Falcons Hold Off Ravens in 20-19 Win in Preseason Finale

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDan Quinn

The Atlanta Falcons pulled out a hard-fought victory over the Baltimore Ravens by a score of 20-19 in their 2015 preseason finale, ending the summer with a 2-2 record in exhibition games. Despite building a 20-6 lead early in the third quarter, the Ravens scored two late touchdowns but were unable to convert the go-ahead two-point conversion with under a minute left in the game to pull out the come-from-behind win. Both teams predominantly played their reserves in this game.

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Sean Renfree made a strong bid to be the Falcons’ backup quarterback in 2015

Matt Ryan however did play a single snap, opening the game with a handoff before giving way to Sean Renfree. Renfree played into the third quarter and completed 10 of 15 passes for 75 yards with a touchdown. Rex Grossman saw his first action in a Falcons uniform but looked rusty as he completed just four of nine passes for 41 yards.

The Falcons running game showed some life early on, with Terron Ward leading the team with 69 yards on 18 carries (3.8 avg). Tevin Coleman got the start and showed burst early before finishing the night with 56 yards on eight carries (7.0 avg). Collin Mooney scored a touchdown on his lone carry, which was a fumble recovery at the goal line, powering his way into the end zone for a one-yard score.

Nick Williams led receivers with six catches for 35 yards. Carlton Mitchell also impressed with a pair of receptions for 36 yards, including a 25-yard score. Justin Hardy added two catches for 16 yards, while tight ends Levine Toilolo and Jacob Tamme each reeled in a single pass for 16 and 13 yards, respectively.

Offensively, the Falcons generated 211 total yards, with 127 of that coming on the ground. The running game got off to a strong start, as the team generated 88 yards on 13 carries (6.8 avg) on their opening three possessions with Coleman receiving the bulk of the carries. But things stagnated after that as they had just 39 yards on their remaining 18 carries (2.2 avg). The team also gave up four sacks on the night, with both Renfree and Grossman being dropped twice. The Falcons offense was only able to convert three of their 12 third-down attempts.

Matt Bryant failed to connect on a 52-yard field goal after hitting kicks from 49 and 22 yards. Matt Bosher punted five times, averaging 52.4 yards with two punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Justin Hardy had a 70-yard punt return that nearly went for a score, finishing the night with three returns for 85 yards. Nick Williams also added a pair of punt returns for 34 yards. The Falcons had no kickoff returns as the Ravens booted four touchbacks. The Falcons’ special teams generated the lone turnover of the night thanks to forced fumble by tight end D.J. Tialavea on a punt return that was recovered by cornerback Dezmen Southward.

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Grady Jarrett looked dominant throughout the Ravens game

Defensively, the Falcons allowed 266 yards to the Ravens offense and limited them to just one third-down conversion on 11 tries on the night. That lone conversion came with less than three minutes in the game. The Ravens had a sloppy night, generating an additional 134 yards on 10 penalties.

Allen Bradford and Grady Jarrett shared the team lead with seven tackles each. Jarrett also added a sack and three tackles for loss, while Bradford broke up a pass. Derek Akunne (five tackles, one tackle for loss), Charles Godfrey (three tackles), Malliciah Goodman (three tackles), Cliff Matthews (three tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss), Tyler Starr (two tackles), Nate Stupar (six tackles, one tackle for loss) and Paul Worrilow (three tackles) had notable performances.

The Ravens started the game with backup quarterback Matt Schaub. After completing his first pass for an eight-yard gain to give the Ravens their initial first down of the game, a holding call on fullback Kyle Juszczyk backed the team up for a 1st-and-20. The Ravens were unable to dig themselves out of the hole and eventually punted four plays later.

