Recap of Interview by Carl Dukes and Mike Bell, written by Allison Smith
June 13, 2018
Ricardo Allen enters his 5th year as an Atlanta Falcon. From a late cut his rookie year, to the practice squad, to a leader on defense, Rico has had quite a ride in the NFL so far. In the 2017 off season, Rico and wife Grace welcomed their second baby, he graduated from Purdue, and most recently signed his 2nd round tender to stay a Falcon for another season. It was very important to Rico to earn his degree as an example to his children, “Anything you start, you need to finish.” While he hopes to be in Atlanta playing the rest of his career and not need his degree, he is proud of the work he put in to receive it and actually walk at graduation.
After Day 2 of Falcons Mini Camp, Rico spoke to Dukes and Bell (Carl Dukes and Mike Bell of 92.9 The Game’s afternoon show). If you know about Rico, you know he is one of the hardest working guys on the team and is a film nut. As I have reported numerous times, just days after the playoff loss in Philadelphia, Rico was at the Branch watching film and working out. He said that he watched the game over and over on the flight home, already taking notes on things to improve. He noted that the team was a tackle or turnover or an inch away from the SuperBowl last season. He knows this team is not that far off.
When asked about vacation time between Mini Camp and Training Camp, Rico replied, “We had vacation and time off after the season ended. There is no vacation time now, I am ready to go.” Anytime there are not official team activities at The Branch, Rico is working out 2-3 times a day, either at home or at The Branch.
Dukes and Bell asked about the current team and the work outs, Rico said that they are competing and taking care of each other. “Can’t win games right now, but can put in the work.” Rico is the mentee assigned to Isaiah Oliver and said that Oliver is long and can run with any receiver on the Falcons roster, he has great ball skills and comes in very mature.
Asked about some of the new offensive weapons, Rico commented that Ito Smith is fast out of the backfield and finishes every rep like he is going to score a touchdown. He said that Calvin Ridley is a “Good dude. He did not come in like a first round pick, but instead like a rookie willing to work. He is definitely going to make something happen.” He noted that all of the rookies came in knowing the team was already a good team, but there were some roles to fill.
Defensively, Allen commented that “We have allot of speed on defense, and when one of us is coming, know the other 10 are coming too.” As the deepest defender in the secondary, Rico has the best view and depended on for lots of communication to the rest of the defense. He said that he will watch 2 to 3 years of film on an offense to learn all of their tendencies (did I mention film nut?). He also plays allot of Madden. Madden shows their best plays and when a team is in a crunch, that is what they pull out of the bag, so you know Rico is already ready.
Dukes and Bell asked about the best offense they face in the NFC South. Rico said they go against the best of the best each week in practice.
On the Cornerback front, Rico commented that Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford (Tru and Rocky) are good. “They have been grinding, already getting balls popping up in the air” even though there is no tackling happening yet.
Plans for 2018 as a defense…..”Want to get more turnovers.” He noted that they had at least 5 turnovers overturned by penalties last season, clearly they plan to clean that up. After going from a 30something ranking up to the 8th ranked defense last season, Rico wants “Our Defense to be the #1 defense” this season. On the rookies and young defenders, “We got some dawgs out there – pull the leash off of them and let them go.” And commented that we have the fastest linebackers around.
Sounds like the defense is ready to go. We know many of the guys came in bigger and stronger and faster, so the 2018 defense is definitely going to be something to look forward to.
#RiseUp @FalconAlley Owt
**Graduation photo courtesy of Ricardo Allen, Interview photo is courtesy of 92.9 The Game
The Falcon win the coin toss and defer….as expected. Matt Bosher starts out with a touchback. The first play, also as expected, is a run by local boy (to Georgia) Todd Gurley for a gain of 4 yards. The Rams set a screen, pass to Gurley and Deion Jones was on the edge almost intercepting the ball. From the shotgun, under great pressure, Jared Goff runs for a few yards, then slides before Vic Beasley can hit him. Beasley was credited with the sack.
Andre Roberts allows the punt to drop behind him and roll to the 6-yard line. A fake handoff, then an incomplete pass to Mohamed Sanu begins the Falcons drive. Matt Ryan is running for his life in the end zone, while Jake Matthews holds up Aaron Donald long enough for Ryan to throw the ball away. Ryan completes a pass to Julio Jones, but it is 4 yards short of the first down. Bosher has a good punt from his end zone and the Rams begin at their own 47.
The first play, again, is Gurley running for 8 yards, then heading out of bounds. Without a huddle, a pass to Cooper Kupp falls incomplete. On 3rd down, Goff is SACKED by Takk McKinley! Welcome back to Cali! The punt falls at the 6 again, but Roberts catches this one and returns to the 10, so basically where the Falcons were pre-punt.
This drive starts with a handoff to Devonta Freeman, who is caught in the backfield for a 3-yard loss. Ryan drops back, then chooses to run and gets to the 11. Nearly sacked, Ryan stands in there, behind a great block by Ben Garland, and passes to Freeman who is short of the first down marker.
Bosher punts again, Pharoh Cooper calls for the fair catch, muffs it, the now active Nick Williams, shoves Kupp to ensure he doesn’t get to the ball. And Le’Roy Reynolds recovers the fumble and gives the offense excellent field position.
The Falcons offense begins in the red zone, at the 17. Tevin Coleman is in the backfield and gets the call, running to the left side and gains 3 yards. Ryan fakes the handoff then overthrows Sanu in the end zone. On 3rd down, Ryan scrambles for a few yards, then Matt Bryant comes out for the 29-yard field goal. With 7:12 left in the first quarter, the Falcons lead 3 – 0.
Bosher’s kickoff is 61 yards to Cooper where Damontae Kazee was called for a foul, moving the ball to the 32. Now Brooks Reed jumps and gives the Rams an extra 5 yards. The first, first down of the game is on short yardage. Brian Poole makes a good short stop on Gurley. Second and 7, without a huddle, Goff goes play action, perfect pass to Sammy Watkins is even more perfectly defended by Robert Alford, as he tips the ball back, volleyballesq. Desmond Trufant has good coverage on Kupp to knock the ball out. And just like that, there is another punt to Roberts.
Freeman takes the ball from the 10 up to the 14. Freeman gets the call again, for another 3 yards. With major pressure, Ryan moves up in the middle of the pocket and passes up to Sanu for the first Falcons first down of the game, with 3:30 to go in the quarter. Now, a 27-yard pass to Julio Jones, who stopped and came back for the catch, completely losing the defender. Now at the 50, Jones gets the ball on the end around and gains 13 yards. Coleman gets the call and gains 4 yards around the far ride side. Ryan, from the shotgun, fakes to Coleman and passes to Sanu who cannot hold onto the ball. Third down from the 33, Ryan passes short to Freeman, who cannot pull the ball in and Bryant comes on for a 51-yard field goal.
On the next kickoff, Cooper is stopped by Kazee, (making up for that penalty) who strips the ball, and it is recovered by Kemal Ishmael and the Falcons have the ball at the 32. Freeman runs up the middle for 2 yards, then along the left side for a gain of 6 as the quarter comes to a close.
From the 24-yard line with 2 yards to go, Ryan throws to Sanu who gains 6 yards and the 1st down. Freeman runs for no gain. Freeman and Coleman are both in and split as the pass goes to Coleman on the left side, for a gain of 6 yards. Ryan fires over the middle for Austin Hooper’s first catch of the day, right at the first down marker. Now a 1st and goal from the 7, Ryan passes short to Julio, who forces his way for 4 yards. With the play clock running out, the Rams call a time out. Freeman scores the touchdown, with teammate Alex Mack, literally, pulling him in. Both of them had their feet continuing to move and fight for ground. I wonder if they both get a ½ touchdown?!? Early in the 2nd quarter, it is 13/0, Falcons.
Bosher’s kickoff is into the end zone again, Cooper brings it out to the 24. Gurley gets no gain on the first down. Goff passes to Robert Woods for the first down. Gurley slips in the backfield losing 2 yards. Then, Gurley drops the pass from Goff. With Adrian Clayborn coming quickly around the backside, Goff gets the ball off to Woods. Rocky is called for a penalty, but the Rams take the first down instead. Grady Jarrett is applying great pressure in the backfield forcing an errant pass by Goff. Still near the 50, on 2nd down, Goff hands off to Gurley, who is immediately stopped by Debo in the middle for a one-yard gain. Team pressure causes a quick, low pass by Goff as De’Vondre Campbell lays him out. Another punt to Roberts, who fair catches at the 13.
Ryan is in the shotgun and immediately throws a first down to Sanu. Coleman spins off defenders a couple of times to gain 2 yards. Freeman comes back in as Ryan throws to Hooper for a 5-yard gain. Ryan is sacked at the 23-yard line by Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, coming in from both sides. Bosher punts 55 yards to the 22-yard line where Cooper is swarmed and the Rams will begin at their own 21.
The Rams begin this drive with a Gurley carry and gain of 4 yards, stopped by Beasley. Another handoff to Gurley, who finds a seam to the left for a huge gain, which is added onto due to a hit out of bounds by Ricardo Allen. With nearly 5 minutes to the half, the Rams are at the Falcons 36. Goff goes deep for Woods who is covered by Rocky, who is in perfect position to cause the incompletion. A pass to a sliding Kupp goes for a first down. Poole makes another big open field tackle on Woods for a short gain. Malcolm Brown runs into a red wall up the middle for a short gain, forcing a 3rd and 5. Goff finds Kupp for the touchdown over Poole.
The Falcons start at their own 10, and Coleman gets the call for a 6-yard gain. Julio makes the first down catch along the sideline, taking us to the 2-minute warning. Freeman gets 4 yards, then Ryan drops back and slips on the new field as Rams defenders fall on him for a 10-yard sack. The Rams call a time out. Ryan goes left and is taken down again, this time by Morgan Fox who shoved Ryan Schraeder like a ragdoll. Another Bosher punt to Cooper, who Kazee lays out again. A holding penalty is called on the Rams during the return and they begin at their own 14.
Goff comes out throwing to Kupp who is stopped after 5 yards by Debo. Another pass to Kupp for 10 yards and is quickly stopped by Keanu Neal. Goff finds Woods for another 8 yards and he is run out of bounds. Beldi Wrey-Wilson is called for a PI and the Rams get the ball across the 50. Then Goff goes deep to Woods for a 48-yard gain over Trufant. With 18 seconds to the half, the Rams are on the 7-yard line. Goff throws behind Gurley, who still hauls it in at the 3-yard line. The referees are reviewing the catch…..it is overturned, there are now 14 seconds on the clock with a 2nd and goal from the 7. Goff is being chased out of bounds by Campbell as a flag comes out on the offense, a lineman holding Takk. The penalty forces a 35-yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining in the half.
Roberts takes the touchback out of the back of the end zone and the offense kneels down going into the locker room at the half Falcons 13/Rams 10, the Falcons set to receive the ball.
