The Atlanta Falcons snapped a six-game losing skid with a 23-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Falcons started strong, holding a 17-3 at halftime before letting the Jaguars back into it with a 14-point third quarter. However two fourth-quarter field goals from kicker Shayne Graham and a defensive stand in the final minute allowed the Falcons to pull out the victory.
Quarterback Matt Ryan led the team, completing 22 of 34 passes for 246 yards with a touchdown and interception. Despite being hit eight times, Ryan was dropped for a sack just once.
Running back Devonta Freeman led the team with 25 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown, being mostly bottled up in the second half with six yards on 15 carries. Tevin Coleman added 23 yards on four carries.
Wide receiver Julio Jones led the team with nine catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Freeman added 45 receiving yards on seven catches. Roddy White and Justin Hardy each had three receptions for 47 and 36 yards, respectively, each making some critical catches in the fourth quarter.
Graham connected on three field-goal attempts of 34, 33 and 46 yards. Punter Matt Bosher punted five times for an average of 43.2 yards with three placed inside the 20-yard line. Devin Hester returned four punts for an average of 5.3 yards and one kickoff for 24 yards.
Offensively the Falcons gained 328 total yards and converted half of their 14 third-down attempts. They started well on the ground, rushing for 78 yards in the first half, but were bottled up by the Jaguars run defense for just five yards in the second half. The team also started well in the red zone, converting touchdowns on their first two trips there before settling for field goals on their last three trips.
Defensively the Falcons allowed 357 yards to the Jaguars, but prevented the team from converting any of their eight third-down attempts, as well as thwarted them on their lone try on fourth down. The Falcons were able to force a single turnover on an interception, but were not able to recover any of the three fumbles that the Jaguars players put on the turf. The Jaguars were also able to convert both of their red-zone trips in the second half into touchdowns, after their first trip at the end of the second quarter nearly resulted in a pick-six.
Linebacker Justin Durant led the Falcons on defense with seven tackles, including one for loss. Phillip Adams (five tackles, two tackles for loss), Robert Alford (one tackle, two pass breakups), Ricardo Allen (five tackles), Jonathan Babineaux (one tackle, one forced fumble), Kroy Biermann (two tackles), Adrian Clayborn (one tackle, one sack, one tackle for loss), Ra’Shede Hageman (three tackles, one pass deflection), Kemal Ishmael (one interception), Grady Jarrett (two tackles, one tackle for loss), Nate Stupar (six tackles, one pass breakup), Desmond Trufant (three tackles) and Philip Wheeler (two tackles, one sack, one forced fumble) had notable games.
The Falcons elected to receive the opening kickoff, starting the opening drive of the game at their 20-yard line after a touchback. Ryan connected on his first pass, a quick throw into the flat for Jones for a seven-yard gain. That was followed by a 16-yard completion to White over the middle as the veteran received made a nice grab in traffic. Ryan continued his hot streak on the drive by getting the Falcons into Jaguars territory when he hit Freeman on a check down for nine yards before the Falcons running back took a toss for an 11-yard gain. However the gain was wiped out offsetting penalties thanks to a holding call on White and a late hit out of bounds on Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny. Coleman was able to get the first on the very next play with a three-yard run up the middle. The Falcons dialed up a pair of rollouts from Ryan, who hit Jones twice for 23 and 14 yards, respectively. Ryan continued his perfect streak on the drive, hitting Freeman in the flat for a three-yard gain to get the ball down to the five-yard line. Freeman finished off the 80-yard scoring drive, taking a sweep to the right, lowering the shoulder to break a tackle and leaping for the end zone. Freeman was able to reach the ball across, hitting the pylon before he fell out of bounds to give the Falcons their first touchdown on an opening series all year long.
The Jaguars opening series did not go as spectacularly with running back Denard Robinson being stuffed for a one-yard gain their opening play. Quarterback Blake Bortles attempted a quick throw on second down but Hageman was able to get his hands up and bat it down. On third down, Bortles dialed up a deep sideline throw to Julius Thomas, but Alford was in perfect position step-for-step with the Jaguars tight end and knocked it down. The Jaguars started the game with a three-and-out and punted it back to Atlanta, who started their next drive at their 41-yard line.
On second down, the Falcons dialed up another play-action pass to Jones over the middle but it was deflected through the receiver’s hands for an incomplete pass. Ryan was unable to find an open receiver on the ensuing 3rd-and-7 and the Falcons quarterback was forced to throw it away in the dirt before the pressure got to him. On fourth down at the Falcons 44-yard line, the Falcons surprised everyone by snapping it to wide receiver Eric Weems instead of Bosher, and Weems rumbled for an eight-yard gain to get the first down. However, safety Kemal Ishmael was flagged for a holding call on the block that allowed Weems to get to the corner, wiping out the conversion. The Falcons settled for a regular punt from Bosher on 4th-and-13 but got good coverage with cornerback Jalen Collins batted the ball back to Stupar, who downed it at the Jaguars three-yard line.
