Falcons thrash Jaguars
The Falcons dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 41-14 victory on Thursday Night Football. The Falcons got off to a fast start with a 27-0 halftime lead and never looked back.
Matt Ryan led the team with 224 yards passing on 19 of 26 completions with 3 touchdowns. Michael Turner rushed for 61 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown. Jason Snelling added 22 yards on 5 carries as well as 4 receptions for 26 yards. In the air, Roddy White caught 10 passes for 135 yards and 2 scores. Julio Jones also added 5 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. Matt Bryant hit on both of his field goal tries of 33 and 31 yards. Matt Bosher punted 4 times and averaged 51 yards with 3 placed inside the 20-yard line. He did have one blocked which was returned by the Jaguars for their first touchdown of the night. Eric Weems averaged 7 yards on 4 punt returns and 26.5 yards on a pair of kickoff returns. The offense put up 220 total yards in the first half and converted on half of their 8 third down tries in the first two quarters. They dominated time of possession, holding the ball for over 38 minutes, compared to Jacksonville’s 21 and a half minutes. The Falcons took the pedal off the gas in the second half, subbing in Chris Redman and most of the backups late in the third quarter after putting 41 points on the board.
Defensively, the Falcons were outstanding, only allowing a last minute Jaguars touchdown with only a minute remaining in the game. Going into the fourth quarter, Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert had only accumulated 22 yards passing. He was sacked five times and picked off once. Twice Gabbert was stripped for fumbles, one of which was ran 13 yards for a score by Corey Peters. The Jaguars muffed a punt as well, which also set up a quick Falcons score. Curtis Lofton led defenders with 8 tackles, including one for loss, and recovered a fumble. John Abraham (5 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles); Jonathan Babineaux (2 tackles); Kroy Biermann (1 sack); Thomas DeCoud (1 tackle, 1 interception); Ray Edwards (0.5 sacks); Dominique Franks (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); William Moore (7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Chris Owens (2 tackles, 1 pass defended); Corey Peters (2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); Darrin Walls (1 tackle, 1 pass defended); and Sean Weatherspoon (2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss) all had noteworthy games.
The Falcons came out strong on the opening possession, with Michael Turner running 15 yards on the first play from scrimmage at their own 25-yard line. Three plays later they were across midfield into Jacksonville territory, and then Ryan found Julio Jones three plays later for their first score. Ryan hit Jones on a short crossing route, which Jones turned on the afterburners to score from 29 yards out to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead with only four minutes off the clock. The Jaguars answered with a three-and-out which featured Gabbert being sacked twice, once by Abraham. All the second sack by Peters was negated by a penalty. The Falcons got the ball back at their own 42-yard line, and were able to move the ball on the ground before Ryan hit White on a 18-yard pass on 2nd & 4 from the Jaguars 37. The Falcons failed to convert on a 3rd & 4 from the Jaguars 13-yard line a few plays later, and ultimately settled for a Bryant field goal from 33 yards out. The Jaguars tried to get their offense going on the next series with three straight runs by Maurice Jones-Drew for a combined 13 yards. But Sean Weatherspoon broke up a screen to Marcedes Lewis on 3rd & 7 which resulted in another Jaguars punt. The Falcons did not have much success on their next offensive series at the outset of the second quarter, thanks in part to a Jeremy Mincey sack on Ryan on third down. But Bosher’s 49-yard punt was muffed by Jarrett Dillard at the 5-yard line, and recovered by Weatherspoon. On the next play, Turner bust through a wide open hole for a 5-yard score to take a 17-0 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the second quarter. After Jones-Drew bust up the middle for a 43-yard run on the first play, the Jaguars gained no yards on their next three plays which led to another punt. The Falcons were able to move the ball 22 yards on 7 plays on their next drive, but it ultimately led to a 52-yard Bosher punt that forced the Jags to start at their own 12-yard line. Three consecutive runs by Jones-Drew only netted them 9 yards, and they punted the ball right back to the Falcons. The Falcons would respond with their fourth scoring drive of the game, thanks in large part to a 27-yard pass to Roddy White on 3rd down to get the ball into Jaguars territory. Three Turner runs for a combined 17 yards and a 18-yard pass from Ryan to Roddy put the ball at the Jaguars 6. Two plays later, Ryan found White again for his first score of the evening to take a 24-0 lead with just under 2 minutes remaining in the first half. The Jaguars were able to move the ball somewhat on their next drive, with two completed Gabbert passes before he was strip-sacked by John Abraham. After Lawrence Sidbury tried to scoop the ball up, Lofton ultimately jumped on the ball to give the Falcons the ball back at the Jaguar 19 with 46 seconds left in the half. With the clock expiring, the Falcons settled for Bryant’s second field goal from 31 yards out to take a 27-0 halftime lead.
