Falcons Get First Victory With 35-28 Win Over Raiders

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY SportsMatt Ryan fist pumps after a third-quarter touchdown

The Atlanta Falcons earned their first win of the 2016 season with a 35-28 road victory over the Oakland Raiders. A tightly contested game throughout, the Falcons were able to get two fourth-quarter scores to seal away the victory.

Quarterback Matt Ryan led the way by completing 26 of 34 passes for 396 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He was well protected by a venerated Raiders pass rush, who only dropped him for a sack once. Running back Devonta Freeman led the way on the ground with 93 rushing yards on 17 carries. Backup Tevin Coleman produced a score, while finishing the game with 46 yards on 12 carries.

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Julio Jones led Falcons receivers with 105 yards and a touchdown

In the air, wide receiver Julio Jones was resurgent after a quiet first week by leading the team with 106 receiving yards on five receptions with a touchdown. Tight end Jacob Tamme added five grabs himself for 75 yards and a touchdown of his own. Backup tight end Austin Hooper caught three passes for 84 yards, while Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu also each had three receptions for 28 and 19 yards, respectively. Justin Hardy caught the other touchdown with his only reception of the day being an eight-yard score.

Kicker Matt Bryant connected on both of his field-goal tries from 21 and 20 yards out. Matt Bosher had three punts for an average of 44 yards, with one placed inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems returned a pair of punts for 74 yards, including a 73-yard return. Aldrick Robinson had the team’s lone kickoff return for 11 yards.

The Falcons offense was able to produce 528 total yards, their most since their season-opening win against the New Orleans Saints in 2014 when they tallied 568 yards. The team’s 139 rushing yards were the most in their last 11 games dating back to the middle of the 2015 season. The team improved in the red zone, able to convert three of six trips into touchdowns. The Falcons were especially better in the second half of the game, with 249 of their 389 passing yards coming then and converting three of four third-down attempts and three of four red-zone trips. The big play was a big part of the Falcons offensive success, with seven plays of 20 or more yards generated against the Raiders.

The Raiders were able to put up 454 total yards, with 287 coming in the second half when they were mostly playing from behind. However the Falcons defense was able to hold them to five of 12 successful third-down conversions, with the Raiders only converting two of six in the second half. The Raiders however were able to finish the game with 155 rushing yards and convert three of three red-zone trips into touchdowns.

Safety Kemal Ishmael led the Falcons defense with 15 tackles and also had a pass breakup. Cornerback Robert Alford (five tackles); safety Ricardo Allen (seven tackles); defensive end Vic Beasley (two tackles, one sack); linebacker Deion Jones (10 tackles); cornerback Desmond Trufant (four tackles, one pass breakup) and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (nine tackles) had notable games.

Ryan’s first pass is to Jones for nine yards to start their first drive off well. Freeman made a nice cut in the hole to avoid an oncoming defender and gained eight yards on second down. Ryan is sacked for a seven-yard loss on his next dropback, with Raiders defensive tackle Stacy McGee overpowering right guard Chris Chester up the middle. Ryan then hit Tamme over the middle for 14 yards to set up a 3rd-and-3. However offsides on Raiders defensive end Jihad Ward gave Falcons a free first down. Toss left to Freeman got a seven-yard gain before the running back converted another first down on his next carry of three yards. After a false start by right tackle Ryan Schraeder, Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack blew past left tackle Jake Matthews to hit Ryan and force an incompletion. That set up a 3rd-and-9, during which Ryan was pressured and no receiving got open, leading to an incomplete pass to Tamme. The Falcons punted and Bosher’s high kick forced the Raiders to start their first possession at their six-yard line.

Deion Jones missed a tackle in the hole against Raiders running back Latavis Murray, who gained nine yards for a first down on the Raiders’ second play from scrimmage. Two plays later Weatherspoon mad a tackle in the flat against tight end Lee Smith for a gain of one yard leading to a 3rd-and-5. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr checked down to tight end Clive Walford and Ishmael came up to make the stop and force a punt. Marquette King boomed a 64-yard punt that pushed the Falcons to start their next drive at the four-yard line, thanks to a holding penalty on Falcons linebacker LaRoy Reynolds pushing them even further back.

The Falcons were unable to move the ball with an incomplete pass and a run for no gain from Coleman to start the series. Gabriel then made his first grab as a Falcon for an 11-yard gain to convert on third down. Two runs by Coleman gained a combined six yards and Falcons then found themselves in a 3rd-and-4 situation. Ryan extended the play outside the pocket but his throw while rolling left was too high to Hardy for an incompletion. Bosher booted a punt 43 yards, with the Raiders starting their drive at their 36-yard line.

