Falcons Blow Third-Quarter Lead Against Colts in 24-21 Loss

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsMatt Ryan is sandwiched between a pair of Colts defenders

The Atlanta Falcons dropped their third game in the row, losing to the Indianapolis Colts at home by a score of 24-21 on Sunday. The Falcons were up 21-7 midway through the third quarter before blowing their lead as Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning 43-yard field goal with 52 seconds left on the clock. The Falcons overall record now falls to 6-4 after a 5-0 start this season.

Matt Ryan made some mistakes on his way to 280 yards passing while completing 25 of 46 passes with a trio of touchdowns and interceptions each. Two of Ryan’s interceptions came in the fourth quarter, with a costly pick-six to Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson that allowed the Colts to tie the game. His final pick came on a desperation heave on the final play of the game that was snatched by tight end Coby Fleener.

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The Falcons running game was missing an injured Devonta Freeman

Rookie running back Tevin Coleman led the team in rushing with 48 yards on 17 carries, but had a costly fumble to start the third quarter. Devonta Freeman exited the game with a concussion on the Falcons second possession, finishing with three carries for 43 yards.

Julio Jones led the team in receiving with 160 yards on nine receptions. Leonard Hankerson caught one of Ryan’s touchdowns and finished the game with four receptions for 36 yards. Roddy White was more involved in the offense this week, but was still held to just four catches for 24 yards. Fullback Patrick DiMarco caught a career-high two touchdown passes, while snagging three receptions for 21 yards.

Matt Bryant missed his lone field-goal try of 46 yards. Punter Matt Bosher booted it five times, averaging 50.6 yards with three punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems returned one punt for one yard and one kickoff for 26 yards.

Offensively the Falcons fared well on paper, finishing with 375 total yards and converting half of their 16 third-down tries. They also converted touchdowns on three of their four red-zone trips. Their lone missed opportunity in the red zone came when a tipped pass to White was snagged by Colts safety Dwight Lowery in the end zone. Those four turnovers on offense were deadly, leading to seven Colts points and taking seven off the board for the Falcons.

Defensively, the Falcons held the Colts with backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to 276 total yards of offense. The Colts converted seven of 14 third-down tries and two of three red-zone trips. The Colts turned the ball over three times themselves but they led to no points by the Falcons.

Linebacker Justin Durant led the team with nine tackles. Robert Alford (three tackles), Ricardo Allen (three tackles, one interception), Kroy Biermann (six tackles, one sack, two quarterback hits), Adrian Clayborn (two tackles, two quarterback hits), Jalen Collins (three tackles), Charles Godfrey (three tackles), William Moore (four tackles), O’Brien Schofield (three tackles, one forced fumble), Paul Soliai (four tackles, one tackle for loss), Desmond Trufant (four tackles, one sack, two pass breakups) and Paul Worrilow (six tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery) all had notable performances.

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Paul Worrilow snags an interception on the opening series

The Colts started the game with good field position thanks to receiver Quan Bray returning the opening kick 36 yards. The Falcons defense stuffed running back Frank Gore on the opening play from scrimmage for no gain. Then on Hasselbeck’s first pass of the game, he was picked off by Worrilow when he missed Fleener. Worrilow returned the pick 11 yards, starting the Falcons off at the Colts 34-yard line.

The Falcons dialed up White on all three plays of the opening series, but twice Ryan’s passes to the receiver were broken up by Colts cornerbacks. All in all, the Falcons only gained five yards before opting for a 46-yard field goal from Bryant. After a late re-adjustment just before the snap, Bryant’s kick hit the right upright and bounce away for a miss, giving the Falcons no points off a turnover.

Biermann wrapped up running back Ahmad Bradshaw on the opening play of the next Colts possession, stopping him after a three-yard gain. Hasselbeck’s second pass to wide receiver Donte Moncrief was too short for the receiver, leading to a 3rd-and-7. Moncrief was able to get open and stiff arm Collins for an 11-yard gain on third down to get the conversion. Two plays later, Schofield was able to chase Gore from behind and strip him. Worrilow jumped on the loose ball and the Falcons once again had favorable field position at their 45-yard line to start their next drive.

