Falcons Roughed Up in 32-7 Loss to Texans

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jadeveon Clowney lowers the boom on Antone Smith

The Atlanta Falcons looked lackluster in their second preseason action of 2014, losing in a one-sided road game against the Houston Texans by a score of 32-7. It was a sloppy night for the Falcons, particularly on special teams where they had both a punt and field goal blocked. The Texans were able to score off the blocked punt, as well as on a pick-six thrown by T.J. Yates in the fourth quarter. Both teams were heavily penalized, with 25 combined penalties being called. The Falcons accounted for 10 of them.

Matt Ryan led the way but was not particularly sharp on the night. He completed just three of seven passes for 37 yards on four short series of action. He gave way to Sean Renfree, who completed seven of 10 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Yates struggled, completing just four of 11 passes for 63 yards with two interceptions. Jeff Mathews saw his first action of the preseason late in the game, completing just one of three passes for 18 yards. Devonta Freeman once again led the team on the ground, rushing for 31 yards on six carries, and should have had more if not for penalties calling back a few runs. Antone Smith added eight carries for 27 yards, with starter Jacquizz Rodgers rushing three times for 13 yards. Julio Jones saw his first action of the summer, catching a pair of passes for 20 yards. Devin Hester caught two passes as well for 15 yards, and the team’s lone touchdown on a 12-yard screen pass. Julian Jones had the longest reception of the night, his lone catch going for 29 yards. Matt Bryant had his lone field goal attempt of 51 yards blocked and Matt Bosher punted seven times for an average of 41.4 yards, with a blocked punt as well. The Falcons managed to convert just three of 11 third-down tries for a total of 248 yards on the night. The starters failed to convert any of their four third-down attempts while they were in the game.

Defensively, the Falcons started fairly well but gave up a total of 386 yards to the Texans. Including the points off the interception and blocked punt, the Texans were able to generate a total of 16 of their 32 points off turnovers, with Atlanta’s defense deserving credit for limiting Houston to just 16 points on three scores. Paul Worrilow led the team with eight tackles, including one for a loss. Robert Alford (one tackle, two passes defended); Pat Angerer (five tackles, one for loss); Joplo Bartu (three tackles); Kemal Ishmael (three tackles; one for loss; one interception); William Moore (six tackles); Travian Robertson (three tackles, one for loss); Prince Shembo (three tackles) and Dezmen Southward (three tackles) all had noteworthy games.

On the third play from scrimmage to start the game, Ryan hooked up with Julio Jones on a six-yard crossing pattern for his first catch of the year. On the next play, Ryan tried to connect with Jones on a deep pass, but he could not reel in the pass out of bounds. That led to Bosher’s first punt of the night, which was returned 16 yards by Keshawn Martin for promising field position.

The Texans started that drive at the Falcons 48-yard line, but the Falcons defense held tough, not allowing a yard on a three-and-out.

The Falcons dialed up the run on their next offensive series, with Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith combining for 17 yards on the first three plays. But on the fourth carry and Smith’s third, Jadeveon Clowney came unblocked off the edge and blew up Smith for a two-yard loss. On the next play, Clowney beat Sam Baker on a speed rush to get a sack on Ryan and force a punt.

The Texans started to get things together on their next offensive series, with DeAndre Hopkins beating Robert Alford on a 19-yard completion. Seven plays later with the Texans in Falcon territory, Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled 10 yards on 3rd-and-8 to convert a first down and get the Texans into the red zone. The Texans capped the drive with three handoffs to Alfred Blue, who finished it off with a one-yard scoring run to put the Texans up 7-0 with 1:19 left in the first quarter.

Ryan hit White on a 17-yard pass to start the next drive. But on the first play of the second quarter, White could’t reel in the diving catch on 3rd-and-3 to continue the Falcons possession. Bosher punted the ball back to the Texans.

The Texans featured running back Jonathan Grimes heavily on their next series with Tom Savage entering at quarterback. Grimes totaled 30 yards on four carries, including an impressive 22-yard run where he broke several tackles to get into Falcons territory. But the Falcons defense stepped up and got a stop to end their series, thanks to Osi Umenyiora tipping a pass on a screen on third down to force a Texans punt.

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Sam Baker leaves the field with knee injury

Ryan hooked up with Jones once more to start the next possession, connecting on a 14-yard pass over the middle that also featured Jones taking a big hit from safety D.J. Swearinger. On that play, the Falcons got some bad news as Sam Baker injured his right knee and was carted off the field. The Falcons punted four plays later, after cornerback A.J. Bouye broke up a comeback to Jones on 3rd-and-5.