A screen pass to Cooper went for five yards before Deion Jones was able to cut him down in pursuit. Carr threw a fade to Cooper on the next play but it’s overthrown with Trufant in tight coverage. Yet an offsides penalty on Derrick Shelby gifted the Raiders a first down on 3rd-and-5. After a pair of short runs by the Raiders, the Falcons defense faced another 3rd-and-6 situation. Trufant broke up a crossing pattern to Cooper but his knee buckled upon a bad landing after a jumping celebration at the end of the play. He exited the game but was able to return on the next series. King’s 40-yard punt was downed at the Falcons nine-yard line and they started another drive backed up near their end zone.

Freeman found room on his first two carries of the drive, gaining a combined 17 yards to start the Falcons drive. Ryan’s first pass connected to Tamme on a rollout for a gain of 15 yards. Coleman then gained six yards up the middle on his carry, followed by another Ryan rollout to the opposite side of the field, where he hit Hooper for six yards to close out the first quarter. Ryan threw a deep comeback to Robinson off play action for 20 yards to start the second quarter. Ryan then hit Toilolo on a rollout in the flat for a 16-yard gain to put the ball in the red zone. Freeman got two carries for a combined six yards up the middle, setting up a 3rd-and-4 from the Raiders five-yard line. Ryan went for Sanu on the speed out in the flat, but the pass was deflected by a Raiders defender and Sanu was only able to gain one yard before cornerback Sean Smith brought him down for the stop. Matt Bryant kicked a 21-yard field goal to give the Falcons the first lead of the game at 3-0 with 11:58 left in the second quarter.

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Robert Alford’s interception is negated by a pass interference flag

Carr started the next Raiders drive by throwing over Ishmael to wide receiver Michael Crabtree for a 10-yard gain. Two plays later, Murray made a 10-yard grab in the flat to convert for a first down. Two plays after that, Raiders wideout Seth Roberts made a quick three-yard grab in the flat to set up a 3rd-and-6. On third down, Cooper made a leaping grab over the middle for a big 25-yard gain to get the ball into Falcons territory. Carr then dialed up a deep shot to Crabtree, but overthrew him with Alford making a leaping interception in the end zone. However the Falcons cornerback pushed off just before making the grab and was called for pass interference. That put the ball at the Falcons one-yard line and Murray punched it in on the next play, giving the Raiders a 7-3 lead with less than eight minutes left in the first half.

On the second play from scrimmage on the ensuing Falcons series, Ryan underthrew Sanu on a deep crossing pattern. Ryan then hit Tamme for the second time on the drive for a 19-yard gain to move the ball into Raiders territory. Ryan threw behind Sanu on second down for another incomplete pass. Robinson made a nice diving grab over the middle to convert on a 10-yard catch on the ensuing third down. Freeman found room on the counter up the middle for nine yards before converting on a two-yard run up the middle on the next down. Two plays later Jones sped past Sean Smith untouched on a slant for a 21-yard touchdown. That allowed the Falcons to retake the lead 10-7 with 4:46 left in the half.

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Eric Weems celebrates with a teammate after a 73-yard punt return

Raiders running back Taiwan Jones muffed the kickoff but recovers at their two-yard line. Crabtree made a nine-yard grab in the flat on a swing pass, followed by running back DeAndre Washington burst up the middle for a big 26-yard gain before Ricardo Allen dragged him down from behind. On the next play, Tyson Jackson nailed Carr from behind, but not before he was able to complete a six-yard check down in the flat to Washington. A holding call on Lee Smith pushed the Raiders back to a 2nd-and-14, which resulted in Carr scrambling out of bounds for a gain of no yards, which counted for the Falcons’ first sack of the season. The credit was given to Vic Beasley, who was the closest Falcon defender. That brought about the two-minute warning, with the Raiders having the ball at their 33-yard line. Weatherspoon delivered a nice hit on Walford on third down after a three-yard gain to force another Raiders punt. Weems found a wall of blockers after a 55-yard punt by King, returning the kick 73 yards before King saved a touchdown with a horse-collar tackle from behind. That penalty tacked on an additional nine yards and the Falcons started their final series of the first half at the Raiders nine-yard line.

