Strong Start Fizzles as Falcons Lose 30-22 to Jets

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY SportsChris Ivory rushes past Falcons defenders for a 33-yard score

Despite a strong start, the Atlanta Falcons dropped their first game of the 2015 preseason in a 30-22 loss to the New York Jets. The Falcons took a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Jets then scored 30 points before the Falcons got back on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. Despite two late fourth-quarter possessions, the Falcons could not pull out the come-from-behind victory.

Matt Ryan got the start and got the hook after two strong series. He completed four of five passes for 75 yards and a touchdown while he was in the game. Sean Renfree and T.J. Yates then came in at quarterback and alternated series throughout the rest of the game. Renfree finished with 94 yards passing while completing 10 of 14 passes. Yates had 78 yards passing on eight of 15 passing, with one interception.

On the ground Jerome Smith led the team for the second week in a row, tallying 25 rushing yards on six carries. Terron Ward had five yards on six carries as well as a four-yard touchdown. Michael Ford added another touchdown on the ground, finishing with no yards on six carries.

Collin Mooney led the team in receiving yards thanks to his lone grab of 60 yards on the Falcons’ opening series. Justin Hardy and Nick Williams each had a team-leading four receptions for 53 and 43 yards, respectively. Leonard Hankerson caught the lone touchdown pass of the night, finishing the game with three catches for 15 yards.

Matt Bryant connected on both of his extra-point tries with no field goal attempts. Matt Bosher boomed seven punts, averaging 55.9 yards with no punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Williams returned three kickoffs for 77 yards and a pair of punts for 10 yards. Devin Hester had the big special teams play of the night, nearly scoring on his lone 59-yard punt return.

The Falcons offense struggled on the ground, averaging just 1.5 yards per carry for a team total of 31 rushing yards on 21 carries. They finished with 259 total yards and converted just a third of their dozen third-down attempts. However, the team’s offense was able to generate 89 yards of total offense on two series. The Falcons also turned the ball over three times, including a pair of fumbles. The Jets were able to generate 10 points off those turnovers, including scooping up one of the loose fumbles for a 57-yard return touchdown.

Defensively, they played well early on on. The Jets did generate 355 total yards on the night, 86 of them coming on the ground. On six series with their starting quarterback, the Jets generated 171 yards of total offense when the Falcons’ defensive regulars were in the game. The Jets only managed to convert 23 percent of 13 third-down attempts for the entire game and 20 percent on five third downs with their starters.

Linebacker Allen Bradford led the team with six tackles. Jonathan Babineaux (one tackle for loss), Sean Baker (two tackles, one tackle for loss), Joplo Bartu (five tackles), Vic Beasley (one quarterback hit, one pass defended), Adrian Clayborn (one tackle, one sack, one pass defended), Warren Herring (five tackles, one tackle for loss), Kemal Ishmael (four tackles, one tackle for loss), Stansly Maponga (one tackle, one sack, one forced fumble), Robenson Therezie (four tackles), and Paul Worrilow (four tackles, one pass defended) all had notable performances on defense.

The Jets received the ball to start the game, with the Falcons bottling up a pair of Chris Ivory runs to force a 3rd-and-5. Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick then hit wide receiver Brandon Marshall for a 12-yard gain, beating Falcons cornerback Phillip Adams to move the chains. But after a false start on Jets tight end Kellen Davis followed up by a stop in the backfield by Ishmael on Jets running back Bilal Powell, the Jets faced a 2nd-and-18. They were unable to convert the subsequent third down and punted the ball to the Falcons, who took over at their 15-yard line with 10:45 left in the first quarter.

On the second play of the following series, Ryan found an open Mooney behind Jets linebacker Quinton Coples. Mooney then ran free to get a 60-yard gain before being tackled at the Jets’ 23-yard line. Three plays later, Ryan tried to hit Julio Jones in the back of the end zone, but he was held by Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. That flag gave the Falcons a new set of downs and set them up at the four-yard line with 1st-and-goal. On the very next play, Terron Ward run off the left side for a touchdown to give Atlanta a 7-0 lead with little more than eight minutes to go in the first quarter.

