Falcons vs. Dolphins: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Atlanta
The Atlanta Falcons are 1-2 after losing a game in Miami on Sunday that they seemingly tried their hardest to lose.
Indeed, with all due respect to the Dolphins (a team that went into Indianapolis and won in Week 2, against a Colts team that subsequently beat the 49ers by 20 in San Francisco in Week 3), the Falcons have no one to blame but themselves for Sunday's 27-23 defeat.
How did the Falcons manage to lose a game that they never trailed in until Miami scored its go-ahead touchdown with 38 seconds remaining on the clock?
We'll take our best shot at answering that question as we comb through Atlanta's roster and assign game grades in an effort to help you through your post-loss Monday funk.
1. Matt Ryan
Ryan failed to throw for 300 yards for the first time this season, but he doesn't earn a mediocre grade here solely because of his stat line. The Falcons offense simply couldn't deliver a knockout punch against the Dolphins, and Ryan has to shoulder part of the blame for that since he's the trigger man.
Ryan's offense played with little urgency in the red zone, particularly on the drive preceding Miami's game-winning drive. On this drive, they got the ball and were up by a field goal on the road against an undefeated, upstart team with 10 minutes remaining. That drive demanded a touchdown from the Falcons offense, and they were unable to obtain one.
As the leader of this offense, Ryan is going to have to start making the kind of extraordinary plays that get the ball in the end zone, especially when the moment demands that the Falcons score touchdowns.
1. Jacquizz Rodgers
Jacquizz Rodgers did just about everything that the Falcons could have asked for from the running back position in Steven Jackson's absence. He was a pleasant surprise as a feature back.
2. Jason Snelling
Like Rodgers, Snelling did an admirable job, both as a receiver and a runner. He, along with Jacquizz Rodgers, probably deserved one or two more carries in the red zone, particularly on Atlanta's first fourth-quarter drive.
3. Patrick DiMarco
DiMarco was adequate as a blocker, but he did draw a holding penalty. Atlanta's offense could benefit from him making a contribution as a receiver out of the backfield.
1. Julio Jones
Julio Jones continued to be the only cog of Atlanta's high-powered offensive machine that has performed as well as advertised. The only thing that keeps Julio from earning an "A+" is the fact that he didn't get a touchdown.
2. Roddy White
Yes, Roddy White may still be limited by his high ankle sprain, but if he's going to play in games, he's got to make plays when his number is called. His would-be first-down reception that was overturned on review in the third quarter—when Atlanta was leading 20-13—was the kind of play that we're used to seeing Roddy White make. Atlanta's offense desperately misses White's swagger.
3. Harry Douglas
A combination of a quiet output in the box score and a special teams blunder cost Douglas here. Prior to his fumble, Douglas didn't appear to have any interest in fielding the ball, because he was waiving everybody on Atlanta's return team off. He made a poor choice to field the ball off of the bounce and expose himself to a punishing hit that happened primarily because Douglas' blockers didn't anticipate him picking the ball up.
1. Tony Gonzalez
The Dolphins had a hard time covering Jordan Cameron and Coby Fleener in their first two contests, but Miami didn't have much trouble with Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez in Week 3. Beyond his limited impact as a receiver, Gonzalez also drew a holding penalty.
2. Levine Toilolo
Toilolo caught his first career touchdown pass and appears to have surpassed Chase Coffman on the team's depth chart.
1. Lamar Holmes
Holmes looked much more comfortable on the left side, and he didn't allow a sack (though he came close on a couple of occasions). Holmes had the benefit of facing a struggling Olivier Vernon and the inexperienced—but very talented—rookie Dion Jordan for most of the game. His play was encouraging.
2. Justin Blalock
Blalock did a much better job in the run game on Sunday. He and Garrett Reynolds opened up some holes inside.
3. Peter Konz
Konz was beaten soundly on one of Atlanta's red-zone run plays that was stopped for a loss at the end of the first half. He had an otherwise acceptable outing.
4. Garrett Reynolds
Reynolds was able to get more push than we've seen from him in the ground game. This was one of his better games in pass protection, too.
5. Jeremy Trueblood
Trueblood was penalized, but he was adequate at right tackle. Cameron Wake's injury helped his cause.
6. Joe Hawley
The Falcons brought Hawley in as an extra blocker to help their offensive line deal with Miami's defensive front. Hawley played the supporting role well.
1. Osi Umenyiora
The Falcons wasted a stellar performance by Umenyiora, who showed that he is still very much an impact player coming off of the edge.
