Bengals take down Falcons in opener

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Davis gets chased by a Bengals defender

The Falcons continued their preseason struggles of recent seasons with a 34-10 loss to Cincinnati Bengals in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons held a 3-0 lead until the reserves stepped into the game late in the first quarter. But the backups struggled to move the ball and gave up too many big plays to allow the Bengals to win big.

Matt Ryan led the way with a solid performance, completing 6 of 9 passes for 89 yards before he was pulled in the first quarter after three series. Dominique Davis did the brunt of the remaining work and got off to a slow start. But he finished fairly well and had 8 of 19 completions for 78 yards with a touchdown and interception. Sean Renfree mopped up, completing 2 of 4 passes for 20 yards. On the ground, Steven Jackson kicked things off with 5 carries for 8 yards. Ronnie Wingo led rushers with 29 yards on 4 carries late in the game. Jason Snelling added 23 yards on 5 carries himself. He also led receivers with 3 catches for 21 yards and the Falcons’ lone offensive touchdown. Drew Davis, Darius Johnson, and Chase Coffman each had a pair of receptions for 53, 27, and 12 yards respectively. Harry Douglas had one catch for 42 yards to highlight the rest of the receivers in a game that saw minimal work from Roddy White and none from Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Matt Bryant connected on his lone field goal try from 37 yards. Matt Bosher got a lot of usage due to the offensive struggles, punting 7 times for an average of 47.9 yards with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas had one punt return for 11 yards, and Robert Alford returned one for 2 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers, Josh Vaughan, and Levine Toilolo each returned one kickoff for 24, 21, and 12 yards respectively. Collectively, the Falcons offense gained 268 total yards and converted a modest 5 of 13 tries (33%) on third down.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up 434 total yards and allowed the Bengals to convert 9 of 16 third downs (56%). The Bengals chewed up the Falcons with 230 yards on the ground thanks in part to a team-leading 64 from quarterback Josh Johnson. But they also gave up three plays of 20-plus yards in the air as well. Paul Worrilow stood out with a team-leading 11 stops on defense. Pat Schiller had 5 tackles with Jonathan Massaquoi tallying 3 tackles, 1 sack, and a pair of QB hits. Robert Alford also had an impressive debut with 3 tackles and 2 passes defended. Other notable defenders include Joplo Bartu (3 tackles); Kemal Ishmael (3 tackles); Stansly Maponga (2 tackle, 1 QB hit); Zeke Motta (3 tackles); Adam Replogle (3 tackles); and Desmond Trufant (3 tackles). Among starters Osi Umenyiora only had a tackle, but was able to provide some pressure off the edge before being pulled. Special teams also gave up a 71-yard touchdown return on a punt by Dane Sanzenbacher. Worrilow was among six Falcon defenders that had a stop on special teams.

The Falcons kicked things off with a Steven Jackson carry, who took the ball 4 yards off the right side. Three plays later, Ryan connected to Harry Douglas on a quick screen for a 42-yard pass play to put the Falcons deep in Bengal territory at the 24-yard line. Ryan would later hit Roddy White over the middle, but trying to fight for extra yards, White would lose the first down on a 6-yard completion. After Jackson getting bottled up for a 3-yard loss on 3rd & 2, the Falcons were forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal from Matt Bryant to take an early 3-0 lead. Desmond Trufant was introduced to the league on the Bengals first play from scrimmage, getting run over by tight end Jermaine Gresham on a 10-yard pass play.  Two plays later, BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran up the left side for an 11-yard gain. But later after a false start on a Bengals blocker, they were forced into a 3rd & 12. Andy Dalton’s pass to Ryan Whalen would be broken up by Robert McClain to force a punt. The Falcons offense responded with a three-and-out after Ryan’s 3rd down pass to Harry Douglas went incomplete. The Falcons defense responded, thanks in part to Osi Umenyiora. He collected a pair of pressures to force two incompletions by Dalton. Another penalty by a Bengals lineman led to a 3rd & 20, and Giovani Bernard was stopped short of the sticks on a 16-yard screen pass to force another Bengals punt. On the opening play of the next Falcons series, Ryan hit Drew Davis on a lob fade for a 31-yard gain. But Douglas dropped a quick slant on the ensuing play, followed by Ryan missing Chase Coffman on an out pattern. He would come back to Coffman on the next play on a checkdown, but he was stopped shy of the sticks to force a second Falcons punt. The Falcons defense held the Bengals to a three-and-out thanks to incoming quarterback Josh Johnson overthrowing Mohamed Sanu on third down. Dominique Davis entered the game with 97 seconds left in the first quarter, but the Falcons offense responded with a three-and-out of their own. Davis’ first pass was underthrown to Kevin Cone, and nearly picked off by Dre Kirkpatrick if not for Cone taking the ball away. But it was incomplete as Cone came down with the ball out of bounds. On third down, Davis missed Marcus Jackson and Matt Bosher had his third punt of the evening.