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Devin Hester signals blockers on a 59-yard punt return

The Jets suffered a three-and-out thanks in large part to a pass breakup by Worrilow in front of Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland. On punter Ryan Quigley’s 40-yard boot, Hester got to the outside and ran 59 yards before Powell knocked him out of bounds at the four-yard line.

The Falcons tried to run it up the middle on first down, but Ward was stuffed for a one-yard gain. Hankerson was stopped in the flat on a play-action pass for another one-yard gain, giving the Falcons a 3rd-and-goal at the two-yard line. Hankerson managed to get open on a pick route thanks to Hester, scoring to put the Falcons up 14-0 with 5:22 left in the first quarter.

On the second play of the next Jets series, Fitzpatrick hit receiver Eric Decker for a 12-yard gain on a rollout pass. Two plays later, Ivory ran off the right side for a 13-yard gain but Kellen Davis was penalized again, this time for a holding call wiping out the play and gain. Two plays later on 3rd-and-4, Worrilow broke up another pass but Falcons cornerback Robert Alford was flagged for defensive holding, giving the Jets a first down near midfield. Two plays later, Jonathan Babineaux burst up the middle to hit Ivory for a four-yard loss. Adrian Clayborn beat guard James Carpenter on the very next play to get a sack and force the Jets to punt as the first quarter was coming to a close.

The Falcons inserted T.J. Yates in at quarterback on the next series. On the final play of the first quarter to start the next Falcons possession, Ward was stuffed in the backfield for a four-yard loss by Jets rookie defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Justin Hardy dropped a pass to start the second quarter, setting up a 3rd-and-14. The Falcons only gained six yards on a throw to Ward on third down, but were pushed back 15 yards after the play due to Joe Hawley pushing Leger Douzable after the play. But Matt Bosher nailed a 60-yard punt to flip field position for the Falcons.

O’Brien Schofield tripped up Powell on a screen on first down to limit his gain to eight yards. Clayborn then tipped Fitzpatrick’s next pass, causing it sail over Powell’s head out of bounds. On third down, Beasley put a spin move on the Jets tackle and got a hit on Fitzpatrick as he tried to pass to Decker, forcing the Jets to punt after a three-and-out.

The Falcons inserted Renfree into the game at quarterback, but he failed to move the offense any more than Yates had. On the second play of the series, Mike Person botched the snap for the second week in a row, setting up a 3rd-and-13. A false start on James Stone pushed back the Falcons five more yards and the team failed to convert on the 3rd-and-long. Bosher boomed another 50-yard punt to set up the Jets at their 28-yard line with 11:24 left in the second quarter.

With several of the Falcons’ reserve defenders in the game, the Jets’ starting offense was able to get one first down before the drive was halted for a four-and-out. That first down came when Marshall shook rookie cornerback Jalen Collins after the catch for a 12-yard gain to start the series. But on third down, Beasley showed up again and batted down Fitzpatrick’s pass to force a punt. Quigley’s 52-yard punt was down by Tommy Bohanon at the Falcons’ four-yard line.

On the very first play of the Falcons series, Yates was dropped for a safety as Leonard Williams burst up the middle unblocked on what appeared to be a blown assignment and miscommunication between Stone and tight end Jacob Tamme.

The Falcons kicked the ball back to the Jets with 10 minutes to go in the first half. The Jets offense finally began to move, with Powell running up the middle for a 58-yard gain. But the play was called back thanks to a holding penalty on Decker. However the Jets went back to Marshall, who boxed out Kevin White on a 30-yard catch and run. That put the ball into Falcons territory for the first time for the Jets offense. Two plays later, the Jets’ blocking was superb as Ivory ran untouched 33 yards for a touchdown. The Jets went for a two-point conversion and Marshall got the better of White again on a slant to convert. The Jets had closed the Falcons’ lead 14-10 with eight minutes left in the second quarter.

Renfree was back in at quarterback but overthrew Hester on a deep seam pass to start the next drive. Williams and Jason Babin teamed for the sack two plays to force another Falcons three-and-out. This time, Bosher boomed a 61-yard punt.

