ATLANTA – The Miami Dolphins’ 20-17 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons on the road at Mercedes-Benz Stadium has already dulled the luster off of the new, pharaonic structure. Fans in the metro area who have yet to recover from the Fred Sanford heart attack of Super Bowl LI remain in high dudgeon when a so-called Yankee mentions 28-3, thus, are suspicious of the Falcons amassing big leads only to have a competitor do an okie-doke on them.
As the game commenced, Atlanta deviated slightly from their traditional high wire act on offense by orchestrating an uncharacteristic pattern for them with reasonably time consuming drives. The Falcons devoured approximately ten minutes of clock in the first quarter resulting in a 50-yard field goal by Matt Bryant and an exhilarating 40-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Marvin Hall for an early 10-0 advantage.
On defense, the Falcons provided just enough pressure on Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler that may have made him temporarily reevaluate his decision to forgo the start of his career in broadcasting in exchange for the quintessential last stand opportunity on the gridiron. Nevertheless, Miami points were not forthcoming, and Atlanta capitalized on another drive that culminated in a touchdown following a six-yard dash by running back Tevin Coleman to extend the lead to 17-0 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Dolphins Head coach Adam Gase and staff devised a strategy that was quite different than the first half. Since they did not want Cutler to hide back into his phlegmatic shell of yesteryear, running back Jay Ajayi was featured prominently in the offense to mitigate Atlanta’s ball hawking defenders. Also, Miami decided to employ more of a zone defense instead of relying upon Suh and company to get home on Ryan until the offensive line was more battle worn.
The gambit began to payoff as Cutler engineered sustained scoring drives seemingly hitting receivers like Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry in space with two touchdown passes after a total of 20 plays in the third quarter alone (approximately 10 minutes time of possession). Atlanta’s defense began to fatigue as usual and was prone to penalties that are often an indication that the mind was no longer in control of the body like Jimmy Johnson used to promulgate.
In the fourth quarter, the Atlanta Falcons appeared to be shell-shocked in all phases of the game. The offensive line (tight end included) missed blocking assignments, the defense looked feeble, and even a snap of the football was muffed resembling a wounded quail flailing in air on a crucial special teams play.
The Falcons were roasted to perfection as Ajayi rushed for 18 yards out of 132 yards total deep into Atlanta’s territory for game winning field goal by Cody Parkey with about 2:30 remaining. Although the Atlanta Falcons had sufficient time to either tie the game or win outright, it appeared to be a fait accompli that the contest would end on a tipped Ryan interception, which it did off the hands of Austin Hooper into the grasp of Miami’s Cordrea Tankersley near the goal line.
In conclusion, the Miami Dolphins are not the Belua that they were decades ago, but they possessed enough fortitude to achieve victory today in Atlanta. This is especially difficult to accept with the appearance of a refurbished, risible color scheme resembling a mint julep trimmed in white and orange for Miami in 2017.