Dante Fowler, Kyle Pitts leave impact in Falcons' win against Jaguars

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It wasn’t exactly a revenge game, but Dante Fowler was sure to make a mark in his first game back in Jacksonville.

The outside linebacker had a first-half sack and put pressure on Trevor Lawrence that forced a poor pass by the rookie quarterback to end the first half.

“Just treat it like another away game,” Fowler said on being back in Jacksonville after the game. “We wanted to come down here and handle business, which we did. I’m ready to go back home now.”

Fowler said it felt good to get a sack in Jacksonville and didn’t really have a sentimental moment being back in Duval. When asked about it again, he expounded on his feelings.

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Falcons linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. (6) attempts to tackle Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) during the first half. Fowler, a former first-round draft pick for the Jaguars, forced a fumble on the play.
Falcons linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. (6) attempts to tackle Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) during the first half. Fowler, a former first-round draft pick for the Jaguars, forced a fumble on the play.

“Anybody that was on the team when I was in Jacksonville, it was good to see them,” Fowler added. “I didn’t care to see anyone else. If you didn’t play with me in between the white lines, I didn’t care to see you honestly. It was good to see the guys that I played on the team with and went to championships and almost went to the Super Bowl with. That was cool.”

In his return to TIAA Bank Field, Kyle Pitts helped Atlanta’s winning efforts with a late game catch. Facing a third and short and needing a first down to extend their drive the rookie tight end snagged a pass from Matt Ryan to pick up the needed yardage.

It was only Pitts’ second reception of the day, but it was the exact reason the Falcons selected him as a top five pick in the NFL Draft last April. Atlanta went on to punt later in the drive, but the rookie’s catch helped drain a few more ticks off the clock for Atlanta.

Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell (32) picks up his first career interception as Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) tries to make the stop.
Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell (32) picks up his first career interception as Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) tries to make the stop.

The former Florida Gators star’s services weren’t needed as the visitors built a large advantage before halftime and cruised to a 21-14 victory — the first since Nov. 7 for the Falcons.

In his two prior trips to "The Bank" during the Florida-Georgia game, Pitts had six catches for 137 yards and a touchdown.

Pitts was selected No. 4 overall in the NFL Draft in April, making history as the highest-drafted tight end ever and has carved out 43 receptions for 635 yards and one touchdown this far in his rookie season.

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With Calvin Ridley still out, Jacksonville put a lot of defensive attention on Pitts. It resulted in only a 26-yard performance from the first-year player. His targets often resulted in drops or misconnections, except for a shot down the sideline where Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell stepped in front of the pass for an interception.

While Pitts struggled to find success, the Falcons' rushing attack did not. The Falcons rushed for a season-high 149 yards, with the returning Cordarrelle Patterson leading the way for the visitors with 108 yards and two touchdowns.

“With that blocking, man, how could I not score?” Patterson said after the game. “Like I said, offensive line, they did a heck of a job. And Keith Smith, man, the best fullback in the game. He's always showing up, always making that key block for us.”

Patterson’s energy was contagious for the Falcons who had struggled in their two previous contests. Atlanta was outscored 68-3 before facing Jacksonville. At times, it looked like they were moving the ball at will.

It’s a sight that Falcons fans have been waiting for all season. With the changing of the guard in the post season, Atlanta looks like a team that is finally putting it together. The win kept the Falcons in the thick of NFC playoff contention.

What once looked like a lost season, needed a little perspective according to their head man.

“I mean, the human emotion right after, you know, you lose two games like that, it's easy, like I said, to go through the range of emotions,” Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith said on the team turning around the season. “But when you take a step back and you can have some perspective, and that's what we'll all try, here, have some perspective ... I think too many times people think instant results. Well, there's a lot of ways to go with it, but I don't believe in that, and this team doesn't. We kept it to work, things we want to tweak. We'll continue to do that, so [that] says a lot about the character of these players and this staff.”

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Ex-Florida Gators Kyle Pitts, Dante Fowler win return to Jacksonville

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