The Jets inserted rookie quarterback Bryce Petty into the game and he completed his first two passes to Jeremy Kerley for a combined 38 yards to get the ball into Falcons territory. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn issued his first challenge on the second grab, but the 17-yard catch by Kerley was upheld by the officials upon review. The Jets then fed Powell for four straight runs, combining for 22 yards. Powell’s fourth carry went for 11 yards and got the ball down to the Falcons’ one-yard line but was called back by a holding penalty on Kellen Davis. Then two plays later, Petty overthrew DeVier Posey in the end zone. After a four-yard run by Daryl Richardson on 3rd-and-20, the Jets opted for a field goal. Kicker Nick Polk hit the 36-yard kick to close the Falcons’ lead to 14-13 with two minutes to go in the first half.

Yates reentered the game on the next Falcons series, where the team got good field position to start thanks to Folk’s kickoff going out of bounds. On 3rd-and-8, Yates was sacked by Lorenzo Mauldin trying to step up in the pocket, but an illegal contact penalty on cornerback Buster Skrine gave the Falcons their first first down since their opening drive. Another penalty gave the Falcons another first down on the very next play thanks to a defensive pass interference call on Darrin Walls. Yates then hit Eric Weems deep down the sideline, but he was ruled to step out of bounds as he was unable to get both feet in. The officials reviewed the call and upheld the initial call, seeing the heel of one of Weems’ feet hitting the white paint. But again Walls was flagged, this time for defensive holding and it gave the Falcons a first down at the Jets’ 44-yard line with 1:09 left in the half. But on that very next play, Yates under threw Tony Moeaki on an out pattern and it was picked off by Jets linebacker Jamari Lattimore, who returned it 37 yards to the Falcons’ 26-yard line.

Dezmen Southward was able to break up a throw to Quincy Enunwa, dropping an interception in the end zone on the third play of the ensuing series. A screen pass to Zac Stacy gained 10 yards setting up the Jets at the Falcons’ six-yard line. Stansly Maponga was able to sack Petty and strip him but Jets guard Brian Winters fell on the loose ball, forcing the Jets to call a timeout with 12 seconds remaining in the half. On the next play Enunwa made a six-yard grab over the middle and Jets stopped the clock with another timeout with six seconds left to go. A false start penalty on Winters on third down compelled the Jets to kick the field goal, which Folk nailed from 29 yards to close out the half. The Jets took their first lead 16-14 at the midway point.

Renfree started the second half, but failed to move the ball on another Falcons three-and-out. He was sacked on third down by Babin, who beat Falcons right tackle Tyler Polumbus.

Petty did little also, unable to move the chains as the Jets responded with a three-and-out of their own to start the third quarter.

Yates hit Hardy for a nine-yard gain on the ensuing series to set up a 3rd-and-1 which Jerome Smith converted on a four-yard gain, which was the Falcons first non-penalty first down since the opening series. Levine Toilolo dropped a deep cross on the very next play before Smith ran for six yards to set up a more manageable 3rd-and-4. But Hardy couldn’t reel in the pass with Walls draped over him to force another Falcons punt. This time, Javier Arenas returned the 54-yard Bosher boomer 18 yards and with help from Person on a 10-yard holding call, aive the Jets favorable field position to start their next drive.

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Rontez Miles scoops up a loose ball for a Jets score

At their 43-yard line, the Jets focused on running the ball with Zac Stacy doing most of the work to gain 14 yards on three carries. Petty then connected with a pair of tight ends in Wes Saxton and Steve Maneri, each for 15-yard gains to set the Jets up in the red zone. T.J. Graham beat Southward on a curl route for a 10-yard gain on the next play followed by Joplo Bartu making an excellent open-field tackle on Stacy to stop him at the five-yard line. An illegal downfield pass penalty pushed the Jets back five yards but Posey then made a leaping grab on Petty’s throw on the next down, beating Southward for the 13-yard score. The Jets pushed the lead to 23-14 with 2:45 left in the third quarter.

