LONDON — Falcons fans were starting to get a little nervous.
What was taking so long with the development of rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, the fourth player taken in the most recent NFL draft.
The wait is over.
“I would say that it was relief just to be able to start there,” Pitts said. “Now, I can go back and reset next week.”
Without wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, Pitts stepped forward and helped lead the Falcons to a 27-20 victory over the Jets before a raucous crowd of 60,589 fans Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“Kyle stepped up,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “Him and (Cordarrelle) Patterson both. We’ll continue to evolve offensively and he was good. He won his one-on-one matchups. He made some big-time plays for us.”
The Falcons improved to 2-3, heading into their bye week, while the Jets dropped to 1-4.
Quarterback Matt Ryan leaned on Pitts as he caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, including a big 39-yard catch to jumpstart a key fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
Expectations have been high for Pitts, who’s the highest drafted tight end in the NFL’s modern era.
Smith preached patience as position coach Justin Peelle continue to work with his star pupil.
“You have to see continual improvement,” Smith said. “That’s why Kyle is here. We like the player that he is becoming and he’ll continue to improve.”
After the Jets closed within three, 20-17, the Falcons answered with Pitts’ catch that led to running back Mike Davis scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run.
The Falcons closed out this game a week after blowing a fourth-quarter lead against the Washington Football Team when they couldn’t run out the clock.
“We are not going to sit here and play in our fears,” Smith said. “So, we learned. I was (ticked) at myself from last week and the worst thing … I’ll make plenty of mistakes, but try not to make the same mistake twice. So, we are not going to live in our fears. We are going to be aggressive when we need to be.”
Pitts was playing in front of several family members who made the trip.
“It was definitely exciting for myself,” Pitts said.
Ryan had his 5,000 career completion in the game on a pass to Olamide Zaccheaus early in the fourth quarter. He lauded Smith’s play call that led to Pitts being open deep.
“I thought that was a great play call by Art to start that drive,” Ryan said. “You had a quarters type cover where guys were getting down low to stop some of our intermediate play-action pass game. We just slipped Kyle behind there.”
Here are five things we learned from the victory:
1. Tight ends step up: Ryan used Pitts and the other two tight ends to help build a 20-3 halftime lead.
The three tight ends caught 11 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Pitts, who caught his first career NFL touchdown led the way with six catches for 64 yards, Hayden Hurst had two catches for 33 yards and Lee Smith caught three passes for 30 yards.
“It was just a play where I was manned up on the end,” Pitts said. “I’ve been waiting on that all week. I was hoping the Jets would run that and they did and I made a play.”
Pitts kept it going in the second half.
The Jets were playing the underneath routes on the last drive and bit the on the play-action fakes. Pitts got behind the safeties for the long-gainer.
“We all know what Kyle can do,” Patterson said. “Like coach always said, we expect stuff like that from Kyle and we do, too.”
2. Patterson power: Patterson, who left the game briefly to be evaluated for a concussion, continued to play at a high level.
He had a key 12-yard run on fourth down-and-1 to keep the opening drive alive. The Falcons eventually stalled and kicker Younghoe Koo made a 31-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
One the second possession, Patterson went up high to snag a high pass for a 16-yard gain to set up Pitt’s first career touchdown, a 3-yard pass from Ryan.
He opened the second half at running back and had a 3 yard gain and then caught a pass for a12-yard gain, but Hurst and Zaccheaus couldn’t hold on to a couple of passes and the Falcons were forced to punt.
Patterson rushed 14 times for 54 yards, caught seven passes for 60 yards and had one kickoff return for 29 yards.
“At the end of the day, we got the win and that’s all that matters,” Patterson said. “I don’t care if we won by one point or one hundred points. My whole mindset is to come in and get a win going into the bye week and that’s what we did.”
Davis rushed for 13 times for 53 yards.
3. Hawkins first INT: Falcons free safety Jaylinn Hawkins, who made his third career start, came up with his first career interception in the second quarter with the Falcons up 17-0.
Smith lamented the Falcons dropping two interceptions in the 34-30 loss to the Washington Football Team in the previous game.
“Man, it was just a great collective effort,” Hawkins said of his interception. “We had a good rush. I have to thank the guys up front. Then A.J. (Terrell) had a great re-rount on the receiver and that helped me out.”
However, the Falcons couldn’t turn the interception into any points as Hurst fumbled the ball back over to the Jets when went on to get a field goal to make it 17-3.
The defense came up with two sacks on the Jets last drive.
Rookie defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji had his first career sack. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner dropped Zach Wilson for a 17-yard lost to force a field goal.
Richie Grant and Darren Hall took over at nickel back. Chris Williamson also played after Fabian Moreau left the game with a neck injury.
“They stepped up and put some good things on tape,” Hawkins said.
4. Coverage Units: The Falcons almost gave up another kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half. Former Falcons running back Tevin Coleman broke loose up the left side for 65 yards before Darren Hall could nudge him out of bounds.
The kickoff coverage team gave up a 101-yard kickoff return to DeAndre Carter for a touchdown to Washington at the start of the second half to help jumpstart their rally to an eventual 34-30 victory in the previous game.
5. Punter tryouts? Punter Dustin Colquitt hit a 24-yarder on his first punt.
He replaced Cam Nizialek (hamstring) who was placed on injured reserve.
His second punt went 32 yards, but he was just trying to hit a flopper punt for hangtime that forced a fair catch at the 10 yard line.
“We have plenty of things to improve on,” Smith said. “Kicking game and turnovers, but I’m really pleased with out team and our team’s effort.”
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