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Dwight Lowery scoops up an interception in the end zone

They handed the ball off to Freeman on the first play, who broke to the right and found a lot of open space for a 39-yard gain before being finally brought down by Colts safety Clayton Geathers at the 16-yard line. The Falcons then tried Freeman up the middle twice, but both runs were for two yards each. On the latter run, Freeman got decked by a Colts defender and soon left the game with a concussion and would not return. ON the ensuing 3rd-and-6 from the Colts 12-yard line, Ryan tried to go back to White over the middle but the pass tipped off the receivers’ hands and was scooped by Lowery in the end zone. While the initial viewing suggested that the ball hit the ground before Lowery could secure it, upon review the officials confirmed the initial call of the interception and the touchback was confirmed.

Bradshaw snagged a two-yard pass and a six-yard run to start the next Colts possession. Hasselbeck then scrambled for three yards to convert on 3rd-and-2. Bradshaw’s next run was stopped for a two-yard loss thanks to penetration by Worrilow and Alford before the runner was finally dragged down by Brooks Reed and Biermann. Hasselbeck then hit wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in the flat for a six-yard gain to set up a 3rd-and-6. The Falcons gifted the Colts five yards thanks to a 12-men on the field penalty against the defense. But on 3rd-and-1, Gore was stuffed up the middle by Clayborn thanks to the penetration by Jonathan Babineaux tripping up the ballcarrier in the backfield. The Colts punted and the Falcons took over at their 20-yard line with 5:30 left on the first-quarter clock.

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Patrick DiMarco celebrates his first touchdown pass

Coleman’s first carry of the game went for no yards thanks to Jones missing a block against Geathers. Ryan hit on a deep throw to Hankerson along the left sideline for an 18-yard gain on the next play. Two plays later, Ryan rolled out of the pocket and tried to hit Jones but the throw went through the receivers’ hands. But Geathers was flagged for a defensive pass interference penalty and the Falcons got a new set of downs at the Colts 49-yard line. Ryan connected with Justin Hardy on his next pass on a shallow cross for a seven-yard gain. Backup running back Terron Ward was stuffed for a one-yard gain on the next play, setting up a 3rd-and-2. The Falcons were able to convert thanks to Ryan’s legs as the quarterback tucked it and ran up the middle for a six-yard gain. Ryan then threw low to Jones over the middle, leading to an incompletion. A draw to Coleman was stuffed for minus-one yard, setting up a 3rd-and-11 from the Colts 36-yard line. Initially Ryan was unable to find a receiver until White broke open late in the play, falling forward for a 12-yard gain and giving the Falcons a new set of downs. Coleman then broke off a nice run up the middle for nine yards before getting stuffed on the right side for no gain, setting up a rd-and-1 for the Falcons at the 15-yard line. There was a breakdown in the Colts secondary, leaving DiMarco wide open in the end zone for an easy 15-yard score to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead with two seconds left in the first quarter.

On the final play of the first quarter, Hasselbeck tried to go deep to Hilton but Trufant was able to wall off the explosive receiver and was in perfect position to break up the throw. Gore then gained nine yards on a draw up the middle to give the Colts a makable 3rd-and-1. They failed to convert thanks to pressure by Ra’Shede Hageman up the middle, allowing Biermann to loop around and get the sack on Hasselbeck from behind. The Colts punted, but the Falcons were pushed back 15 yards thanks to an unnecessary roughness call against Hardy on the return. That started the Falcons at their 17-yard line with 13:12 left in the second quarter.

On the second play from scrimmage, Ryan took a deep shot to Jones down the field. Colts cornerback Vontae Davis stumbled on the play, leaving Jones open to make the over-the-shoulder grab for 36 yards and putting the ball into Colts territory. Two plays later, Ryan dialed up Jones again on a deep cross as the receiver was able to gain 29 yards against Davis. Coleman was able to avoid penetration on the next play and get back to the line of scrimmage for a three-yard gain on the next play. Ward’s run on second down went for just one yard, setting up a 3rd-and-6 for the Falcons. Ryan hit Hankerson for seven yards with cornerback Darius Butler draped over him. Butler was flagged for pass interception, but the penalty was declined and the Falcons had the ball at the Colts four-yard line. The Falcons tried to pound it in, but Coleman was only able to gain a combined three yards on his next two carries. On 3rd-and-goal from the one-yard line, Ryan found an open DiMarco in the flat as the fullback made a nice diving catch for his second score of the game. The Falcons lead now stood at 14-0 with 8:54 left on the clock in the first half.

