MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- It was early on in the draft evaluation process when the Falcons organization realized not only the player, but the person Kyle Pitts was. They saw a cool and collected young man who had measurables that made him incredibly unique at the tight end position. They saw a game-changer. He was special. He was different.
"He's rare," Arthur Smith said.
In the Falcons 30-28 win over the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday, Pitts was nothing short of electric for the Atlanta offense. He finished the day with seven catches for 163 yards. It's the second game in a row Pitts has surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark. But it wasn't just the final stat line that made Pitts' performance stand out. It was also the accumulation of moments Pitts was a part of that ended up changing the game.
There was the 36-yard catch that helped kickstart the Falcons final drive of the first half. There was the 26-yard catch that opened the second half. And of course, there was the Falcons final drive that set up Younghoe Koo's game-winning field goal. With Atlanta starting on its own 25 yard line, Matt Ryan went to Pitts twice in a row to open the drive. Hitting him for a 21- and 28-yard gain on back-to-back plays.
This isn't the first time Ryan has gone to Pitts with the game on the line. He did it when the Falcons were up in New York facing the Giants. He did it in London against the Jets. Pitts has been a cornerstone of the Falcons most successful and - ultimately - game-winning drives this season. Looking at the three games the Falcons have won (against the Giants, Jets and now Dolphins), Pitts has been one of the key differences in the Falcons leaving said one-possession games with a win instead of a loss.
And when asked about Pitts' contribution in the clutch, Smith thought back to those pre-draft days and conversations. He and Terry Fontenot made a point over the course of their first months on the job to stress the importance of bringing in the "right" players. It's a philosophy Fontenot lives by as a first-time general manager, saying there is a difference between the right 53 men vs. the best 53 men. Well, they found both in Pitts. And it's actually something the members of this organization - from the top down - felt about Pitts early.
After the game, Smith spent a few minutes commending the front office - particularly the scouting department - for really digging in during the pre-draft process to find out just who Pitts was a player, and a person.
What the Falcons organization was asking of Pitts was to carry a top-five pick moniker. It's a label Smith said comes with a lot of expectations.
"I've seen some guys not be able to handle it," Smith said, "but fortunately for us Kyle has."
What they saw then in Pitts was a very specific mindset. It's one Ryan described as something that comes through in moments like Sunday, moments in which the Falcons are relying on him to make the play.
"I give him a lot of credit," Ryan said. "There's no blink in his game. When the game is on the line, or it's an important situation, he goes out and executes the same way he does every other snap."
For some young players, that doesn't come across during their first six games in the league, but for Pitts it absolutely has. His performance in Sunday's win is proof that it has, and it's a marker of a potentially prolific rookie year to come.
"It's why we took him with the fourth pick in the draft," Smith said
What's interesting in all of this, though, is that this organization envisioned this unfolding for Pitts from the beginning. Essentially...
"He's exactly who we thought he was," Smith concluded.
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