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Kyle Pitts sets NFL record and carries Falcons to .500 all in one afternoon: ‘There is no blink in his game’ - The Athletic


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by Josh Kendall

 

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — When Kyle Pitts jogged to the right sideline with two minutes remaining in Atlanta’s game against Miami and realized he was going to get single coverage, he was surprised.

“Surprised and excited,” said Pitts, the Falcons rookie tight end who keyed an Atlanta victory Sunday and in the last two games has silenced any questions about why he — and not a quarterback — was the fourth selection in this spring’s NFL Draft.

The Dolphins matched Pitts with their top cornerback, Xavien Howard, a six-year veteran who was a first-team All-Pro last season. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was not deterred by Pitts’ experience deficit in the matchup, taking the snap and immediately lofting the ball toward Pitts.

“Matt had the look he wanted and took it,” Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith said.

Pitts hauled in a 28-yard catch to move the ball to Miami’s 24-yard line, and from there the Falcons milked the clock to set up a 36-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo, which sailed through the uprights as time expired to give Atlanta a 30-28 victory over the Dolphins.

“I give (Pitts) a lot of credit. There is no blink in his game,” Ryan said. “When the game is on the line, he just goes out there and executes the same as he does on any other snap.”

Ryan was not surprised that the Dolphins stuck with their aggressive approach, even as Pitts is emerging as an NFL star in real time.

“Not really, that’s a lot of who they are, they play tight man-to-man coverage, and they trust their guys to make plays,” Ryan said. “In critical situations, you go back to what you hang your hat on. We saw a lot of man-to-man the whole day.”

Everyone else at Hard Rock Stadium was wondering why the Dolphins didn’t put four players on Pitts because he killed them all day, finishing with seven catches for a season-high 163 yards. In the last two games, Pitts has 16 catches for 282 receiving yards and has become just the second rookie tight end in NFL history to have back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. (Raymond Chester in 1970 is the other.)

“That’s a great statistic, but I want to keep going and have more games like this,” Pitts said.

The wide-eyed look on Pitts’ face when he fielded the question about Miami’s coverage said more than Pitts generally says the traditional way. The 21-year-old is very measured and reserved in front of the media even as his play on the field screams.

For example, this is how Pitts described his final catch: “I had a go route, I beat my defender and Matt had the trust in me to throw me the ball.”

Meanwhile, no one else on the team can quit talking about him.

“He’s rare,” Smith said. “When you put the fourth pick on somebody, that’s a lot of expectations. I’ve seen some guys not be able to handle it, but fortunately Kyle has handled it. He’s exactly who we thought he was.”

Pitts’ 471 yards this season are the most in a tight end’s first six games in NFL history, and Sunday’s 163 yards are the fourth most in a single game by a rookie tight end.

“When he first came in, we knew he was a freak, long, tall, fast, just a lot of dope stuff,” said Atlanta safety Jaylinn Hawkins, who contributed an interception in the end zone to stop a Dolphins drive. “He’s a good player, man.”

Pitts, who caught the first two passes of the decisive drive, also had a spectacular one-handed grab earlier in the day.

Still, nothing could convince Miami to change its defensive approach, and Atlanta took advantage all game long. Wide receiver Russell Gage had the longest catch of his career, a 49-yard touchdown, and Pitts finished with five catches of more than 20 yards.

“They came up and challenged us with a lot of man, so if they want to pack it in inside, they are going to make you go outside so you better be able to win outside and thankfully we were able to do it enough to win today,” Smith said.

Atlanta (3-3) is .500 for the first time since the second week of the 2019 season, when it was 1-1.

“We felt our foundation was strong, but we haven’t turned a profit yet. We need to turn a profit, hopefully next week, that’s the name of the game,” Smith said. “Clearly you need to win because buy-in is huge. These guys have worked so **** hard and bought in, so it’s good to see, it’s big for those guys.”

Ryan, whose fourth-quarter fumble set up the Dolphins for a go-ahead drive that put Miami up 28-27 with 2:27 to play, engineered the 40th game-winning drive of his career to tie John Elway for seventh in league history in that category.

