Jaguars prevail over Falcons in preseason finale

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Massaquoi celebrates a touchdown with teammates

Despite a pair of opportunities to win the game late, the Falcons dropped their fourth preseason game to the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 20-16. The Falcons end their 2013 summer winless in the exhibition season, hoping to reverse their fortunes next Sunday when they open the season on the road against the New Orleans Saints. The overwhelming majority of Falcons starters got their rest on the evening, with the backups making their final bids for roster spots. The Falcons will have to cut down their roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday.

Dominique Davis got the start at quarterback and was inconsistent for much of the night. He completed 18 of 35 passes for 175 yards with an interception. He was pulled from the game at halftime, but due to an injury to Sean Renfree, he was forced back into the game. Renfree finished 3 of 5 for 1 yard before his injury that forced him out of the game. Davis added 23 yards on the ground on a five carries. Josh Vaughan however led the team in rushing with 83 yards on five carries, including a 65-yard touchdown. Chase Coffman and Antone Smith each had four receptions for 47 and 23 yards, respectively. Darius Johnson was targeted a team-high nine times, but only caught a single pass for 11 yards. Kevin Cone (2 catches, 25 yards), James Rodgers (2 catches, 11 yards), and Jason Snelling (2 catches, 10 yards) also contributed. Jeremy Shelley got the work at kicker, but missed a 48-yarder which he followed by making a 42-yarder. He also missed an extra point following the Falcons’ first touchdown. Matt Bosher was forced to punt seven times due to struggles offensively, averaging 44.3 yards with a pair placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert Alford returned a pair of kickoffs for 34 yards, while Jacquizz Rodgers had a 27-gain on his lone kickoff return. Alford also added a pair of punt returns for 20 yards as well. The Falcons struggled on third downs, converting only 4 of 17 attempts. They managed to have 176 yards rushing on the night with 344 yards total.

The Falcons defense stepped up in the second half, and overall limited the Jaguars to 275 total yards. They bottled up the Jaguars’ second half passing attack, limiting them to just 46 yards on 15 attempts. For the entire night, the Jaguars converted just six of their 18 third down attempts. The Falcons defense was able to generate points thanks to a scoop and score by Jonathan Massaquoi, as well as pick off Jaguars’ passers twice. Robert James led defenders with 7 tackles on the night, including one for loss. Massaquoi added 4 tackles of his own, with a sack, forced fumble, recovery, and the aforementioned touchdown. Robert Alford (3 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defended), Joplo Bartu (4 tackles, 1 for loss), Zeke Motta (4 tackles), Adam Replogle (2 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 pass defended), Travian Robertson (2 tackles, 2 for loss), Shann Schillinger (3 tackles), Desmond Trufant (2 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defended), and Paul Worrilow (3 tackles) had noteworthy games.

The Falcons defense got off to a strong start. Pressure from Cliff Matthews forced an incompletion from Chad Henne on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Robert Alford stepped in front of a Henne pass for the interception. That gave the Falcons prime field position at the Jaguars’ 29-yard line less than a minute into the game. But the Falcons offense had a hard time moving the ball, and a holding penalty on Phillipkeith Manley set up a 3rd & 21, which the Falcons were unable to convert on a 11-yard completion from Dominique Davis to Drew Davis. Jeremy Shelley came on the field to attempt a 48-yard field goal, but the kick sailed wide left leaving the Falcons without points off their initial turnover. The Falcons defense held on the ensuing Jaguars’ series that moved the ball 19 yards on six plays before forcing a punt by Bryan Anger that was downed at the Falcons own 9-yard line. After Jason Snelling burst up the middle for a 9-yard gain on first down, Snelling was bottled up for no gain on his two subsequent carries in short-yardage. That forced Bosher to punt, with the Jaguars taking over at their own 40-yard line. After an initial incompletion, Chad Henne completed four straight passes to get the ball into the redzone. Jordan Todman then burst up the middle for an 18-yard run into the endzone to put the Jaguars on the board with less than five minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Falcons offense started to move the ball a bit on the ensuing drive, but pressure got to Davis on a third down throw to Darius Johnson, forcing another Bosher punt. After a 21-yard return by Will Blackmon the Jaguars got help by a Falcons penalty. Desmond Trufant was called for roughing the passer after Matt Scott hit his receiver for a 24-yard gain. That put the ball at the Falcons’ 25-yard line, with the first quarter coming to a close soon after. But the Falcons defense held in the redzone after Zeke Motta and Travian Robertson bottled up Scott in the backfield at the Falcons own 6-yard line. Josh Scobee hit a 29-yard field goal to give the Jaguars a 10-0 lead.

After a nine-yard run by Jason Snelling on the fourth play of the ensuing Falcons’ series, Bradie Ewing was able to convert on 3rd & 1 on a two-yard carry. Although the Falcons were able to move the ball into Jaguars’ territory, penalties stalled their drive. First a taunting penalty on Joe Hawley negated a 13-yard pass play to Kevin Cone. That was followed up by an offsetting penalty on Darius Johnson for illegal formation, putting the Falcons at 3rd & 18 near midfield. They couldn’t convert the 3rd & long and Bosher punted once more. The Jaguars were able to get the ball back to midfield before Joplo Bartu bottled up a screen to Todman to force a Jaguars punt. The Falcons were unable to move the ball effectively before punting once more, which got the clock down to beyond the two-minute warning. The Jaguars took over at their own 17-yard with 1:41 left in the half. On the second play of the drive, Jonathan Massaquoi burst off the edge to sack and strip Matt Scott. Massaquoi then scooped up the loose ball and ran 9 yards into the endzone for the Falcons’ first score of the night. However, Shelley missed the extra point, meaning the Falcons were now down 10-6.