The second half begins with a Roberts return up to the 16. Freeman gets the first run of the 2nd half and gains a yard. Next, Freeman breaks away for a 21-yard gain behind a great block by Mack and Derrick Coleman. Ryan is hit as he throws to Julio for an incompletion. T. Coleman gets the ball for a short gain forcing a 3rd and 9. Ryan throws a short pass to Coleman who breaks out and kicks his speed and goes for 14 yards. The Rams were offsides, giving the Falcons a 1st and 5 at the Rams 40. A missed tackle on Freeman allows him to gain 11 yards and another first down. Free was nearly down, maintained his balance and popped back up to get the first. Now, in the no huddle, Ryan hands off to Freeman for another 4 yards, continuing to run on the right side. Ryan hands to Freeman again, who pushes through the middle to force a 3rd and 1. Freeman is out and Coleman is in and gets the call, but cannot manage the first down. At the 20, the offense lines up quickly, Garland goes low for the block and Ryan forces his way to a first down. Coleman stays in and gains a quick 5 yards. Coleman goes again for another 6 yards and a 1st and goal. Freeman returns and runs for no gain, followed by a pass to Julio for 2 yards. The 3rd and goal pass from Ryan to Hooper falls incomplete, and Bryant returns to the field for a 25-yard field goal.
Bosher kicks to the 4-yard line and Cooper returns it to the 30. Goff throws 2 incomplete passes in a row, then finds Woods just over the hands of Trufant, for a gain of 25 yards….note that THE BACK of Jarrett’s jersey was being held, or there would have been another sack. Gurley carries for 3 yards. Then Goff goes high for Woods and Tru stays right with him in the air and knocks the ball out in perfect timing. Gurley drops the next path, likely due to seeing Debo coming in hard. This forces another punt that Roberts fair catches at the 19.
The Falcons offense starts with an incomplete pass to Hooper, followed by a first down to Julio. Mack lays out Joyner to ensure Ryan has time to complete that pass. Freeman dives forward for 3 yards. Another first down pass to Julio, who shoves his way for a full 16-yard gain. Ryan hands off to Coleman who gains 6 yards, then 3 yards behind the right side. The first pass to Justin Hardy goes for 2 yards as he slips on the field. Coleman runs to the left side for a short gain. The Rams are starting to focus their defense to stop the run. On the 3rd down, Troy Hill has great defense of the pass to Sanu to knock it lose. Again, Bryant kicks a 54-yard field like it is nothing.
Bosher’s kick is a touchback, Cooper runs it out, is nailed again, fumbles, but was called down as Ishmael fights hard for the ball. Gurley tries to get the Rams 2nd drive of the half started, but is quickly met by Debo, 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The defense has been on the sideline for a nice rest again and are fired up from that almost fumble.
The fourth quarter begins with a 2nd and 15 for the Rams. Goff comes out throwing behind Kupp. On 3rd down, Takk is blocked in the back, Beasley is held in a horse collar, so Goff is able to complete the pass to Woods for a first down, who is taken down hard by Campbell. Gurley gets 14 yards and brought down by Campbell and Debo. Then a huge run finally brought down by Rico after a 33-yard gain. Gurley goes up the middle for a short 3. The next play, Goff gets to meet Campbell again, for the 3rd sack of the day. On 3rd and 14, Goff, from the shot gun, hands to Brown who is stopped by Kiki forcing a 32-yard field goal. With just under 11 minutes to go, the Falcons lead 19/13.
Roberts takes the kickoff at the 10-yard line and goes out of bounds at the 17. A pass to Julio goes for another first down. Double Coleman’s in the backfield, and Tevin catches the pass, slips, but still manages an 8-yard gain, then is knocked out for a 1-yard loss. Ryan starts to run, then sees an open Hooper just across the first down line. Freeman is way in the backfield when he gets the ball, is immediately stopped by Donald for a 3-yard loss. Ryan passes to Sanu, as he picks up blockers, crosses the field and takes the ball 53 yards! First and 10 on the Rams 10. Freeman gets the call and goes around the right corner for a couple of yards. A fake to Freeman, and Julio gets the touchdown on the front corner of the end zone, giving the Falcons the 26/13 lead.
Bosher’s kick falls at the 3-yard line, Cooper quickly runs out of bounds. Kupp catches a quick first down pass. Then Goff throws a low incompletion. Woods has a false start causing a 2nd and 15. Goff drops back and hits his tight end as Kiki slides on the field, Woods blocks Campbell in the head, called for a personal foul on a blindside block (4 officials called this), causing a 2nd and 19. Goff then throws to a wide open Watkins at the 50. Woods makes a first down reception along the sideline. Kupp gets the next pass and is quickly stopped by Debo for a 5-yard gain. A short pass to Gerald Everett is stopped and popped back by Tru. Gurley goes past the 1 yard needed for several yards and the first down at the 20. Goff finds Gurley in the open field, again, tackled by Poole after a 3-yard gain. Neal makes the next stop at the line forcing a 3rd and 7. Kiki and Debo combine for the next stop for 2 yards short. The Rams immediately go for it on a pass to Woods at the sideline. He bobbles the ball as he is falling out of bounds for the catch. They quickly snap the ball to ensure no review or challenge. A quick run to the left for a few yards. With 2:22 to go and a 2nd and goal from the 5, Goff over throws Woods in the end zone. Goff then finds Tyler Higbee in the end zone just over Neal. The ruling of “touchdown” was reviewed and overturned as the ball hit the ground. It’s a 4th down on the 5-yard line. Gurley is back in, Goff in the shotgun, as Grady and Vic swarm to Goff, the pass to Watkins is knocked out by Debo.
The Falcons take over on downs. Seconds over 2 minutes to go, on their own 5-yard line, up by 13, the Rams have all 3 time outs. Freeman gets the first carry and 3 yards. The 2-minute warning time out.
After the 2-minute warning, Ryan hands to Coleman who gains another 3 yards and the Rams take a time out. On 3rd and 3, behind Dontari Poe, Coleman gains no yards and Bosher returns to punt.
Bosher’s punt is nearly blocked, Cooper bobbles the catch allowing Ish and Reynolds time to get to him and lay him out again. Goff goes immediately to the end zone to Watkins who is blanketed by Rocky in great coverage. Goff is forced out of the pocket by Poe and Jarrett and throws out of bounds. A quick pass up to Gurley gains 4 yards and is brought down by Wrey-Wilson. On 4th down, the Rams call their final time out with 74 seconds remaining. Goff throws incomplete to Woods and is nearly intercepted by Wreh-Wilson.
Falcon fans sigh in relief as the team kneels down twice and prepare to head to Philadelphia for the next round at 4:35 ET on Saturday.
Iron Falcon: Nearly weekly deserved, Matt Bryant – another 4 field goals, 29, 51, 25, and 54 this week. DamontaeKazee and KemalIshmael for their consistent kick coverage, causing and recovering fumbles, turning the field for the offense and lighting up the team.
What a crazy game. The Falcons have now won 4 games on LITERALLY the last play another 1 on the next to the last play, and beat New Orleans in the last minute and a half. They like to give you your money’s worth…..as a long time Falcon fan, you know not to leave early, no matter who is up. Crazy things can happen. So, what did happen this Monday night that lead to another close win?
Well, offensively, there were several passes dropped by our normally sure handed receivers. Matt Ryan had a few ill-timed passes, but none that fell into Tampa Bay hands at least. Ryan noted his pass to JustinHardy near the end zone was his miss, he was a little early on his timing and didn’t throw it high enough. Again, another week that not all of the incompletions were on Ryan however. JulioJones seems to have trouble catching in space now, I guess he isn’t use to not having people hanging on him….and there were a few that may could have had a penalty called, but were not. Through the season so far, there have been 25 or so dropped, catchable passes. Ryan did look more comfortable when the Falcons went no huddle a good part of the game, and of course, our best new catch phrase since Takk was drafted, “Get F*ing Set.” Not as shocking that Ryan was yelling at his guys to get set so 2 weren’t in motion at the same time, but the fact it was so loud and clear on the broadcast. Hello live tv.
Overall, the offensive line did a good job and were credited by both Ryan and DevontaFreeman. While the line was making some good running lanes for Freeman, he also noted they had him on his two fumbles as well. The touchdown fumble was recovered by a very alert LevineToilolo, while the other was recovered by….BenGarland! There were only 3 offensive penalties this week, a false start on Wes Schweitzer, and 2 on Garland, but one of those was a phantom call. MohamedSanu was under center once Monday night, lost his shoe, but still ran for the first down. Sanu only had 2 catches for 23 yards, but was doing allot of good blocking work and helped with the Freeman touchdown. Jones had 3 receptions for 54 yards, one big 29-yarder. The other star of the day was birthday boy Justin Hardy, who turned 26 on Monday, then had a 27-yard reception and a touchdown. TaylorGabriel had 2 catches and a single run on the night. The team overall rushed for a season high 201 yards, 19 times of which, were outside the tackles. Freeman and TerronWard were having some good outside lanes opened. Ward had 8 carries for 40 yards, one of which went for 13 yards. Clearly this 3 back system is a great idea…especially if someone is going to be out a couple of games.
Devonta Freeman, who won the Iron Falcon this week, is fully back and a true enjoyment to watch. His 5’8” frame and run angry attitude propels him to the next level. This week alone, he ran for 126 yards on 22 carries, a long 32-yard run for a touchdown. You can see his eyes light up when he sees space, he runs so low and angry, that he will run over you or past you, and don’t let his set that pivot foot. He is happy to initiate the contact with the defenders and even knocked fellow running back Terron Ward’s brother, TJ Ward, out. You could hear the impact through the tv. Freeman also caught 5 passes for 68 yards, one of which he turned into a 29-yard gain. Freeman was responsible for converting 6 of the 9 successful 3rd down conversions. With Freeman’s rushing touchdown, he tied the great WilliamAndrews and newest Ring of Honor member WarrickDunn with 30 rushing touchdowns, all 5th in team history. While I love TevinColeman, Freeman is definitely setting the way to be the single starting running back. Will see what happens with Coleman is back.
Special teams was better again this week. MattBryant, 41 years young, easily makes a 57-yard field goal. MattBosher has 4 successful and well placed punts and touchbacks. And AndreRoberts was an aggressive and smart returner. He averaged 27 yards on kickoff returns and 8 yards on punts, but did not let anything drop on the 2-yard line, or miss a kick. I like his return style, as long as he gets to the 20, there isn’t that much difference in field position and when a returner is running, it seems to light up the team and the crowd, watching to see if he is about to break it. Coverage was good most of the day, although, darn him, JacquizzRodgers has a kickoff return of 45 yards, but the rest of the time, the Falcons coverage was good.
This leads to the discussion of the defense, as many of those guys play on kick coverage as well, there were too many missed tackles. Not all day, but several times, big gains were made after a Buc was touched by numerous players. As expected, DeionJones led tackles with 7, the often maligned by refs RobertAlford still had 6, as well as the up and coming De’VondreCampbell with 6. Campbell had the stop that really helped clinch the game. With seconds to go in the game and the Bucs driving, Campbell makes the big stop, not allowing the receiver to go out of bounds to stop the clock, and maybe took an extra second to get back up. By the time the Bucs got back to the line, the ref slipped and got back up to place the ball, they had to spike the ball and kick the ill-fated far right field goal as time expired. And when Campbell hits you, you know it. I know I saw him flip at least one player completely over. DesmondTrufant had 5 tackles, KemalIshmael had another big tackle and leaping near pass breakup. KeanuNeal, while only 3 tackles, had is 3rd forced fumble of the season, totaling 8 (so far) in his first two seasons, which is an NFL record for DB’s in their first 2 seasons. Speaking of Kiki, he made adjustments early in the game. To his shoes. He changed his cleats after having a slip early in the game. That is smart play, instead of gutting it out, realizing you need better leverage out there.