Ryan started the game alongside Julio Jones, but their only snap was a handoff to Coleman for five yards. Renfree was then inserted into the game and proceeded to hand off to Coleman twice, who used his speed to get outside and gain 15 and 26 yards, respectively. Then Ward took over on the next two downs, generating runs of 12 and three yards, although the latter was negated by a holding penalty on Tyler Polumbus. Renfree completed his first pass to Hardy for 10 yards to set up a 2nd-and-10 inside the Ravens red zone. Renfree’s next pass two plays later was over the middle to Jacob Tamme, who extended to make a nice grab for 13 yards, but took a hard shot in the back from Ravens safety Anthony Levine. Tamme left the game an injury but helped put the Falcons at the two-yard line for 1st-and-goal. On and 2nd-and-goal from the one-yard line, Renfree bobbled the snap but fullback Collin Mooney reacted quickly to scoop the ball out of mid-air and surged forward. Mooney was pushed and dragged forward through the scrum and was able to cross the goalline to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead with six minutes remaining in the first quarter.

On the third play of the ensuing Ravens series, Nate Stupar was able to stuff Buck Allen for a one-yard loss to set up a 3rd-and-6. William Moore made an excellent open-field tackle on Schaub’s pass to Jeremy Butler to stop him a yard shy of the sticks but the Ravens opted to go for it on 4th-and-1. Allen and Stupar once again met in the hole, but the Ravens rookie running back got the better of the Falcons linebacker this time, reaching to get the conversion on a one-yard gain. The Ravens dialed up a deep shot on the next play with Marlon Brown making an outstretched catch with his fingertips for 42 yards, beating Jalen Collins in the process to put the ball in the red zone. But two plays later on 3rd-and-1, Jarrett burst up the middle to hit Allen in the backfield for a two-yard loss. The Ravens settled for a 28-yard field goal from kicker Justin Tucker to cut the Falcons’ lead to 7-3 with seven seconds remaining in the first quarter.

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Asa Jackson stumbles on a 53-yard punt return

After a pair of three-yard runs by Coleman on the ensuing Falcons series, Renfree dropped back to pass on 3rd-and-4. His throw to Ward was off the mark, but that was in part due to the pressure from Ravens defensive tackle Carl Davis. Davis was flagged for roughing the passer for leading with his helmet on the hit on Renfree, giving the Falcons a new set of downs near midfield. Guard Eric Lefeld missed a block on a screen to Ward, leading to a five-yard loss on the next play. On third down the Falcons checked down to Ward, who got hit by Ravens linebacker Arthur Brown and fumbled. Defensive tackle Kapron Lewis-Moore fell on the loose ball and the Ravens seemingly took over at the 50-yard line. However the fumble was reviewed and overturned, giving the Falcons the ball back. Yet a facemask penalty on Lefeld still backed up the Falcons 15 yards for a 3rd-and-29. The Falcons failed to convert the long third down and punted. Bosher boomed a 52-yard kick to the Ravens’ 10-yard line, but Asa Jackson was able to make a couple of Falcons miss and then ran free for a 53-yard return. With Bosher being the only defender between Jackson and a touchdown, the Ravens corner stumbled on the Georgia Dome turf and the Ravens now had the ball at the Falcons’ 32-yard line.

Yet the Ravens failed to capitalize on the ensuing series with Bryn Renner at quarterback thanks to guard Robert Myers getting flagged for unnecessary roughness for stumbling into Phillip Adams after the whistle. That set up a 3rd-and-17, which the Ravens failed to convert and eventually settled for another field goal from Tucker. Tucker nailed the 45-yard kick to cut the Falcons’ lead to 7-6 with a little less than 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Ward made a nice jump cut on 2nd-and-4 to get a seven yard gain and a new set of downs for the Falcons. On the next play, the Falcons tried a play-action rollout with Renfree but the Falcons young quarterback didn’t set his feet and underthrew a streaking Hardy. However Levine prevented Hardy from being able to make a play on the ball and was flagged for a defensive pass interference, giving the Falcons 37 free yards and setting them up deep in Ravens territory. The Falcons failed to move the ball any further thanks to a quick screen by Nick Williams being dropped for a four-yard loss. Renfree overthrew Toilolo over the middle on third down and Bryant came out onto the field for his first field goal of the night. The veteran kicker hit from 49 yards, giving the Falcons a 10-6 lead with 6:40 left in the first half.

