher to scoop it up and run with it. Miami capitalized on the miscue with a 49-yard field goal from Cody Parkey to tie the game.
Parkey delivered a go-ahead field goal on the Dolphins next drive.
Miami left two-and-a-half minutes on the clock which was more than enough for the Falcons. Eight passes later, the Ryan and company were standing 31 yards from the goal line with 66 seconds to send the game into overtime or win it out-right. The play call from the booth went for a big chunk of yardage to make the field goal or touchdown attempt shorter. Neither happened. Dolphins safety Reshad Jones, who went to high school less than 2 miles from the stadium, took the ball out of the hands of Austin Hooper at the 6-yard line.
All photos by Jason McDonald, CORE360 Sports