A strong start didn’t vanquish the Cincinnati Bengals fully, but despite a 3rd quarter comeback, the Falcons managed to pull out the win 39-32 to move their record to 5-2, currently atop the National Football Conference.
Matt Ryan passed for a season high of 299 yards while completing 24 of 33 passes for 3 touchdowns and an interception. On the ground, Michael Turner was solid with 121 yards on 23 carries and two scores. Ryan’s big day was in large part thanks to the dominant performance of Roddy White who led the team with 11 catches for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jason Snelling added 4 catches for 15 yards. Michael Jenkins caught 3 passes for 25 yards and Tony Gonzalez add a pair of receptions for 27 yards. Brian Finneran also caught 2 passes for 8 yards, including a 3-yard scoring strike from Ryan. The team’s 452 total yards is a season high for the Falcons and their most productive day since a 477-yard effort against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5 of 2009. The team was able to break some of their red zone blues by converting on all 4 tries there.
The Falcons got off to a strong start, taking a 24-3 lead into halftime. But the Bengals bounced back in the second half, scoring on their first two offensive series to cut the lead to 24-13. A Ryan interception to Leon Hall, set up a big 64-yard scoring catch and run to Jordan Shipley 3 plays later to cut the Falcons lead to 5 points. The very next play by the Falcons, Roddy White was stripped by Adam Jones who scrambled 59 yards for another score to give the Bengals the lead 25-24. But on the ensuing drive, a 22-yard strike to Tony Gonzalez on a third down set up the Falcons to hit Roddy White on an 11-yard score on the next play to take the lead back. Then White made a brilliant catch on the two-point conversion to give the Falcons a 7-point margin. A Bengals fumble gave the Falcons the ball back on the next drive, and Michael Turner capped off a 10-play, 52-yard drive with a 3-yard run for the Falcons to push the game out of reach 39-25. The Bengals would march down the field and score again with less than two minutes remaining to cut the lead to seven. Brian Finneran would come up with the clutch recovery on the Bengals onside kick attempt and the Falcons would punt after bleeding time down to 35 seconds with three run plays. Four plays later, John Abraham sacked Carson Palmer as time expired.
Defensively, the Falcons didn’t have their greatest performance. A good first half was negated by a subpar second one. They gave up 469 total yards, including 385 in the air. 317 of those passing yards came in the second half, as Carson Palmer completed 25 of 30 passes during the last two quarters. Palmer only completed 11 of 20 in the first half. Chris Owens led Falcons defenders with 11 tackles, partially because the Bengals picked on him for most of the day as he was subbing for an injured Dunta Robinson as the team’s starting right cornerback. Erik Coleman had 8 tackles, replacing Thomas DeCoud, who exited the game early with a head injury. Abraham (2 tackles, 2 sacks), Chauncey Davis (2 tackles), Brent Grimes (4 tackles), Curtis Lofton (7 tackles, 2 forced fumbles), William Moore (5 tackles), Stephen Nicholas (6 tackles), Vance Walker (5 tackles), and Brian Williams (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery) had noteworthy games.
The Falcons will be able to get some rest next week as they have their bye. The added rest should allow them to get several of their defensive starters healthy. They will come back the following week and host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2), and hope to put some distance between them and their NFC South rival in the playoff chase. The Falcons have beaten the Bucs in three straight games, their most recent being a 20-10 win in last year’s season finale. They’ve won their last 2 at home, and 4 of their last 6 in Atlanta vs. the Bucs. All-time they are 8-7 when hosting the Bucs. The Falcons are 1-1 under Mike Smith when coming off a bye, but their win did come in their lone home game. The Bucs have won four straight road games, including two this season.