Falcons starters shine in Ravens loss
The Falcons lost their preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens by a score of 31-17, but positives could be drawn from the game. Notably the Falcons starting offense and defense both had strong performances, getting out to a 14-0 lead early in the game before the reserves let the Ravens back into it.
Matt Ryan had a strong performance. He began the game completing his first six passes for 92 yards, including a touchdown. He finished the night completing 9 of 13 passes for 155 yards with a touchdown and an interception. All four Falcons quarterbacks got work from under center. Chris Redman entered the game to complete 1 of 6 passes for just 8 yards before giving way to John Parker Wilson. Wilson completed 8 of 13 passes for 69 yards, while Dominique Davis finished the game with 6 of 11 passing for 53 yards and an interception. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers led rushers with 33 yards on 9 carries, including a touchdown. Michael Turner had 5 carries for 17 yards, and Antone Smith also had 4 carries for 13 yards. Julio Jones had a dominant performance with 6 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White added 3 catches for 46 yards in his brief work. Kevin Cone, Marcus Jackson, Aron White, Michael Palmer, and Tim Toone each had a pair of receptions for 25, 25, 22, 17, and 16 yards respectively. Matt Bryant connected on his lone field goal attempt of 31 yards to end the first half. Matt Bosher punted 4 times for an average of 44.8 yards with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Dawson Zimmerman also punted 5 times for an average of 47.6 yards.
Defensively, the Falcons were stout against the Ravens’ starting offense shutting them out and limiting them to 15 total yards in the first quarter. Once the reserves starting to enter the game, however the unit was far less stout. For the game, they gave up 321 total yards. But they also forced a late interception, and also brought down Ravens passers for 3 sacks on the evening. Robert McClain tied for the team lead alongside Shann Schillinger with 6 tackles. McClain also added the interception. Kroy Biermann (1 tackle, 1 sack); Rico Council (3 tackles); Akeem Dent (2 tackles, 1 sack); Dominique Franks (4 tackles); Robert James (5 tackles, 1 sack); Peria Jerry (3 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (4 tackles); Travian Robertson (3 tackles); and Peyton Thompson (3 tackles) had noteworthy games.
The Falcons got off to a strong start thanks in large part to Ryan connecting with Jones on the opening series. First, Ryan hit White on 13-yard gain to convert a 3rd & 4, which led to hitting Jones over the middle for a 26-yard gain on the very next play. Ryan and Jones would connect two more times for a total of 25 yards on the ensuing plays. After a 3-yard Turner run, Ryan hit Jones along the sideline for a 7-yard scoring strike to put the Falcons up 7 little more than 4 minutes into the game. The Ravens offense proved inept on a three-and-out on the following drive. On the first play of the second series, Ryan hit White again for a nice 21-yard gain. Three plays later on a third down, Ryan scrambled outside the pocket and found D.J. Davis along the sideline but the pass was ruled incomplete due to Davis’ foot being out of bounds. That led to a Bosher punt. But again the Falcons defense held, leading to another three-and-out. This time, Dominique Franks returned the punt 45 yards to set up the Falcons at the Ravens’ own 15-yard line. But on the next play, Ryan’s attempt to White was picked off by Brendon Ayanbadejo. But again, the defense held the Ravens to a third three-and-out. On the next drive, Ryan began to work the ball back to Jones and White. Jones 36-yard grab deep down the side set up the Falcons at the Ravens 20-yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers got the ball on the next four plays, eventually punching it in from 2 yards to start the second quarter. With mostly Falcons reserves in the game, the Ravens offense finally got its act together on the next series. Joe Flacco led the Ravens on an 11-play, 77-yard drive, culmintating in a 9-yard pass to tight end Ed Dickson. Chris Redman entered the game for the Falcons, but could not convert on a 3rd down pass to Kevin Cone, leading to the Falcons first three-and-out. Redman would not do much more on his next series before giving way to Wilson just before the half closed. Wilson did not do much better in his first series, as he was sacked on his lone dropback. But due to a failed 4th down conversion by the Ravens on the next drive, Wilson would get another opportunity with 55 seconds left in the half on a drive that began at the Falcons own 37. He connected on five straight passes to get the ball down to the Ravens 13-yard line before spiking the clock with 5 seconds remaining. Bryant trotted out on the field to hit on a 31-yard field goal to put the halftime score at 17-7 in favor of the Falcons.
The second half kicked off with a 12-play Ravens drive that culminated in a 36-yard field by Justin Tucker. Wilson led the team on a three-and-out on his opening drive of the second half. But Wilson would fumble a handoff on the first play of the next drive deep in Falcons territory setting up the Ravens at the Falcons 10-yard line. Three plays later, Curtis Painter found Billy Bajema for a 4-yard touchdown pass to cut the Falcons lead to 3 points. Both teams traded three-and-outs, followed by another stalled drive by the Falcons. On the opening play of the next drive, Robert McClain was flagged for a 48-yard pass interference call that set up the Ravens in Falcon territory. Three plays later, Painter had his second touchdown pass, this time hitting Deonte Thompson for a 22-yard play to take the lead for the Ravens. Dominique Davis entered the game, but his first play was a pass that tipped off the hands of Lamark Brown into those of Ravens safety Omar Brown. With the fourth quarter beginning, the Ravens began in Falcon territory, and Painter led them on a 7-play drive ending in a third touchdown pass to Bobby Rainey for 18 yards. On his third series, Davis would have some success moving the Falcon before Aron White fumbled after a 7-yard catch. That gave the Ravens the ball back with 4:27 left in the game. Three plays later, McClain made up for his earlier lapse when he stepped in front of a Chester Stewart pass for an interception. However, it only led to another three-and-out for Davis and the Falcons offense. The Ravens got the ball back with 2:13 left on the clock and were successful in running out the clock to get the victory.
Next week the Falcons will play the Cincinnati Bengals again in the Georgia Dome. That game will be nationally televised and airs on FOX at 8:00 Eastern.