Two plays into the Colts drive, Moncrief was able to make a sliding grab in front of Trufant for seven yards to set up 3rd-and-1. A false start penalty on right guard Hugh Thornton pushed the Colts back five yards. But Hasselbeck was able to convert thanks to hitting wide receiver Griff Whalen on an out pass for 12 yards. Three plays later, the Falcons’ three-man rush wasn’t able to get home and Hasselbeck hit Fleener for a six-yard gain to convert the 3rd-and-5. The Colts crossed into Falcons territory on the next play thanks to Hasselbeck escaping the pocket to his left and throwing back across his body to the right sideline to Hilton. The Colts receiver was wide open and able to tiptoe along the sideline for a 15-yard gain. Gore powered his way through Collins in the flat for an eight-yard gain before Bradshaw converted on an 11-yard run off the left side to put the ball in the red zone. After a six-yard completion to Moncrief, Hasselbeck was able to scramble up the middle three yards before being brought down by Worrilow a yard shy of the sticks. On the ensuing 3rd-and-1, Bradsahaw was able to convert after a two-yard gain just as the two-minute warning hit with the ball at the Falcons seven-yard line. On the next play, Reed sold out for the pressure and Bradshaw was able to sneak behind him for the shovel pass and run untouched into the end zone for a seven-yard score. That put the Colts on the scoreboard for the first time, down 14-7 with 1:55 left in the first half.

Ryan dialed up Jones on the opening play of the ensuing Falcons series, hitting him on a crossing route for 15 yards over the middle. Then Ryan hit him on a slant for a nine-yard gain. On the next play, Ryan tried to step up in the pocket but was nearly tripped up by Colts outside linebacker Erik Walden and was able to flip it in the direction of White to avoid the sack as the pass fell incomplete. Walden then jumped offside on the ensuing 3rd-and-1 and the Falcons had a new set of downs at midfield. Ryan tried to hit Hankerson on an out pass, but the ball sailed out of bounds. Davis then decked Ward on Ryan’s check down, dropping the Falcons running back for a one-yard gain to set up 3rd-and-9 at the 50-yard line. Pressure by linebacker Jerrell Freeman flushed Ryan out of the pocket and he was chased down by Walden for a one-yard gain, forcing the Falcons to punt it back to the Colts with 31 seconds left in the half.

The Colts attempted one run to Gore, a three-yard gain before letting the clock expire, content to go into halftime down 14-7.

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Leonard Hankerson reaches for a touchdown

The Falcons received the opening kick of the second half. Ryan hit Jones on a comeback route to start the third quarter for a 13-yard gain. Then Jones broke open down the seam for a 28-yard gain on the next play, getting the ball into Colts territory. Coleman sprinted off the right side for a 10-yard gain, which was followed by a holding penalty against left tackle Jake Matthews calling back a one-yard run on the next play. The Falcons dialed up a screen pass to Jones on 1st-and-20, but it was blown up by Freeman for no gain. Ryan then tried to hit Hankerson over the middle, but the throw was ruled incomplete when he trapped it against the ground with cornerback Greg Toler in tight coverage. But an offside penalty on outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome gave the Falcons some yardage back and another shot at second down. After an eight-yard grab by Hankerson on a quick out, the Falcons were able to convert on 3rd-and-7 thanks to tight end Jacob Tamme snatching a Ryan pass over the middle for a 16-yard gain. That put the ball at the Colts 10-yard line. After a five-yard run by Coleman, Ryan dialed up White on a slant in the back of the end zone but the quarterback’s pass was too high. Then on 3rd-and-goal, Hankerson bobbled a slant over the middle. But an illegal hands penalty against Davis gave the Falcons a new set of downs from the Colts two-yard line. Penetration blew up the Falcons run to Coleman on 1st-and-goal, dropping the rookie for a one-yard loss. But Hankerson then redeemed himself for his previous drop, breaking open on a quick out and reaching the ball over the goal line for a three-yard score to push Atlanta’s lead to 21-7 with 9:38 left on the third-quarter clock. The Falcons scored on a 10-play, 80-yard drive.

The Falcons defense responded well with a stop on the next series. After a seven-yard gain by tight end Dwayne Allen on a Hasselbeck rollout, Gore’s run up the middle was stuffed for a two-yard gain by Biermann. On 3rd-and-1, pressure from Biermann forced Hasselbeck to lateral it to Colts right tackle Joe Reitz to avoid the sack. The big Colts offensive lineman ran for no gain, sliding before crossing the first-down line and forcing the Colts to punt after a three-and-out.

