Saturday October 23rd, 2021 8:08AM

Pitts' breakout game the difference in victory over Jets

By George Henry
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ATLANTA (AP) — A week after blowing an eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Atlanta Falcons showed some backbone in a 27-20 victory over the New York Jets.

They can thank rookie tight end Kyle Pitts and quarterback Matt Ryan for that.

Pitts, the No. 4 overall draft choice, caught a key 39-yard pass to open a touchdown drive after the Jets had cut the lead to three with 6:55 remaining. Equally important, Ryan kept the drive moving with a 15-yard pass to Olamide Zaccheaus after left tackle Jake Matthews had been called for a false start that made it third-and-13.

From there, the Falcons needed five plays for Mike Davis to run in from 3 yards and make it 27-17 with 2:19 to go.

“Yeah, I thought a great play call by (coach Arthur Smith) to start that drive,” Ryan said. “You got some quarters-type coverage where guys were getting down low to stop some of our intermediate play-action pass game. To slip Kyle back there was a really good call.

“Great play by Kyle. It really was the jump-start for us on the last drive, got us going. Wasn’t perfect on that last drive, but we made the plays we needed to make. Great to get Mike in the end zone at the end of the game.”

The Falcons (2-3) weren’t done sweating, though, until Jacob Tuioti-Mariner sacked Zach Wilson for a 17-yard loss that set up the final field goal. Atlanta recovered an onside kick to end it.

The defense had some big moments: Jaylinn Hawkins’ first career interception; two sacks on the final drive; and holding Wilson to a 63.5 passer rating. The Jets had just 64 yards rushing.

“Thought our defense played pretty well,” Smith said. “We knocked them back in the run game, made the plays they needed to. Late stats, check-down and stuff — that’s what you got to do. That’s four-minute defense. You can pad the stats there. I thought our defense played very well.”


The running game was fairly stout as Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson stepped up and combined to rush for 107 yards and 4.0 yards per carry. Patterson continued to be a threat in play-action and ended the game with seven catches for 60 yards. Davis had a 17-yard run.


Ball security was an issue, with tight end Hayden Hurst losing a fumble at the Jets 13-yard line and Davis losing a fumble at the New York 20. Both red-zone miscues prevented Atlanta from padding the lead and kept the Jets within striking distance. Both made up for their mistakes, though, with Hurst catching a 17-yard touchdown and Davis scoring the final TD.


With top wideouts Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage missing the game, Pitts was a force, catching nine passes on 10 targets for 117 yards in his breakout game as a pro. He had an athletic catch for a 22-yard gain to set up his 2-yard touchdown reception late in the first period. Pitts is a hybrid talent at his position, a mismatch for linebackers who aren’t quick enough and for defensive backs who aren’t big enough. He has a high ceiling.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of those in the future for him,” Ryan said. “He’s done a great job of focusing on growth and development day in and day out, just trying to get better.

“There’s a lot of noise both positive and negative that can distract you from that. He’s been as good of a young guy of being able to just focus in on working hard every day and getting better, and I think he’s done that for the five games we’ve had. I expect him to continue that. I think it’s showing that he is really a talented player and can be a great player in this league.”


Ridley missed the trip to London due to a personal matter and dropped two passes the week before in the loss to Washington. The Falcons desperately need their No. 1 receiver to be at his best in the coming weeks if they are to contend for the playoffs. Smith had no update Monday on Ridley’s status.


Cornerback Fabian Moreau hurt his neck late in the third quarter and did not return. Smith said it was too early to give a prognosis.


10 for 15 — the combined efficiency on third and fourth downs.


The Falcons enter their bye week and will practice lightly Tuesday and Wednesday before taking the rest of the week off. Atlanta visits Miami on Oct. 24.

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