And then there is that rookie…..TakkMcKinley. A single tackle, but always swarming, but a sack, his 6th on the season) and forced fumble. While the Falcons did not come up with this fumble, it is always good to see turnovers for our defense. Sadly, this season so far, including 1 Monday night, have had 6 interceptions turned back to the offense by defensive penalties. This week, Ricard Allen (another birthday boy) channeled my pre-game periscope vibe and made a big interception, but Rocky was called for defensive holding – which was ticky tack – and the ball was returned to the Bucs. The stats can say what it wants, I have picture proof that Clemson met up for a team sack, with AdrianClayborn inches away. VicBeasley, Jr. back in his normal pass rushing spot, combined with GradyJarrett for a sack on JameisWinston. Now, on the Grady front….he played 33 pass rush snaps, had 5 total pressures, with a 12.1 pass rush productivity. And his jersey torn, with only 1 hold call….again. Which was funny in itself, because that was called on (again) former Falcon Joe Hawley…and we all know Joe will play!
Besides winning, and the Matt Ryan mic’d up enjoyment, the other highlight of the game, being able to hear on the TV coverage “ATL ATL ATL.” At first, I was trying to figure out what they were chanting since it was not at home, then realized, that is our people down there representing well.
Injury: No New Injuries. Andy Levitre will get some work this week, but no update on Tevin Coleman and his concussion as of Tuesday morning.
Captains for tonight’s game are Devonta Freeman, Matt Bryant, and Ricardo Allen.
The Buccaneers won the toss and deferred.
Andre Roberts gives the Falcons good field position with a 31-yard return to the 36-yard line. The first play is a run into the line by Devonta Freeman. Then a toss back to Freeman, who goes to the left and gains 4 yards. With a third and five, Matt Ryan drops back and throws to Julio Jones who is tightly covered by, you know it, Brent Grimes. Matt Bosher punts a high 42-yard punt to the 17 for a fair catch.
The Buccaneers start off with a run as well, gaining a quick 5 yards. Robert Alford in great coverage on Mike Evans causes a missed catch and a 3rd and 5. Another Jameis Winston pass is caught, but stopped short by Deion Jones with Keanu Neal closing. And instantly, the Falcons have the ball right back near the same spot they just were.
A quick pass to Austin Hooper for a 4-yard gain, then a running angry Free quickly gets the first down and are up near the 50. Then a wide open Justin Hardy gets a 27-yard birthday catch. After a fake to Freeman, Ryan throws to Freeman who makes allot of moves for a 7-yard gain, but is called back by a Ben Garland block in the back. Freeman is replaced by Terron Ward. Stacked with receivers, the Bucs decide to take a time out. Back at the 34, Ryan drops back and finds Jones for 8 yards. Next, Ryan finds Ward for another 6 yards. Freeman is back in and makes a big 13-yard reception and is suddenly down at the 7-yard line. A play fake and an off pass to Derrick Coleman. Freeman tries, unsuccessfully to run up the middle as he is quickly met with 3 Buc defenders. It’s 3rd and goal, Ryan is in the shotgun and easily throws a birthday touchdown pass to Hardy.
As I said pre-game on Periscope, birthday boys have had good games all season. Now, let’s see Rico get a nice pick 6 for his celebration.
Bosher kicks for a touchback, so the Bucs start at the 25. Winston quickly hands off to avoid the swarming Grady Jarrett and the rusher is stopped by De’Vondre Campbell, who makes the next tackle as well. Winston lobs a big pass up the field to Cameron Brate who is quickly met with a flying Alford, who apparently hits too hard and is called for a penalty. He went in for the shoulder, but the receiver was leaning to catch the questionable pass. Charles Sims makes a catch, just short of the first just across midfield. Peyton Barber looks stopped, but keeps his feet moving and rolling off defenders for a big gain and first down. Derrick Shelby ensures the next run is not as successful, hitting Barber behind the line. Takk McKinley jumps, but Winston doesn’t snap the ball in time to get the call, resets and throws to DeSean Jackson for a 1 yard short of the first down again. Again, on 3rd and 1, there is a big play. The Falcons blow their coverage and OJ Howard makes the receiving touchdown. With just under 2 minutes to go in the first quarter, it is all tied up at 7.
On the next kickoff, Roberts brings it out of the end zone and up to the 25 the hard way. A Ryan toss back to Ward who gains 9 yards, who, on the next run gains the first down. Back in, Freeman goes 15 yards virtually untouched. A pass to Freeman who goes for another 29 yards after a light stiff arm to a defender, then turns up the speed.
As the second quarter begins, Ryan overthrows Mohamed Sanu in the end zone, covered by, shakes head, RobertMcLain. Still just outside the 20, the handoff to Taylor Gabriel goes for 3 yards. Again, this does not work, but we stick with a play if nothing else. Third and 7 as Ryan drops back and tosses a short pass to Jones, who then goes untouched for a number of yards and is hugging the sideline as he is pushed out at the 2. DontariPoe is in at fullback and Freeman follows him in to inches from the goal line. Still in at fullback, Freeman flies into the end zone, drops the ball, then LevineToilolo comes off his block and recovers the ball. It doesn’t really have to be this dramatic.
Next kickoff, another familiar name, JaquizzRodgers with the return, but is called back on a block in the back penalty. Starting with their backs against the end zone, Winston finds MikeEvans for a quick first down. After a short run, Evans makes a big catch downfield, but is called back for an offensive pass interference for jamming up Desmond Trufant. At 2nd and 17 from their own 12, Winston drops back, finds Sims who is knocked out of bounds after numerous missed tackles. As he is just stepping out of bounds, Rico hits him and is called for the penalty. Then DC Raheem Morris notices that Jones likely had Sims down at the 11 and challenges the call. The call is reversed, but the penalty (that would not have happened if they called the game correctly to start) is still enforced and the Bucs are at their own 26. Jackson runs around the back and left side for 7 yards where Jones forces him out. KemalIshmael makes a huge leap, but the pass is still too high for him and another pass is completed. Third and 4 seeing midfield, (shoot me) Joe Hawley is in at center and assists with the 36-yard reception by Cross. However, before the Bucs can snap the ball, Dan Quinn challenges the catch on the sideline as one foot was in bounds but the body fell out of bounds. This challenge, the Falcons lose.
The Bucs continue their drive with Winston in trouble, but gets a big pass off for a 14-yard gain. BrooksReed was nearly touching Winston as he released the ball. Inside the 20, the Bucs rush up the middle quickly to the 9-yard line where he is tackled by Rico. Then, Barber rushes to the 5, where Neal knocks the ball out with the back of his elbow.
The Falcons offense comes out, immediately gets a defensive penalty to move up the field to the 39 for a first down. Then Free gets loose and runs 22 easy yards behind the blocking Garland and runs over defenders. Freeman runs again for 3 yards, then takes a break on the sideline. Ward is stopped way behind the line. Ju and Sanu are lined up next to each other on the right side as Ryan lays the ball up to Jones tight double covered in the end zone by the time Ryan released the ball. MattBryant successfully kicks the 57-yard field goal like a boss.
The Bucs have just over 3 minutes to go in the half and start at their own 25. Winston airs it up and Rico gets his birthday interception, but the refs called Rocky for holding and give the ball back and the automatic first down. While VicBeasley is being blocked and tackled in the back and Jarrett is being held around the throat, Winston is able to run up the field for a few yards. On 3rd down, Winston throws too low for the sliding Cross to catch. They kick to Roberts who is hit late out of bounds by Cross, but the refs pick the flag back up.
Ryan has the team moving with passes to Sanu and Gabriel, then a wide open Freeman on the run cannot make the reception. Ryan under major pressure and running around, gets the pass off to Sanu on the sideline for 21 yards. With under a minute to go, Ryan tosses up to Freeman, who quickly gets out of bounds after an 8-yard gain. A slightly high pass to Sanu falls incomplete. On 3rd and 2, Ryan has a sprint out to his left and throws it down the sideline to Jones who is tightly covered by Chris Conti. Bosher kicks out of bounds at the 17-yard line.
With 25 seconds to go, the Bucs throw for a quick first down. Next, Winston is scrambling and meets the young buck TAKK who sacks him, causes a fumble, but the Falcons are unable to recover it. The half ends and everyone heads to their locker rooms with the Falcons leading 17 to 7.
Bosher kicks off to Quizz, who easily returns it up to the 45 and is finally stopped by rookie DamontaeKazee. Winston lays it up for Evans who SHOVED Rocky down to make the reception. Evans goes off the field whining on the most unquestionable PI ever. Backed up, Barber gets the call for 8 rushing yards. The Bucs are called for offsides and backed up again. A short pass to AdamHumphries is immediately stopped by BrianPoole. On 3rd and 9, the Bucs are in the shotgun and Winston steps up where he is met by CLEMSON. Beasley on one side, Jarrett being held but on the other side, with a push by Takk. The Bucs are forced to punt which goes into the end zone and they have a flag for holding on the offense.
A quick 3-yard gain, a penalty on WesSchweitzer and it is 2nd and 13 at the 27 leads to a pressured Ryan errant pass that falls incomplete. Out of the shotgun, Ryan scrambles, continues to look for a receiver, finally kicks it and goes for the first down. Unfortunately, Garland is called for a (Gruden called) not existent hold. Gabriel leaps for a high pass, but cannot escape the defender and only gains a few yards. Bosher is on to punt and the Bucs start at their own 47.
Barber rushes up the line and is immediately across midfield into Falcons territory. Winston passes to Barber for the first down at the 42-yard line, as Jarrett hits Winston. After being hit in the back, Neal whiffs by Winston and he lobs the ball down for an Evans touchdown. Just like that, it is a 3-point game.
Roberts runs out the kick again, just short of the 25-yard line. Ryan is under center, rolls out and dives head first for a little short of the first down, while Toilolo is wide open at the 50 on the far side of the field. On 2nd and 1, Ryan airs it out for Jones, who missed the perfect catch under tight coverage by Conti. With Ryan wide right, the ball is snapped to Sanu, who gets the first down on a run to the left. Great pressure, Ryan escapes and runs for a first down, with the defenders chasing Ryan down as they collided. Ryan tosses back to Freeman who runs up and over Conti – laying the hit on the defender for a 9-yard gain. Ryan audibles, then gives to Freeman who runs on the right side for no gain. 3rd and 1, the Falcons have Ryan in the shotgun, hands to Freeman who gains 2 yards. Ryan running, throws off target off the hands of a wide open Sanu. Ward gets the rock and runs behind Coleman’s great block and gains 9 yards. Freeman is back in and goes around the left corner for the first down.