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Justin Hardy returns a punt 70 yards

The Ravens had their second consecutive three-and-out on the next series. Hardy received Sam Koch’s punt and spun out of a tackle and was able to sprint for another 70 yards before he was eventually tracked down from behind by Terrance Magee and Quinton Pointer at the Ravens’ five-yard line.

Lewis-Moore blew up the first play of the ensuing series, dropping Ward for a four-yard loss. A shovel pass to Ward got five of those yards back to set up a 3rd-and-goal from the four-yard line. Renfree rolled left and tried to hit Williams in the end zone on a speed out, but the ball slipped through the receiver’s grasp and the Falcons once again settled for a field goal. Bryant hit from 22 yards out, giving the team a 13-6 lead with four minutes left in the second quarter.

Malliciah Goodman made a good stop on the first play of the next Ravens possession, stuffing Magee for no gain. Two plays later, Renner’s first pass was an overthrow to tight end Konrad Reuland, but the Ravens were able to get a fresh set of downs thanks to illegal use of hands penalty on Jalen Collins. Tyler Starr was able to shoot into the backfield and track Fitzgerald Toussaint from behind to limit him to a one-yard gain on the next play as the two-minute warning hit. An unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens pushed them back to 3rd-and-17 and a quick screen to Darren Waller went nowhere to force a Ravens punt. With less than a minute left in the half, the Falcons took over at their 42-yard line.

On second down Renfree hit Toilolo, who made an excellent leaping grab for 16 yards to put the ball in Ravens territory with 26 seconds left. However, Ravens safety Terrence Brooks came unblocked off the edge on a blitz and dropped Renfree for a sack. Carl Davis then beat center James Stone up the middle on the very next play for another sack and the first half was over.

The Falcons received the ball, but Renfree missed on two throws and the Falcons had a quick three-and-out to start the second half. Bosher boomed a 55-yard punt, but Jackson was stripped by Tialavea on the return and Southward fell on the loose ball, giving back possession to the Falcons at the Ravens’ 38-yard line. Four plays later, Renfree hit Mitchell on a quick slant. Mitchell made the nice high grab and then made a couple of nice moves after the catch to scurry into the end zone for a 25-yard score. The Falcons had just pushed their lead to 20-6 less than three minutes into the third quarter.

The Ravens had another three-and-out thanks to Jarrett stuffing Magee up the middle on second down. Renner’s 3rd-and-1 pass to Waller was dropped after he pushed off on Southward. That drew an offensive pass interference penalty and the Ravens punted.

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Rex Grossman looked rusty in his first NFL action in over a year

Rex Grossman was inserted into the game but did little on his opening series. Hardy dropped Grossman’s first pass on a quick out and then his next throw sailed over the head of Mitchell on third down. The Falcons punted and Josh Harris downed it at the Ravens’ five-yard line.

The Falcons made another strong defensive stand, with Derek Akunne stuffing Toussaint on first down for no gain. Renner then attempted a deep shot to Butler but the pass was overthrown out of bounds. Southward then made a nice defensive play on third down, delivering a nice hit on Toussaint just before he could convert on a nine-yard catch and run after beating Bradford over the middle. The Ravens had their fourth three-and-out in their last five possessions, punting the ball back to the Falcons with eight minutes left in the third quarter.

Williams  gained 20 yards on the punt return, setting up the Falcons at the 50-yard line to start their next drive. A holding call on Jake Rodgers backed up the team 10 yards on first down, with the offense unable to recover. Grossman was sacked on third down thanks to Ward missing a blitz pickup and the Falcons punted it back to the Ravens.

