Falcons backups fall short against Jaguars
The Falcons dropped their fourth and final preseason game to the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 24-14. The game got off to a great start for the Falcons, going up 7-0 on the second play of the game. But from that point on, the Jaguars battled back to pull out the victory.
Dominique Davis got the start for the Falcons under center and played every snap. He finished the game, completing 14 of 24 passes for 175 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. On the ground, Antone Smith led the team with 33 yards on 12 carries. Dimitri Nance (4 carries, 25 yards) and Jacquizz Rodgers (5 carries, 24 yards, a touchdown) also had productive evenings on the ground. Smith also led the team in receiving with 3 catches for 40 yards. Kevin Cone caught the lone touchdown on a 49-yar scamper, ending his night with a pair of receptions for 64 yards. LaMark Brown (2 catches, 15 yards), Nance (2 catches, 12 yards), and Marcus Jackson (2 catches, 8 yards) also produced in the passing game. Matt Bryant had no field goal attempts on the night. Matt Bosher had a good night as he punted 7 times for an average of 47.3 yards with 3 placed inside the 20-yard line. James Rodgers returned a single kickoff for 27 yards, while Tim Toone and Dominique Franks each had a punt return for 8 and 4 yards, respectively.
Defensively, the Falcons backups played most of the game and had their struggles to get off the field at times. While the Jaguars only converted 4 of 13 third downs, they won time of possession by holding the ball for 11 more minutes than the Falcons did. Pat Schiller and Akeem Dent led the team in tackles, each with 8 stops. Dominique Franks (5 tackles, 1 INT); Robert James (3 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (4 tackles); Cliff Matthews (4 tackles, 1 forced fumble); Robert McClain (3 tackles); Charles Mitchell (5 tackles); Peyton Thompson (5 tackles); and Vance Walker (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery) all had noteworthy nights.
The game started with a vengeance for the Falcons, as Blaine Gabbert took the first offensive play from his own 14-yard line and botched the snap and handoff, with Vance Walker in on the recovery. On the next play, Davis handed the ball off to Jacquizz Rodgers, who broke a tackle to run into the endzone on a 5-yard scoring run. The Falcons took a 7-point lead 10 seconds into the game. The Jaguars took the ball to midfield on their next drive, but a Gabbert pass was overthrown on third down leading to a Jaguars punt. The ensuing Falcons drive began with a false start on Peter Konz, but Jacquizz Rodgers got most of that yardage back on the next play on an 11-yard gain. Davis was able to find Marcus Jackson on 3rd & 3 to extend the drive, but was sacked on a later third down to force a 60-yard punt by Bosher. The Jaguars took over on their own 23-yard line with 8:49 left in the first quarter. They managed to chew clock on an 18-play drive which only ended two minutes into the second quarter. On that long drive the Jaguars were able to convert a pair of third downs as well as a fourth down to put the ball all the way to the 1-yard line. But on a 4th & goal from the Falcons 1-yard line, Gabbert’s pass was incomplete and the defense held. With the Falcons taking over at their one-yard line, Davis was able to convert a pair of third downs to move the ball to midfield. But a 3rd & 10 pass to Kevin Cone was droped, and Bosher was once again asked to punt, pinning the Jaguars at their own 12-yard line. A three-and-out later, and the Falcons had the ball back again. But Davis threw behind receiver Drew Davis, where J.K. Schaffer stepped in front and picked off the pass giving the Jaguars the ball back at midfield. Jaguars running back Jalen Parmele took over, bursting up the field on three consecutive carries for 34 yards to put the ball at the Falcons 14-yard line. On the next play, he was met by Chris Hope near the goalline, but was able to extend the ball across for a score on a 14-yard run. That tied the game with 3 minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Falcons offense suffered a three-and-out, giving the ball back to Jacksonville. They began to move the ball again, until Chad Henne’s pass to Keith Toston was tipped and landed in the waiting arms of Dominique Franks. The Falcons took over with 46 seconds left in the half at their own 12, and Davis took a knee twice to end the first half.
On the first play of the second half, Davis hit Antone Smith on a screen pass for a 31-yard gain putting the Falcons in Jaguar territory. But they could not convert and wound up punting the ball away four plays later. This time Peyton Thompson took advantage of a favorable bounce on the 38-yard punt by Bosher and downed the ball at the Jaguars 1-yard line. However despite the favorable field position, on the fourth play of the Jaguars drive, Henne hit Kevin Elliott, who broke a trio of tackles and ran unhindered for a 77-yard score to give the Jaguars a 14-7 led with less than 11 minutes to go in the quarter. The Falcons were able to recover, putting together a quick scoring drive of their own thanks to a 49-yard touchdown catch by Kevin Cone. On the fourth play of the drive, Davis hit Cone on a quick slant, but Cone broke a pair of tackles and outran the Jaguars defense to get in the endzone, tying the game with 8:31 left in the third. Both teams swapped three-and-outs. Bosher was able to pin the Jaguars at their own 4-yard line with 5:17 left in the third quarter. Jordan Palmer along with a steady ground game helped foster another long drive by Jacksonville. With the fourth quarter beginning, the Jaguars found themselves at the Falcon 18-yard line on 3rd & 1. But Jonathan Massaquoi broke through the line and stopped Keith Toston for a 3-yard loss to force a field goal. Josh Scobee came on the field and hit a 39-yarder to push the Jaguars lead to 3 points with 14:20 left in the game. Davis was sacked on 3rd & 4, causing a three-and-out. But the Falcons defense held the Jaguars to a three-and-out of their own. The Falcons could not take advantage and Bosher punted again to give the Jaguars the ball back with 8:26 remaining. The Jaguars ground game helped bleed clock on the ensuing drive. Jordan Palmer hit Cecil Shorts for an 18-yard gain on 3rd & 5 to put the ball at the Falcons 30-yard line. The running game took over as Keith Toston and Richard Murphy ran the ball in the rest of the way. It was capped by a 5-yard scoring run by Murphy running untouched into the endzone. Now down 10 points with little more than 3 minutes left, the Falcons tried to move the ball. But on the third play of the ensuing drive, a ball went through the hands of LaMark Brown and into the waiting arms of Antonio Denard. The Jaguars ate clock with four runs before giving the ball back to Atlanta with less than a minute. The Falcons from their own 30-yard line opted to let the clock tick down with three straight runs to Antone Smith, content to take the loss and avoid injury before the regular season.
Tomorrow night at 9:00 pm Eastern will be the deadline for when teams are asked to get their rosters down to 53 players. The Falcons will need to cut nearly two dozen players to make that happen. On Saturday, many of the players released on Friday will be signed to the practice squad. From then, the Falcons will have their roster set and be preparing for their regular season opener on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Falcons last outing against the Chiefs came in 2008, where they won big by a score of 38-14 in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons will be looking for their first win ever at Arrowhead Stadium, as they are 0-3 all-time there. The Falcons have yet to win a regular season opener on the road in the Mike Smith era, losing their last two openers when on the road.