The Falcons looked sluggish and out of sorts in a 24-10 bruising at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals on the road today. The margin of the game probably could have been a lot more if not for the Bengals missing three field goals.
Matt Ryan struggled after seeing his fair share of pressure. He finished the day completing 24 of 44 passes for 231 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. Ryan was sacked just twice, but was hit a total of nine times by Bengals defenders. Steven Jackson led Falcons rushers with 46 yards on 11 carries. Julio Jones led receivers with seven catches for 88 yards and the team’s only touchdown. Roddy White (five catches, 42 yards) and Harry Douglas (four catches, 38 yards) also contributed to the passing game. Devin Hester was very quiet after a big Week 1 with just one catch for two yards. Matt Bryant scored the Falcons only other points with a 46-yard field goal. Matt Bosher punted six times for an average of 44.3 yards with two punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Hester had a single punt return for seven yards and four kickoff returns for 118 yards (29.5 avg). The Falcons offense really struggled on third downs, converting just three of 12 tries. They only converted one of six third-down attempts in the first half, when they generated just 98 yards of total offense after producing over 500 yards in Week 1. The team finished with just 309 total yards for the day and turned the ball over three times.
Defensively, the Falcons struggled mightily to stop the Bengals ground attack, allowing 170 yards. Bengals running backs Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill also were productive in the passing game, combining for another 99 yards there as the Bengals also threw for 302 yards. The Falcons did fare decently on third downs however, allowing six of 14 conversions by the Bengals, but much of that success was due to missed throws by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton saw almost no pressure as the Falcons were able to hit him just once all game. Paul Worrilow led Falcons defenders with 14 tackles. Robert Alford (five tackles, one tackle for loss); Jonathan Babineaux (two tackles, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit); Joplo Bartu (nine tackles); Kroy Biermann (six tackles); Dwight Lowery (six tackles); William Moore (six tackles); Prince Shembo (six tackles); Paul Soliai (six tackles, two tackles for loss); and Desmond Trufant (two tackles, one pass breakup) had notable games.
The Falcons didn’t do much on their opening drive. After Ryan hit White for an eight-yard gain on the second play to get a first, the Falcons got backed up by a false start penalty on Justin Blalock a few plays later. That set up a 3rd-and-12, which the Falcons weren’t close to converting on a five-yard check down to Douglas in the face of the Bengals blitz. That led to the Falcons first punt of the day.
The Bengals ground attack got off to a strong start with a pair of runs for a combined 19 yards by Bernard on the first two plays from scrimmage. Dalton then hit Hill for an 18-yard gain after he made Moore and Worrilow miss in the open field to put the ball in Falcons territory. The Bengals continued to dial up Bernard and Hill on their next four plays to get into the red zone. But the Falcons halted the drive thanks to overthrows by Dalton to open receivers in the end zone. Kicker Mike Nugent came onto the field to hit his first and only field goal of the day from 31 yards. The Bengals had a 3-0 lead with roughly five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Falcons converted a third down thanks to a defensive holding call on Adam Jones on the ensuing drive. A scramble by Ryan and a nine-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers got the Falcons two more first downs as they ventured deeper into Bengals territory. But the drive came to a screeching halt when Leon Hall broke up a third-down pass to Jones to force a 46-yard field goal from Matt Bryant, which was good to tie the score 3-3 with a minute remaining in the first quarter.
The Bengals got tricky on the first play of their next possession, with an end-around to Mohamed Sanu turning into a 50-yard strike to Brandon Tate to get the ball to the Falcons 24-yard line. However a few plays later, Dalton overthrew Dane Sanzenbacher in the end zone, and Nugent came out to try another field goal. But his 38-yard attempt was pushed wide right and the score remained tied at 3-3 with the second quarter beginning.
But the Falcons had a three-and-out thanks to Ryan slipping on his drop back on third down. Bosher’s punt would set up the Bengals to start their next drive at their 15-yard line. Dalton managed to find Sanzenbacher this time for a 16-yard gain on third down to move the chains. Two plays later, Bernard broke a 24-yard gain on a shovel pass. But once again the Bengals drive ground to a halt in Falcons territory, and Nugent tried another field goal. His 49-yarder sailed wide left and the Bengals still could not capitalize despite being able to successfully move the ball against the Falcons defense.
The Falcons dialed up a deep shot on the second play of the ensuing drive, but George Iloka wrested the ball away from Jones in the end zone for an incomplete pass. Ryan slipped once again on the next play, leading to a 10-yard sack by Carlos Dunlap. The Falcons bubble screen on third down went nowhere, and Bosher came out for another punt.
The Bengals took over with 7:31 left in the first half, but once again Bernard’s elusiveness broke open a big play for the Bengals offense with a 46-yard gain on a check down. After two runs by Hill, the Bengals found themselves at the Falcons eight-yard line. Four straight runs to Bernard followed, with the fourth being a leaping four-yard gain into the end zone to push the Bengals lead to 10-3 with 2:11 left in the half.