Coleman was able to break off the left side for a seven-yard gain to start the next Falcons series. The Falcons tried a bootleg to Ryan, but pressure force him to rush an errant throw to DiMarco. Ryan then found DiMarco on the next play, with the fullback converting on 3rd-and-3 with a five-yard gain in the flat. Pressure got to Ryan again on the next play and his attempt to check it down to Coleman underneath went in the turf. Two plays later, the Falcons were unable to convert on third down as pressure once again forced Ryan to throw it into the turf rather than take a sack. On the ensuing punt, Bray was able to find room up the middle before cutting back and gaining 42 yards before being dragged down by Bosher. However the huge gain was called back due to a holding call on linebacker Daniel Adongo, costing the Colts 52 yards of field position and starting their next drive out at their 10-yard line.

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Ahmad Bradshaw beats Brooks Reed for a score.

The Colts gained half of it back thanks to Hasselbeck standing in the face of pressure and hitting Fleener for a 26-yard gain. Soliai was then flagged for a questionable late hit penalty, gifting the Colts another 15 yards and they had the ball right back in Falcons territory. The Colts ran it twice to Gore, who gained a combined eightt yards to set up 3rd-and-2. Moncrief beat Collins on a curl route for a seven-yard gain, giving the Colts a new set of downs. Hasselbeck then missed a wide open Hilton a slant over the middle. Two plays later the Falcons were able to get pressure on a blitz, forcing Hasselbeck to overthrow his tight end in Allen. But Collins was flagged for defensive holding, giving the Colts a new set of downs at the Falcons 27-yard line. Durant did a good job two plays later to sniff out a screen to Gore and stuff it for a three-yard gain. Hasselbeck tried to take a deep shot to Fleener down the sideline and overthrew the pass in the end zone, but Falcons rookie cornerback Akeem King was flagged for pass interference for running into the tight end. That gave the Colts a 1st-and-goal situation at the two-yard line. Trufant was able to undercut a slant pass to Moncrief, breaking up a potential touchdown on first down. But Bradshaw was able to beat Reed in the flat and snag the two-yard score to cut Atlanta’s lead to 21-14 with 10 seconds left in the third quarter. The Colts had scored on a 10-play, 90-yard drive, able to convert two of their three third downs thanks to Falcons defensive penalties.

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Erik Walden delivers a hit to cause Tevin Coleman’s fumble

The third quarter came to a poor close as Coleman fumbled on the opening play of the ensuing Falcons series. Walden delivered a hit, putting his helmet squarely on the football and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was able to scoop up the loose ball at the Falcons 21-yard line.

To start the fourth quarter, Hasselbeck lobbed a deep pass to wide receiver Andre Johnson in the back of the end zone, but the veteran receiver was unable to get both feet in bounds to secure the catch. After a six-yard run by Bradshaw up the middle, the Colts had a 3rd-and-4 from the Falcons 15-yard line. Hasselbeck tried to hit Moncrief down the seam, but Ricardo Allen stepped in front of the receiver and returned the interception 13 yards to stop the Colts from capitalizing on Coleman’s turnover.

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Ricardo Allen is tripped up after making a touchdown-preventing interception

However the Falcons failed to capitalize on their own turnover. On first down, they dialed up a deep shot to Jones off a play-action fake, but Ryan badly under threw the receiver. Ryan then hit White, who made a nice diving catch for four yards along the sideline to set up a 3rd-and-6. But Ryan overthrew Hankerson along the sideline with heat coming from outside linebacker Trent Cole from behind. The Falcons punted after a three-and-out, and the Colts took over at their 32 with 12:46 left in the game.

Johnson was able to shake Durant on a shallow cross and gain 13 yards to start the Colts’ next drive. But a delayed blitz from Trufant dropped Hasselbeck for a nine-yard loss on the next play, pushing the Colts back. Fleener made up some of that with a 13-yard gain in the flat to set up a 3rd-and-6. The Falcons once again got pressure with a blitzing Philip Wheeler and Clayborn converging on Hasselbeck to force the quarterback to miss Whalen. The Colts punted it right back to the Falcons, but it took a good bounce and Moncrief was able to down it at the one-yard line before it went into the end zone.

