Falcons’ Hawkins, Oluokun had team-building plays

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Caption
Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun comments on the play of the defense against the Dolphins.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — In the end the Falcons’ defense needed every play they could muster along the way against the Dolphins and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

ExploreSteve Hummer: Kyle Pitts has a future in this game

The young defense, which has not shown the propensity to put it’s foot down, cough up another lead and needed Matt Ryan’s 40th career game-winning drive to ball them off.

But safety Jaylinn Hawkins and linebacker Foye Oluokun had key interceptions to keep points off the board and helped the Falcons defeat the Dolphins 30-28 on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.

With the Dolphins on the move and trailing 10-7 late in the second quarter, Hawkins intercepted a pass in the end zone that was intended for tight end Durham Smythe. If the pass connected, the Dolphins would have had a 13-6 lead.

It was the second game in a row with an interception for Hawkins.

Caption
Atlanta Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins (32) intercepts a pass in the endzone intended for Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe (81) during the first half Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Credit: Wilfredo Lee

Atlanta Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins (32) intercepts a pass in the endzone intended for Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe (81) during the first half Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Caption
Atlanta Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins (32) intercepts a pass in the endzone intended for Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe (81) during the first half Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Credit: Wilfredo Lee

Credit: Wilfredo Lee

Later, with the Falcons up 20-14, Oluokun intercepted a pass and returned it 56 yards to Miami’s 14-yard line.

Cordarrelle Patterson, who took most of the carries at running back, scored on a 3-yard run to put the Falcons up 27-14 with 12:55 left in the fourth quarter.

“You know, it was a formation setting that we studied the whole week, as a group,” Hawkins said. “I (recognized) that they were empty. The running back was a two and the tight end at one. So, I kind of know when they run that seven route in combination with the slot.”

Once the play started, Hawkins was prepared.

“I just read the quarterbacks eyes and trusted my instincts,” said Hawkins, who’s been rotating at strong safety and has played some free safety for Erk Harris. “The linebackers and everybody got good drops. The corner got a good drop. It helped that he put some air on the ball and I just jumped the route, trusted my instincts and made the play for the squad.”

Oluokun benefitted from a strong rush from defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who was harassing Tagovailoa, who panicked and just heaved up an errant ball.

Oluokun called it “trying to play hero ball.”

He plucked the gift out of the air and started running.

“They just came off a turnover themselves, I believe,” Oluokunn said. “So just stressing let’s not let them in the end zone. Grady (Jarrett) and the (defensive) line made a good pass rush. Grady was on his legs.”

Tagovailoa overthrew his intended receiver.

“I was just there doing my zone drop and kind of moving with the quarterback and he overthrew it,” Oluokun said. “So, I just capitalized off that and took off trying to score.”

Oluokun made a similar play last season against Kansas City, but speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill chased him down and punched out the ball.

Oluokun got caught again, but wrapped up the ball tightly.

“As soon as I felt that pressure on the right, he tried to pop it up and tried to push it down, and I just held on to the ground,” Oluokun said.

Falcons coach Arthur Smith said It was a big team-building play.

“That was huge,” Smith said. “That’s being a team. That’s what we’ve got to be in all three phases.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/ AJC

Caption
Falcons coach Arthur Smith on the team's mindset delivering win in Miami.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/ AJC

He was not happy with Miami’s interception when Xavien Howard took a ball off of wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

“Obviously, we have to take care of the football,” Smith said. “The ball bounced on Rid and Howard caught it and made a play. The defense on the next play go in there ... Grady makes a rush and Foye steps in front of the ball and goes down. We take the ball, go down and score and that’s how you become a team when you play off of each other. That was a huge play, a huge play in the game.”

Miami put together two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to take the lead with 2:27 left to play.

“You know we just kind of keep practicing hard, everybody because you never know what could happen,” Hawkins said. “We just have got to continue to get better. We got a solid win, but there are a lot of things we have to clean up in order to play cleaner ball. So that’s the biggest thing.”

The two late touchdown drives were troubling for the unit.

“Nothing changed,” Hawkins said. “We just got calls in and we played the calls. They did a little tempo. I wouldn’t say that anything changed. We just played the calls that we got and dealt with ... they made some plays. We have to clean up some things.”

The Bow Tie Chronicles

For more content about The Atlanta Falcons

Follow me on Twitter @DOrlandoAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta Falcons News Now

Atlanta Falcons coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Miami Dolphins 28

Next Four Games

Panthers at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, October 31

Falcons at Saints, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 7

Falcons at Cowboys, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14

Patriots at Falcons, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks