Dolphins drop Falcons in Comeback Win

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Sims beats Stephen Nicholas for the game-winning touchdown

The Falcons’ record drops to 1-2 with a 27-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins on the road. The Falcons got off to another good start, getting an early 10-0 lead in the first half, but couldn’t finish thanks to a game-winning drive led by Ryan Tannehill in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 23 of 38 passes for 231 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Jacquizz Rodgers led the Falcons on the ground with 86 yards on 18 carries (4.8 avg). Jason Snelling added 53 yards on 11 carries (4.8 avg) as well. Julio Jones once again led Falcons’ receivers with 9 catches for 115 yards (12.8 avg). Snelling (4 catches, 58 yards), and Tony Gonzalez (4 catches, 24 yards) also made contributions. Matt Bryant hit on three of four field goal attempts from 52, 20, and 33 yards. But he missed on a 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter late in the game. Matt Bosher punted twice for an average of 33 yards, placing none inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas returned 3 punts for 4 yards, and fumbled once. The Falcons dominated time of possession in the first half of the game with 22:48 versus the Dolphins’ 7:12. Their rushing attack finally got going with a total of 146 yards on 30 carries, but they had their share of struggles in the red zone, only scoring touchdowns on 2 of 5 trips.

Defensively, the Falcons limited the Dolphins to 285 total yards, but could not get stops on any of Miami’s three red zone trips, and allowed them to convert 7 of 12 third downs (58-percent). They did sack Ryan Tannehill five times and force two turnovers. Robert McClain led defenders with six tackles, and he also added a tackle for loss and a sack. Joplo Bartu (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 pass defended); Akeem Dent (5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss); Peria Jerry (2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); William Moore (5 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defended); Corey Peters (4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Asante Samuel (1 tackle, 1 pass defended); Desmond Trufant (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Osi Umenyiora (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) had notable performances.

The Falcons kicked off the game with a long, 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ate nearly nine minutes off the clock. The first play from scrimmage was a 16-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones. That was followed by a pair of runs by Jacquizz Rodgers for a combined 11 yards. Tony Gonzalez had all four of his receptions on that opening drive, including a pair of third down conversions. The latter converted a 3rd-and-1 that put the Falcons in the red zone for the first time. That was followed up by a pair of Rodgers runs for a combined 11 yards once more. Then Ryan hit Jason Snelling on a shovel pass for a 7-yard score to give Atlanta a 7-0 lead.

The Falcons defense responded by forcing a three-and-out thanks to Osi Umenyiora sacking and stripping Ryan Tannehill on third down. Tannehill would recover and the Dolphins would punt.

The Falcons offense got back on track, with the Falcons steadily moving the ball. Ryan hit Jones on an 8-yard conversion on 3rd-and-7 to close out the first quarter and get the ball into Dolphins’ territory. That was followed by a pair of runs by Rodgers for a combined 9 yards. But the Falcons tried a screen to Rodgers on 3rd-and-1 that was stopped for a 1-yard loss by Phillip Wheeler. That led to a 52-yard field goal from Matt Bryant to take the lead to 10-0.

But on the first play on the ensuing Dolphins’ series, Lamar Miller broke a tackle and burst 49 yards up the middle. On third down, Brandon Gibson beat Robert McClain for a 19-yard gain to put the ball at Atlanta’s 11-yard line. Two plays later, Daniel Thomas broke a tackle and ran in from 5 yards for a touchdown. The Falcons now had a 10-7 lead with little more than 10 minutes remaining in the half.

The Falcons’ running game went to work on the ensuing drive. Snelling ran on the first four plays from scrimmage for a combined 38 yards. Rodgers took over for a pair of carries for 11 yards, which was followed up a reverse to Julio Jones for 7 yards. A holding call on Patrick DiMarco negated a 13-yard run by Rodgers on the following play. But Ryan would hit Jones on his next two passes to get the yardage back and give Atlanta a first down at Miami’s 11-yard line. But Jason Snelling couldn’t convert on a 3rd-and-1 from the 2-yard line, setting up a 4th-and-inches. Mike Smith opted not to chase points and settled for a 20-yard field goal from Bryant to give Atlanta a 13-7 lead with two minutes left in the half.

The Dolphins put together a nice series to close out the half, going 60 yards on 8 plays to set up a 46-yard field from kicker Caleb Sturgis. Tannehill connected on 5 of 6 passes for 52 yards, and scrambled for 8 more yards before William Moore broke up a deep throw to Mike Wallace with 2 seconds left. That forced Sturgis onto the field and the Dolphins had cut Atlanta’s lead to three points at halftime.

The Falcons’ defense responded to start the second half, as Umenyiora stripped Tannehill on the second play from scrimmage. Peria Jerry fell on the fumble and the Falcons had the ball at Miami’s own 12-yard line.

