The Falcons dropped their second preseason game with a 15-13 loss on the road to the Jacksonville Jaguars. It marks their second preseason loss where the team held the lead at halftime to only lose it in the second half.
Matt Ryan got the start and played the entire first half. He did not have a great first half, finishing with 7 completions on 15 attempts for 116 yards and 1 touchdown. But 76 of those yards came on a single play, a scoring strike to Harry Douglas, which included Douglas running 61 yards after the catch. Chris Redman played the entire second half, completing 10 of 14 passes for 76 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers led rushers with 39 yards on 7 carries. Michael Turner got the start and had 7 carries for 14 yards. Jason Snelling got limited work with a single carry for 11 yards. Douglas led receivers with 2 grabs for 87 yards and his touchdown. Julio Jones had a pair of catches for 30 yards, and Marquez Branson showed up late for 2 grabs for 9 yards. Roddy White had his first catch of the preseason for 13 yards. Matt Bryant hit on both of his field goal attempts of 40 and 34 yards. Matt Bosher had 5 punts for an average of 42.6 yards, including one inside the 20. Ken Parrish added a pair of punts for an average of 44.5 yards. He had one placed inside the 20 as well. Antone Smith muffed his lone kickoff return, which led to a turnover for the Jags.
The Falcons defense had a better start than the offense, with Brent Grimes intercepting an overthrow by David Garrard in the endzone on the initial series. Grimes returned it 62 yards, setting up the Falcons in enemy territory. But the Falcons were unable to convert a 3rd & 1, leading to Bryant’s first field goal from 40 yards out. The Jaguars got good field position on 40-yard kickoff return on the following possession. But three plays later, rookie Cecil Shorts fumbled a pitch which was recovered by Sean Weatherspoon giving the Falcons prime real estate at the Jaguars own 39-yard line. However a three and out forced the Falcons to punt. Ryan was called for an intentional grounding penalty on 3rd & 2. The Jaguars proceeded to march down the field on the ensuing drive, but were able to make a stand at their own 8-yard line on 3rd & 3 to force the Jaguars to settle for a field goal, tying the game 3-3 with 14 minutes left in the 2nd quarter. The Falcons offense continued their struggles and only moved the ball 4 yards on 3 plays before punting against. A three-and-out gave the Falcons the ball back at their own 5-yard line. But the team converted their first third down of the night when Ryan hit White for his lone reception on 3rd & 9. Three plays later, Ryan hit a wide open Douglas over the middle who blew past the Jaguars secondary for a 76-yard score to give the Falcons a 10-3 lead midway through the quarter. The two teams exchanged possessions for the remainder of the second quarter, neither having much success moving the ball before halftime rolled around.
The Falcons found success on their initial drive of the third quarter as Redman led them downfield on what should have been a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive. It would have been capped off by a 10-yard scamper by Rodgers for a score, but a holding penalty on Lucas Cox negated the scoring run. Two plays later, Kerry Meier made a nice grab that would have put the ball on the Jaguars 6, but the play was reviewed and ruled that Meier was out of bounds, making the pass incomplete. That was followed by a false start by Jose Valdez, and the Falcons settled for a second Bryant field goal of 34 yards two plays later. The Falcons defense held for the next Jaguars series, although the Jaguars did get on the board with a 54-yard field goal from Josh Scobee. On the ensuing kickoff, Antone Smith muffed the kick resulting in the Jaguars getting prime field position at the Falcons own 12-yard line. But the defense held and the Jaguars had to settle for another field goal, with the score now being 13-9 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. The teams swapped possessions before the Jaguars got on the board with 6 minutes left in the fourth to take the lead 15-13 as Luke McCown found Armon Binns on a 12-yard pass on what appeared to be a busted play and coverage. The Jaguars attempted to go for two, but failed as McCown overthrew a wide open Brock Bolen in the endzone. Redman started to move the Falcons down the field to try and re-take the lead, but a 3-yard loss on second down by Antone Smith set up a 3rd & 9 that the Falcons were unable to convert. The Jaguars then proceeded to run out the clock thanks to a 20-yard pass on 3rd & 16 with 2:40 to go on the clock. It caused the Falcons to use their final timeouts before the two-minute warning, and the game ended with three consecutive kneel downs.
Defensively, the Falcons had a fairly strong performance. While they gave up a few big plays, they did a good job holding the Jaguars to field goals in some critical situations. Dominique Franks led the team in tackles with 6, although that was thanks in part to some struggles he had in coverage throughout the day as he made several tackles after giving up receptions. Of the regulars Jonathan Babineaux (2 tackles, 1 sack), Kroy Biermann (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks), Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles), Brent Grimes (2 tackles, 1 interception), Peria Jerry (1 tackle, 1 sack), William Moore (3 tackles), Stephen Nicholas (3 tackles), Chris Owens (2 tackles, 1 forced fumble), Sean Weatherspoon (2 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery), and Coy Wire (3 tackles) had noteworthy games. Off the bench, Cliff Matthews (1 tackle), Shann Schillinger (5 tackles), Emmanuel Stephens (3 tackles), and Darrin Walls (3 tackles) were noticeable. Special teams coverage was also an issue, as the team gave up a pair of long kickoff returns (33 and 40 yards).
Next Saturday the Falcons will look for their first preseason win of 2011 by traveling to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, the defending AFC Champions. It is expected that the teams starters will play through the first half and somewhat into the second next week. The Falcons hope to welcome back Dunta Robinson, who sat out this week’s contest, as well as potentially newcomer Ray Edwards who has yet to suit up for the preseason games.