Before the Miami Dolphins faced the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium in Week 7, we broke down the five biggest storylines for the game.
Now it's time to revisit them to see how they played out.
1. Time to Stop the Slide
BEFORE THE GAME: The Dolphins' 2021 season is getting pretty close to becoming unsalvageable thanks to the current five-game losing streak, and if there is a miraculous turnaround in the cards with even maybe a playoff push, it's gotta start happening soon. Sunday obviously would be a good time.
IN THE GAME: Well, the Dolphins once again had a great chance to stop their slide, but yet again they couldn't come up with that one or two big plays to make it happen. So for a second consecutive week (and third time this season), they had to watch helplessly as the opponent kicked a game-winning field goal on the last play of the game.
BEFORE THE GAME: For those fans who already have given up on the idea of a playoff push, then the biggest goal for the 2021 season should be to get a thorough evaluation of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — unless, of course, the Dolphins wind up trading for Deshaun Watson. But until that happens, the development of the quarterback remains the main focus for this team.
IN THE GAME: If we're talking development of Tua, this clearly was another step in the right direction — even if we're not ready to praise his performance to the same level as some of his staunch supporters were so quick to do. But that aside, Tua was very efficient throughout the game (minus his two mistakes on his interceptions) and he showed great resilience in bringing the Dolphins back from a 27-14 deficit in the fourth quarter. To sum it up, Tua certainly made a case for the Dolphins to forget about a Watson trade to instead continue working with him to see where his development ends up taking him.
3. Bye or no Bye?
BEFORE THE GAME: London games happen every year, but it's not every year that teams don't get a bye the following week, which is what's happening with the Dolphins. Let's start by saying this is a request made by the Dolphins, who wanted their bye later in the season. Brian Flores decided to conduct a walk-through Wednesday for the first practice returned to South Florida and explained the reasoning as giving his players a bit of a break after the long flight home. So, yeah, fatigue could be a factor. As a point of historical precedents, the 2021 Dolphins will become the fifth team to play the week after a London game, following the 2016 Colts and the 2017 Dolphins, Jaguars and Ravens. Those four teams went 2-2 in the game following the London trip, including a 16-10 victory by the Dolphins against Tennessee in that 2017 season.
IN THE GAME: So the record now stands at 2-3 for teams playing the week after a London game, but it's pretty tough to argue that fatigue would have played any role for the Dolphins considering they jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game and then overcame a 27-14 deficit in the fourth quarter.
BEFORE THE GAME: The Dolphins and Falcons both went for offensive playmakers with their first pick in the 2021 NFL draft, with Miami selecting wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and Atlanta going with tight end Kyle Pitts. While Waddle is on pace to set a rookie reception record for the Dolphins (albeit with a pretty low per-reception average), Pitts got off to a slow start before having a breakout game in Week 5 when the Falcons defeated the New York Jets in London with nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Whoever has the bigger day could help determine the outcome of the game Sunday.
IN THE GAME: Waddle continued his solid season for the Dolphins with another seven catches, but he still was overshadowed by Pitts, who not only was the best rookie on the field but was the best player, period. Actually, Pitts was borderline ridiculous, finishing with seven catches for over 160 yards, including a 39-yard pick-up to set up a field goal at the end of the first half and then gains of 23 and 28 yards on the Falcons' game-winning field goal drive. Put simply, Pitts won the game for Atlanta. He was that good.
5. Old College Buddies
BEFORE THE GAME: The game Sunday will mark a reunion of former Boston College teammates, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. Flores praised Ryan this week for his football acumen, just as he did when the Falcons were in South Florida for joint practices in August, and coming up with a plan to slow down the 2008 third overall pick will be key for the Miami defense in this game.
IN THE GAME: Unfortunately, it's safe to say Ryan got the best of his former college teammate in this one. The Dolphins really couldn't come up with much to rattle or disrupt Ryan, who finished with 336 passing yards and quickly put the Falcons in field goal position after the Dolphins took a 28-27 lead just outside of the two-minute warning.