Falcons offense sluggish in loss to Ravens

AP/Yahoo! Sports

John Parker Wilson throws

The Falcons fell to the Baltimore Ravens 21-7 to suffer their first winless preseason since 2003, and only their third in franchise history.

In a game where very few offensive starters played, the Falcons struggled to move the ball. Chris Redman got the start and managed to complete 4 of 8 passes for 58 yards before getting the hook in the second quarter after four offensive series. John Parker Wilson came in and struggled throughout the night, completing 16 of 33 passes for 146 yards with 2 interceptions. One of those picks was taken back 65 yards for a score by the Ravens. Both passers also fumbled on the night. On the ground, Antone Smith provided most of the offense rushing for 114 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown on a 46-yard run. He also caught 2 passes for 44 yards, including a 42-yard scamper on a screen pass. Jacquizz Rodgers (8 carries, 27 yards) and Jason Snelling (5 carries, 21 yards) also contributed on the ground. Julio Jones started the game, and had a single grab for 25 yards as well as a 14-yard run on an end-around. Drew Davis and Eric Weems each caught 3 passes for 23 and 22 yards, respectively. Matt Bryant missed his lone field goal attempt of 54 yards. Matt Bosher had 7 punts on the night, averaging 37.7 yards with 4 placed inside the 20-yard line. Rodgers had a lone kickoff return for 19 yards. Weems and Dominique Franks each had a pair of punt returns for 11 and 8 total yards, respectively.

Defensively, the Falcons had a nice game. The only touchdown they allowed was prompted by Wilson’s fumble at their own 5-yard line. They forced two Ravens turnovers on interceptions. Many of the team’s first team starters played the first few series. Robert James led the defense with 5 tackles and also had 0.5 sacks on the night. Curtis Lofton managed 4 stops in his brief time on the field. Spencer Adkins (3 tackles), Kroy Biermann (2 tackles, 1 sack), Ray Edwards (1 tackle), Dominique Franks (3 tackles), Brent Grimes (1 interception), Trey Lewis (1 tackle, 1 sack), Kamaal McIlwain (2 tackles, 1 interception), Chris Owens (2 tackles), Mike Peterson (2 tackles), Carlton Powell (2 tackles, 0.5 sacks), Shann Schillinger (2 tackles), Kiante Tripp (3 tackles), Darrin Walls (2 tackles), Sean Weatherspoon 93 tackles), and Bear Woods (3 tackles) all had notable games.

Despite a promising start for the Falcons on their opening series where Chris Redman hit Julio Jones on a 25-yard passing strike, things quickly turned bad for the Falcons. Four plays later, Redman was sacked by Paul Kruger and fumbled the ball at midfield. But the defense held, with Brent Grimes intercepting Tyrod Taylor to give the Falcons the ball back at their own 19-yard line. The Falcons were starting to move the ball, going 36 yards on 5 plays before Redman was sacked again on 3rd & 6 to force Bosher’s first of many punts on the night. On the ensuing drive, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed on a 57-yard field goal attempt, which the Falcons followed up with a three-and-out. The Ravens followed up with three more of the same, and the Falcons had two more as the second quarter progressed. The next first down conversion didn’t occur until 7 minutes remaining in the second quarter, when John Parker Wilson hit Eric Weems on a 7-yard pass on a 3rd & 6. But the team failed to convert on a fourth down a few plays later. The Falcons would get the ball back with 4:18 left in the half, but Wilson would be picked off by Jason Phillips on second down at their own 24-yard line. The Ravens would move the ball down and Cundiff would put them on the board with a minute to go in the half on a 32-yard field goal.

The Falcons would take a 7-3 lead in the second half on their first series as Antone Smith sprinted left and found a crease that led to a 46-yard touchdown. Each team would exchange another set of three-and-outs before the Ravens would get the ball back with 6:32 left in the third quarter. Four plays later, Kamaal McIlwain picked off an underthrown Hunter Cantwell and run it back 44 yards to put the ball near midfield. But it was followed up by a tipped pass that went for a pick six by Chykie Brown as the Ravens took back the lead 10-7. The Falcons looked poised to bounce back as Wilson found Smith on a screen on the next series that went 42 yards. But again they could not maintain the momentum and wound up punting four plays later as the third quarter came to a close. THe Falcons would get the ball back after a Ravens three-and-out and the team managed to convert a fourth down on that drive to get into field goal range, but Bryant could not connect on his 54-yard attempt, going wide left. The Ravens were able to put three more points on the board two drives later to take a 13-7 lead. On the ensuing drive, Wilson fumbled deep in Falcon territory, and on the next play Damien Berry took the ball in 5 yards for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion later and the Ravens were up 21-7 with 2:32 left on the game clock. Wilson would have his most impressive showing of the night, leading the Falcons into the redone on a 13-play, 71-yard drive after that point. But he could not connect on a desperation pass into the endzone as time expired to get the Falcons back on the scoreboard and end on a bright note.

As previously mentioned, the Falcons finish the preseason 0-4 for the first time since 2003. Their only other winless preseason came in 1979 in franchise history. The Falcons will hope to regroup for their regular season opening matchup against the Chicago Bears on the road. They will face off against the Bears in ten days. The Falcons have won their last two outings against the Bears thanks to some late-game heroics. In 2008, Matt Ryan famously hit Michael Jenkins on a deep pass with 1-second left on the clock to set up a game-winning field goal by Jason Elam to win that game 22-20. Then in 2009, the defense made an impressive redone stand as time expired to beat the Bears again 21-14. Both wins were at home, and the Falcons have lost five straight when they’ve had to travel to Soldier Field dating back to 1978. Their most recent was a 16-3 beatdown in 2005. The Falcons hope to snap that streak and get their first win of the 2011 season under their belt.

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Aaron Freeman
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