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D’Qwell Jackson runs into the end zone past Matt Ryan on a pick-six

On Ryan’s first pass, the Falcons tried a play-action fake up the middle but Ryan didn’t see a waiting D’Qwell Jackson, who snatched his throw to Tamme and returned it six yards for a pick-six and score. The Colts had just tied the game with 10:07 left in the game.

The Falcons hit Jones for a 16-yard play on a deep in route on the second play of the ensuing series as the Falcons receiver made an excellent grab in traffic against Toler. Two plays later, a delayed blitz forced Ryan to check it down to Coleman but the ball tipped off the running back’s hands. That set up a 3rd-and-8 and the Falcons were unable to convert as Ryan overthrew Jones on a deep out. The Falcons punted it back to the Colts with 8:18 left in the game.

The defense got a necessary stop thanks to Durant, Soliai and Worrilow converging on Bradshaw to stuff him for a one-yard gain on first down. After a low snap from center Jonotthan Harrison, Hasselbeck rushed his throw to Fleener, who dropped it in the flat. Whalen was able to spin away from Godfrey on third down, but was eventually dragged down by Alford after a eight-yard gain, a yard shy of the sticks to force a Colts punt after a three-and-out.

The Falcons equally did little on their next possession with Freeman breaking up Ryan’s first-down pass to Tamme. Ryan was then sacked on a delayed blitz by Jackson up the middle. On the ensuing 3rd-and-15, Ryan was forced to check down to Ward thanks to pressure. Ward gained 11 yards, which wasn’t good enough nd the Falcons punted it back to the Colts with 4:54 left on the game clock.

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Adam Vinatieri hits the game-winning 43-yard field goal

Moore was able to make a nice stop in the flat to start the driving, tackling Gore for no gain on a quick throw. But Gore then broke for a 31-yard gain on a screen on the next play, putting the ball at midfield. A check down to Bradshaw gained nine yards before Soliai was able to stuff Gore for a loss of a yard on 2nd-and-1 as the two-minute warning hit. On 3rd-and-2, Collins was beat on a quick slant by Moncrief for seven yards, forcing the Falcons to use their first timeout. That also put the Colts firmly in field-goal range of Vinatieri. After a two-yard run by Gore, the Falcons used their second timeout to stop the clock with 1:48 left on the clock. Gore gained three more yards, costing the Falcons their final timeout. Bradshaw than was stopped by Hageman after a two-yard gain and the Falcons were unable to stop the clock. Vinatieri attempted a 43-yard kick and nailed it to push the Colts lead to 24-21 with 52 seconds left in the game.

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Coby Fleener seals the Colts win with an interception on a last-second hail mary

Weems returned the ensuing kickoff out to the 18-yard line, starting the Falcons drive with just 47 seconds left on the clock. Hankerson had a costly drop on first down over the middle. The Falcons did nothing on second down thanks to Freeman decking Ryan on a blitz up the middle and forcing an incomplete pass to Jones. Ryan then connected with Jones over the middle for a 14-yard gain but a few seconds were able to tick off the clock as Walden nudged the ball a little after the whistle, delaying the official from setting it. Ryan then hit Ward on a quick throw into the flat, who got out of bounds with 11 seconds left on the clock. Ryan was able to avoid the pressure and step up in the pocket to throw downfield to Jones between a pair of defenders, but the ball was knocked out of Jones’ hands as he was going to ground, wiping out a potential 32-yard pass. The play was reviewed by officials and confirmed to be an incompletion. That meant that the Falcons now just had five seconds left on the game clock at their 36-yard line on 3rd-and-6. The Falcons tried a quick throw to White that netted them just three yards to try and get them a smidge closer. With one second left on the clock, Ryan scrambled around and tried to heave up a hail mary, but it was snatched by Fleener at the 10-yard line to end the game.

The Falcons’ streak of six straight wins coming off their bye week was snapped by the Colts. They’ll look to rebound next week at home against the Minnesota Vikings (7-3). This will mark only the second time in 2015 that the Falcons have faced a team entering their matchup with a record above .500, with a Week Three win over the 2-0 Dallas Cowboys as their previous outcome. The Falcons have now lost two straight at home after starting the second 3-0 there. The Vikings have three straight on the road after starting the season 2-0. With a Sunday loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings will be looking to extend their streak with a fourth consecutive win immediately following a loss against the Falcons next week, a streak dating back to the end of 2014.

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