At the 26-yard line, Freeman pushes through the middle for a 3-yard gain. From the shotgun, Ryan glances at the field and again runs, for the first down. Ryan fakes the run, then throws the ball over Hardy in the end zone. 2nd and 10 from the 16 and overthrows Jones in the left corner of the end zone. A low pass that Hardy cannot bring in falls incomplete and the red zone woes continue. Bryant’s 33-yard field goal is blocked by a lineman.
The Bucs start at their own 23 and Winston scrambles 13 yards for a first down. A quick run is stopped by a fleet of Falcons causing a 2nd and 5 to begin the 4th quarter.
On play action, Winston connects with Brate for another big first down. Humphries makes a 1-yard catch and is immediately met by Poole. Winston drops back for an on target throw, but is met hard by Ish and drops the ball back out. Under pressure, Winston runs, but appears to fall down in the middle of the field. Holding is called on the offense, but declined forcing a fourth down punt. The balls drops into Roberts’ arms at the 11.
Freeman runs as hard as ever, loses the football from a Conti hit, but is recovered and still counts the 7-yard gain. Right back to Freeman, but he is stopped behind the line after easily slipping by Jake Matthews. Now a pass to Freeman for a first down and a few more. A play fake to Ward and 7-yard pass to Hooper. Ward goes through the left side for another first down. An incomplete pass is followed by a cutback run for the elusive Ward for another first down. Freeman runs for 3 yards. Another quick run and it is 3rd and 2 at the 32-yard line. Then…..FREE……MAN. Who hands the ball to a lineman, hugs Ryan and Sanu, and calmly walks off the field. Off a Sanu block, Freeman gets free, jukes a couple of defenders and hits the speed and goes in for the 32-yard touchdown.
With 8 minutes to go in the game, Bosher kicks into the end zone and the Bucs offense comes back to the field. Winston, from the shotgun, throws behind Chris Godwin, who is covered by Tru, but makes the catch. Already at the 43, Winston passes again to Godwin, but Rocky knocks the ball loose. Winston has an easy 14-yard pass to wide open Humphries. Again, to a wide open Evans for another 9 yards. Winston is being taken down by Poe as he throws an incomplete pass. On 3rd and 1, Barber comes in and runs up the middle for 7 yards. Back in the shotgun, Winston throws to Humphries at the line of scrimmage where he is met quickly by Rocky. Falcons show blitz and cause a false start, backing the Bucs up to 2nd and 11. An easy target to Brate, stopped by Neal for a first down at the 17. Winston airs one out for the end zone, but over throws his receiver. Winston, throws on the run to Humphries in the back of the end zone who has escaped Trufant who has fallen down.
With 4 minutes left to go in the game, it is a 3-point game again.
Roberts sets the Falcons up at the 28. Freeman has a single yard run. Another short run by Freeman. 3rd and 5, Ryan throws to Freeman right at the first down marker. The Bucs burn their second time out, Ward has a short run, then the Bucs use their final time out of the game. A toss sweep to Ward in the backfield gains no yards. At the 2-minute warning, the Falcons face a 3rd and 9. Ryan is sacked after running over Schweitzer.
The Falcons let the clock run down to 1:14, take a time out, then Bosher punts the ball to the 9-yard line, then returns to the 29-yard line. With a minute to go, Winston (just before getting slammed by Jarrett) completes a 13-yard pass to Brate. Another first down stopped by Rocky at the 47. Winston spikes the ball, then tosses another pass that is caught and the receiver is stopped and flipped by Campbell. Now, 5 seconds to go, Tampa attempts a 54-yard field goal that is wide right as time expires.
One more win and we are definitely in.
Iron Falcon: Clearly goes to Devonta Freeman with 22 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown, and 68 receiving yards, almost 200 all purpose yards. Basically serving as a single running back this week (no shade to Ward) Freeman took the offense on his back and performed like the Pro Bowl running back we all know and love.
Apparently we used up all of our good offense and points in last week’s win against Tampa Bay. At least that was a fun game. Now, with today’s loss to Minnesota, the Falcons are in quite the pickle. They must win out, and likely hope for some help to make the playoffs.
With Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole (late scratch) both out at Cornerback, Blidi Wreh-Wilson stepped in. Ricardo Allen moved to the nickel spot and Damontae Kazee took Allen’s spot at Free Safety.
The Minnesota Vikings take the opening possession of the game. With a quick first down pass to StefanDiggs and DeionJones on the stop. Then BrooksReed and GradyJarrett combine to stop a 1-yard run by LataviusMurray. JerickMcKinnon has a 6-yard run, then CaseKeenum throws a pass to Diggs that is perfectly defended and knocked out by RobertAlford forcing an early punt. Andre Roberts fair catches at the 22 and the offense begins there.
Matt Ryan begins the Falcons offense with a pass to Julio Jones, unfortunately an overthrow of Jones. Then a hand off to Devonta Freeman goes into the line for no gain, as Jones lines up for the crack back block. The 3rd down pass to Mohamed Sanu falls incomplete, but the defender was all over Sanu and called for the PI. In the shot gun, Ryan immediately hands off to Tevin Coleman who is immediately stopped for a loss of 2. A pass to Austin Hooper gains 6 yards, then a quick snap leads to a 16-yard pass and first down to Levine Toilolo. With Taylor Gabriel in motion, Ryan fakes to Freeman, the passes up to the line of scrimmage where Gabriel makes the catch, but it is nullified by a Jake Matthews’ block in the back. Freeman knocks off 5 of the 20 needed yards. Near midfield, Hooper makes a catch on a low ball, stumbling, but holds his balance and holds on to the ball and behind a Jones block, gains 7 yards. Freeman has a big run behind great blocking by Sanu and Gabriel, but, it is nullified by a very uncharacteristic holding penalty on Alex Mack. Back to 3rd and 12 a pass to Coleman nearly gets the first down, but is stopped 2 yards short. Ben Garland comes in, along with an extra tight end. The Falcons 4th and 2 plan causes a Minnesota time out (note this as it will come in to play later in the half.) Out of the time out, Ryan has a 15-yard pass to Coleman, easily converting the first down. Again, Freeman, again holding penalty, this time on Garland who is it for Andy Levitre who just went out with a tricep injury. Garland’s “hold” was more of a perfect take down, but that is not how the referees marked it. Now, a 1st and 17 at the 31, Ryan fakes the run and overthrows Coleman in the end zone. The pocket collapses for a throw away ball. Suddenly it is 3rd and 17 and Ryan hands off to Freeman who gains 11 easy yards. Matt Bryant comes in for the 38-yard field goal. With just over 5 minutes to go in the first quarter, the Falcons lead by 3.
Keenum brings the Vikings out for their second drive of the game at the 25. They begin with a rush for 4 yards. The coverage downfield was tremendous, giving Vic Beasley time to apply great pressure and Keenum to have an out of bounds throw. Jones is called for a hold, moving the ball downfield and giving a free first down. A couple of successful quick passes have the Vikings across midfield. Reed is constantly in the backfield while Beasley is in and out of pass coverage. A long pass to Rudolph is defended perfectly by Wreh-Wilson. On 2nd and 10 with a 4-man rush, Keenum connects with Diggs for a great over the shoulder catch, but both feet are out of bounds. Now, on a big 3rd and 10 at the 39, GRADY JARRETT gets in there for the SACK, on a quarterback that does not get sacked. A loss of 9 forces the punt.
Roberts lets the ball bounce over his head and it bounces out of bounds at the 2. Coleman runs up the middle but again, called back for a Justin Hardy block in the back, which is declined forcing a 2nd and 8 at the 4. Another Coleman run on the far right side gains another couple of yards. At the 8, it is 3rd and 4, Coleman is lined up as a wide receiver, and Ryan throws a quick slant to Sanu, a little high and Sanu only gets his finger tips on it, but luckily it fell to the ground. Matt Bosher, under great pressure, gets the kick off to the 47 of the Vikings.
As the 2nd quarter begins, the Vikings start their short field drive with some quick passes and spinning runs. Murray makes a big break through the line for a 30-yard gain until Keanu Neal makes the stop at the 2-yard line. Jones makes a stop at the 1 forcing a 2nd down. Then a floating pass to the end zone to McKinnon, who celebrates disrespectfully doing the Dirty Bird. With 10 minutes to go in the half, the Vikings lead 7 to 3.
Roberts takes the kickoff out of the back of the end zone up to the 17, leading him to a sideline chat with Keith Armstrong. Then, Ryan starts this possession the same as the first, a low, shoe lace pass to Jones, who catches it for the first down. A fake handoff turns into a low pass to Marvin Hall and the Falcons are up to mid-field. With 3 tight ends in the game, a handoff to Freeman who is tripped up, keeps his feet and gains another first down. Ryan throws to Sanu and the Falcons are inside the 25. When every play is to a different player, you cannot defend that offense. Sanu and Ju are both on the left side, Ryan fakes, then scrambles up to the line of scrimmage, and instead of continuing his run, throws to Freeman at the first down marker, but it is too high for Freeman. Jones had been knocked down by Xavier Rhodes. 2nd down and Hooper moves causing a 2nd and 15. With a quick rush, Ryan throws to the line of scrimmage for a quick stop. Now another long 3rd down, a pass to Hooper that is 5 yards short and forces another Bryant field goal.
Another Bosher touchback gives the Vikings the ball at the 25. They pick on Wreh-Wilson again for a long pass, but Adam Thielen is out of bounds. McKinnon runs along the sideline for 2 yards, until stopped by Alford. Then Takk McKinley has an encroachment penalty. To make up for that TAKK makes the SACK on the next play. His 3rd sack in 3 games. The Vikings punt to Roberts who returns from the 29 up to the 32.
A quick Coleman run gets 6 yards, a jet sweep that FINALLY works to Gabriel, gets the first down. A quick pitch on the right side to Coleman for a 6-yard game. Freeman replaces Coleman, as the 2-minute warning break is called. Ryan next two passes are incomplete and Bosher punts to the 9.
Deion Jones quickly stops the 1st down draw. A wide open pass over the middle for a first down and the Vikings use their first time out. From the 23, Keenum is running from Beasley and gets a quick 5-yard pass off. After another first down completion, the defense is swarming causing a very quick out of bounds throw. Hit as he throws by Derrick Shelby, Keenum connects with Michael Floyd for a first down. The Vikings have no time outs (remember they wasted one early), are at midfield with 20 seconds to go. Keenum to Thielen at the 30 in the middle of the field, but is stopped as time runs out of the first half.
The Atlanta Falcons receive the ball in the 2nd half on the 25. A fake to Freeman leads to a 9-yard pass to Toilolo. Freeman easily gets the yard and turns on his jets and spin moves to gain 13 yards. Garland gets held by a defender for a free 5 yards. Sanu has a huge leaping reception, cutting back to Ryan for another first down. A pitch back to Freeman gains 4 yards along the left side. A pitch then to Coleman gains limited yards. With 3rd and 3, Ryan stands in the pressure and throws over the middle, the ball on the ground with Sanu trying to get under it in time. The Vikings challenged the catch, it was overturned and Bryant came on for another successful field goal. The Falcons lead 9-7.