The second half started no better for the Jaguars as on the third play from scrimmage, Abraham once again stripped Gabbert on his third sack of the night, which Corey Peters was able to scoop up and rumble 13 yards for a touchdown, giving the Falcons a 34-0 lead with only a minute and half coming off the second half clock. The Jaguars followed up with another three-and-out. The Falcons then mounted an 8-play, 79-yard scoring drive which chewed 5 minutes of clock, which ultimately resulted in White’s second touchdown of the night on a 29-yard pass by Ryan. The Jaguars responded with another three-and-out thanks to a Biermann sack, giving the Falcons the ball back with 4:37 on the clock at midfield. The Falcons had a three-and-out of their own, but Bosher’s punt was blocked by Kassim Osgood beating Shann Schillinger up the middle. Jaguars tight end Zach Potter picked up the loose ball and ran untouched 46 yards to finally get the Jaguars on the board with 2:24 left in the third quarter. At that point, the Falcons substituted in much of their second unit offense with Chris Redman replacing Ryan. Redman had another three-and-out before giving the Jaguars the ball back as the fourth quarter began. But the Jaguars could not even get things going with several Falcons defensive reserves in the game, with another three-and-out. The Falcons had a three-and-out of their own. ON the next Jaguars series, they finally converted their first third down of the night when Gabbert hit Marcedes Lewis for a 12-yard reception on a 3rd & 7. This came with 49 minutes elapsed into the game. But on the very next play, Gabbert’s pass to Lewis was tipped into the hands of Thomas DeCoud for an interception. With the Falcons taking over at their own 35-yard line, Jacquizz Rodgers got the bulk of the touches on the next series. All eight of his carries came on the ensuing drive, and with Redman finding Jones twice to convert third downs the Falcons were able to salt away nearly 7 minutes of clock before a failed run on a 4th & 10 with 3:21 left in the game. The Jaguars offense finally showed some spark, with Gabbert completing his first three passes against Falcons reserves. After the two minute warning, Darrin Walls jumped a Gabbert pass and dropped what should have been an easy pick six. But the Jaguars responded with two Gabbert connections to get them into Falcons territory. Three plays later, they were able to score with Gabbert hitting Chastin West for a 16-yard scoring strike. With the Falcons taking over with a minute remaining, Redman kneeled on the ball twice to give the Falcons the victory.
The Falcons have a bit of a lay-off as they will not play again until after Christmas on a Monday Night road matchup against the New Orleans Saints on December 26. The Falcons last game against the Saints was a heart-breaking overtime loss in Week 10 by a score of 26-23. Their last trip to New Orleans was a victory in 2010 with a 27-24 overtime win. It was only their second win against the Saints under Mike Smith, previously only beating them in 2008 in the Georgia Dome. Since Sean Payton took over coaching the Saints in 2006, he sports a 9-2 record against the Falcons. The last four games between the two teams have been settled by 3 point scoring margins. And the two games before that resulted in margins of less than 8 points, making six straight one-score games. The Saints sport a 6-0 record this year at home, and are 25-7 there in the past four seasons combined.