Our columnist Mark Bradley gives his take on the game.
1. The Falcons actually blocked somebody. Without Steven Jackson, they rushed for a season-best 146 yards. (Jacquizz Rodgers had 86, Jason Snelling 53.) Matt Ryan was able to throw 38 passes without being sacked, which was also a breakthrough for this again-reconfigured offensive line. (Jeremy Trueblood started at right tackle, with Lamar Holmes moving to left tackle in place of the injured Sam Baker. And the Falcons also often deployed lineman Joe Hawley as a third tight end.) The Falcons punted only twice and outgained the Dolphins 377 yards to 285. Which makes you wonder how they didn’t win.
2. The Falcons actually tackled somebody. A pass rush that had gone missing in the season’s first two games — two sacks, total — generated five against Miami. Osi Umenyiora had two, one of which yielded a Ryan Tannehill fumble, and linebacker Akeem Dent, who’s supposed to be a run-stopper, was credited with a sack and a half. William Moore intercepted a tipped pass. Given that the Falcons were missing end Kroy Biermann and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, this was rather impressive. Which makes you wonder all the more how they didn’t win.
3. So why didn’t the Falcons win? By relying on field goals, as opposed to touchdowns. It didn’t help that coach Mike Smith chose to kick when the Falcons faced fourth-and-1 at the Miami 2 late in the first half, and it helped even less when Matt Bryant missed a 35-yarder inside the final five minutes. Maybe the red zone was where Jackson, who can run and catch, was missed the most. Maybe the Falcons simply didn’t try hard enough to throw it into the end zone. Whatever the cause, they banked two touchdowns from five trips inside the Miami 20. “We had a ton of opportunities,” Smith said. “We didn’t make plays when they were presented to us.”
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