More pressure by Dunlap led to an incompletion by Ryan on second down on the ensuing Falcons possession. But on the following play, Ryan stepped up in the pocket and found Jones for a 20-yard gain. Pressure continued to plague Ryan on the series, leading to a third down where he scrambled around and could not find an open receiver to force another Bosher punt with 1:06 left in the half.
Sanzenbacher had another 26-yard catch over the middle to get the ball into Falcons territory with roughly 30 seconds left in the half. Three plays later, the Falcons stopped Jermaine Gresham on a one-yard grab before he could get out of bounds leading the clock to run out. But the Bengals managed to call a timeout with just one second left on the clock. Nugent tried again, this time from 55 yards out but still found no luck with his third miss of the afternoon. At halftime, the Falcons remained down 10-3 with the Bengals set to receive the ball to start the second half.
Both teams exchanged three-and-outs to start the second half. On the second Bengals offensive possession, the Falcons dialed up a blitz on third down, but Dalton was able to deliver it to Mohamed Sanu on a quick slant. Alford made a diving attempt to break up the pass, but could not and Sanu ran untouched for a 76-yard touchdown.
On the first play on the next Falcons series, Ryan’s pass to Toilolo was behind him and tipped by linebacker Vontaze Burfict into the arms of Leon Hall for an interception. The Bengals took over at the Falcons 43-yard line. Jeremy Hill took over for Bernard, rushing the ball six times for 16 yards, including a one-yard score up the middle. The Bengals lead was now 24-3 with 6:28 left in the third quarter.
Jacquizz Rodgers started the ensuing Falcons series with three runs for 11 yards, including giving the Falcons only their second third-down conversion of the day. That conversion set up a 19-yard grab by White on first down over the middle. The Falcons converted another third down two plays later with an 8-yard grab by White. A pair of runs by Steven Jackson moved the ball down to the Bengals 21-yard line, before Ryan threw behind Harry Douglas over the middle. leading to an Iloka interception at the two-yard line. Iloka returned it 14 yards and the Bengals had the ball back with the third quarter coming to a close.
The Bengals continued to rely on their ground game, able to move the ball near midfield with five consecutive runs that combined for 32 yards. But Dwight Lowery made a nice stop on a screen to Bernard to force a Bengals punt, and the Falcons took over with 12:34 left in the game at their 23-yard line.
Ryan found Jones over the middle on a deep comeback on the fourth play of the series, getting the ball into Bengals territory. A 15-yard pass on a slant to Antone Smith got the Falcons into the red zone for the first time on the day. But Reggie Nelson got a sack on a blitz, backing up the Falcons for a 3rd-and-19 at the Bengals 29-yard line. Pressure once again got to Ryan on the next play, but he was able to scramble around and find Jacquizz Rodgers for a 16-yard gain downfield. A holding call on Adam Jones wiped out the gain, but gave the Falcons a first down nonetheless. Three plays later, Ryan found an open Jones in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown. The Falcons were now down 24-10 with 8:35 left in the game.
The Falcons were poised to attempt an onside kick, but the Bengals called a timeout. But on the nullified play, Bengals reserve safety Shawn Williams laid out a Falcons player which gave the Falcons 15 more yards to work with. But Bosher’s second onside kick attempt was easily recovered by Cedric Peerman to give the Bengals the ball at their 41-yard line. But the Falcons defense held tough, forcing a three-and-out. But Kevin Huber’s punt was downed at the one-yard line by Clark Harris, backing up the Falcons to attempt a 99-yard scoring drive.
A 10-yard catch by Toilolo gave the Falcons some breathing room, but Ryan failed to complete his next three posses thanks to continued pressure by Dunlap, a break up by Terence Newman and Jones slipping on his route. The Falcons punted back to the Bengals with 4:29 left in the game.
The Bengals decided to continue to try and run out the clock, able to bleed two minutes off the clock with five runs before punting it back to the Falcons with 2:18 left in the game.
Ryan and the Falcons were able to move the ball near midfield, as he was able to complete his first five pass attempts for 52 yards. But White drew a personal foul penalty for pushing Reggie Nelson in the helmet after a low hit, backing up the Falcons on 3rd-and-25. Two plays later, Ryan had his second pass intercepted by Iloka on an overthrow to Douglas to pretty much seal the Bengals win.
The Bengals took over with 24 seconds left, knelt on the ball once and the game was over.
The Falcons will have to find a way to rebound quickly as they will return home to the Georgia Dome on a short week to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. The Falcons are 3-1 in Thursday night games under head coach Mike Smith, all of them being played at home. The Falcons were 2-4 last season in home games directly following road losses, however were 10-0 through Smith’s first five seasons in Atlanta in those same situations.