Ryan impressive in NFL debut

AP/Phil Coale The Falcons first foray under new head coach Mike Smith ended in a loss to Smith’s former team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, by a score of 20-17. Smith rolled the dice late in the game, going for it on 4th and 11 with 35 seconds left rather than settling for a field goal to send it into overtime. But the gamble ultimately ended in failure as D.J. Shockley threw an interception in the end zone three plays after converting the 4th down with a 17-yard run.

There were some positives from the game as the Falcons accomplished their goal of playing all four quarterbacks. While Chris Redman started the game, Matt Ryan probably emerged from the game the most impressive. Ryan completed 9 of 15 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. In only two series before being replaced by Ryan, Redman was 3 of 6 for 13 yards and an interception. Harrington started out the second half, finishing the game with 64 yards passing on 5 of 7 attempts. He scored on a 1-yard dive. Shockley finished the game, completing 4 of 15 passes for 63 yards and an interception. On the ground, Jason Snelling was the leading rusher with 32 yards on 4 carries. Michael Turner (5 carries, 22 yards), Jerious Norwood (6 carries, 20 yards) and Thomas Brown (4 carries, 19 yards) also contributed on the ground. Roddy White led receivers with 5 catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. Snelling had 1 grab for 47 yards, while Brian Finneran also added 3 grabs for 33 yards.

Defensively, the Falcons run defense had some issues in its first outing of the 2008 preseason. They gave up 136 yards on 33 carries (4.1 avg) and 2 touchdowns. Brent Grimes and Curtis Lofton shared the team lead with 6 tackles each. Grimes broke up 2 passes and Lofton also forced and recovered a fumble. Lawyer Milloy (4 tackles), Stephen Nicholas (4 tackles), Daren Stone (3 tackles), Jamaal Anderson (2 tackles, 1 sack), and Kroy Biermann (1 tackle, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery) also made notable contributions.

Jason Elam only hit on 1 of 3 field goal attempts, nailing a 36-yarder in the third quarter, but missed from 49 and 54 yards out. Michael Koenen had 5 punts for an average of 43.2 yards. Thomas Brown had 3 kickoff returns for an average of 20.7 yards, and Harry Douglas had a single punt return for 14 yards to round out the top special teams performances.

There are still some kinks the Falcons will need to have to work out. They were penalized 10 times and also gave up 5 sacks. They hope that there will be improvement in those areas and others when they square off against the Indianapolis Colts next week at home.

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Aaron Freeman
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