The Vikings have a big runback to the 30. After a run, the Vikings are called for holding Neal who still made the tackle. With a 1st and 20, they try to run the ball and Ricardo Allen comes in from the right side backfield and helps Beasley stuff the run for a 2-yard loss. Adrian Clayborn again applying pressure, Beasley chasing Keenum causing him to pass beyond the line of scrimmage. Now, the Benz Nest is getting LOUD. 3rd and 25, crowd noise, and the Vikings dump off a short pass with Debo and Rico combining for the stop and forcing a 4th and 13 punt. A Viking tries to start a fight with Neal (really?) and Rico coming in to break everyone up as the D unites to defend each other.
Roberts fair catches at the 29 and begins again there. First play, Sanu with a big 14-yard catch moving the Falcons to the 43. Followed with a big pass to Jones, who was LITERALLY covered on the play, for a no call. Freeman runs for a few yards, Hardy is called for another block in the back, and again, the Vikings decline forcing a 3rd and 8. Being blitzed, Ryan heaves the ball down to Gabriel who cannot catch up with the ball with the defender slowing him up.
Kemal Ishmael holds on the punt and Bosher is forced to punt a second time, a booming, high kick and the Vikings start at their own 11. Good call on the Vikings to make the Falcons re-kick.
Thielen makes his second catch of the day, 6-yards before meeting up with Rico. Then Murray runs 12 yards for a first down, the Vikings up to the 29. Murray is then stuffed by Takk. Keenum has some time, avoids an ankle tackle by Courtney Upshaw and finds Diggs near midfield. Several missed tackles by Falcons leaving their feet, McKinnon gains 7 yards. THEN Murray is met by that unmovable force, Keanu Neal! The crowd is loud again for 3rd down, but the Vikings still gain another first down. After a 2-yard run, they try a jet sweep that is stopped by De’Vondre Campbell forcing a 3rd and 2. The Falcons seem to have some personnel confusion and call a time out. Rico makes the stop right at the first down marker. The Vikings have the ball at the Falcons 24. Murray makes a couple of good runs, before breaking out to get inside the 10. Then he runs into Ahtyba Rubin as the 3rd quarter ends.
As the 4th quarter begins, Keenum throws an easy pass to Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone. The Vikings now lead 14 to 9 over the Falcons.
Roberts takes the kick at the 2 and forces his way to the 23. The pitch to Coleman is bobbled several times off his right shoulder pad, but Coleman captures the ball and still gains 3 yards. Under pressure, Ryan throws in complete as he is hit. Facing another long 3rd down and very unsuccessful today, Ryan is nearly sacked, but escapes and runs to the line of scrimmage. Bosher punts a 56-yarder which is returned for a few yards and the Vikings begin a their own 27.
Keenum comes out throwing to Rudolph for 8 yards. McKinnon fighting for a first down. McKinnon runs for a couple, but is called back for illegal chop block on Jarrett’s legs. Meanwhile, Debo is being helped up and walks off the field on his own. The next 3 plays are all stops by Rico who has taken this defense and possession onto his shoulders.
Roberts returns the punt to the 29-yard line. Freeman starts the drive with a 3-yard gain, then a 7-yard gain, running and leaning forward to get the first down. The Falcons fake the run, the in trouble, Ryan tosses to Freeman who spins off tackles and gains another 7 yards. Freeman takes a pitch back, goes to the left side, gains the first down and more behind the blocking of FB Derrick Coleman and Sanu. The pass to T Coleman is dropped, then toss to Jones at the line of scrimmage, who forces his way for the first down, head first into defender. Rhodes makes a stop on Coleman. Ryan is a little high to Jones over the middle. Another 3rd and long to Gabriel who is 4 short of the first down. And, Bryant on for a field goal attempt that pulls just left of the goal post.
With just over 4 minutes to go in the game, the Vikings come out moving the ball easily to midfield. The Falcons take their 2nd time out and allow a 3-yard gain, then take their final time out. 3rd and 4 and an easy 22-yard gain by Thielen. Murray breaks through the line for a 9-yard gain, then the first down.
After the 2-minute warning, the Vikings take a knee to run out the clock for the win. And all of the Falcon fans and Dan Quinn look as grumpy as I feel.
Injury Update: No significant injuries occurred in the game.
Iron Falcon Award: Ricardo Allen for single handedly stopping the Vikings in one series, from a different position, and continuing to be a team leader on defense. Rico ended with 8 total tackles from his new nickel position.
Finally we see the Falcons we know and love. They came out aggressive, spreading the ball around, and getting Julio Jones involved. Also, breaking records. You know, being Falcons.
The game started off well enough. Ricardo Allen, who had no tackles the week before, leads the defense with the first tackle of the day, and continued to lead the team throughout the day. Ryan Fitzpatrick started with a pass to DeSeanJackson, for a first down, with the stop by Rico. Then they tried to run against GradyJarrett. Gaining 6 and 4 yards, but running into Grady twice is likely not really winning. Then Fitzgerald ran for a first down and was clobbered by the defense. Near the Atlanta 41, the Bucs run up the middle again, into Grady again. Then the first of many familiar names, JacquizzRodgers has a quick 4-yard run. Another quick pass covered by BrianPoole. Then a 3rd down pass in the end zone to MikeEvans that DesmondTrufant knocks out. The Buccaneers kick the field goal with RobertAlford rushing around the corner for the block. With just under 10 minutes to go in the first quarter, Tampa Bay leads 3/0. And that was the last time they would lead for the day.
AndreRoberts caught the kickoff at the goal line and ran out to the 26. TevinColeman gets the start again with DevontaFreeman out and started with a nice 5-yard run. Then, shockingly, an early pass to TaylorGabriel for 4 yards, who meets former Falcon, BrentGrimes. With 1 yard to go, MattRyan keeps the ball and pushes through for the first down. A successful 8-yard pass to AustinHooper, then a signal from AndyLevitre for Coleman to get behind him, for the push for the first down. After a low pass to Julio Jones, Coleman gains a quick 3 yards, then a pass down the left side to Julio along the sideline for another first down. A short pass drops just behind a crossing the field Julio, but Coleman makes up for that breaking tackles for a 10 yard gain, which is brought back by a Gabriel hold. A quick screen to Gabriel gains nothing (not sure when we will learn that is not a good play) but right back to Gabriel, Ryan buys time, stands in the middle of defenders and hits Gabriel for 13 yards, 2 short of the first down because of the holding call. Not to worry, Money Matt Bryant enters the field and easily kicks a 49-yard field goal with a few minutes to go in the quarter.
Quizz (Jacquizz Rodgers as us long time Falcons call him) returns the kickoff 26 yards and is stopped by the returning Duke Riley. Fitzgerald overthrows Evans, the defense collectively stuffs a Doug Martin run, then the FANS are so loud on 3rd down, we cause a false start and get even louder. It’s 3rd and 14 and with DontariPoe in Fitzgerald’s face, he overthrows the receiver and a quick 3 and out forces a punt to the Falcons 23.
This quick drive starts off well with a Coleman 20-yard run, really turning up the speed. Then a pass is tipped to fall incomplete, overthrow of Hooper who doesn’t make the catch and suddenly Bosher is back on the field. Bosher has nice placement near the goal line, however CJ Goodwin cannot get to the ball in time to down it at the one.
The Buccaneers start on the 20 – my 20, so it is about to get loud. AdrianClayborn and De’VondreCampbell are swarming Fitzgerald and tip his pass. On their 3rd down attempt, another errant pass that Brian Poole had his hands on, but hits the ground. Another forced 3 and out and a punt from the 10.
Roberts has an 18-yard return to give the Falcons the ball on the 40. A short Ryan past to Sanu gains 4 yards. TerronWard goes off the right side and gains 5 yards, stopped by Grimes. THEN the play that will it will go down in the annals of football history. Sanu takes the direct snap, fakes the handoff, the ball pops up in the air, Sanu catches it and throws 51 yards to Julio Jones for the touchdown. Julio’s second touchdown of the season. Another successful 12 Gauge call (still think it should be called BeanCat). Julio catches the perfect pass between two defenders, rolls, pops up, then as the O comes to celebrate, he leads Red Light, Green Light…in the best celebration ever, even if no one told Ryan.
The defense, along with the entire Benz Nest, are fired up and force another 3 and out. A quick pass and quick stop by Rico, Tru, and Grady make the next quick stop. Suddenly it is 3 and 14 and Vic Beasley’s elbow tips the pass and another punt is forced. Brian Poole is shaken up on the series and is being evaluated on the sideline.
Roberts gets a few yards on the return. Then Julio has a 20-yard reception. Then a 15-yard reverse to Julio. Coleman has a 6-yard, then 1-yard one off the left side. On 3rd and 3, Ryan finds Sanu across the middle for yet another first down. Then Ryan decides he wants to pass for a Julio touchdown. Julio LITERALLY flies over the end zone cone for the touchdown. Only Ju. Jones sells the post, the defender commits to the inside, Ju turns out, Ryan has already released the ball and Julio catches it as he starts to fall out of bounds, but stretches the ball over the end zone cone first. Excellent offensive line blocking to give Ryan time.
The next Tampa Bay drive starts at the 17 after a Quizz return. Then we see a heavy dose of Quizz with limited success. The Bucs are able to move the ball most successfully because of a CJ Goodwin PI as he was closing guarding DeSean Jackson. Brian Poole has been ruled out for the rest of the game at this point and Trufant is playing inside at nickel. On a 3rd and 3 with 2 minutes remaining in the half, Trufant makes a tackle along with Keanu Neal, who hits Trufant more than the downed receiver and Tru stumbles off the field. A few plays later Fitzgerald drops back and sees Clayborn easily throw the lineman aside (similar to a ragdoll being tossed) and closing and make an errant throw. His next pass is also incomplete as Clemson (Grady and Vic) are coming for him. Then he is hit as he releases his next pass to the end zone, which Rico knocks away and it fall incomplete and the Bucs settle for another field goal
Roberts brings the kick off out to the 23. The offense starts with a dose of Coleman for a nice 7 yards. Then, again, Julio for 22 yards, then it’s Ju, Sanu, Ju, until a ball is incomplete to Julio in the end zone, so with 10 seconds left, another successful field goal. So, at half time, the Falcons lead 20 to 6 and everyone is feeling good.
Meanwhile, at half time, Arrow star, Stephen Amell comments that Mohamed Sanu is a better quarterback than any Cleveland quarterback in the last 10 years. I love that Stephen Amell is even aware of our game.
The Falcons offense comes out on fire. Opening up with a 23-yard pass to Julio. A 5-yard run by Coleman. Then a loss by Coleman, but immediately followed up by another 25 yards to Sanu, who knocks the defender back off of him. Then Hooper gets a 20-yard reception. Then Coleman has two back to back runs, the first a break out for 9 yards behind a big AndyLevitre block, then a 3-yard, hard fought touchdown run behind a WesSchweitzer block. Coleman comes up celebrating with carrying a baby in honor of his twins born on Saturday.
In 9 plays for 78 yards, the Falcons take a 27-6 lead. Meanwhile we find out that Poole is out for the game and Trufant is headed back to the locker room to be further evaluated after the Neal hit. Doug Martin for the Buccaneers is also ruled out for the rest of the game.