With the second quarter beginning, Josh Johnson used his legs to help move the Bengals offense. He carved his way through the Falcons defense on a scramble for 43 yards to kick off the quarter. Three plays later, he ran for another first down on third down with a 14-yard scramble to get the ball inside the Falcons redzone. Johnson hit Brandon Tate on a 15-yard throw to get the ball to the Falcons’ 5-yard line. The Falcons defense would respond soon after, as Jonathan Massaquoi got pressure on Johnson to drop him for a 5-yard sack on 2nd & 9 to set up third down from the Falcons’ 14. Paul Worrilow broke up the Johnson pass over the middle to force the Bengals to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Mike Nugent. The Falcons offense did not respond, as Davis missed on his three passes on the ensuing drive for another three-and-out. On the next Bengals drive, Robert McClain was called for pass interference on third down to give the Bengals a 31-yard gain on an incomplete Johnson throw. That put the Bengals at the Falcons’ 36-yard line. Cedric Peerman carried the ball 3 more times for 15 yards before Johnson threw a strike to Tate on a 21-yard touchdown pass. Tate split McClain and Charles Mitchell for the score to give the Bengals a 10-3 lead with less than 8 minutes to go in the first half. The Falcons were saved from a three-and-out on their next drive after Dominique Davis scrambled for a first down on 3rd & 2. Davis would connect on his next two passes to convert another third down before being dropped for a sack near midfield. On 3rd & 13, pressure flushed Davis to his right and he threw a pass to Drew Davis back across his body, which Bengals corner Brandon Ghee stepped in front of to get the interception at the Bengals 49-yard line. Bernard would get a first down after three runs. Two plays later, Worrilow would make another stop on a screen pass for a 4-yard loss. But Johnson would find Whalen on a 24-yard pass, beating Shann Schillinger to convert a 3rd & 14 and put the ball at the Falcons’ 9-yard line with 38 seconds left in the half. On 3rd & 6, Bernard would rush up the middle for 5-yards before Schillinger would stop him at the 1-yard line. But Bernard would then burst through the hole on 4th & inches to score with 7 seconds left in the half. After a squib kick, both teams would go into halftime with the Bengals up 17-3.

After a Bengals three-and-out to start the second half, the Falcons offense finally got their act together. Dominique Davis underthrew Drew Davis down the seam and the refs ruled it incomplete. But Mike Smith challenged the call, and it was overturned and it resulted in a 22-yard completion from the two Davises. Jason Snelling and Dominique Davis would tote the rock and connect on the next four plays to move the Falcons 34 yards to set up a 3rd & 1 at the Bengals’ 24-yard line. Davis then hit James Rodgers on a rollout for a 15-yard gain. Three plays later, Davis found Snelling once more on a 8-yard shovel pass to get the Falcons in the endzone for the first time. The score now stood Bengals 17, Falcons 10 with 9 minutes to go in the third quarter. Cobi Hamilton kicked off the next Bengals drive with a 17-yard gain on an end-around. Five plays later Dane Sanzenbacher beat Dominique Franks for a 23-yard gain to put the ball at the Falcons’ 32-yard mark. But a few plays later Jonathan Massaquoi got pressure off the edge, coupled with a Bengals penalty to force Cincinnati to settle for a 47-yard Quinn Sharp field goal. The Falcons offense followed suit with another three-and-out thanks to pressure off the edge breaking up a Dominique Davis throw. On the ensuing punt by Matt Bosher, a missed tackle from Josh Vaughan allowed Sanzenbacher to run virtually untouched 71 yards downfield for a score. The Bengals now held a 27-10 lead with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. Darius Johnson dropped a screen pass, but responded with a 13-yard catch to convert on the next play, a third down. But the Falcons couldn’t move the ball much further after Davis could not complete a back-shoulder fade to Kevin Cone. And Bosher had another punt.

As the fourth quarter was beginning, John Skelton stepped in for the Bengals. He would hit Sanzenbacher down the seam, who beat Peyton Thompson for a 36-yard touchdown pass to put the Bengals up 34-10. Sean Renfree entered the game and began with four consecutive handoffs to Ronnie Wingo. Wingo rushed for 29 yards on those four plays. Renfree then on his first dropback was sacked on a blindside hit. After a meager 5-yard scramble on 3rd down, Bosher punted again. But an offside penalty on the Bengals gave the Falcons a first down at the Bengals’ 49-yard line. Renfree would complete his next pass on a rollout to Darius Johnson for 14 yards. Renfree would not have the same luck on his next two passes, and Bosher was back to punting again hoping to pin the Bengals deep. Sanzenbacher made a fair catch at Cincinnati’s 13-yard line. Brian Banks entered the game at this point, on what would be the final drive of the game as the Bengals tried to run out the clock. Nine combined runs from Rex Burkhead and Daniel Herron, along with a pair of third down conversion throws by Skelton got the ball to the Falcons 38-yard line when the two-minute warning hit. After a 7-yard Burkhead run, Skelton took a knee and the game was over. The Falcons had fallen to the Bengals 34-10.

Next Thursday the Falcons will travel to Baltimore to take on the defending champion Ravens. The Falcons are 3-6 all-time against the Ravens in the preseason. This summer marks their third consecutive one with a Ravens matchup. They have lost the two previous matchups.

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