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Falcons Fall Short in Comeback Against Patriots

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Aqib Talib breaks up the potential game-tying pass to Roddy White in the final minute

The Atlanta Falcons mounted a late comeback, but ultimately fell short in a 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots. The Falcons were down 17 points with six minutes left in the fourth quarter and were in a position to tie the game with under a minute on the clock. But wide receiver Roddy White could not extend for Matt Ryan’s pass on fourth down with 41 seconds in the game, and the Patriots prevailed.

Matt Ryan looked a bit off on the night, but finished with a career-high 421 yards while completing 34 of 54 pass attempts. He also threw a pair of touchdowns with one interception. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers had a team-leading 32 yards on 7 carries (4.6 avg) while Jason Snelling added 26 yards on 8 carries (3.3 avg). Tony Gonzalez had an excellent night, catching 12 passes for 149 yards (12.4 avg) and both of Ryan’s touchdown passes. Julio Jones (6 catches, 108 yards), Rodgers (6 catches, 56 yards), and Harry Douglas (5 catches, 68 yards) also made notable contributions in the passing game. Matt Bryant connected on all three of his field goal attempts from 23, 45, and 25 yards. Matt Bosher had a trio of punts for an average of 45.7 yards, with a pair placed inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas returned one punt for six yards, while Rodgers had a single kickoff return for 29 yards. The Falcons continue to struggle to convert in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on only one of six trips there. While they managed to convert 5 of 8 third down attempts in the first half, that fell to only 1 of 6 in the second half.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a season-high 448 total yards, including 288 in the second half. The Patriots were able to convert 7 of 13 third downs and scored touchdowns on 2 of 3 red zone trips. They also gave up a season-high 132 yards on the ground, largely thanks to a 47-yard scoring run by LeGarrette Blount. Akeem Dent led defenders with 8 tackles on the night, including one for loss, although an injury forced him to exit from the game late. Robert Alford (4 tackles); Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 2 QB hits); Joplo Bartu (6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Robert McClain (4 tackles); William Moore (4 tackles);Corey Peters (5 tackles); Desmond Trufant (6 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles) had noteworthy games.

The Falcons started the game getting Tony Gonzalez involved, as he caught both of Matt Ryan’s first two pass attempts for a combined 29 yards that moved the ball into Patriots’ territory. Six plays later the Falcons found themselves in the red zone for the first time on the evening. Ryan would hit Roddy White for a 14-yard pass along the sideline to get the ball down to the Patriots’ 6-yard line. But he was unable to move the ball on his next three passes, with a pair going out of the back of the end zone as he couldn’t locate open receivers. That led to a 23-yard field goal from Matt Bryant to give the Falcons an early 3-0 lead.

The Patriots couldn’t respond thanks an illegal shift penalty negating Tom Brady’s 2-yard sneak that converted a 3rd-and-1 play. Brady’s pass on 3rd-and-6 was dropped by Kenbrell Thompkins and the Patriots punted it back to the Falcons.

But penalties killed the Falcons’ next drive. Left tackle Sam Baker was called for holding on first down to push Atlanta back ten yards. Then he was flagged for a face mask penalty two plays later, backing Atlanta up to a 2nd-and-24 at their own 11. Two plays later, the Falcons were punting it right back to the Patriots.

The Patriots running game got into the act on the next series. They would run it six consecutive times for 41 yards to close out the first quarter. That would put the ball at the Falcons own 10-yard line. Three more runs would get the ball down to the 1-yard line. On the third run, Brandon Bolden would run off the left side and run over Desmond Trufant for a 3-yard score, but upon further review by the booth the touchdown was overturned and Bolden’s knee was down before he could reach across the goal line. After William Moore and Stephen Nicholas stuffed Stevan Ridley on the next play at the half-yard line, Tom Brady found an open Matthew Mulligan in the end zone, splitting Moore and Akeem Dent for the score. That gave the Patriots a 7-3 lead with 12:36 left in the first half.

Ryan would dial up Gonzalez again on the ensuing drive, as he caught a pair of passes to kick things off including a 13-yard grab that had another 15 yards tacked on due to a face mask penalty against Patriots linebacker Don’ta Hightower. That put the ball in Patriots territory. Ryan would convert a pair of third downs to get the ball into red zone once more. A few plays later, Ryan’s dump-off to Jason Snelling for 8 yards on the next third down set up a 4th-and-2 from New England’s 7-yard line. Mike Smith opted to go for it, and Ryan missed a wide open Roddy White to give the Patriots the ball back.

The Patriots made the Falcons pay as they proceeded to drive down the field, thanks largely to a 49-yard pass from Tom Brady to Thompkins, where he beat William Moore on a jump ball. But the Falcons defense stepped up after that point as Brady was unable to complete his next two passes. That set up a 48-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski and New England had a 10-3 lead with 3:22 left in the first half.

Gonzalez continued to shine, opening the ensuing Falcons’ series with a pair of catches for a combined 25 yards. A 5-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers followed by a 17-yard catch got the val into Patriots’ territory as the two-minute warning hit. Jason Snelling got the carry for a 9-yard gain afterwards setting up a 2nd-and-1. He converted two plays later on a 3-yard run to get the ball to the Patriots’ 21-yard line. Ryan would hit Gonzalez on the sideline, who would shake a defender and sprint roughly 10 yards into the end zone for a score. That tied the game 10-10 with 36 seconds left in the half. Tom Brady would kneel and the first half was over.

New England opened up the second half with a penalty-ridden drive of their own. Logan Mankins’ first down hold set them back, which was quickly followed by another illegal shift penalty. Two plays later, the Patriots were punting the ball to the Falcons.