2. Jonathan Babineaux
Babineaux got pushed out of the way on Miami's first touchdown run, and the Dolphins kept him out of the backfield in the run game for most of the afternoon.
3. Corey Peters
Corey Peters made his presence felt on the inside and did a nice job of getting off of blocks to get in on tackles.
4. Jonathan Massaquoi
Massaquoi didn't get to the quarterback or knock down any passes this week. Atlanta got a couple sacks from its linebackers—sacks that Massaquoi is going to have to deliver moving forward.
5. Malliciah Goodman
Goodman held his own when he got his opportunity, but Atlanta needs more from him as a pass-rusher.
6. Peria Jerry
Playing against his brother seemed to put a little pep in Jerry's step. Like Peters, Jerry had a solid outing on the inside.
1. Akeem Dent
Dent appeared to take over the leadership role for Atlanta's linebacking corps since Sean Weatherspoon is out with an injury for the rest of the season. In addition to that role, Dent brought his hard-hat to work and put together a solid outing, aside from Lamar Miller's 49-yard run in the first half.
2. Joplo Bartu
Bartu wasn't as effective in coverage as he was during the first two weeks. He was beaten on consecutive passes on Miami's last drive, and his missed tackle on the second completion allowed the Miami receiver to reach the one-yard line.
3. Stephen Nicholas
Nicholas didn't play poorly, but he didn't stand out either. Even if he is still hampered by an injury, the Falcons need more from the elder statesman of this young linebacking corps.
4. Paul Worrilow
Worrilow got the opportunity to play some more snaps on defense because of injuries. He had a nice tackle on Daniel Thomas that prevented a first down on Miami's last drive, but the Ryan Tannehill connection with Brandon Gibson that occurred two plays later kept the play from being as big as it should have been.
1. William Moore
It was another solid outing from the secondary's best player. He made plays and demonstrated an attitude that only he and Osi Umenyiora seem to have.
2. Robert McClain
This wasn't McClain's best outing. He was beaten for some key first downs throughout the game, and he had a tough time in the slot covering taller Miami receivers.
3. Robert Alford
Alford fell victim to a great route run by Brandon Gibson on a third-and-4 from Atlanta's 33-yard line that earned the Dolphins the first down they needed to keep their winning drive going.
4. Desmond Trufant
Like McClain, Trufant gave up a couple of conversions when Atlanta's defense needed to get off of the field. He and Thomas DeCoud (and perhaps even Robert Alford, too) appeared to have a communication issue on Miami's touchdown that tied the game at 20.
5. Thomas DeCoud
In addition to the aforementioned communication breakdown with Trufant, DeCoud continued his bad habit of reverting to poor tackling techniques at some of the worst possible times.
6. Asante Samuel
It was good to see Samuel back out there, and he nearly got an interception off of Ryan Tannehill in the second quarter. However, having too many "nearly" plays usually gets a team beat on the road in this league.
You can't blame Bryant for being called upon so much when Atlanta's offense stalls in the red zone, but you can blame him for missing a 35-yard field goal that sent all of the game's momentum to the Miami sideline.
A week after one of his best performances in a Falcons uniform, Bosher didn't do a lot to help Atlanta's defense on his two punts this week.
This is getting old. For the third-straight week, the Falcons got off to a strong start that yielded an early lead, only to see said lead eventually evaporate.
Steven Jackson's absence wasn't an issue because the Falcons got what they needed from the ground game. Smith's decision to kick a field goal when the team faced a fourth-and-1 from the Miami two-yard line while leading 10-7 late in the second quarter will be questioned all week, though.
Also, Smith has to bear part of the blame for Atlanta's lack of urgency in the red zone. Smith stubbornly wants to believe that the Falcons are a defensive football team, when in reality, Atlanta's offense is going to be the unit that makes or breaks this 2013 season.
Koetter had a nice play call on Levine Toilolo's touchdown reception, but he probably should have mixed in a good run play on Atlanta's early fourth-quarter drive that stalled at the Miami 15-yard line. After three incomplete passes,the Falcons were caused to settle for the last field goal that Matt Bryant would make.
Koetter needs to make sure his offense appreciates how important it is to get touchdowns in the red zone from here on out.
Nolan's defense was put in a tight spot after Harry Douglas' fumble, but it had its own breakdowns before and after that scoring drive.
Miami's field goal drive to end the first half was too easy, as was its drive that set up the winning touchdown. The tackling must improve, and the unit has to be ready for its moment the next time they're required to keep an opponent out of the end zone to win a game.