Jarrett clogged up the running lane once more to help lead to a one-yard loss by Magee to start the next Ravens series. Renner hit on his next three passes, coupled with an 11-yard run by Toussaint to get the ball in Falcons territory. A holding call on fullback Kiero Small backed up the Ravens and Akunne made a nice tackle in the open field for a two-yard loss on Renner’s next pass to tight end Nick Boyle. Pressure from Starr then forced Renner up in the pocket on the next play, where Cliff Matthews was there to meet him for a sack. That pushed the Ravens back to 3rd-and-27, which they obviously failed to convert and punted the ball back to the Falcons with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Grossman threw low to Mitchell on the opening play of the fourth quarter, but the veteran receiver made a nice catch with his fingertips for an 11-yard gain. Jerome Smith had a pair of runs for just four yards to set up a 3rd-and-6. Both Falcons tackles: Rodgers and Pierce Burton were beat around the corner, with Ravens linebacker Brennen Beyer getting credit for the sack of Grossman on third down.

After another Falcons punt, Jarrett showed up again in the Ravens’ backfield, stuffing Toussaint for a two-yard loss to open the next drive. Jarrett knifed through two plays later to sack Renner to force another Ravens three-and-out.

With 10 minutes left in the game, the Falcons turned to their running game to start to salt away the game with a two-touchdown lead. Three carries by Ward for minimal yardage was interspersed with a 25-yard catch by Williams, who managed to break a tackle on a quick out and run for plenty of yardage after the catch. Ward then was able to convert another first down with a nine-yard run. Jerome Smith came into the game and was immediately dropped for a two-yard loss thanks to a missed block by Lefeld. Grossman’s pass on third down was batted down by Christo Bilukidi, leading to a 52-yard field goal attempt by Bryant. The kick hooked left and the Falcons’ lead stood at 20-6 with five minutes to go in the game.

The Ravens offense got their act together and began to move the ball effectively, thanks in part to the favorable field position from the missed kick. Magee had a trio of carries for 28 yards to help get the Ravens into the red zone. The Ravens took a deep shot to Daniel Brown a few plays later, but it was dropped by the rookie receiver. However Brown made up for it by catching a 15-yard pass on 3rd-and-14 to put the ball at the Falcons’ 10-yard line, the Ravens’ first third-down conversion of the night with less than three minutes left in the game. Renner then threw a dart to Butler two plays later as he beat Southward for a six-yard score. The Ravens cut the Falcons’ lead to 20-13 with 2:10 left in the game after a nine-play, 58-yard scoring drive.

Grossman short-armed a quick throw to Hardy to start the next Falcons possession and it was nearly jumped and picked off by Asa Jackson. After the two-minute warning, the Falcons opted to feed Ward the ball to run out the clock. An illegal cut block called on Williams backed up the Falcons as Ward’s runs burned away the final two Ravens timeouts. Eventually the Falcons lined up to punt with 58 seconds left in the game. However Sean Baker missed a block on Daniel Brown, who blocked Bosher’s punt. Baker scooped up the loose ball, but was tackled at the Falcons’ 10-yard line by Waller.

The Ravens took possession with 50 seconds left in the game. Bradford nearly became a savior on first down, jumping a throw to Toussaint, but failing to pick off the pass. Brown beat Southward on a back-shoulder throw from Renner on the very next play to score from 10 yards out. The Ravens attempted to go for two to try and take the lead with 40 seconds left. Renner rolled left out of the pocket, looking for Kiero Small in the end zone. Falcons safety Charles Godfrey closed quickly on the throw and delivered a hit in the end zone that led to a drop.

The Ravens then tried an onside kick, but Mitchell was there to snatch the ball off the bounce. Grossman took a knee on the next play and the game was over.

The Falcons will open their season at home against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football on September 14. The Falcons have won their past two outings against the Eagles dating back to 2011, with their most recent win coming in 2012. Their last home game against the Eagles was a 35-31 victory back in 2011. The Falcons are however 1-9 in their last 10 Monday Night matchups. Their lone victory was a 27-21 win over the Denver Broncos in 2012. They’ve lost three straight Monday Night games over the past two seasons, and hope that in his first regular-season game as a head coach, Dan Quinn can break the streak.

 

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