On 3rd & 2 from Miami’s 4-yard line, Ryan attempted a pass to Roddy White in the endzone. That resulted in a pass interference call on cornerback Nolan Carroll off the incompletion. After Rodgers was bottled up for a 1-yard loss on the ensuing play, Ryan hit Levine Toilolo on the crossing pass for a 2-yard score. Atlanta had stretched their lead to 20-10 barely three minutes into the second half.

But Tannehill led Miami on another scoring drive, moving the ball 47 yards on 9 plays to set up another Sturgis field goal. Thanks to connecting with Brian Hartline early for a 20-yard gain. Three plays later, he found Rishard Matthews on 3rd-and-8 for a 14-yard gain. But two plays later, Robert McClain would blitz and sack Tannehill to set up a 3rd-and-9. Moore made a nice tackle on Charles Clay two yards shy of the first down marker to set up a 50-yard field goal from Sturgis.

On the fourth play of the ensuing Falcons’ drive, a false start on Lamar Holmes backed up the Falcons for a 2nd-and-13. Ryan would hit Roddy White for a 12-yard gain on 3rd-and-13, but the Dolphins would challenge and the catch would be overturned. That led to Matt Bosher’s first punt of the game, which he shanked for 30 yards. Coupled with a holding call on long snapper Josh Harris, Miami had the ball at the 50-yard line with 6:45 left on the third quarter clock.

After Tannehill hit Matthews again on another third down converrsion, the Falcons’ defense stepped up on the next third down. Tannehill’s pass was picked off by William Moore at the Falcons’ 16-yard line. But the Falcons’ offense failed to take advantage as Ryan missed on all three pass attempts for a three-and-out. The Falcons got another short Bosher punt for 36 yards, and Miami had the ball back at their own 29-yard line. But a first down holding call on John Jerry (Peria’s brother) backed up the Dolphins and they were forced to punt after four plays. But Harry Douglas fielded the ball on a bounce and was decked by safety Don Jones to force a fumble. John Denney recovered at the Falcons’ 19-yard line. A miscommunication between Desmond Trufant and Thomas DeCoud led to Brian Hartline being wide open in the end zone on third down for an 18-yard score. That tied the game 20-20 with a minute left in the third quarter.

The Falcons took over and ran the ball to Jacquizz Rodgers three straight times for a combined 12 yards to begin the fourth quarter. Four plays later, Ryan hit Snelling for a 34-yard gain to put the ball at Miami’s 15-yard line. But Ryan couldn’t connect on his next three passes, and Bryant came on to hit from 33 yards to push the Falcons lead to 23-20.

Tannehill was sacked on third down by Joplo Bartu and Akeem Dent to force a Dolphins’ three-and-out. Harry Douglas’ 13-yard return on the punt was negated by a holding call on Thomas DeCoud. That pushed the Falcons back to their own 19-yard line instead of their own 42. A holding call on first down from Tony Gonzalez backed up the Falcons further. But a 28-yard catch from Julio Jones two plays later got it back. Ryan would connect again with Jones two plays later for a 15-yard gain to put the ball in Dolphins’ territory. Rodgers would take the next play 18 yards up the middle. That was followed by two runs by Snelling for 6 yards to put the ball at Miami’s 17-yard line. But Ryan was pressured on third down and his pass went incomplete. Bryant came on the field to hit from 35 yards, but his kick sailed wide right. That gave Miami the ball back with 4:46 left on the clock at their own 25-yard line.

Tannehill was able to convert on 3rd-and-1 on a 9-yard pass to Rishard Matthews. He then connected on 2 of his next 3 passes for 18 yards to get the ball into Falcon territory. After the two-minute warning hit, Lamar Miller dropped a potential wide open touchdown in the flat. That was followed two plays later by another drop by Charles Clay. But on 2nd-and-10 from the Falcons’ 29-yard line, Clay made up for it with a 21-yard gain. That put the ball at the 8 with 56 seconds left int he game. Brandon Gibson made a defender miss on the next play, with a 7-yard catch that put the ball down at the 1-yard line with 43 seconds left. Tannehill then hit tight end Dion Sims on a lob pass for the 1-yard score. That gave Miami their first lead of the game, 27-23 with 38 seconds left in the game.

Ryan missed on his first down throw to Jones. Pressure off the edge from Dion Jordan caused an errant pass by Ryan which fluttered into the hands of Jimmy Wilson for the game-sealing interception with 26 seconds left in the game. The Dolphins kneeled on the ball and the game was over.

Atlanta returns home to the Georgia Dome to face the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football next week. The Falcons are 11-0 all-time under Mike Smith in home games directly following a road loss.

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