Falcons Road Woes Continue With 30-20 Loss to Giants

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan was under heavy pressure throughout the game

The Atlanta Falcons continue to struggle on the road, dropping another away game to the New York Giants by a score of 30-20. The Falcons record falls to 2-3 this year, with all three losses coming on the road. The Falcons had opportunities to extend a 20-10 third-quarter lead, but the Giants were able to score 20 unanswered points to finish the game.

Matt Ryan led the team, completing 29 of 45 passes for 316 yards with a touchdown and interception, but saw a good amount of pressure all day. Although Ryan was only sacked once, he was hit eight times. On the ground, Devonta Freeman led the team with 38 yards on four carries. Steven Jackson added 37 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown. Julio Jones had a big performance, catching 11 pass for 105 yards. Freeman and Jackson each added five receptions for 44 and 37 yards, respectively. Antone Smith scored Ryan’s lone touchdown pass on a 74-yard play. He finished the game with three catches for 83 yards. Matt Bryant connected on both of his 20-yard field goal tries. Matt Bosher punted five times for an average of 32.6 yards, with three placed inside the 20-yard line. Devin Hester returned a pair of punts for 23 yards and three kickoffs for 60 yards. The Falcons offense really struggled on third downs, converting just two of 15 tries. They also only scored one touchdown on three red-zone trips.

Defensively, the Falcons improved from a disastrous performance a week ago, but still had notably holes. The Giants gained just 317 total yards, but were able to convert nine of 15 third-down attempts. They were also able to score touchdowns on three of four red-zone trips. Kemal Ishmael, Paul Worrilow and Prince Shembo tied for the team lead with 14 tackles each. Robert Alford (one tackle, two pass deflections); Kroy Biermann (five tackles, one tackle for loss); Dwight Lowery (two tackles, one pass deflection); Paul Soliai (four tackles); Desmond Trufant (five tackles); Osi Umenyiora (one sack); and Josh Wilson (four tackles, two pass deflections) had noteworthy games.

The Giants received the opening kickoff were able to get their a first down after a nine-yard catch by Preston Parker. But on the next play Lowery batted down Eli Manning’s pass. Manning followed that up with an overthrow to Rueben Randle with Trufant in tight coverage. Rashad Jennings was stopped for no gain on third down and the Giants were forced to punt. Devin Hester nearly broke Steve Weatherford’s 60-yard punt, gaining 25 yards to allow the Falcons to start at their 36-yard line.

However, the Falcons quickly gave it back to the Giants with a three-and-out. Julio Jones dropped a second-down pass from Ryan that was tipped at the line by Johnathan Hankins. On third down a blitz got through, which forced Ryan to shovel the ball to Jacquizz Rodgers for a five-yard gain, well shy of the sticks on 3rd-and-9.

After Bosher’s punt, the Giants took advantage on their next possession. An encroachment penalty on Soliai gave the Giants a first down on 3rd-and-1. A blown coverage by Lowery three plays later, left Parker wide open on a 42-yard gain. But Parker tripped, allowing Falcons defenders to catch him from behind. That play put the ball at the Falcons 21-yard line. After another first down, Jonathan Massaquoi was able to bat down another Manning pass. A defensive holding call on Trufant on the next play however gave the Giants a new set of downs at the six-yard line. Randle was wide open in the back of end zone on the next play, but couldn’t get both feet down inbounds to make the touchdown grab. Manning dialed up Randle on his next two passes, and on the latter he was able to beat Trufant for a three-yard score. That gave the Giants a 7-0 lead with less than seven minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Falcons offense finally got things in gear on their second possession. On the second play from scrimmage, Ryan hit Jones on a leaping grab along the sideline for a 22-yard gain. Two runs by Jackson put the ball in Giants territory, followed by another grab by Jones to get the ball down to the Giants 23-yard line. Two plays later, Ryan overthrew Hester, who couldn’t make the diving grab in the end zone. But Jones would come back again and convert a third down on a 11-yard gain on a crossing pattern to put the ball at the Giants 10-yard line. Jackson then burst off the left side on the very next play for a 10-yard score to tie the game with two minutes left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Eric Weems stripped Parker and recovered the fumble at the Giants 21-yard line. On second down, Rodgers ran nine yards up the middle but was stripped from behind by Trumaine McBride, but Levine Toilolo was there to recover the ball. On the ensuing play, Jackson’s six-yard run put the ball at the two-yard line. Then Jackson was stuffed for a two-yard loss on a sweep on the final play of the first quarter. The Falcons opted to try and shovel pass to Smith on 3rd-and-goal, but he too was stuffed by Giants defenders and the Falcons were forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Bryant to push their lead to 10-7.

The Falcons defense stepped up on the ensuing Giants possession, forcing a three-and-out thanks to Dezmen Southward’s hit on Parker a yard shy of the sticks on 3rd-and-11.

Then the Falcons offense was able to move the ball steadily downfield. A pass to Freeman for 13 yards got the ball to midfield. Jones made an excellent one-handed grab on a slant to give the team another first down in Giants territory. But on the ensuing third down, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie broke up a lob to Jones along the sideline, which led to another Bosher punt.

The Giants dialed up Rashad Jennigns on the ensuing drive, carrying the ball on three of the first four plays for a combined 20 yards. The Giants were able to get into Falcons territory after an 18-yard gain by Randle on a slant. Two plays later, Umenyiora was able to drop Manning on a coverage sack which backed up the Giants to face a 3rd-and-16, which they did not convert. But the eight-yard gain by Jennings on third down was enough to put the Giants into field-goal range, allowing kicker Josh Brown to hit from 49 yards out to tie the game 10-10 with 3:40 left in the first half.