Biermann generated pressure on first down, flushing Bortles from the pocket as the Jaguars quarterback scrambled for a six-yard gain. Denard Robinson gained five yards on his next run, getting the first down. Bortles then had plenty of time in the pocket to find wide receiver Marqise Lee over the middle for a 16-yard gain to get the Jaguars. Three plays later the Jaguars faced a 3rd-and-4, with Clayborn generating pressure but unable to get the sack on Bortles. After avoiding the sack, Bortles was able to hit Thomas over the middle for a nine-yard gain but a holding call on left tackle Luke Joeckel wiped out the Jaguars third-down conversion. On the ensuing 3rd-and-14, Durant was able to close on a screen to Robinson for a loss of three yards to force another Jaguars punt.
The Falcons’ next offensive series started off with a four-yard run by Freeman, which was followed up by Ryan missing Jones on another bootleg. On 3rd-and-6, pressure got to Ryan, forcing him to tuck it and scramble before getting tracked down by defensive end Chris Clemons after two yards. The Falcons punted after a three-and-out, but Bosher’s 41-yard boomer was able to pin the Jaguars at their eight-yard line with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson was able to get the Jaguars deep out of their own territory with a 25-yard grab over Trufant along the sideline on second down. Trufant drew a pass interference penalty that was declined. The Jaguars attacked Trufant again on the next play, as Robinson was able to slip behind him for a 22-yard gain on a crossing pattern after Biermann chased Bortles out of the pocket. That put the ball into Falcons territory for the first time on the day. Two plays later the Jaguars gained another first down with an eight-yard connection between Bortles and Thomas to close out the first quarter. They went back to Thomas on the next play but Bortles overthrew the tight end on what should have been an easy, wide open touchdown. Two plays later on 3rd-and-6 from the Falcons 24-yard line, Adams was in on the coverage against Allen Hurns, resulting in another incompletion. That forced the Jaguars to settle for a 46-yard field goal, which kicker Jason Myers connected with. The Jaguars were now down 7-3 after a nine-play,. 68-yard scoring drive with 14:05 left in the second quarter.
The Falcons tried another play-action pass to Jones to start their next series but it was incomplete. However they were still gifted a first down and five yards thanks to defensive holding against Jaguars cornerback Davon House. Freeman was then fed on three straight plays, running for five and nine yards, respectively, before being dropped by safety Sergio Brown for a three-yard loss. The Falcons dialed up another naked bootleg, but the Jaguars were ready for it with Clemons in Ryan’s face to force a throwaway in the direction of tight end Levine Toilolo. On the ensuing 3rd-and-13, Ryan threw a screen to Freeman, who gained 12 yards but left guard Andy Levitre was flagged for a holding call, pushing the Falcons back 10 yards. The Falcons tried another screen to Freeman on 3rd-and-23, but his 13-yard gain wasn’t anywhere close to the sticks, forcing a Falcons punt with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter.
Durant made a diving attempt to break up a throw to Thomas on first down, but was unable to make the play, leaving the tight end to gain 22 yards to start the Jaguars series. However the Falcons defense made their stand from then on as Thomas dropped a slant two plays later before the Falcons blitzed on third down. Stupar was able to flush Bortles out of the pocket and Clayborn and Vic Beasley were able to close to force him to throw it away before taking a hit going out of bounds.
After a Jaguars punt, the Falcons started their next series by focusing on the ground attack. Freeman gained 31 yards on his first three carries, breaking loose for 21 yards on the third carry on a run up the middle. Then the Falcons fed Coleman three straight times, who gained 20 yards himself to get the ball to the Jaguars 30-yard line. On Ryan’s first pass of the series, a naked bootleg was thrown away when defensive tackle Jared Odrick got in the face of the quarterback. Freeman then converted on 3rd-and-4 on a seven-yard catch and run in the flat. Fullback Patrick DiMarco whiffed on a block against Posluszny, who dropped Freeman in the backfield for a two-yard loss on the next play. But the Falcons got 14 yards back on the next play thanks to Jones making a grab and breaking a tackle on a crossing pattern. The Falcons used misdirection on the next play with Jones running across the formation and finding himself open in the flat for an 11-yard score. That pushed Atlanta’s lead to 14-3 after an 11-play, 81-yard scoring drive with 3:47 left in the first half.
After Denard Robinson was stuffed for a one-yard gain, Beasley was able to pressure Bortles to force a quick throw into the flat. But the ball went through wideout Rashad Greene’s hands to bring about 3rd-and-9. The Jaguars continued their third-down woes as Allen Robinson wasn’t able to reel in a low throw on a slant after beating Trufant. After another three-and-out, the Jaguars punted it back to the Falcons with 2:44 left on the first-half clock.
