ATLANTA (AP) — Just in time for a Super Bowl rematch with New England, the Atlanta Falcons felt the too-familiar anguish of blowing another big lead.
The opportunistic Miami Dolphins delivered the reminder.
Reshad Jones intercepted a pass deflected by Cordrea Tankersley with 39 seconds remaining, clinching Miami’s come-from-behind 20-17 win over Atlanta on Sunday.
The Falcons led 17-0 at halftime before Miami began its comeback with Jay Cutler’s touchdown passes to Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry in the third quarter. Cody Parkey tied the game with a 49-yard field goal and kicked a 38-yarder with 2:30 remaining to give the Dolphins the lead.
Cutler hopes the second-half comeback will provide a needed confidence boost for Miami’s offense. The Dolphins (3-2) had been relying on their stout defense, which delivered two sacks, two forced fumbles and the interception.
“The defense has been solid all year,” Cutler said. “Offensively, we go out there and say this is an example of how it’s done, this is the feeling you should feel when it happens. You experience and you know it’s not just talk, you can make it happen.”
Jones and Miami’s defense provided the biggest play.
The Falcons moved from their 13 to the Dolphins 26, where they already were in position for a tying field goal. On first down, Matt Ryan’s pass for tight end Austin Hooper was tipped by Tankersley. Jones made the clinching interception inside the 10.
“I kept my eyes on the ball and made a great play,” said Jones, the former University of Georgia standout.
It was a bitter loss for an Atlanta team which blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl loss to New England.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said losing another lead “totally bums you out.”
“You try to find out what was the cause of not being able to finish like we wanted, and that’s what we will do,” Quinn said.
Added linebacker Vic Beasley Jr.: “It’s tough. We experienced that feeling before in the Super Bowl.”
It was second straight home loss for the Falcons (3-2), who play at New England next Sunday.
The Dolphins took advantage of opportunities created by key Falcons mistakes.
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett’s roughing-the-quarterback penalty on Grady Jarrett negated an interception by linebacker Deion Jones late in the third quarter. On the next play, Cutler’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Landry cut the Atlanta lead to 17-14.
The Falcons botched a punt snap in the fourth quarter. Punter Matt Bosher picked up the snap on a bounce and was tackled at the Miami 48. It was not clear if the snap touched a Falcons up-back. The Dolphins had to move the ball only 21 yards to set up Parkey’s tying field goal.
BREAKOUT FOR AJAYI: Miami’s Jay Ajayi had 26 carries for 130 yards, averaging 5 yards per carry. He entered the game with only 262 yards rushing in four games. He had not reached 100 yards since gaining 122 against the Chargers in the season opener.
TD FOR HALL: Two-time All-Pro Julio Jones is still looking for his first touchdown catch of the season. Marvin Hall found the end zone one day after being signed off Atlanta’s practice squad. His first career catch was a 40-yarder for a touchdown over the middle late in the first quarter.
The 24-year-old Hall, undrafted out of Washington in 2016, was needed when starter Mohamed Sanu was held out with a hamstring injury. The Falcons waived rookie running back Brian Hill to make room for Hall.
Ryan has thrown six interceptions in the last three games, leaving him one away from matching his 2016 total of seven. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown.
AWOL FOR ANTHEM: Miami’s Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas were not on the field for the national anthem. The three players jogged onto the sideline following the anthem. The routine was in line with coach Adam Gase’s request that players remain in the locker room if they were not going to stand for the anthem.
All other Miami and Atlanta players stood during the anthem.
POUNCEY HURT: Miami center Mike Pouncey did not return after leaving the game in the second quarter to be evaluated for a possible concussion. Jake Brendel replaced Pouncey at center.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP—NFL