Fitzgerald finds a wide open Evans for 20 yards and is immediately stopped by Rocky. At their own 45, the Bucs try a run and are met by Derrick Shelby, Poe, and Grady for no yards. Fitzgerald throws a bad pass, and Rocky is called for holding, only a 5-yard penalty. Fitzgerald throws a bullet down thru the middle of the field moving the Bucs to the 33-yard line. A few plays later, Rico sees something, calls for different personnel that cannot get on and off the field in time causing a time out. Due to injuries, Rico is playing corner and rookie DamontaeKazee at inside free safety. This is the flexibility that Coach Quinn is always talking about. However, it starts a little rocky and the Bucs are able to rush for a touchdown to reduce the Falcons lead to 27/13 late in the 3rd quarter.
Roberts has another good return, up to the 35, where an ankle tackle saves him from a likely touchdown return. After TerronWard loses a yard on the right side, Ryan has a behind the line pass to Julio, for a first down. Then a pass down the right side to Julio, for a first down. Coleman has back to back successful runs, up the middle, then spinning up the middle on the left side. After a 6-yard pass to Sanu, the Falcons are forced to punt.
Quizz has a return up to the 44 with Neal chasing him down. Then, likely feeling bad about knocking Tru out of the game, Neal nearly gets an interception. Fitzgerald runs up the middle for 21 yards and slides, likely saving his life as the defense was swarming to him.
As the 4th quarter begins, the Bucs continue another touchdown drive. Moving within 7 points of the Falcons.
Roberts gives the offense the ball at the 22. Ryan starts out with a look at Gabriel, then as Julio crosses the field, catches the pass on the run for a 44 yard reception and electrifying the crowd again. A failed pass to Hooper, then a 2-yard Coleman run, then back to Julio for another first down at the 23. Then Ward bullets up the middle for 9 yards, heading for an easy touchdown, as a defender from behind rips the ball loose. And of course, Grimes is there to recover the fumble and return it to the 42 where he is chased down by RyanSchraeder.
Then in true Brotherhood form, the defense stands up to help out the offense. Fitzgerald takes the Bucs quickly down the field, with quick passes to avoid Takk McKinley coming at him. A quick run up the middle, then on the next pass, TAKK meets Fitz for the sack and lays him out. Then does 10 push-ups. Near the 20, Fitzgerald throws incomplete to the end zone, then on 3rd and 2, the crowd (me included) causes a time out. Next play, if you are an Atlantan, you will get this, Rico MARTA busses the receiver. Poe lays Fitzgerald out as he throws to the end zone where Keanu defends the pass perfectly, forcing a 4th down. Rico knocks the ball out of the receiver’s hands before it is declared a catch.
The Falcons take over and go back to their routine. Julio, Sanu, Sanu, Coleman run. Once again, while being knocked around Julio makes another Julio type catch, shakes the tackles and gets another 23 yards. Tampa Bay begins taking their time outs as Coleman grinds out yards, carrying numerous defenders with him for 8 yards. Ward gets the ball again, gets 1 yard, the pushes and earns 13 more yards on his own and jumps up excited. Just after the 2-minute warning, Coleman runs in a 14-yard touchdown and cradles the second baby to ensure both of his twins got touchdowns in their honor today.
In prevent defense, the Falcons allow the Buccaneers to easily move down the field, nearing the 35 and a 4th and 10, Rocky stops the receiver just short of the first down marker and the clock runs out.
What a great team win. Offense lit it up. Defense was pretty consistent, even with the injuries. Special teams has been straightened out. With the New Orleans Saints losing, the NFC South is getting a little closer, and if the Falcons do their job, we may very well take it….again…..
Injury Report: Devonta Freeman continues concussion protocol and will be evaluated as the week progresses. Desmond Trufant will be out against Minnesota in concussion protocol. Brian Poole’s back injury is ok and is expected to play. Note that Jalen Collins came off of suspension last week and was released from the Falcons, so they are not looking to bring him in to step in for Tru like last season.
Iron Falcon: Obviously goes to Julio Jones who had 253 yards on 12 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Then, also, Mohamed Sanu, not only for perfecting the 12 Gauge, but receiving 8 passes for 64 yards and converting several 3rd downs.
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When you take the opening kickoff back 50 yards, you know this game is going to be lit. Well, as lit as an Atlanta Falcons game will get when it goes to the wire….again. But a good start no doubt. Andre Roberts gave the offense excellent starting field position and they used it. The first pass is a drop by Julio Jones. Then Tevin Coleman has a good 5-yard run. JustinHardy ensured a 9-yard catch on a low pass by MattRyan but going to the ground and getting under the ball for a great catch, then follows that up with a 7-yard sideline catch. Then, early in the game, trickery begins. MohamedSanu and the 12 Gauge up the middle for 3 yards. Ryan goes right back to Sanu for the touchdown, which results in an incomplete pass with a Pass Interference call, so moves the ball to the 1-foot line. Then behind Dontari Poe and Ben Garland, Coleman easily goes in for the 1-yard touchdown. With 3 minutes off the clock, the Falcons are already on the board.
The ensuing kickoff tells you how the kicking game is going to go all day. MattBosher, nursing an ankle injury, kicks off and the Seattle Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett takes the kick back 57 yards. Bosher did lay a hit out on Lockett to slow him down before Desmond Trufant knocked him out of bounds. Vic Beasley and company are in the backfield as Russell Wilson quickly gets a pass off to Lockett for a 9-yard game before Deion Jones (who else) makes the first tackle for the Falcons defense. On a reverse pivot, Wilson releases the ball, a little behind Lockett and it hits Trufant in the chest, surprises him a little, but he gathers the ball in for the interception and returns it 44 yards, behind the excellent blocking of Beasley. Credit to Wilson for the tackle.
Ryan and company come back to the field and he lobs up a high pass for Jones, who, naturally, in double coverage, leaps up and comes down with both feet in on the sideline for a 16-yard gain. Coleman has a short run, insert the same plan as the first possession with a successful pass to Hardy, for a first down. At the 5-yard line, a low, errant pass is tipped and at least 5 Seahawk defenders tipped the ball before it finally fell to the ground. After a time out to recoop their thoughts, Coleman gets a couple of yards rushing, then Bean Talk. Sanu makes the one handed over a defender catch in the corner of the end zone look easy. Now, midway through the first quarter, the Falcons are up 14/0.
Back to the kicking game. Bosher hits the end zone, but Lockett brings it out to the 35-yard line. Once again, Bosher is in on the tackle with the assist going to Robert Alford. Some quick passes by Wilson, runs by MikeDavis, and a tripping penalty on the Falcons helps move the Seahawks down the field. KeanuNeal is taken off the field after one of those Keanu hits and is evaluated for a concussion. J.D. McKissic runs for 6 yards and is stopped by DamontaeKazee. Three Falcons are covering DougBaldwin in the end zone causing a 3rd and 4. Wilson gets chased back out of the pocket, GradyJarrett is held and gets the penalty call. Then the tripping penalty moves the Seahawks back down the field and on a 2nd and 3, Wilson finds JimmyGraham in the end zone where he leaps and catches over De’Vondre Campbell for their first touchdown of the game.
The next Falcon drive was lack lustered, 7 plays, incomplete passes, penalties on both sides, and another Bosher punt to start the 2nd quarter. The Seahawks started on their own 23. Then because of Poe, they were at the 20. THEN because of a combined defensive line unit, they did not have the ball. On 2nd and 13, TakkMcKinley busted through the line, and falling was able to pull Wilson down from behind. Meanwhile, Courtney Upshaw slides over Wilson knocking the ball out, and who was right there for the scoop and score? AdrianClayborn. He may not have gotten the sack, but he did get the touchdown. Now, with 14:04 left to go in the 2nd quarter, it is 21/7 Falcons!
Once again, on the ensuing kickoff, Lockett has a big return and is stopped at the 39 by Kazee. The pressure continued through this drive. Wilson completed passes to Baldwin and Davis, with Trufant and Poole in coveraged, and Poe and Clayborn forcing even quicker throws. Driving deep inside the Falcons’ territory, the Tigers combine with Beasley chasing Wilson and Jarrett reaching him as he lobs a ball out of bounds. Neal has returned to the field and stopped Davis at the line of scrimmage. At 2nd and goal McKissick and Graham are both in with no backs. BrooksReed is chasing the scrambling Wilson, while Clayborn reaches him and again, Jarrett hits/taps him as he releases the pass. Then one of the most memorable defensive plays of the day. It is 3rd and goal from the 2, big Jimmy Graham gets the pass and thinks he has an easy run in to the end zone. Instead, he meets an unmovable force in Keanu Neal. Neal crosses the end zone, circles around Alford and a receiver and hits Graham so hard at the goal line, Graham is knocked back out to the 1. There is an offensive holding call that moves the ball back to the 12. Wilson is now running for his life. Clayborn and Beasley both nearly sack him and as he lets the errant pass go, Jarrett is shoving him in the chest. The Seahawks settle for a field goal.
Just when you think the momentum is fully on the Falcons side, the turn over, the big stop and forced field goal. Now, the special teams strikes again. The Seahawks have a short kick, which bounces right past Roberts, who then touches it, Seattle recovers and have the ball at the 11. The defense trots immediately back on the field. The d steps up again, knocking the first pass out of Baldwin’s hands. Beasley trips Davis to slow him down for Trufant to make the stop. Neal and Poole combine to stop Graham at the goal line again. 1st and goal at the 1, takes them 4 tries, and the D stands up, until Seattle takes a time out, comes up with a perfect blocking scheme and Wilson walks in for the touchdown.
The next kickoff, the Falcons special teams was a little more prepared. Ben Garland received the kickoff and returned it 11 yards. The first play is a beautiful pass to Sanu, who is shoved out of bounds before the ball arrives. He gets the PI and the ball is moved up 16 yards. Then the collapse begins. EricSaubert has a false start, moving the ball back. Coleman has a 4-yard run, then on a pitch back is stopped behind the line of scrimmage. Coleman then has a nice 15-yard pass, gaining most of those yards after the catch behind a good Hooper block. Sanu catches a big 21-yard pass at the 21 as the 2 minute warning comes. Unfortunately, the Falcons could not continue the quick movement and settled for a 44-yard Matt Bryant field goal.
Now, for the craziest drive of the game. Again, Bosher kicks off to the 2 and Lockett runs it out to the 41 where he is met by KemalIshmael. With 58 seconds on the clock, Wilson has quick passes to Graham for a 4-yard gain, out jukes Beasley for a big first down. Throws to McKissic in the end zone where Jones has perfect coverage and as McKissic’s hands went up, so did Jones’ and his finger tips knocked the ball out of alignment. Wilson overthrows Graham, then scrambling, way back in the backfield gets hit by Takk as he releases the ball, but Richardson did not have the first down. The field goal team comes on, they try the fake, but Jarrett sniffs it out, picks LukeWillson up, spins him around and lays him down for a 4-yard loss.
The teams go in for half time with the Falcons leading 24 to 17. Life is good.
The second half began with a Bosher kick and a return only to the 28, so that was a half time improvement. Wilson starts with a high pass to Thompson which Alford knocks out. Everyone is applying such great pressure to Wilson that he has a fake handoff to Davis, then throws a screen to Davis who gains 21 yards. On a 24-yard pass to Richardson that is tightly defended by Alford, he is called for the PI. Next play, Alford has a good pass knocked out. Then on 2nd and 4….here comes Grady!!! He slaps the hands of the right guard as he goes past for an 8-yard sack. After a short pass to McKissic, Seattle settles for another field goal.