Scott was unsuccessful moving the Jaguars downfield in the two-minute drill as Desmond Trufant stepped in front of his pass on the fifth play of the drive for an interception. That gave the Falcons 58 seconds to score with the ball at their own 43-yard line. Davis hit on four passes to start the drive to get the ball to the Jaguars’ 24-yard line. He then was off on a pair of throws to Cone and Chase Coffman, respectively before pressure forced another incompletion on third down. Shelley got his act together on the ensuing 42-yard field goal to hit with 10 seconds left in the half. After Adam Replogle shot into the backfield to bottle up Denard Robinson, the first half was over with the Falcons down 10-9.

Sean Renfree entered the game to start the second half, but the Falcons had a three-and-out. Todman took the first Jaguars play for 21 yards on a run to get the ball into Falcon territory. But Joplo Bartu came clean on a blitz off the edge to get a hit on Mike Kafka to force an incompletion and third down. But an unnecessary roughness penalty on Charles Mitchell on the incompletion to Will Ta’ufo’ou gave the Jaguars a first down. But the defense held, with Robert James making the stop on Todman on the edge on 3rd & 2 to force a field goal. Scobee hit from 32 yards to push the Jaguars’ lead to 13-9.

The Falcons offense once again followed up with a three-and-out, as Renfree’s pass to James Rodgers was tipped at the line with pressure oncoming. After the Falcons’ defense forced their own three-and-out, Antone Smith took the first play of the ensuing Falcons series for 13 yards off the left side. Then Josh Vaughn ran untouched 65 yards up the middle to score the team’s first offensive touchdown of the evening. That gave the Falcons their first lead of the night, 16-13 with little more than seven minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Falcons defense forced another three-and-out. On 3rd & 3 on the next Falcons series, pressure flushed Renfree who tried to throw a shovel pass to Jacques McClendon while going down to the ground. McClendon caught the ball, but was called for the illegal touching penalty. But as he hit the turf, Renfree suffered an injury to his throwing arm and was pulled from the game. Bosher punted once more. The Jaguars’ offense started to show some life with Kafka completed all three of his passes on the next drive. He converted a 3rd & 3 with a 19-yard scramble to the Falcons’ 19-yard line to close out the third quarter. Three plays later, Jeremy Ebert beat Dominique Franks for a 13-yard touchdown pass from Kafka to give the Jaguars the lead back, 20-16.

Davis reentered the game. He hit Vaughan on a 14-yard screen pass, but it was called back due an offensive pass interference penalty on Chase Coffman. But Coffman responded with a 24-yard grab on a nice seam throw from Davis on the ensuing play. After a pair of Ronnie Wingo runs for minimal gain, the Falcons were stuffed on 4th & inches after handing the ball off to fullback Patrick DiMarco up the middle. That gave Jacksonville the ball back at their own 36-yard line. But they did nothing as the Falcons defense forced another three-and-out. After scrambling 6 yards to convert a 3rd & 3 on the next drive, Davis rolled left and threw a pick to Will Blackmon over the middle. But despite giving the Jaguars the ball in Falcons’ territory, the defense held again to force another three-and-out by Kafka and the Jaguars offense. Josh Scobee missed on the subsequent 53-yard field goal giving the Falcons the ball near midfield. Davis scrambled to convert a 4th & 2 on the next Falcons’ series. He then hit Chase Coffman over the middle for 8 yards, but the play was challenged by the Jaguars and overturned as an incompletion. Two plays later, Davis found Martel Moore over the middle on a 23-yard gain to convert on third down. Josh Vaughan then gained 9 yards on the ground to put the ball at the Jaguars’ 6-yard line. A Levine Toilolo false start pushed the Falcons back five yards, but Toilolo then caught an 8-yard pass on 3rd & 11 to give the Falcons a makeable fourth down play from the Jaguars’ 3-yard line at the two-minute warning. But Davis tried scrambling for the touchdown, and was stuffed for no gain on fourth down. The Jaguars took over with 1:51 at their own three, but the Falcons defense continued its strong second half play. Malliciah Goodman and Brian Banks bottled up a pair of Lonnie Pryor runs for minimal gains on the first two plays of the series. Then Jonathan Massaquoi nearly caused a safety in the endzone, leading to a 1-yard tackle for loss by Travian Robertson on third down as the Falcons used their final timeout. After a 52-yard punt by Bryan Anger, Robert Alford returned it 13 yards to give the Falcons possession at the Jaguars’ 41-yard line. Davis and the Falcons had one more opportunity to pull out the win with 1:24 left in the game. Davis scrambled for five yards on 1st down, but pressure forced him to throw it away on second down. Edge pressure then caused him to miss a throw to Coffman on third down. Then Davis tried checking down to Vaughan on third down, but the ball fell incomplete. The Jaguars took over with 59 seconds left, kneeling twice to close out the game.

The Falcons end the preseason winless for the second time under Mike Smith, doing so in 2011.

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