The Falcons proceeded to feed Coleman on first and second down, who gained three yards on each play. Then on 3rd-and-goal from three-yard line, the Falcons dialed up a quick screen to Coleman, who was quickly stopped by Raiders linebacker Malcolm Smith for a one-yard gain. Despite the favorable field position gifted by the big special-teams play from Weems, the Falcons wound up settling for another field goal. Bryant hit the 20-yard kick and the Falcons extended their lead to 13-7 with 38 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Raiders proceeded to move the ball downfield with a series of short throws, with Carr completing his first four passes on the drive for a combined 23 yards before the Raiders used their first timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock. Carr then avoided pressure and flipped a pass to Lee Smith, who got out of bounds a four-yard gain at the Falcons 48-yard line with nine seconds left in the half. Walford dropped a quick slant on the next down, which could’ve put the Raiders firmly in field-goal range. With six seconds left the Raiders threw to Roberts on a pick play, gaining eight yards before he got out of bounds with two seconds left. Sebastian Janikowski then attempted a very long 58-yard field goal, but the kick was wide left and well short, pulling the first half to a close with the Raiders still down 13-7.

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Raiders TE Clive Walford dives for the end zone on a touchdown

The Raiders started the opening possession of the second half with Carr hitting Crabtree along the sideline for a quick 10-yard gain. Murray then ran twice up the middle for a gain of seven combined yards on the next two downs. On third down, a quick slant to Roberts was off the mark and the Raiders were forced to punt. King booted a 64-yard punt, which resulted in a touchback. However Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio challenged whether the Falcons had 12 men on the field and after an official review, the penalty was called with Falcons safety DaShon Goldson unable to get off the field in time before the ball was snapped. That gifted the Raiders a first down at their 41-yard line, which they subsequently fully took advantage of. On their next offensive snap, wide receiver Johnny Holton took an end-around 14 yards before he was knocked out of bounds. Carr’s next pass connected with Lee Smith for a 12-yard gain, which was followed by a seven-yard run by Murray. Carr then hit Walford on a deep pass, who walked into the end zone after Trufant slipped on the coverage for a 31-yard score. That allowed the Raiders to retake the lead 14-13 with little more than 11 minutes to go in the third quarter.

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David Amerson picks off Matt Ryan in the end zone

The Falcon responded quickly with Ryan’s first pass going for 44 yards on a connection with Hooper after stepping up in the pocket and finding the rookie tight end streaking behind the defense in a busted coverage. Freeman then carried the ball 18 yards after breaking a tackle on a run to the right side. Ryan tried to force a throw to Tamme in the end zone, but threw behind the tight end and it was picked off by a leaping Raiders cornerback David Amerson for a touchback.

The Raiders looked to capitalize with a 28-yard run by Richard on a draw play, but the big gain was nullified by a holding call on right guard Gabe Jackson.  Richard however made Weatherspoon miss in the flat before being dragged down by Deion Jones on a 10-yard reception to bring about a 3rd-and-9. Carr then hit Cooper on a comeback along the sideline near the sticks, but it was initially ruled an eight-yard completion and the Raiders were forced to punt.  However Del Rio challenged the spot of the ball and the initial ruling was overturned with Cooper getting a first down on a nine-yard reception. However the Falcons defense subsequently stepped up with Carr missing a first-down throw to Crabtree, followed by a solid stop for no gain by Vic Beasley on Richard. On the ensuing third down, Ishmael made a nice open-field tackle on Murray after a three-yard gain to force another King punt.

Ryan connected with Coleman on first down for a 24-yard gain on a slant. The Falcons’ next play was a play-action fake that involved a throwback from Ryan to Hooper, who snuck out the back door for a 34-yard gain. That put the ball deep in Raiders territory. Three plays later, Ryan rolled out of the pocket once more before finding Tamme underneath. The tight end turned it up after the catch before diving in the end zone for a 14-yard score. The Falcons opted to go for two points, going with an empty backfield. It fooled the Raiders, as Ryan ran a quarterback draw for the conversion and the Falcons had a 21-14 lead with 3:42 left in the third quarter.

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Michael Crabtree celebrates after a two-yard touchdown

On second down of the ensuing Raiders series, Murray was able to avoid Jonathan Babineaux’s penetration in the backfield and bounce the play to the edge for a 15-yard gain. Carr then scrambled for a five-yard gain followed by a seven-yard completion to Walford. Two runs by Washington gained nine yards to set up a 3rd-and-1 as the third quarter came to a close. Fullback Jamize Olawale found a gaping hole up the middle for an 11-yard gain, dragging cornerback Brian Poole in the process. Two plays later, Murray bounced a play to the edge and gained 18 yards before he was knocked out of bounds at the Falcons two-yard line.  But on the next play, Jones came downhill with bad intentions to stuff Murray for no gain on a run up the middle. Carr rolled out of the pocket on second down, but his pass to Cooper in the end zone was deflected by both Ishmael and Allen to fall incomplete. Adrian Clayborn then flushed Carr out of the pocket on third down, but his pass was incomplete out of the back of the end zone to wide receiver Andre Holmes. Del Rio opted to go for it on 4th-and-goal and Carr connected with Crabtree on a quick slant thanks to a pick on Alford for the two-yard touchdown. That tied the game 21-21 with exactly 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

