Tue, 07 Dec 2021

Falcons eye .500 against beleaguered Dolphins

Field Level Media
21 Oct 2021, 10:40 GMT+10

Every time Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has faced the Dolphins, Miami has had a different player at his position.

That trend will continue Sunday when the Dolphins (1-5) play host to the Falcons (2-3). Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has never faced Atlanta.

Ryan, though, is 1-2 against the Dolphins, beating them in 2009 and losing in 2013 and 2017. Miami's quarterbacks during that span were Chad Pennington (2009), Ryan Tannehill (2013) and Jay Cutler (2017).

Fast forward to 2021, and both the Falcons and Dolphins are coming off games in London. But there are two differences. For starters, the Falcons won in London while the Dolphins had a demoralizing loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars had lost 20 consecutive games before beating Miami.

The next difference is that Atlanta had a bye week following their trip to London. The Dolphins did not.

Meanwhile, Ryan, earlier this month, became just the seventh NFL quarterback to complete 5,000 passes.

Ryan, 36, is completing 69.1 percent of his passes this season. He is averaging 266.4 passing yards per game and has 10 touchdown throws and just three interceptions.

Despite his advanced age, Ryan's completion percentage is better than his career number (65.5). In addition, his interception rate is down while his TD rate is up.

Ryan's emerging top target is tight end Kyle Pitts, the fourth player selected in this year's draft. Pitts, 21, is coming off a nine-catch, 119-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Jets. In the past 20 years, only two NFL rookie tight ends have had more yards in a game.

"I think there's going to be a lot more of those games for him," Ryan said of Pitts. "He's done a great job focusing on growth and development."

The Dolphins -- after winning 10 games last season -- are off to a rough start amid a five-game losing streak.

According to computer projections, the Dolphins have just a 7 percent chance at making the playoffs -- and that may be generous. The Dolphins rank 29th in the league in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

After missing three games due to fractured ribs, Tagovailoa returned against the Jaguars and did some good things, completing 33 of 47 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns. His Dolphins converted on 9 of 17 third-down plays.

However, there were some hiccups for Miami, including one interception and a key failure on a fourth-down play.

"I think we're very close as a team," Tagovailoa said. "It's just little things we can look at in the film room."

For the season, Tagovailoa is completing 64.1 percent of his passes for three touchdowns, three interceptions and an average of 181.3 yards per game.

Miami's top playmakers are tight end Mike Gesicki and rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Gesicki has 30 catches for a team-high 342 yards and one TD. Waddle has a team-high 37 catches for 301 yards and three TDs.

The Falcons are relatively healthy with zero offensive players and no defensive starters showing up on this week's injury report.

Miami, though, is banged up, with both starting cornerbacks, Xavien Howard (shoulder/groin) and Byron Jones (Achilles/groin), limited in practice this week after missing last Sunday's game. The same goes for wide receivers DeVante Parker (shoulder/hamstring) and Preston Williams (groin).

In addition, Dolphins rookie pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips was limited this week due to an ankle injury.

--Field Level Media

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