Once again, just when you think the momentum is going one way, it flips to the other team. In 8 plays and under 4 minutes, the Falcons score another touchdown, on a 25-yard pass to a wide open LevineToilolo. Ryan showed his scrambling ability by running and sliding for a 14-yard gain, with former Falcon Dwight Freeney in hot pursuit. EarlThomas was called for a hit on a defenseless player, so the Falcons got the touchdown and an extra 15 yards on the upcoming kickoff.
Bosher kicks it out of the end zone. Immediately, Wilson connects with a wide-open Richardson for an 18-yard gain. Then fakes it to Lacy and runs 17 yards himself, as Campbell slips on the wet field. McKissic meets Takk again after a 4-yard gain. Takk almost gets to Wilson, while Beasley gets his hands on Wilson, meanwhile there is also an offensive holding penalty on the play. The D is really roughing up the offensive line. Clayborn, on a mission chases the elusive Wilson, who escapes his grip twice. Wilson outurns Jarrett and Beasley and slides out of bounds at the first down marker. The 1st and 10 has Wilson scrambling and over throwing Willson. Then 2nd and 10 has the pocket collapse with Ishmael and Derrick Shelby combining for a 12-yard loss. After another perfect Alford defended pass, Seattle settles for a 46-yard field goal.
The 3rd quarter ends with the first pass of the day to TaylorGabriel, Coleman with a 5-yard stutter run, and a 7-yard reception by single covered Jones. TerronWard has a first down catch then 9-yard run to open the 4thquarter. Then the typical 4th quarter meltdown begins. A side throw for 2 yards to TE Hooper, a false start by AndyLevitre, a short 5-yard pass to Gabriel leads to a 4th and 13 and a punt. Good news, the punt was fair caught.
The defense causes a quick 3 and out when Baldwin did not catch the 3rd down pass. Seattle challenged the play and lost a time out.
The Falcons quickly drive back down the field on the backs of Coleman and Ward, both earning their pay with stiff arms, breaking tackles. With a 3rd and goal, Coleman spins off the stacked up offensive line to the end zone. It is reviewed by the officials and determined that he was 6 inches short. Bryant makes yet another field goal.
Under 4 minutes to go in the game, the Falcons are up 34/23. Yet, the game is not safe with Russell Wilson on the other side. In a few plays, Wilson runs for a first down, finds Graham across the middle, McKissic shows off his running skills, and with the help of an accidental hit out of bounds penalty, Wilson finds Baldwin wide open in the end zone. Then Graham has an easy 2-point conversion in the corner of the end zone.
Now there are 3 minutes remaining, and the Falcons have a 3-point lead. They prepare for the onsides kick with the hands team up, but Seattle kicks it deep to Roberts. Coleman comes blasting up the left side behind FB Derrick Coleman. Then T. Coleman is tripped up behind the line. Immediately following the 2 minute warning, Wes Schwietzer gives up a big sack forcing another Bosher punt.
The punt is short, but bounces and the coverage team is there and Marvin Hall lays Lockett out. There was also an offensive holding penalty to back Seattle up a little more for their final stand. Trying to not give up the big play, the defense has a 3-man rush through the rest of the game. Graham gets 11 yards, Clayborn hits Wilson as he throws an air ball that is nearly hauled in by Poole. Then, Clayborn runs up causing Beasley to jump and give the Seahawks a free play. Trufant blocks a pass intended for Graham, then Wilson scrambles for another first down. With time dwindling, Wilson has an 8-yard toss to Richardson who is tackled by Alford and Neal, who try to wrestle the ball away. Since the Seahawks are out of time outs, Wilson has to spike the ball at the 34 with 7 seconds remaining on the clock. Blair Walsh attempts a 52-yard field goal, which falls a few feet short and the game is over. The Falcons have won and moved into 6th place in the NFC.
Injury News: Keanu Neal left the game temporarily, was evaluated and returned at least 98% as he was continuing to lay out Keanu type hits. Late in the game, Brian Poole was shaken and slow to get up, but was fine by Tuesday. Devonta Freeman remains in concussion protocol. Matt Bosher’s ankle caused him to miss practice on Wednesday.
Iron Falcon: Grady Jarrett ended with 2 tackles and a sack on the day, however, Jarrett was hugely effective once again. He was close or hitting Russell Wilson all day, causing errant or quick throws. Jarrett is the fastest 305 pounder you will see, is smart and quick to think and spot what is happening in front of him. And remember his sniffing out the fake field goal before the half. It was not merely a stop of Seattle getting the first down, but a complete read of the situation and stuffing the runner for a huge loss. And, huge boost going into half time.
The defense continues to run on all cylinders and getting hotter. Similar to last year, the later in the season it goes, the better the defense plays. Clearly, the standout for the game was Adrian Clayborn and his 6 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Clayborn surpassed the great Chuck Smith and legendary Claude Humphrey who both had 5 sacks in a single game. Only Derrick Thomas has more sacks in a game. Claybo was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
And the best, not only on the sideline, but in the locker room after the game, Clayborn just looked like he had an average tackling or blocking game. His team, especially the defense was out of control excited for him. Literally jumping on him after his 6th sack. In Coach Quinn’s locker room recap, he rattled off some stats, said, “Guess that is about it for the day” and the entire locker room started yelling “AC AC AC.” What a truly great brotherhood.
But what about the rest of the defense? Well, second year, fourth rounder, De’Vondre Campbell amassed 11 tackles. Talk about stepping up. Campbell has made great strides all season, covering top tight ends, defending the run, making life hard on quarterbacks.
This was truly a defensive win and Claybo would be the first to say so. This physical unit contributed to Clayborn’s sacks. Desmond Trufant and Campbell were covering and knocking receivers off their marks. Keanu Neal was a huge factor on the run this week. Everyone was sticking to their assignments, forcing Dak Prescott to run and covering so well he was holding the ball too long.
Neal had 5 tackles, while team leader in tackles, Deion Jones only had 4 tackles Sunday. Takk McKinley, Brian Poole, and Brooks Reed had 3 tackles a piece, Takk also had a fumble recovery and Brooks a sack of his own. Dontari Poe also had a sack, and as usual, he and Grady Jarrett were disruptive in the backfield, including causing a few actual called holding penalties. Sean Weatherspoon is back and contributing, while only logging a single tackle on the day, Spoon was running around, looking fast and affective.
Dallas has allowed 10 sacks all season, but they “allowed” 8 in the Benz Nest. Of the 59 defensive plays, 21 went for 0 or negative yards. They had 10 quarterback hits (besides all the sacks). Poe jumped in as the most un-stereotypical fullback.
Then, there is the offensive line. They do not get the same accolades as the defense. Alex Mack, is, well, Alex Mack. No complaints there. Jake Matthews allows, maybe even helps take down Matt Ryan as the Dallas defender rolls up on Ryan’s leg, forcing a third down. Then, after a time out, Ryan Schraeder allows a big sack. This offensive line held up Sunday, actually limited holding calls, but needs to get much better to keep Ryan on the field and healthy and create running lanes for Tevin Coleman, Devonta Freeman, and now Terron Ward. We need to replace a couple of these guys with Dontari Poe and Ben Garland. But that is none of my business.
The offensive stars played well and looked to be in a good (2016) rhythm with Ryan passing to 7 different receivers, two having receiving touchdowns. Taylor Gabriel was actually targeted this week with 3 receptions for 58 yards, and 1 impactful rush of 15 yards. Julio Jones had 6 catches for 57 yards, followed by Austin Hooper with 6 receptions, including back to back catches leading to a touchdown.
Mohamed Sanu had an awesome day blocking downfield and making other plays possible, but also caught 3 balls for 29 yards, and of course had the tip for an interception. Note, Sanu was being tackled for the no call PI, and made the tackle to stop the Dallas defender. Levine Toilolo and Coleman also had a catch a piece, while Justin Hardy had 2 catches, one for a fabulous back of the goal line touchdown. Prior to Sunday, Hardy had 10 catches the whole season.
Devonta Freeman went out after 2 plays with a concussion, which may have fired up the other running backs to compete in his stead. Coleman had 20 rushes for 83 yards and a touchdown, behind Poe and Garland. Ward had 9 rushes for 23 yards and a break out of 17 yards.
The offense was 7 of 11 on third down, most of the non-conversions were late in the game. The Falcons went 3 of 4 in the red zone and ended overall +1 in the turnover margin.
And then, there is Matt Ryan. He was 22 of 29 for 215 yards and 2 touchdown passes. He is also the fastest quarterback to pass for 40,000 yards….only his 151st start. Ryan not elite??? It took Drew Brees 152 games and DanMarino 153 games, and Ice was over 40,000 early in the 3rd quarter. Also, Ryan moves into 19th overall in yards behind Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas…and just ahead of Aaron Rodgers. Ryan also has at least one touchdown pass in 28 straight games, a first in Falcons history.
Finally, we are convinced that the Falcons have their groove back. Hopefully, it is not too late with the 3rd best record in the NFC South. We still get to play the Saints twice and the Panthers once more, but here’s hoping that this week was the official turnaround of the season and not just a great home win.
Shout out to the crowd, as Prescott noted that the crowd noise was making it difficult to hear during parts of the game.
By Allison Smith
So, the game starts as usual. Off-setting penalties, then an exciting interception by the little heard from this season Desmond Trufant, but that is overturned due to a defensive penalty. So early, you already know how the game is going to go. But wait, the headline makes it sound like a better than average Falcon game. And it lived up to the hype.
Sean Weatherspoon is back and starting again. Trufant seemed already on his game like the Tru of 2016. Rookie Takk McKinley has several tackles for a loss in the first series, so Takk is coming in to his own as well now. We all know the defense has been doing their job this season, missing some tackles, but playing so much in the game, tiring out by the end.
Then, the storyline of the day, that you don’t know is the storyline this early. Adrian Clayborn, who has definitely returned healthy this season, has a sack, for a big loss and to cause a long 3rd down. On the 3rd down play, Claybo hits Dak Prescott as he releases the ball, that goes into the ground. The Cowboys punt and the Falcons begin their opening drive on their own 15.
After 2 hapless Devonta Freeman runs, the referee steps in noticing that Free is wobbly, but not mentioning anything to the team – as is Free’s normal. We now know that Freeman already has a concussion on the season, and he did not play again on the day. On the next play, the Cowboys defender, hugging Mohammad Sanu, tips the pass which is intercepted by another Cowboy, giving them the ball on the 21-yard line. I think this is when I tossed down my 3rd drink of the day.
The Cowboys take over and the first pass was tipped by Deion Jones and could have been intercepted by Ricardo Allen, as he was reading Prescott’s eyes very well. A couple of plays later, Prescott, running for his life from Takk, while the receivers were covered, runs in for the touchdown. The good news is, now, we know that is the only score for the Cowboys.