The Falcons defense stood strong though with another three-and-out. The Falcons inserted Sean Renfree into the game at quarterback on their next series.

The Falcons managed to move the ball with some short passes from Renfree and some rushing success from Antone Smith and Josh Vaughan. But a few plays later, a holding call on Jon Asamoah backed up the Falcons. But they were able to convert a 3rd-and-13 despite an incomplete pass from Renfree to Jeremy Ebert, thanks to an illegal contact penalty on the Texans.

At the two-minute warning the Falcons had the ball at the Texans 37-yard line. A defensive holding call gave the Falcons another first down after a failed third-down pass from Renfree. Three plays later, Renfree connected with Devin Hester on a screen pass, who juked his way 12 yards for the touchdown. The Falcons were finally on the scoreboard, tying the game 7-7 with 1:32 left in the first half.

The Texans made the decision to re-insert Fitzpatrick back into the game at quarterback, presumably to handle their two-minute offense over the rookie Savage. Fitzpatrick made that decision look smart, scrambling for a first down and completing five of seven passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. The key play of the drive was a 31-yard gain where Keshawn Martin got behind Desmond Trufant when Fitzpatrick extended the play outside the pocket. Fitzpatrick capped off the drive with another pass where he escaped the pocket, hitting an open DeVier Posey in the end zone for eight yards. However their rookie kicker Chris Boswell missed on the 33-yard extra point try.

The Falcons knelt on the ball, and were content to go into halftime down 13-7.

Case Keenum opened up the second half at quarterback for the Texans. A pair of penalties backed up the Texans to start the drive and Keenum was sacked by Tim Dobbins on the third play of the drive, which should have forced a 3rd-and-18. But Dobbins was flagged for a facemask penalty, giving the Texans a new set of downs. The Texans were successful in taking advantage and moved the ball to the Falcons 22-yard line, but the Falcons defense managed to get off the field once more on third down. The Texans were forced to settle for a 40-yard field goal from Randy Bullock to extend their lead to 16-7 with 10:20 left in the third quarter.

Renfree on the next Falcons series was successful in converting his first third-down pass on a five-yard pass to Jeremy Ebert. But he was not so successful on his next try, a 3rd-and-12, which led to another Falcons punt.

The Texans found more success on their next series, converting a pair of 3rd-and-longs. The first came on 3rd-and-11 with a 25-yard pass to Alec Lemon, who beat the Falcons zone coverage. That was followed up by a 15-yard pass to Travis Labhart on 3rd-and-13, as he beat Robert McClain to get into Falcons territory.

The drive would continue into the fourth quarter, but the Falcons defense stepped up and made a play as Kemal Ishmael made a diving interception at the two-yard line to kick off the new quarter. The play was reviewed and upheld.

T.J. Yates was inserted into the game at quarterback, but couldn’t move the Falcons out of their own territory. After a three-and-out, Bosher came onto the field to attempt another punt. But backed up in his own endzone, Bosher’s punt was partially blocked by Anthony Denham and Jonathan Grimes scooped it up at the 17-yard line to run it in for a touchdown. The Texans now had a 23-7 lead with less than 14 minutes left in the game.

On their next series, the Falcons relied on their running game to move the ball. Devonta Freeman looked sharp with a 15-yard carry to get the ball into Texans territory. That was followed up a few plays later with a 23-yard touchdown run, but it was nullified by a holding call on Julian Jones. Yates would be sacked by Lawrence Sidbury on the very next play, and the Falcons were forced to settle for a field goal. But Matt Bryant’s 51-yard attempt was blocked by Jawanza Starling, and the Texans took over at their 41-yard line with 8:38 left in the game.

But the Falcons defense held strong with another three-and-out. Unfortunately, the Falcons reciprocated as Andre Hal jumped a quick out from Yates to Julian Jones and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown. Randy Bullock missed on the extra point to keep Houston’s lead at 29-7.

Yates followed up that drive with an interception on the next series, when Max Bullough jumped in front of a pass to Jabin Sambrano. Bullough’s 16-yard return set up the Texans at the Falcons 15-yard line.

The Falcons defense held strong, preventing a touchdown, but Boswell hit on a 33-yard field goal to lift the Texans lead to 32-7 with three minutes left in the game.

The Falcons had seen enough of Yates and put Jeff Mathews into the game at quarterback for his first action of his NFL career. Mathews missed his first two throws, but then connected on an 18-yard pass to Jacob Pedersen, which fell shy of the sticks on 3rd-and-20. Bosher punted for the final time, and the Texans ran out on the clock on three plays in the final two minutes to end the game.

The Falcons will return home next week to face the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, August 23 in the Georgia Dome at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

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Aaron Freeman
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