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Justin Hardy makes a leaping touchdown grab off a deflection

The Falcons responded with a strong drive on their ensuing possession. Freeman gained 12 yards on a run off the right side to start the drive. Ryan then connected with Jones on his next two passes, the first one being for eight yards before dialing up a bomb off play action for 48 yards. That put the ball at the Raiders 12-yard line, with the Falcons quickly facing a 3rd-and-6 from the eight-yard line after two gains of minimal yards on first and second down. Ryan tried a quick slant to Coleman, but the ball deflected off his chest and high into the air. Luckily Hardy was there to catch the deflection for a touchdown, resulting in an eight-yard score and pushing the Falcons’ lead to 28-21 with nine-and-a-half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

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Amari Cooper streaks past Desmond Trufant for a touchdown but it’s nullified by a penalty

The Falcons defense once again responded with a quick stop, with Carr’s pass to Cooper on third down being overthrown. But the three-and-out was nullified thanks to Trufant being flagged for pass interference on the play and giving the Raiders a fresh set of downs at their 41-yard line. After a pair of runs by Richard for a combined eight yards, Carr was able to avoid Falcons pressure and find an open Cooper on a scramble drill, who snuck past Trufant untouched for a 51-yard touchdown. However Cooper was flagged for illegal touching after going out of bounds before the catch and the score was nullified. That brought about another 4th-and-2 situation for the Raiders, with Del Rio opting to go for it from their 49-yard line with 7:16 left in the game. Richard was stopped after a gain of one yard by Ishmael and the Falcons took over at midfield with 7:12 left.

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Tevin Coleman reaches across the goal line for a touchdown

Freeman gained seven combined yards on the first two plays, with the Falcons soon facing a critical 3rd-and-3. Ryan’s pass was deflected at the line, but luckily Toilolo found himself in the right place to make the five-yard grab and conversion. With the Raiders on their heels, Ryan and the Falcons dialed up a play-action fake to Freeman and then hit Jones for a gain of 20 yards on a slant. After an offsides penalty on the Raiders, Coleman broke a couple of tackles on a 13-yard run up the middle for a touchdown to push Atlanta’s lead to 35-21 with 4:35 left in the game.

Similar to the drive at the end of the first half, Carr would connect on several of his passes to move the Raiders quickly downfield. After an initial overthrow to Roberts out of bounds, Carr completed his next five passes for a combined 68 yards to get the ball down to the Falcons six-yard line. Carr’s next incompletion came when he couldn’t find an open receiver and threw it out of bounds to bring about a 2nd-and-goal. Carr connected on his next pass however, getting outside the pocket and finding Holmes in the back of the end zone for a six-yard score to cut the Falcon lead to seven points with 2:12 left in the game.

Instead of gambling on the onside kick, the Raiders kicked it deep with only Robinson back on the return. He was stopped at the Falcons 13-yard line. After a run for a loss of one yard by Freeman on first down, the Falcons dialed up a play-action fake and screen pass to Gabriel, who gained eight yards just as the two-minute warning hit. The Falcons converted with a 15-yard slant to Sanu, who was able to sneak open behind a bunch formation on the right side. That conversion forced the Raiders to use their second timeout with 1:49 left in the game. The next three plays for the Falcons were consecutive runs to Coleman, gaining just five yards but forcing the Raiders to use their final timeout. The Falcons used a timeout to stop the clock with 10 seconds left before Bosher booted a 60-yard punt in the end zone for a touchback.

With just two seconds remaining, Carr hit Cooper on a slant for a 17-yard slant before he lateraled it backwards. After a few more laterals, Crabtree was pushed out of bounds at the Raiders 26-yard line after the clock expired and the Falcons held onto the win.

The Falcons will travel next week to face their NFC South division rival New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, who have begun the year 0-2. Since Ryan joined the Falcons in 2008, the team is 1-5 in primetime road games, with their only victory coming on a Saturday night contest against the Detroit Lions back in 2011. That includes four Monday night losses, including two to the Saints in 2009 and 2011, respectively. Overall Ryan has a 2-6 record as a starter on Monday night while the Saints have a 10-4 record on Monday nights since Drew Brees took over quarterback back in 2006. That includes a 7-3 record at home.

The Falcons are 2-8 when facing the Saints on the road since 2006, with their most recent win coming in 2014 in a 30-14 victory. The Falcons are 4-3 in the second games of a consecutive road stands when the first game is a win. Meanwhile the Saints are 12-3 over the past four seasons when playing at home immediately after a road loss, which included a 10-game winning streak from the middle of 2012 through the 2014 season.

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Aaron Freeman
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