The first play of the 2nd offensive drive for the Falcons is a pass to Julio Jones. Catching, in typical Ju form, double covered and still hauling in the pass. Then, Matt Ryan begins the 2016 campaign of spreading the ball around. Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, Tevin Coleman running. Maybe Freeman coming off the field inspired the offense to step up. This drive stalled and required a Matt Bryant 50-yard field goal, so guess his injury from the previous week is as good as healed. At the end of the first quarter, the Cowboys lead 7-3.
The defense was really making it difficult for the Dallas O all day. On a long 3rd down, Prescott begins to run again and is met by, Claybo, yet again behind the line of scrimmage, for the 2nd sack of the day. The Cowboys set up to punt, but instead attempt a pass, which was called back due to offensive pass interference and end up punting anyway. Back at the 42, Chris Jones punts the ball, that again Andre Roberts lets go over his head, where a Cowboy is already standing to down the ball and the offense gets to start yet another drive from their own 2.
An immediate pass to Julio at the 12 for a first down shows that Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian has finally found the good play book that has been hidden away. Again, spreading the ball out to Coleman, Sanu, and Levine Toilolo. After a time out, clearly a confused offense, Demarcus Lawrence easily shoves by Ryan Schraeder to sack Matt Ryan forcing a 4th down punt.
The Cowboys start at midfield due to a good punt return, but the defense stands up, forces loss of yards. Then, not wanting to be outdone, Dontari Poe comes over from the right side and lays Prescott out.
Taylor Gabriel starts the next drive on a misdirection handoff and a good Toilolo block, Turbo gains 15 yards. Then Jake Matthews has a penalty that negates the clobbering Ryan took because Schweitzer allowed two defenders easily by him. Coleman finally has a good run that gets additional yards based on being tackled by his helmet. Sanu sets up the defender, sets the angle for Ryan, who double clutches to see when Sanu is ready and makes a big catch leading into the 2-minute warning. Now, at the 15 with Terron Ward in the backfield, Ward runs up the middle for a couple of yards. Guess we should be happy Ward was even active this week with the injury to Freeman. Gabriel is hugged and stopped from getting to the end zone pass. With the pass interference penalty, the ball is moved to the 2.
Now, the fun begins. Dontari Poe is in at full back….now THAT is a FULL back. Also, Ben Garland is in on the line finally. Julio and Gabriel are both on the sideline, in case you think this is going to be a big pass play. This time, Poe makes a big enough hole and Coleman pushes in for the touchdown. Meanwhile, Garland has also moved his guys into the end zone as well. If anyone wants my improved line up suggestions.
With a minute and a half to go, the Cowboys come out trying with big play attempts. Trufant nearly gets an interception. The next play, the entire defensive line nearly gets a sack, but the elusive Prescott manages to escape and make it to the sideline for a first down. Flushed out again, Vic Beasley chases Prescott down for a 2-yard gain. With Zeke Elliot out, apparently Prescott is the only runner and runs again for a first down. Jason Whitten is finally targeted for a 6-yard reception and is pushed out by De’Vondre Campbell. While still at midfield, Claybo sacks Prescott again, not even forcing a fumble, but stripping the ball out of Dak’s arms before allowing him to go to the ground. Grady Jarrett’s arm was on Prescott’s back too, so there was not going to be any escape.
With only a few seconds going into the half and being near midfield, Ryan lobs it up a couple of times to no avail. Going into half time with the 10/7 lead.
We start the second half by lighting it up. A huge run by Coleman and 26-yard reception by Jones on the sideline quickly get the Falcons into Cowboys territory. Then a big catch by Hooper is negated by a block in the back by Toilolo. Gabriel, having his most targets of the season, makes an incredible catch down the middle after escaping coverage and sets the O up at the 8 with a first down. Ryan, while being tackled, gets a pass to Julio who is being covered by 3 defenders. Then, Justin Hardy makes a great move to escape the coverage, runs along the back of the end zone and gives Ryan the perfect touchdown target.
The Cowboys come out working the run pretty well for a couple of first downs. Clayborn and Jarrett were closing, but Prescott is getting rid of the ball much quicker now. Down in the red zone, Prescott drops back and has no clue that Clayborn has now left his feet and is about to land on him, for Claybo’s 4th sack of the day…so far….and a loss of 7 yards. Campbell causes a loss of 2 on the next play. On 3rd down, they cannot get back to the line of scrimmage. The 38-yard field goal attempt dings the upright and falls out to the right.
After taking over and a few short plays, Gabriel, with inside leverage, catches a 34-yarder across the middle, turns on his Turbo speed and goes. Coleman gets a first down along the left sideline. Down at the 15 with a first down, the 3rd quarter ends. Hooper gets to the 1-foot line. Poe is back in at fullback, then on play action, Hooper gets the 1-yard touchdown reception.
After a 2 yard loss caused by Deion Jones, an errant pass, it’s 3rd down….Claybo and Dak get together again. This forces a punt from deep in Dallas territory, giving the Falcons the ball back near midfield. Both Coleman and Ward blasting out big runs have the Falcons quickly in the red zone again. Unfortunately, all the Falcons could manage was another successful field goal and the game is set at 27/7.
Really late in the game, Whitten final gets another big pass to move the Cowboys to the 35-yard line. The next play is another errant pass based on a quick throw because of Clayborn swarming close. In the annoying prevent defense, the Cowboys continue to drive down the field. Clayborn almost has another sack, but falls/gets tripped. Robert Alford and Trufant had great coverage of Dez Bryant all day. With 3rd and 6 at the 20, Prescott is scrambling with Beasley and Clayborn on his heels. With just over 4 minutes to go, the Cowboys have to go for it on 4th down. Not to be forgotten for his early season game winning sack, Brooks Reed sacks Prescott, deep in the backfield, closely flanked by Beasley and Jarrett. While, on the same play, there was offensive holding, which must have been the only thing keeping Clayborn for being back there too.
The next Falcon drive goes for nothing with runs up the middle and the Cowboy defense standing up, trying to get the ball back for their offense. Little did they know what that would entail.
The 2nd play in the Cowboys final drive, Clayborn strip sacks Prescott. Completely in the backfield, way behind Prescott, Clayborn knocks the ball out, Takk and Jarrett both see the loose ball and head for it, where Takk recovers the fumble, giving the Falcons offense the ball back. Claybo is then attacked by Reed, Rocky, Debo, all jumping on him in celebration. He smiles, walks over to the sideline like, “Another day another dollar.”
Dallas had utilized all of their time outs, Atlanta ran out the clock and the Falcons are officially back on track. We hope.
Injury Report: Devonta Freeman, concussion, no updates yet. Not yet ruled out against Seattle, but I would suggest unlikely.
Iron Falcon: Obviously, Adrian Clayborn defensively. Claybo passes the great Chuck Smith and legend Claude Humphrey who both tallied 5 sacks in a single game. Clayborn’s 6 sacks not only set a Falcon record, but clearly took the Cowboys out of their passing game and without the running of Zeke Elliott, Prescott was left to run or pass really quick himself.
A much needed win at that, as they head into NFC South play next week, heading up to Carolina, but still remain in 3rd place, behind Carolina and New Orleans.
I’ve seen prettier games, but a W is a W and I will take any win after 3 straight bad losses. Once again, the offense was not efficient in either the red zone or third down conversions, but they did enough to get the win. The playing time was nearly even this week, the Falcons offense being on the field 28 minutes, so the defense could get finally get some rest between outings. Of the 6 trips into the red zone, the Falcons had 2 touchdowns and 4 field goals. They were 4 of 15 on 3rd down conversions.
The offense did at least take some shots downfield and were more creative in play calling than previous weeks. They had 32 runs and 29 passes, so pretty even, finally, on play calling and could actually set up the play action. Of course, after the 4th fumbled exchange from Alex Mack to Matt Ryan, they did move to the shotgun. Their opening possession consisted of the first 5 passes to the tight ends, who had 9 of the 29 targets on the game. Much of the rest of the game, they started with a run on first down, and Freeman or Coleman got good yardage to set up manageable 2nd and 3rd downs.
The Falcons offense’s only turn overs this week were on 2 of the 4 mishandled snaps from Mack to Ryan. Which was, obviously, caused by the weather. Every time, Mack and Ryan would be over on the sideline trying to work out their issues. Finally, they determined they needed to go to the shotgun and not worry about additional turnovers. A few dropped balls, mostly caused by the weather as well, but the passing overall was better and not overly affected by the rain or wind.
Head Coach Dan Quinn said last week there would be extra time spent on 3rd downs – on both sides, as well as the red zone efficiency. The defense must have paid attention. They held the Jets to only 5 of 15 successful third down conversions. The Jets had 2 yards per carry and 5 negative plays and finished with only 43 rushing yards. The Falcons defense really controlled the line of scrimmage and forced the Jets to throw the ball in the bad weather. Of course, Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe were getting some great pressure up the middle. It was noted that Grady is taking it personally that teams want to run against him.
With Duke Riley out, Kemal Ishmael has really stepped up and shown his versatility. Ish has been playing on special teams and making an impact, including recovering a fumble today. Now, Ish is in for Riley at linebacker and definitely making his presence known there as well, with 8 solo tackles and 5 assists. Only one significant penalty today, a PI on Ricardo Allen that provided a big first down that led to a touchdown, but at least it didn’t reverse a turnover. Glass half full?!? Of the FOUR fumbled snaps, two were recovered by the Jets and the Falcons defense only gave up 3 points on short yardage. The average starting position of the Jets’ offense was the 48….always short yardage for the D to defend.
Vic Beasley, Jr was giving the Jets left tackle trouble, Jarrett caused at least one offensive hold, and Adrian Clayborn was destroying the line all day. Takk McKinley got his first strip sack of his rookie career. The addition of Ahtyba Rubin (in replacement of IR Jack Crawford) has been a big help as he is very active and brings a similar demeanor to the defensive line and had 2 tackles against the Jets.
You know if DQ was talking to the O and D about “mishaps,” that Special Teams coach, Keith Armstrong, lit up his group. Likely to the Matt’s and Josh Harris (long snapper) he just gave them a nasty look, a quick “WTF” and moved on. Their mistakes were so random and rare, they don’t need to be talked up. They know better. Clearly, he got to the rest of his team and the only real issue with the special teams today was one punt return that Andre Roberts let go by and ended up settling inside the 1-yard line.
The game changing moment of the game was a Bosher punt. The returner, standing at the 25, with the rain and swirling wind, fumbles the ball and Ishmael is quickly there to recover. Bosher was consistent with an average of 42.8 and a long of 55 yards. Of course, Money was back on track, even in the rain and wind, with 4 successful field goals, a long of 45. DQ said of Bryant, that Bryant is someone you “Want to trust in these situations and he nailed it in a big way tonight.” Derrick Coleman, the full back, had several drilling stops on returns, as well as Ishmael being involved with many punt and kickoff stops.
Interesting note, while Julio was grabbing his 8000th+ yards last week, Ryan now has 200+ passing yards in 62 straight games, which is the longest streak in NFL history.
Overall, a win is a win, especially a road win, in the wind and rain. Defense was much improved. Special teams was fixed. Offense, better and more evenly distributing the ball. No injuries sustained. As Grady noted, we were 4 – 3 this time last year, and we all know how that ended. Now, the real fun begins.