ATLANTA -- In the Falcons' second loss of the 2017 season, it wasn't talent but rather poor execution that was the problem for the defending NFC champions.
After building an early 17-0 lead in the first half against the Miami Dolphins (3-2), the Falcons had too many self-inflicted mistakes after halftime as the visitors scored 20 unanswered points to leave Atlanta with a 20-17 victory.
"We had opportunities today in all three phases," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said after the game. "And, in the second half, we did not own those."
Miami's second drive of the second half appeared to be the turning point of the game. Following a three-and-out by the Falcons (3-2), a poor Matt Bosher punt set up the Dolphins to begin their drive 1 yard shy of midfield.
It appeared as though the Falcons would force a three-and-out of their own, but a questionable pass interference call gave Miami a fresh set of downs on Atlanta's 24-yard line. Two plays later, the Falcons again looked like they'd gotten out of a jam after Deion Jones picked off Jay Cutler. The interception was negated, however, as defensive tackle Grady Jarrett shoved Cutler to the ground a few beats after he had released the ball, drawing a roughing the passer call.
"I wanted the answer for that, 'was it a delay?'" Quinn said of the penalty on Jarrett. "They came back and they thought that he had hit (Cutler) in the head and neck area after the pass, not as a delay."
Nearly one minute later, Cutler hit Jarvis Landry for a 7-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Falcons' lead to three.
That series was emblematic of the second half for Atlanta. Anytime something positive happened, a negative seemingly followed.
Matt Ryan was sacked three times in the second half, one of which didn't count as Jake Matthews was called for holding, and the offense was behind in down-and-distance more often than not late in the game.
Atlanta began the game by scoring points on three of its first four offensive possessions. After a 6-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman, the Falcons came up empty on their final five possessions.
Going by the numbers, the Falcons didn't have a horrible day on offense. Atlanta gained 339 yards, averaged 6.1 yards per play and converted 55 percent of its third downs.
Digging deeper, the problems become a bit clearer. The Falcons had six penalties for 73 yards and averaged 36.7 yards per punt.
Despite those issues, the Falcons were once again driving late in the game with a chance to send it into overtime or emerge with the victory.
Unfortunately, Ryan's pass bounced off the arms of tight end Austin Hooper just shy of the goal line and into the arms of Dolphins safety Reshad Jones, something that has happened too often so far this season.
Atlanta made things easier for Miami too often on Sunday, and the Falcons didn't play well enough to overcome those mistakes. "Until that consistency comes right – where you have mistakes that are costly – we can't be the best version of ourselves," Quinn said. "And that's what we've got to get done, and we will."