Falcons smash Chargers
Matt Ryan had another strong performance, completing 30 of 40 passes for 275 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception. On the ground, Michael Turner bounced back from a slow start this season by leading the team with 80 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown. Jacquizz Rodgers also added 10 rushes for 32 yards. In the air, Tony Gonzalez led receivers with 9 grabs for 91 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Rodgers each had 5 catches for 67, 55, and 35 yards respectively. Jones and Rodgers both caught Ryan’s other two touchdown passes. Matt Bryant did not attempt a field goal on the day. Matt Bosher punted 5 times for an average of 44.6 yards, with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Dominique Franks returned a pair of punts for an average of 17 yards. The Falcons offense had little issue moving the ball against the Chargers. They dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for over 36 minutes compared to the Chargers’ 24. In the first half, the Falcons held the ball for over twice as long as the Chargers with nearly 20.5 minutes of possession. The offense finished 8 of 13 on third down conversions and put up 384 total yards.
Defensively, the Falcons were too much for the Chargers offense. The Chargers struggled to convert third downs, particularly in the first half where they were 0 for 3. They wound up finishing the game 5 of 11 on their third down conversion attempts. They were limited to 280 total yards and had four turnovers. Dunta Robinson led defenders with 7 tackles. John Abraham (2 tackles, 1 sack); Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery);Dominique Franks (3 tackles); William Moore (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery); Stephen Nicholas (6 tackles); Asante Samuel (6 tackles); Vance Walker (4 tackles); and Sean Weatherspoon (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble) all had noteworthy performances.
The Falcons opened the game in their new trademark fashion by marching down the field for a touchdown. Matt Ryan led the Falcons on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by an 8-yard middle screen to Jacquizz Rodgers for the touchdown. Ryan was 7 of 8 for 75 yards on the drive. The Falcons took a 6-0 lead only because the team botched the snap and hold on the extra point. The Chargers moved the ball somewhat on the ensuing drive, but wound up punting after five plays. On the Falcons next drive, Ryan missed Roddy White on 3rd & 9, and Bosher trotted out on the field for his first punt of the day. The Falcons defense followed with a three-and-out. With the Falcons moving the ball to midfield, Ryan hit White on a deep pass for a 41-yard score, but the play was called back due to offensive pass interference on White. The Falcons didn’t recover, and wound up punting three plays later to end the first quarter. San Diego began the drive at their own 12-yard line, but Philip Rivers started to find his stride, completing his first three passes on the drive for 58 yards to get the ball into Falcon territory. Two runs by Ryan Mathews put the ball at the Falcons’ 7-yard line. But on the next carry by Mathews, he was hit hard by Sean Weatherspoon, forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Thomas DeCoud at the Falcons 4-yard line. The Falcons offense regained its stride on the ensuing drive with a gargantuan 17-play, 96-yard scoring drive that consumed 8 minutes of the second quarter. The drive did not begin well with Ryan being sacked on 3rd & 5, but a Chargers penalty gave them a first down. Ryan completed three straight passes, including a 29-yarder to Julio Jones to get into Charger territory. With short passing and running the Falcons were able to convert three more third downs before they got into the redzone. Then Ryan found an open Tony Gonzalez over the middle for a 7-yard score to cap off the drive. The Falcons now led 13-0 with 2:32 left in the half. The Chargers offense did not respond, with DeCoud picking off Rivers on the third play of the ensuing drive. That spotted the ball at the Charger 29-yard line. Four plays later, Ryan found Julio Jones for a 9-yard score in the back of the endzone to push the lead to 20 points. The half ended with a sack by John Abraham.
The Chargers seemed to start and get their act together on the opening drive of the second half. They were able to convert 3 third downs to move the ball to the Falcons 23-yard line, but once again the defense held and San Diego had to settle for a 41-yard field goal from Nate Kaeding. The Falcons responded by moving the ball on the ensuing drive, with the team converted two third downs to get into Charger territory. But Ryan was sacked for a loss on their next third down and Bosher punted once more. The Falcons defense continued to swarm with the Chargers next drive being capped off by DeCoud’s second interception. The Chargers had been successful moving the ball into Falcon territory on a drive that started on their own 15. But pressure got to Rivers on a 2nd & 6 at the Falcon 36, and DeCoud picked off the poorly thrown pass to Antonio Gates. The Falcons got the ball back with the fourth quarter beginning, but Ryan threw his first interception of the season on that drive. With the Falcons in the redzone, Ryan lobbed a pass to Gonzalez in tight coverage and it was picked by Antoine Cason at the goaline. But the Falcons defense responded by forcing a three-and-out. With the Chargers backed up at their own 3-yard line, Mike Scifres punt shanked and the Falcons took over on the 32-yard line. Three runs by Michael Turner, and he was in for his first touchdown of the game on a 7-yard run. The two teams exchanged drives, with the Falcons content to run the ball three times for a three-and-out on their possession. With 4 minutes left int he game, San Diego took over. On the first play, Jackie Battle burst up the middle for a 52-yard run putting San Diego deep in Falcon territory. But four plays later, William Moore walloped Dante Rosario, forcing a fumble, which Moore recovered to keep the Chargers out of the endzone. Again, the Falcons ran the ball three straight times before punting it back to the Chargers with 14 seconds left in the game. Philip Rivers took a knee and the game was over.
Next week the Falcons take on division rival, the Carolina Panthers (1-2) in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons have won four straight overall against the Panthers, as well as four straight at home against them. Mike Smith sports a 6-2 record against the Panthers over the past four seasons. Carolina is coming off an embarrassing 36-7 loss this week against the New York Giants. Under head coach Ron Rivera, Carolina has a 3-6 record on the road, and is 1-2 in road games immediately following a home loss. Mike Smith has led the Falcons to a 9-3 record in home games directly following road victories.