“You have to have the right mindset and you have to have some courage, especially at the quarterback position, and he does,” Smith said. “He’s a special player. I personally think he’s criminally underrated if you look at his career here.”

Smith and Ryan both chose to focus on the Falcons’ poise in the final minutes rather than the fact they surrendered a 13-point fourth-quarter lead to a Miami team that fell to 1-6 Sunday.

“That’s what this league is,” Smith said. “If you don’t like (close games), this is probably not the job for you. You have to get used to that because that’s what most of these games are going to come down to. It’s the way the league is structured. It’s the most competitive league in all of professional sports.”

Ryan finished 25-for-40 for 336 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

“This league is about winning one-possession games,” Ryan said. “No matter how the game plays out, at the end it always kind of finds itself in that situation.”

It’s helpful to have Koo in those situations. The fourth-year pro made his second game-winning kick of the season and improved to 47-for-49 since the beginning of the 2020 season, the best mark in the NFL.

“My heart rate was pretty normal (when Koo lined up for the kick),” Smith said. “He’s been clutch.”

Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun, who returned an interception 54 yards to set up an Atlanta score, was less calm on the final play.

“I just stood down there on the opposite end and looked the other way,” Oluokun said. “That’s my superstition. If I do my part, (Koo) will do his part.”

 

 

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21 minutes ago, jetpac said:

Bro this crow taste so **** nasty.... anybody got any lemon pepper? 
 

So glad to have been wrong on taking this MONSTER at 4.

 

Eat it bland...... Like a white woman that puts raisins in everything cooked. Salt is spicy.....

Edited by dodge_birds_fan
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8 minutes ago, Mescalito said:

I was just thinking about something and honestly can't remember.  Was there even a PI penalty on the one-handed Pitts catch yesterday when the guy had his other arm yanked behind his back?  Obviously it doesn't really matter because we would've declined it but...

Yes. It was called but declined.

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12 minutes ago, Mescalito said:

I was just thinking about something and honestly can't remember.  Was there even a PI penalty on the one-handed Pitts catch yesterday when the guy had his other arm yanked behind his back?  Obviously it doesn't really matter because we would've declined it but...

If you ask the announcers though, the pass interference was on Pitts 🙄

Did anyone else seem to notice how much the team got dogged by that one guy and he praised everything Miami did?

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16 minutes ago, Mescalito said:

I was just thinking about something and honestly can't remember.  Was there even a PI penalty on the one-handed Pitts catch yesterday when the guy had his other arm yanked behind his back?  Obviously it doesn't really matter because we would've declined it but...

There was a flag, so I'm assuming it was for PI

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4 minutes ago, BroadwayBlueBleeder said:

If you ask the announcers though, the pass interference was on Pitts 🙄

Did anyone else seem to notice how much the team got dogged by that one guy and he praised everything Miami did?

I noticed it.  Did you hear his excitement whenever Miami would score too?  He had no where near that level of enthusiasm when the Falcons got a td.  Who was that guy anyway?

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6 minutes ago, BroadwayBlueBleeder said:

If you ask the announcers though, the pass interference was on Pitts 🙄

Did anyone else seem to notice how much the team got dogged by that one guy and he praised everything Miami did?

I remember that now too.  The guy did think it was OPI.

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58 minutes ago, BroadwayBlueBleeder said:

If you ask the announcers though, the pass interference was on Pitts 🙄

Did anyone else seem to notice how much the team got dogged by that one guy and he praised everything Miami did?

 

52 minutes ago, Mescalito said:

I noticed it.  Did you hear his excitement whenever Miami would score too?  He had no where near that level of enthusiasm when the Falcons got a td.  Who was that guy anyway?

 

51 minutes ago, Mescalito said:

I remember that now too.  The guy did think it was OPI.

 

42 minutes ago, FentayeJones said:

Moose Johnston

Mute TV and turn on 929 The Game through their audacy app or with a radio. They call a great game. Arch brings in good insights to what play by play looks like.

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