A draw play to Freeman to start the drive was stuffed for no gain. Ryan then rolled to his left on second down and threw deep to White, but the veteran receiver couldn’t make the outstretched grab to bring on the two-minute warning. House was able to break up a throw to Jones over the middle on third down and the Falcons punted it right back to the Jaguars with 1:41 left in the second quarter.
Thomas got the Jaguars a first down after a seven-yard grab over the middle on 2nd-and-7 on the ensuing series. Bortles then kept it on a zone-read option and gained 11 yards. The Jaguars quarterback was then able to escape the pocket and throw to Hurns over the middle for a 22-yard gain, but it was initially ruled to be an illegal forward pass with Bortles close to the line of scrimmage. However the officials reviewed the call, overruling it and the Jaguars were awarded with the gain that put them into Falcons territory with 46 seconds left on the clock. Thomas then nabbed a pass down the seam over Adams for an 18-yard gain before the Jaguars stopped the clock at 40 seconds with their second timeout. Bortles then scrambled once more for a 13-yard gain to get the ball into the red zone before spiking it to stop the clock with 23 seconds left. Bortles hit Denard Robinson over the middle, who was hit by Stupar but was able to break the tackle and tried to reach for the end zone. But the Jaguars running back was down at the one-yard line with 11 seconds left as the Jaguars burned their final timeout. With 1st-and-goal from the one, Bortles tried a quick out to tight end Marcedes Lewis, but Ishmael was there to pick it off. He ran 84 yards downfield before Bortles was able to trip him up with two seconds left and prevent the pick-six.
Shayne Graham came out onto the field for the 34-yard field goal and his ugly kick snuck in just inside the left upright to give the Falcons three more points. The Falcons now held a 17-3 lead at halftime.
The Jaguars started the second half with a nine-yard run by Denard Robinson, which was followed by a nice one-handed grab by Lewis over Falcons safety Robenson Therezie for a 26-yard gain. Therezie was flagged for pass interference, but the penalty was declined. Adams made a nice stop in the flat on a quick throw to Greene, dropping him for a one-yard loss. But the Jaguars got it back when Hurns made a nice leaping grab down the seam for 22 yards on the next play. Two plays, the Falcons blitz was unable to get to Bortles in time as he hit Thomas over the middle for a 17-yard gain, putting the ball at the Falcons eight-yard line. Bortles connected on just one of his next three throws, missing twice to Hurns in the end zone. But O’Brien Schofield wast flagged for pass interference on the second throw, giving the Jaguars a first-and-goal from the one-yard line. Bortles ran it in on a quarterback keeper for a one-yard score. The Jaguars had their first touchdown of the game after a nine-play, 80-yard drive to start the third quarter.
The Falcons gave the Jaguars another opportunity to capitalize as on the third play of their ensuing series, Ryan’s pass was tipped by Odrick into the hands of Posluszny at the Falcons 42-yard line.
Denard Robinson took his first two carries of the series for 10 yards before taking a quick throw in the flat for six yards. Bortles then scrambled on 2nd-and-4, gaining three yards before being stopped by Alford. But the Jaguars challenged the spot of the ball and it was overturned, giving them a first down and the ball at the Falcons 19-yard line. Robinson made a grab in the flat on the next play, juking Durant for a nine-yard gain before getting tripped up. Bortles then found Allen Robinson, who was able to make the grab over Trufant in the end zone in traffic, drawing a declined pass interference from the Falcons corner. Whatever fortunes the Falcons were feeling in the first half were quickly reversed as the Jaguars had just tied the game 17-17 with 6:15 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons tried to burn clock with their ground game, but Freeman was bottled up for no positive yardage on his first two carries of the ensuing series, bringing up a 3rd-and-11. Ryan was able to connect with Jones, who ran for a first down after the catch with a 12-yard gain. Freeman’s next run hardly fared better, gaining just two yards. Ryan was then sacked by Odrick for a loss of one yard when he tried stepping up in the pocket to avoid the edge pressure. That brought about a 3rd-and-9, which Jones again converted on a 19-yard grab deep over the middle. After a pair of short gains by Freeman, the Falcons faced another third down at the Jaguars 46-yard line. Ryan went for Nick Williams on the out, but the Falcons receiver was held by House, gifting the Falcons another first down. Two plays later, Ryan dialed up a deep shot to Jones but slightly overthrew the receiver who couldn’t make the diving grab near the end zone. On 3rd-and-7, Hardy dropped a wide open throw over the middle after it was tipped by Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch at the line. That forced the Falcons to punt with eight seconds left in the third quarter and it was downed by Collins at the Jaguars 10-yard line.