The Falcons offense finally started to get into gear on the next series thanks to Nick Williams returning the kickoff 33 yards. Renfree hit a pair of first-down passes to Carlton Mitchell and Williams, which were followed by a solid eight-yard run by Smith. But on the next play, Renfree’s handoff to Smith was muffed in the exchange and Jets safety Rontez Miles scooped up the loose ball and ran 57 yards for a touchdown. The Jets now had a 30-14 lead with less than a minute to go in the third quarter.

With Yates back under center, he hit Hardy on a deep post for 31 yards to start off the Falcons’ next drive. A face mask penalty on the Jets on the final play of the third quarter allowed the Falcons to start the fourth quarter at the Jets’ 25-yard line. But a holding call on Jake Rodgers backed the team up 10 yards, which was followed by Yates overthrowing Williams. A defensive holding call on 2nd-and-20 gave the Falcons a new set of downs, which Falcons running back Michael Ford capitalized on with a 13-yard gain. However he was pushed back for a six-yard loss on the very next play. Two plays later, Yates rolled out of the pocket and found an open Mitchell in the end zone, but the receiver dropped the would-be touchdown on 3rd-and-8. The Falcons opted to go for it on 4th down from the Jets’ 15-yard line and Williams made the grab in traffic for a 14-yard gain and first down. The Falcons now had 1st-and-goal from the one-yard line and Ford burst up the middle for a score. But the play was reviewed and Ford was unable to extend the ball over the plane, causing the score to be overturned. Arenas tripped up Patrick DiMarco at the one-yard line on a play-action pass into the flat on the next play, setting up a 3rd-and-goal. This time Ford was able to score, walking into the end zone untouched. The Falcons went for two, and Yates hit Toilolo to cut the Jets’ lead to 30-22 with little more than 10 minutes to go in the game.

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Bernard Reedy can’t reel in a deep pass

The Falcons defense held strong, forcing a three-and-out thanks to defensive tackle Warren Herring stuffing Stacy for a two-yard loss on third down.

On the second play of the ensuing Falcons series, Ford himself was stopped for a loss of six yards. The Falcons offense failed to recover and Renfree overthrew Bernard Reedy on a go route that could have been a potential touchdown on third down. Bosher’s 54-yard punt rolled into the end zone for a touchback.

The Jets dialed up their own go route two plays later, as Saalim Hakim raced past Akeem King for a 46-yard gain to put the ball into Falcons territory. King was beat again two plays later by Walter Powell, but the Jets receiver couldn’t make the potential touchdown grab. Petty tried to dial up another deep shot to Hakim on third down, but overthrew his receiver out of bounds and the Jets punted the ball back to Atlanta with 4:16 left in the game.

Yates was back in at quarterback with the Falcons taking over at their six-yard line. Mitchell made a nice sliding catch for eight yards to start the drive, which was followed up by a one-yard carry by Evan Royster, who suffered an injury on the play and exited the game. Ford was bottled up for a two-yard loss on 3rd-and-1, and the Falcons had another three-and-out and punt.

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Joe Mays forces a fumble on D.J. Tialavea

The Jets took over with 2:34 left in the game and inserted quarterback Jake Heaps into the game. Their attempts to run out the clock failed, as they were unable to move the ball on two runs thanks in part to another solid stop by Herring. Linebacker Nate Stupar delivered a hit to Jets wide receiver Austin Hill on Heaps’ third-down pass to force an incompletion and three-and-out, giving the Falcons one more chance to tie the game.

The Falcons started their final series with 2:08 left on the game clock at their 36-yard line with Renfree back under center. Renfree’s first pass was nearly picked off when he underthrew Williams on an out pattern. Tight end D.J. Tialavea made an eight-yard grab right before the two-minute warning to get the ball closer to midfield. Renfree then hit Williams for a 16-yard gain on a slant followed by a five-yard throw to Hardy on a shallow crossing pattern. Renfree then found an open Tialavea again, but Jets linebacker Joe Mays came and put his helmet squarely on the ball to force a fumble. Jets defensive tackle Deon Simon jumped on the loose ball and the Jets had it back with a minute to go. Heaps knelt twice and the game was over.

The Falcons will travel to Miami next week to take on the Dolphins in the all-important third preseason game where both teams’ starters are expected to play the entire first half.

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Aaron Freeman
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