With promising field position at their own 42-yard line, the Falcons offense didn’t get anything after the initial 13-yard pass play to Rodgers. And they punted after Ryan’s pass to Julio Jones was behind him on the shallow cross on 3rd-and-7. Matt Bosher’s 35-yard punt however was downed at the Patriots own 7-yard line.

But the Patriots offense got out of their rut. Desmond Trufant would get beat for an 18-yard gain by Thompkins. That was followed by Robert McClain getting beat by Julian Edelman for 17 yards two plays later. On the ensuing play, Edelman beat Joplo Bartu for a big 34-yard gain over the middle, putting the ball in Atlanta territory and the red zone. After a third down conversion to Edelman put the ball at the Falcons’ 8-yard line, the Falcons defense held. Trufant broke up a pass to Thompkins in the end zone, which was followed by Brady missing on a pass to Dobson on third down. That forced a 22-yard field goal from Gostkowski to push New England’s lead to 13-10 with 5:24 left in the third quarter.

The Falcons moved to their no-huddle attack on the ensuing drive and were able to move the ball downfield into Patriots territory thanks to a pair of runs by Jason Snelling and a pair of passes from Ryan. But Peter Konz was beat by Joe Vellano on first down at New England’s 47-yard line, which pushed the Falcons back to a 2nd-and-23. The Falcons couldn’t overcome and Bosher came out to put again, forcing a fair catch at the Patriots’ 11-yard line.

The Falcons defense seemingly made a stop on 3rd-and-5 when McClain tackled Josh Boyce a yard shy of the sticks on a crossing pattern, but Akeem Dent was flagged for defensive holding downfield. Jonathan Massaquoi made a nice stop in the backfield on second down two plays later to close out the third quarter. After a false start penalty backed up the Patriots to 3rd-and-19 at their own 12-yard line, Brady hit Thompkins for a big play over the middle to convert on an improbable 26-yard gain. William Moore got flagged for a personal foul penalty for targeting Thompkins which tacked on another 15 yards. LeGarrette Blount burst up the middle, practically untouched on the ensuing play, and scampered 47 yards for a touchdown. Dent would be injured on that play. That gave New England a 20-10 lead with 14:26 left in the game.

The Falcons would find success on the ensuing drive, thanks to a pass interference penalty called against Aqib Talib on a deep pass to Roddy White. That the Falcons 38 yards of field position. After moving the ball into the red zone, Ryan was sacked on 3rd-and-5 after holding onto the ball too long. Matt Bryant connected on a 45-yard field goal to cut the score to 20-13.

But the Patriots quickly responded, as Edelman beat McClain on an option route on 3rd-and-8 for 44 yards. On the next play, Brady found Thompkins who made an excellent diving catch in the end zone to beat Trufant for a score. THat pushed New England’s lead to 27-13 with 9:43 left in the game.

The Falcons and Matt Ryan got greedy on the opening play from scrimmage on their next series. Ryan tried to go deep to Jones, but missed on the throw and Aqib Talib made the interception. That gave New England the ball back at their own 41-yard line. They proceeded to try and run out the clock a bit, taking three minutes off the clock before settling for a 49-yard field goal from Gostkowski.

With 6:18 left in the game, Atlanta took over at their own 20. After Jones dropped a deep pass from Ryan on first down, he made a 17-yard catch along the sideline. He took a hard hit from Devin McCourty going out of bounds, but it was ruled a fumble rather than an incompletion. And due to the replay system being inoperative, the officials could not review the play. Three plays later, Ryan would find Harry Douglas on a crossing pattern, who scrambled after the catch for 40 yards. That put the ball at the Patriots’ 23-yard line. Offensive pass interference on Roddy White backed up the Falcons ten yards, but Ryan would connect with Gonzalez for 22 yards, followed by an 11-yard touchdown catch. That cut the Patriots’ lead to ten points with 4:22 left.

The Falcons would attempt the onside, which would bounce off a Patriot and into the hands of Stephen Nicholas. The Falcons took over at their own 48-yard line. Ryan found Douglas on a pair of passes which were followed up two plays later by a 20-yard catch from Jones. That put the ball back in the red zone. But again the Falcons offense stalled thanks to Levine Toilolo dropping a potential touchdown on third down. Bryant kicked a field goal from 25 yards and the score was now 30-23 with three minutes remaining.

Atlanta attempted another onside kick, but this time Michael Hoomanawanui recovered for New England. After a pair of runs, the two-minute warning hit and the Patriots had a 3rd-and-1 situation. Blount ran for no gain, but on a second effort fell near the sticks. But after a measurement it was ruled short, and upon review the replay was unable to determine a new spot for the ball. On 4th-and-inches, the Patriots tried to seal their win by going for it at the Falcons 37-yard line. But Brady fumbled the snap and the Falcons took over with 1:50 left in the game.

Ryan took a deep shot to Jones, who made an excellent catch over Devin McCourty for 49 yards. But Ryan was unable to connect on his next two throws to Douglas and Gonzalez. On 3rd-and-10 at New England’s 13-yard line, Ryan was forced to check down to Rodgers for a 3-yard gain. That set up 4th-and-7, and Ryan looked for White in the end zone, but he couldn’t make the diving catch against Talib.

The Patriots knelt twice and the game was over.

The Falcons will face their third consecutive AFC East opponent next week on the road against the New York Jets (2-2). They will get another chance to redeem themselves in primetime, this time on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

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Author: Aaron Freeman

Aaron is the founder of FalcFans.com.

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