FALCONS CAUGHT DOLPHINS DEFENSE LOOKING AT A GHOST**
Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman both had some success running to the perimeter, and they found a couple of creases where they ran through the middle of the defense. They ran the ball with some success, which you have to do if you're going to have any influence in the play action game.
Then you go play action, but you add the ghost motion, which is the receiver Andre Roberts coming across for the fake reverse. So if you didn't catch the defense with the first run fake to Devonta on the play, now you've really got them with Roberts showing a reverse.
Now, coming out of that play fake, as the quarterback you know you have a deep shot and the only thing that can take that away is the free safety. And he wasn't there. So Matt Ryan loads it up, had great trajectory on it and dropped it down the chimney chute to Hall and he pulls it in for the touchdown.
JULIO'S ABSENCE DISRUPTED MIAMI'S DEFENSE
That entire series had things like that in it where Sarkisian used shifts and motions and personnel groups that played with Miami's defense. It tested their discipline with their eyes, and made them think about where they should be looking and who they should be covering.
And without Julio on the field, ironically enough, I think Miami got caught up in what was going on in the backfield. When Julio was in the game, the Dolphins were very conscious about rolling a safety over to his side of the field. But as it turned out, I think they lost their discipline defensively because Julio was their primary key for setting their coverage, and when he wasn't in there on that play, they lost their discipline a little bit. So on the play action fake, they get lost on the play and it's a great play.
THE READ WAS RIGHT ON THE GAME-ENDING INTERCEPTION
On the game-deciding play, Atlanta had Austin Hooper isolated to the right side of the field. The Dolphins were really conceding the field goal at that point, and trying to prevent the touchdown. So the Falcons got what they wanted, they got a zone look from the Dolpins.
At the snap, Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones was responsible for the deep third, so he rotated to the middle of the field. The corner, Cordrea Tankersley is playing outside technique because he has the outside third. There was no underneath man to contest it in front of Hooper.
Hooper ran a seam post, with a little slight angle between the safety and the corner. That's where you attack a zone, right between those two defenders. Matt makes a good read and hits Hooper right between the numbers.
Hooper allowed the ball to come to him instead of attacking the ball. If he had attacked the ball, he either would have made the catch or drawn a pass interference call against Miami.
People will look at that and think that was thrown into double coverage, but it wasn't. It was a zone coverage and it was a good decision to throw between the two defenders in that zone. Hooper just needs realize that's a contested throw situation, and he needs to be a little more aggressive there.
FALCONS SHOT THEMSELVES IN THE FOOT WITH COSTLY, AVOIDABLE PENALTIES
Ultimately, the game boiled down to the Falcons shooting themselves in the foot and hurting themselves.
On the Robert Alford pass interference call, he should have been able to see that Ricardo Allen was right there in coverage behind the receiver. As Dolphins receiver Jakeem Grant goes to the corner, Ricardo Allen is there to make the play, and Alford was in position to see that, but he grabs Grant. I think Alford just needed to trust his closing speed and the help he was getting over the top from Ricardo Allen. That's a third down stop that turns into a 26-yard penalty and a first down.
And then two plays later, you get the late hit on the quarterback by Grady Jarrett. Deion jones comes up with a big interception, but Grady clearly hits Cutler late. That one is easily avoidable going forward. Unfortunately, that's two plays that should have ended the drive but instead resulted in big first downs, and eventually a touchdown that really changed the feel of the game. Then, then it looks like the Falcons are on the march towards a score early in the fourth quarter with a chance to pad their lead and possibly swing momentum back their way. Ryan gets out of the pocket to his right, Jake Matthews is on the back side of the play and gets called for holding. The Falcons just couldn't have that there.
So all of those end up being plays in the game, and they were all completely avoidable. Those types of mistakes are something I'm sure they will be looking to eliminate as they look ahead to New England.
ATLANTA'S OFFENSE WAS ONE DRIVE AWAY FROM TAKING THE DOLPHINS OUT OF THEIR GAME PLAN
A 17-point deficit at the half is not enough to take a team out of their offense. This is professional football. You had to know, regardless of how bad their offense had been coming into this game, they are going to respond. And Miami did respond with an unbelievable drive. Fifteen plays, they ate up nine minutes of the third quarter.
But what Atlanta had to do as an offense was answer. If the Falcons offense had answered on the next drive, then Miami would have been in a really bad spot where they couldn't necessarily continue with their run-first offense anymore because there would only been a quarter left to play. But what do the Falcons do there? They go three and out. Well, your defense was just on the field for nine minutes, and now Miami has the ball again. And that ends up being the series where the Falcons defense commits those big penalties before surrendering a touchdown. I would attribute those penalties partially to fatigue.
CUTLER GOT MORE AGGRESSIVE IN THE SECOND HALF
I didn't see Jay Cutler as a better passer in the second half, I just thought he was more willing to get the ball out there. I thought he was very conservative in the first half, he had a lot of short throws that were really low.
But he's a veteran quarterback, so give him credit. Because of what he had seen from the Atlanta defense in the first half, he started to recognize when the Falcons were in zone, and when they were in man coverage. When they were in zone he started throwing these little 'popcorn' or 'lollipop' throws that had air under them and he knew Atlanta was coming from distance to cover those guys because they were in zone. That includes some key third down conversions. Give Cutler credit for understanding what the coverage was, and knowing that he could flip it out there and make some plays.
AJAYI'S NUMBERS LOOKED GOOD, BUT LANDRY MADE THE BIG PLAYS
I thought Jarvis Landry was the player of the game. Even though Jay Ajayi ran the ball well, Landry made plays. That was the case near the end of the game when he set up the field goal that gave the Dolphins the lead. Landry catches the ball six yards shy of the first down marker and breaks three tackles to pick up a big first down.
I thought Atlanta's tackling was pretty good in the first half, but I thought it started to diminish as the game went along, and I thought there were some key moments where they didn't make the tackle they needed to, and that play to Landry was one of them.