With ten minutes remaining in the second quarter of the Falcons' week seven matchup against the Miami Dolphins, the Dolphins lined up for a field goal to extend their lead to 10-3. As the ball was snapped, rookie defensive end Ade Ogundeji burst through the Miami offensive line to block the field goal – the first time the Falcons have blocked a field goal since Ra'Shede Hageman blocked a 63-yard attempt against the Carolina Panthers in 2013.
The block cleared the way for a ten-play drive that ended with a Calvin Ridley touchdown to give the Falcons a 10-7 lead.
Plays like the one Ogundeji made were the theme of the Falcons 30-28 win over the Dolphins. Through the first five games of the season, the Falcons defense had played well in terms of limiting offensive yards – coming into the game ranked third in the league in total yards allowed – but struggled to force turnovers.
Yet, in a game where they were banged up in the secondary missing Avery Williams and Kendall Sheffield, among others, the Falcons defense forced turnovers and made plays in ways that they have not all season.
Following the Ridley touchdown, the Dolphins moved down the field on the Falcons with ease. And with 43 seconds remaining in the second quarter, they were on the Falcons' 14-yard-line and threatening to score.
But safety Jaylinn Hawkins had other plans.
Hawkins, who got the team's first interception of the season against the Jets, cut quickly on a ball intended for Durham Smythe in the back of the end zone, and intercepted the ball. Hawkins said the formation that the Dolphins ran in the end zone was one that the defense studied during the week.
"I just read the quarterback's eyes and trust my instinct," Hawkins said. "I just jumped the route, trusted my instinct, and made the play for the squad."
After back-to-back punts by the Falcons in the third quarter, Matt Ryan threw an interception after Ridley was struck as soon as he caught the ball that popped into Xavien Howard's hands.
With the Falcons only leading 20-14, the crowd was re-energized and it seemed the momentum had shifted to the Dolphins. Then on the Dolphins' first play, Grady Jarrett rushed through the middle of the offensive line, getting to Tua Tagovailoa quickly. As Jarrett pulled Tagovailoa down, he threw the ball into the air into the hands of Foye Oluokun, who took the interception 56 yards to the Miami 14-yard line.
"I think he was tryna play some hero ball," he said, "... I was there doing my zone drop and moving with the quarterback, and he kinda overthrew it, so I just capitalized off that."
Oluokun who said he was an All-State wide receiver in high school, was looking to take the interception back for a touchdown.
"I was trying to score," he said. "I pulled away from the lineman. I saw the tight end on the right I pulled away from. I was just hoping and praying I didn't get tackled."
Coach Arthur Smith described the play as huge for the Falcons.
"That's being a team," Smith said. "That's what we gotta be at all three phases. That's how you become a team that plays off each other."
The Falcons defense was not perfect, however.
The Falcons scored following the Oluokun interception giving the Falcons a 27-14 lead. Then, the Dolphins marched down the field in back-to-back possessions for touchdowns to give the Dolphins a 28-27 lead with 2:27 left in the game. Not to mention, the Dolphins' tight ends combined for 14 catches, 145 yards, and one touchdown.
"We have to keep getting better and keep being more detailed and play cleaner ball," Hawkins said. "Good win today, but we gotta go back to the office tomorrow, learn from our mistakes and win the day. Make those days count, play clean ball, and clean up everything."