On the ensuing second down, Robinson botched the handoff and fumbled but was able to fall on the loose ball. Bortles was able to avoid the pressure on the next play, but Wheeler tracked him down for a sack and a loss of two yards, knocking the ball loose again before Jaguars right tackle Jeremy Parnell fell on the loose ball. The Jaguars retained possession just to punt it back to the Falcons with 13:24 left in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons dialed up a play-action deep throw to Jones, but it was broken up by Jaguars defenders. But not before linebacker Telvin Smith was flagged for pass interference, gifting the Falcons 31 yards on the play. Three plays later the Falcons put the ball in the red zone when Ryan connected with White on a slant route to convert a 3rd-and-7 with a 14-yard gain. Freeman’s next run was stuffed for a loss on one yard before Ryan’s next pass was batted down by defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. On the ensuing 3rd-and-11, pressure forced a quick throw from Ryan and his pass was well behind Hardy on a slant for an incompletion. The Falcons settled for a 33-yard field goal from Graham to push their lead to 20-17 with 10:28 left in the game.
The Falcons defense stood strong once more, forcing a three-and-out. Biermann whiffed on a sack against Bortles on first down, flushing the Jaguars quarterback to scramble for a nine-yard gain. Babineaux was able to strip Denard Robinson on a run up the middle, but when Trufant tried to scoop up the loose ball, he was unable to recover it and Hurns eventually recovered the ball, resulting in a 13-yard loss. On the ensuing 3rd-and-14, a screen to Robinson was stopped for Durant after a 10-yard gain and the Jaguars punted it back.
Telvin Smith knifed through the line on first down and dropped Freeman for a four-yard loss to start the next Falcons series. But Freeman got five of it back on a throw from Ryan in the flat on the next down. The Falcons converted on 3rd-and-9 when Ryan hit Hardy over the middle for 20 yards. Freeman then gained five combined yards on his next two carries, bringing about a 3rd-and-5. Ryan connected with Hardy once more for a nine-yard gain on a curl route. The Falcons now held the ball at the Jaguars 34-yard line with little more than four minutes to go in the game. The Falcons attempted a handoff to Freeman on the next play, but the running back slipped and Ryan held onto the ball. Then the Falcons quarterback tried to flip it to Freeman on a shovel pass, but the Falcons blockers were already too far downfield, resulting in offensive pass interference penalty on White for blocking on the botched run play that turned into a pass. That pushed the Falcons back to 1st-and-20 at the Jaguars 44-yard line. Hardy gained seven yards back on the next play on a catch over the middle before another of Ryan’s passes was batted down by Branch, bringing up a 3rd-and-13. White made a huge grab over the middle to gain 17 yards, forcing the Jaguars to use their first timeout with 3:00 left on the game clock. Freeman ran twice, gaining two yards before losing six yards after Toilolo missed a block on the edge. That brought about the two-minute warning, with the Falcons attempting a screen to Freeman on 3rd-and-14. The Falcons running back was able to pick his way behind his blocking for a first down, but unfortable his blocking was a bit too good as both tight end Jacob Tamme and Levitre were flagged for illegal blocks in the back. The Falcons dialed up a draw play on the ensuing 3rd-and-19, which went nowhere and forced the Jaguars to burn their second timeout. It also meant the Falcons were forced to settle for a 46-yard field goal. Graham’s kick was good and the Falcons lead now was 23-17 with 1:42 left in the game.
Stupar broke up a throw to Denard Robinson over the middle to start the ensuing Jaguars series. Bortles took a deep shot to Lee down the sideline, who made a spectacular grab over Trufant, tipping the ball back to himself for a 30-yard gain. Thomas then made a seven-yard grab over the middle before the Falcons’ pass rush showed up on the next play. Beasley’s edge pressure forced Bortles to step up in the pocket into the waiting arms of Clayborn for a sack, dropping the Jaguars back seven yards and forcing them to burn their final timeout with 58 seconds left. On third down, Hurns was able to get behind Adams down the seam but Bortles overthrew the open receiver. Then on 4th-and-10, Alford broke up a post to Allen Robinson and the Falcons took over with 48 seconds.
The Falcons got into victory formation and after two kneel downs had their seventh win of the season.
They will attempt to carry over any momentum from today’s game into next weeks’ rematch against the Carolina Panthers, who blew out the team 38-0 last week, their worst loss in over a decade. This time the Falcons will face the undefeated 14-0 Panthers at home, with their lack matchup in the Georgia Dome being hardly better with a 34-3 loss in Week 17 last season. The Falcons’ last home win against the Panthers came in 2012 with a 30-28 last-minute victory. Since then, the Falcons are 1-5 against the Panthers. The Falcons have also lost three straight at home, while the Panthers have won nine straight regular-season road games dating back to 2014.