ReFo: Falcons @ Dolphins, Week 3
It appeared early on, and especially after an early second half Miami turnover, that Atlanta would pull away and leave town with the road victory. Instead, the Miami defense stiffened, holding the Falcons to three points in game’s final 25 minutes, as the offense came up big late, sending the Dolphins to 3-0 on the season.
As tough as this game was, neither team gets a break next week. The Dolphins will look to sustain that momentum against another NFC South foe in the 3-0 Saints, while the Falcons get the always dangerous Patriots as they try to avoid falling into a 1-3 hole.
Let’s take a look at some of the standout individual performances from the game.
Atlanta – Three Performances of Note
One step forward and two steps back for Lamar Holmes (-7.2); after a dreadful opening game, the Falcon tackle appeared to be gaining confidence – and competence – with a solid performance a week ago. Unfortunately for the Falcons, that solid performance was short-lived, as he returned to Week 1 form in Miami, playing on the left side of the line in place of the injured Sam Baker. Regardless of who was lined up opposite, Holmes struggled, allowing pressure to four different Dolphins and seven QB disruptions (six hurries, one hit) on the day. Luckily, Matt Ryan got rid of the ball quickly all game, or that stat line would almost assuredly have been worse. Only a pair of good second level seals in the run game salvaged Holmes’ day, though he was beaten twice in the running game as well.
With Steven Jackson out, you’d expect the Falcon running game to take a step back. That didn’t turn out to be the case with Atlanta matching its total rushing attempts in the first two weeks (30) to gain just under 5 yards per carry. The attack was led by the diminutive Jacquizz Rodgers, who forced five missed tackles on his 18 carries, none better than his run at 6:58 in the fourth on which he made two Dolphin defenders look silly with a pair of cuts to pick up 18. Jason Snelling was just as steady in relief, gaining 53 yards on 11 carries, as well as catching balls out of the backfield; he ended as the team’s second-leading receiver, matching his work on the ground with 58 yards and a TD. An added bonus – both players were strong in pass protection with neither allowing a pressure in 13 combined pass-blocking snaps.
While the duo at RB made Jackson’s absence less notable, Kroy Biermann’s replacements were not quite as strong. ‘Replacements’ primarily refers to Jonathan Massaquoi (-3.2), who played well the first two weeks in a more limited role, playing 17% and 58% of snaps. In the aftermath of Biermann’s injury, that figure rose to 79%, with less-than-favorable results. The second-year player did notch a hit and two hurries (though one was unblocked) and they came in 35 snaps rushing the passer, yielding a mediocre 6.4 Pass Rushing Productivity rating. His work in coverage also left something to be desired; though he only dropped back twice, he was burned by Lamar Miller on one of the two occasions, saved only by a dropped pass.
Miami – Three Performances of Note
Cool Under Pressure
If Miami keeps up this hot start, Ryan Tannehill will soon get his due and will be mentioned alongside the main foursome of second-year quarterbacks. There were some early struggles, most notably his fumble on the second offensive snap of the third to set up an Atlanta touchdown, and the numbers won’t blow anyone away — 236 yards passing and two TDs — but with the game on the line late, Tannehill couldn’t have been much better. On the final and game-winning drive, the Dolphin QB was 9-for-12 passing, a stunning display that included this three best throws of the game.
The first of the three came just out of two-minute warning, as he lofted a pass on a wheel route to Miller, only to see it hit off of his running back’s hands on what would’ve likely been a TD. If the drop affected Tannehill, he certainly didn’t show it, following that up two plays later with a 21-yard strike down the seam to Charles Clay, a perfectly-placed ball over the top of the LB and in front of the safety in coverage. He then capped the drive off with the game winning touchdown pass to his other tight end, a similarly thrown touch pass just over the trailing linebacker. Certainly credit Dion Sims, though, who made a spectacular one-handed grab to complete the pass.
Rookie Makes his Mark
In his highest workload to date, rookie Dion Jordan (+4.3) certainly made the most of his opportunity. The third-overall pick in the draft saw 31 snaps, up from 21 total in the first two weeks, primarily rushing the passer with his hand on the ground from the right side. That meant he had the fortune of facing off against Holmes, whom he treated like a turnstile en route to four hurries and a hit on Ryan. His hit at 12:57 of the fourth was the most impressive, as he blew by the tackle and got to the QB in less than two seconds, but it was his last play that had the greatest impact.
On Atlanta’s final offensive snap of the game, Jordan got around Holmes just quick enough to get a hand on Ryan, forcing the game-ending interception. Certainly he won’t get to go against Holmes every week, but this kind of performance is what the Dolphins envisioned when they traded up in the draft to select the defender. Coincidently, his only negative play on the day came matched up against Levine Toilolo, a fellow rookie, who sealed him to the outside on a run.
Not Wheeler’s Best Day
Whereas Jordan paced the Miami defense, Philip Wheeler (-4.0) brought up the rear with a performance he’ll surely not be proud of. The good were three hurries rushing the passer, a tackle for loss and tackle for short gain in run defense, and a close coverage of a screen pass. Unfortunately, those plays paled in comparison to the bad, which mainly – and repeatedly – came in the form of missed tackles. Wheeler missed six in total, one of which coming with a chance to bring down Ryan for a sack, the others at the feet of Rodgers and Snelling. To put that number in perspective, that was as many or more missed tackles than 16 other teams had in total this week.
– Great day for Brent Grimes (+2.2) against his former team. He allowed just one of the two passes thrown into his primary coverage to be completed for 9 yards. He also had close coverage on another pass in secondary coverage.
– Matt Ryan was pressured on just fewer than 45% of his drop-backs, despite an average time-to-throw of 2.53 seconds.
– Peria Jerry led the way for the Atlanta defense. He picked up a sack and hurry rushing the passer, a tackle for no gain against the run, and drew a holding penalty.
PFF Game Ball
A close battle with Tannehill, but this one goes to Dion Jordan – with a hat-tip to Lamar Holmes. The rookie was in the Ryan’s face all game and made the play to end any late game Falcon heroics.
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