In what has been a common denominator for the past five games dating back to the postseason, the Atlanta Falcons allowed an opponent back into the game after jumping out to a double-digit lead.
The Falcons fell 27-23 to the Miami Dolphins after going up 10-0 and later leading 20-10.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill led a game-winning 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that lasted a little over four minutes and left 38 seconds on the clock. The win improved the Dolphins to 3-0 for the first time since 2002.
Looking at the stat sheet, it’s difficult to figure out how the Falcons (1-2) managed to lose this game. They did everything they’ve struggled to do through the first two games of the season (and all of last season): run the ball, protect Matt Ryan, and sack the opposing team’s quarterback.
In the absence of Steven Jackson, running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling ran for 86 and 53 yards, respectively. As a team, the Falcons combined for 146 rushing yards to the Dolphins’ 90.
Atlanta also managed to sack Tannehill five times. Newcomer Osi Umenyiora was responsible for two of those sacks, forcing a fumble – one being recovered by the Falcons – each time.
Ryan wasn’t sacked once after being taken down five times in the previous two games, and this was done with starting left tackle Sam Baker out. However, Ryan was hurried more than a few times.
The Falcons picked up eight more first downs and held the ball for nearly 15 minutes longer than Dolphins.
Ultimately, what caused Atlanta to lose was the inefficiency in the red zone: The Falcons converted on just two of five red zone trips. Compare that to Miami’s perfect three for three red zone conversions.
Ryan threw for 23 for 38 for 231 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception that erased any hopes of another comeback drive. His favorite target was Julio Jones, who led all receivers with nine receptions for 115 yards.
The Falcons opened the game with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a seven-yard shovel pass for a touchdown to Snelling. Ryan led two more consecutive scoring drives, but they both ended in just field goals. At the half, Atlanta had a 13-10 lead.
There’s little doubt Atlanta looked like the better team for much of the game. The Falcons’ inability to close out games reared its ugly head once again, and all that matters in the end is what the scoreboard reads.
With the New England Patriots coming to the Georgia Dome next Sunday, the Falcons have a chance to improve to 22-3 following a loss under head coach Mike Smith.