A 14-yard pass to Jones, followed by two touches to Jackson allowed the Falcons to move the ball into Giants territory as the two-minute warning hit on the next possession. Two plays later, White made a nice leaping grab over the middle for a 22-yard gain to get the ball down to the Giants 21-yard line. A nine-yard catch by Freeman gave the Falcons a first down with 22 seconds left at the Giants 10-yard line. That was followed by a quick slant to Jones that put the ball down to the two-yard line. However, Ryan overthrew Rodgers on a wheel route on the next play and White couldn’t win in traffic on a quick slant at the goal line to force the Falcons to kick another 20-yard field goal with six seconds left on the clock. Bryant hit the kick, pushing Atlanta’s lead to 13-10 at halftime.

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Antone Smith sprints for a touchdown

The Falcons were able to get a first down on the opening series of the third quarter on a 10-yard check down to Jackson. But on third down, Ryan heaved up a pass to White deep and it was overthrown into the waiting arms of Quintin Demps. But Demps was stripped by Rodgers on the return, who also recovered the ball to give possession right back to the Falcons at the Falcons 44-yard line, essentially functioning as a 16-yard gain for the team. However, on the ensuing third down, Ryan was hit as he threw and his slant to Hester was low and incomplete. But Jason Pierre-Paul ran into Bosher on the ensuing punt, giving the Falcons another first down. However, the Falcons still failed to move the ball with Ryan taking a deep shot to Jones on third down on a go route. But the Falcons receiver could not make the diving grab and Bosher punted once more.

The Giants dialed up their run game, setting up a 3rd-and-2 from their 33-yard line. Alford broke up the pass to Randle to force a Giants punt.

On the third play of the ensuing Falcons series, Ryan checked to Smith on a Giants blitz. Smith broke a tackle and sprinted 74 yards for a touchdown to push Atlanta’s lead to 20-10 with 5:37 left in the third quarter.

On the next series, Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham began to assert his presence. He blew past Alford on the opening play, but Manning overthrew him on the deep ball. Two plays later, Malliciah Goodman was drawn offsides by a hard count to give the Giants a new set of downs. Alford was flagged for pass interference and holding against Beckham, resulting in a 26-yard penalty that put the ball in Falcons territory. Two plays later, Manning found an open Victor Cruz on a deep lob near the goal line, but Wilson was able to knock the ball out before Cruz could secure it against his body, causing an incompletion. The Giants converted another third down with a quick slant to Randle to put the ball at the Falcons 14-yard line. Andre Williams finished the drive three plays later with a three-yard run where he ran over Worrilow to cut the Falcons lead to 20-17 with two minutes left in the third quarter.

The Falcons offense suffered another three-and-out, with pressure once again getting to Ryan on third down. Bosher punted it back to the Giants with the third quarter coming to a close.

The Giants running game helped move the Giants near midfield, followed by a 14-yard grab by Beckham against Alford on a comeback to get into Falcons territory. Wilson would break up another throw to Cruz two plays later, but then would be beat on the ensuing play by Cruz for a 12-yard gain. Three plays later, Beckham would box out Alford and make a leaping grab in the end zone to give the Giants a 24-20 lead with 10 minutes left in the game.

The Falcons offense responded with another three-and-out thanks to pressure again getting to Ryan on third down. Jason Pierre-Paul delivered a hit that caused Ryan to throw it away as he was going to the ground. Bosher shanked a 28-yard punt that gave the Giants favorable field position at their 45-yard line to start their next drive.

On the next series, Cruz would convert a Giants third down on a pick route once they were in Falcons territory. But the Falcons defense held, when Trufant helped break up the Giants next third-down pass to Randle on a comeback. Brown came out to attempt a 50-yard field goal, which he hit to push the Giants lead to 27-20 with five minutes left in the game.

The Falcons continued to struggle to move the ball, but Hester gained 10 yards on 3rd-and-11 to set up a 4th-and-1 from the Falcons 29-yard line. Head coach Mike Smith opted to go for it given a lack of confidence in the Falcons defense. However, Johnathan Hankins blew past Harland Gunn to get a sack and the Giants took over at the Falcons 19-yard line with 4:34 left in the game.

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Paul Worrilow gets run over by Andre Williams

The Giants proceeded to try and run out the clock, with Andre Williams carrying five times to get the ball down to the Falcons seven-yard line, forcing the Falcons to burn all three timeouts. Brown hit on his 26-yard field goal attempt, pushing the Giants lead to 30-10 with 2:08 left in the game.

The Falcons offense finally showed some life, able to move the ball to midfield in their two-minute drill, but time expired after a 24-yard gain by Freeman to get into Giants territory.

Next week, the Falcons will play their only home game in the Georgia Dome between now and Week 12 against the Chicago Bears. Under Ryan, the Falcons are undefeated at home against the Bears, having won twice. Both games came down to the final possessions, with the most recent win being a 21-14 win in 2009. The Falcons most recent matchup against the Bears was a 30-12 blowout loss to start the 2011 season.

The Falcons are thus far 1-0 this season in home games immediately following a road loss. Under Mike Smith, they are 13-4 all-time in such situations with all four losses coming in 2013. Under head coach Marc Trestman, the Bears are 0-3 in domed stadiums.

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Aaron Freeman
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