Jones lifts Falcons over Colts
The Falcons had a dominant performance to earn their fifth win of the season with a 31-7 rout of the winless Indianapolis Colts. It marks the team’s second straight road win, coming off last week’s bye week, and a complete victory as they controlled the game in all three phases.
Matt Ryan led the team, completing 14 of 24 passes for 275 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception. Michael Turner had a solid showing on the ground with 19 carries for 71 yards (3.7 avg) and a touchdown. Jacquizz Rodgers had 10 carries for 44 yards, and Jason Snelling 8 carries for 15 yards. Julio Jones led the team’s receivers with 131 yards receiving on just 3 catches, but two of which were touchdowns. He also added 33 yards on 2 carries on the ground. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez had the team lead with 4 receptions each for 76 and 36 yards, respectively. Gonzalez added a touchdown grab. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt of 20 yards. Matt Bosher also had 7 punts for an average of 45.9 yards, including 3 placed inside the 20-yard line, in what was arguably his strongest showing of the year. Eric Weems returend 3 punts for an average of 6.3 yards, and had no kickoff returns due to a pair of touchbacks. The Falcons offense got out to an early lead and was successful in grinding out the clock in the second half. The Falcons held the ball in the second half for nearly 24 minutes while the Colts only managed just under six and a half minutes on time of possession.
Defensively, the Falcons outclassed the Colts, limiting them to 186 total yards, forcing 2 turnovers, and allowing them to convert only 4 of 14 third downs (29%). Curtis Lofton led the team with 12 tackles, as well as forcing a fumble. Jonathan Babineaux (2 tackles, 1 sack), Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles), Ray Edwards (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery), Kelvin Hayden (6 tackles, 1 interception), Stephen Nicholas (2 tackles), Corey Peters (1 tackle, 1 sack), Dunta Robinson (5 tackles), and Sean Weatherspoon (10 tackles, 2 passes defended) all had noteworthy performances.
The game started well for the Falcons, as Lofton stripped Colts running back Delone Carter on the second offensive play of the game, which was recovered by Edwards. That gave the Falcons the ball at the Colts 26 yard line, and Turner’s 1-yard plunge capped off a 4 play drive to put the Falcons up 7-0 with less than four minutes elapsed on the game clock. The Colts responded by being able to move the ball downfield on the next drive, but Kelvin Hayden squashed their momentum by picking off Curtis Painter at the Falcons own 15-yard line. The ensuing Falcons drive ended with a Bosher punt, but the defense once again shined with a three-and-out on the Colts next offensive series. Then with the ball back in Falcon hands, on the third play of the next drive, Ryan hit Julio Jones on a deep lob. Jones made a spectacular diving grab at the goalline. The play was initially ruled incomplete, but after the Falcons challenged, it was overturned and ruled a 50-yard touchdown pass. The Colts next drive, they were able to convert two third downs, but it stalled at midfield resulting in a punt at the start of the second quarter. On the third play of the next drive, Ryan hit Julio Jones on a slant, and he breezed through the Colt secondary on his way to an 80-yard score to put the Falcons up 21-0. The Colts would punt again on their next drive, but their punter Pat McAfee successfully was able to pin the Falcons at their own 1-yard line. Two plays later, Ryan tried to hit Roddy White on a quick slant, but cornerback Jerraud Powers jumped the route resulting in a pick six to give the Colts their first points of the day. Both teams would exchange a pair of drives ending with punts to close out the first half.
The Falcons began to move the ball on the opening series of the third quarter, but Ryan was sacked by Philip Wheeler on a third down, resulting in another Bosher punt. But the Falcons defense held with a three-and-out. The Falcons were successful in eating clock on their next series, milking over 7 minutes on a 12-play, 73-yard drive that included 7 running plays. The drive ended with Ryan finding a wide open Tony Gonzalez for a one-yard pass. The Colts could only answer with another three-and-out. The Falcons got the ball with a minute left in the third quarter, and were able to milk nearly six minutes off the clock as they ultimately settled for a Matt Bryant field goal from 20 yards out to take a 31-7 lead with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Colts put in backup QB Dan Orlovsky at this point in the game, but he found no more success than Painter with a four-and-out. The Falcons relied on Jacquizz Rodgers predominantly on their next drive, milking over 4 minutes off the clock with 4 runs by Rodgers for a total of 15 yards. The two teams exchanged a pair of drives before the Colts got the ball back with a minute left on the game clock. After two plays, the game was over.
Next week, the Falcons face division rival New Orleans Saints in a home game, the first of three consecutive home outings. At 6-3, the Saints are half a game ahead of the Falcons in the NFC South division race, making this game have huge implications for the playoff race. The Falcons have lost two straight to the Saints at home, their last victory against them in Georgia Dome coming in 2008. The Saints have taken the win in four of the past five games they’ve faced the Falcons in the Georgia Dome and have won 8 of the last 10 dating back to 2006. Prior to that, the Falcons had dominated the series for much of the previous decade, going 16-6 against the Saints between 1995-2005. The Falcons have lost their last two home games directly following road victories, however prior to that under Mike Smith they had won 8 straight such contests.