Posted in Gameday Goods

Redemption in The ATL

Eagles 20/Falcons 24

September 18, 2019

Photos and Article by Allison Smith

There is nothing more Atlanta than the way the Sunday Night Football game went down against Philadelphia. 

With 2:10 left, and down by 3, the Falcons are near midfield with a 4th and 3.  Quarterback Matt Ryan falls back and throws to Julio Jones for the 54-yard game winning touchdown. 

Naturally, the Eagles have too much time left on the clock, drive back down, until 2nd year Cornerback Isaiah Oliver makes the tackle of the game, keeping Zach Ertz from gaining the needed yardage on fourth down.  After a review, it is confirmed that Ertz did not gain the yards needed and Mercedes Benz Stadium was the second loudest it has ever been….the first loudest was moments early during the Julio 54-yard run. 

There was a yard that each fan saw Julio reach when that fan knew he could not be stopped.  For Mohammad Sanu, it was as soon as he had his guy out of the way and saw Jake Matthews flatten another defender.  As we all know, no one can catch Julio if they are not already next to Julio.  Possibly the fastest to him was actually Calvin Ridley who joined him from across the field to celebrate in the tunnel that Julio had run into.  When you are going 20.7 MPH, it is hard to stop, even in the end zone. 

With this touchdown, Ryan threw the 300th touchdown of his career, while Julio became the all-time leading receiver, surpassing his big brother, mentor, and friend, Roddy White.  Julio finished the day with 10,868 receiving yards, with Roddy wrapping his career in 2015 with a total of 10,863.  Of course, Julio had no clue, but when asked after the game, Julio said he was “Honored to be mixing it up with him.”  

Calvin Ridley Making the Catch with Defenders Closing

Julio was also asked about being double covered so often, and he replied that he was just “Trying to play each play at a time, because that means Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy are out there 1 on 1.”  Note that Julio was being double covered when Calvin Ridley hauled in his touchdown. 

While the end of the game was action packed and exciting, the real story, to me, was the redemption of the team as a whole and many individual players.  After the ugly Minnesota loss, fans and experts alike were picking apart numerous players for looking unprepared and definitely not playing up to their potential.  Almost every one of those players not only played better, but really stepped up and had significant contributions against a tough Philadelphia team.  Most, redeemed themselves.

Takk McKinley was in the right spot all night, had 2 tackles, both for loss, 2 quarterback hits, lots of pressure and energy.  Vic Beasley was in the backfield all day with near sacks, 3 quarterback hits and an actual sack.  De’Vondre Campbell had 8 tackles and great movement all game.  Desmond Trufant was finally back looking like the Tru of old, hauling in 2 interceptions, one returned for 10 yards and 3 passes defended, 1 of his 2 pass break ups forced an early punt for the Eagles.  Trufant credited the corner’s successful day with the defensive line play.

Takk & Grady Converge on Wentz

Overall, the defense had 10 quarterback hits, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions.  The defense did not allow anyone outside this week.  They may have allowed receptions, but all receivers knew they were stopped immediately with this physical Falcon D.  Note that many Eagles did not practice yet this week due to bumps and bruises.  The D had big stops on 3rd and goal and a 4th and goal, included a monster hit by Ricardo Allen on Nelson Agholorin the end zone to dislodge the touchdown pass.  Naturally, Rico read that one all the way and told Kendall Sheffield to push the WR to him because he had jumped the seem earlier and knew Carson Wentz would try to take advantage.

Keanu Neal led the team in tackles with 9, followed by Campbell, then Damontae Kazee that really stepped up this week, tallying 8 tackles, but was much more affective this week, mostly because of the catch up the Falcons played last week. 

In the first quarter, Grady Jarrett’s sack forced the Eagles’ first field goal vs. allowing the Eagles to continue to drive for a possible touchdown.  Grady played even better than game 1 and had a special salute to his Mom, that was in attendance, just days after surgery.  She wasn’t going to miss a Grady game.  Grady finished with 5 tackles, 1 for loss, and 2 quarterback hits.

The offensive line only allowed 1 sack and 6 quarterback hits while Ryan dropped back 34 times.  And the bulldozer leveling that Matthews did to open the lane for Julio proved he was redeemed for his opening play sack from the previous week.  Jamon Brown had a solid day at right guard, in for the injured rookie Chris Lindstrom.

On the negative offensive side, Ryan had another 3 interceptions.  A bad pass to Sanu, who was triple covered, another bad decision into the end zone – which stopped a touchdown, and when Julio was in cover zero, but the pass was still picked off.  All bad throws/decisions on Ryan’s part.  Julio did have a WWE like tackle on the Ronald Darby INT, so, there is that.

Also not redeeming or even helping the justification for being on the team vs. other TE’s that were traded….Luke Stocker tried to leap over a defender (ala Austin Hooper) which led to no more yards gained, but a fumble.  Naturally, Sanu was right there and saw the ball come out and instantly jumped on it, saving what could have been a disastrous turnover in the Falcons’ territory. 

In the toughness category, rookie starter Kaleb McGary went out with a knee issue, was actually helped off the field.  Ryan was shoved into him/rolled up on his leg and Ryan commented later, “I feel bad, I thought I hurt him.”  Meanwhile, Ty Sambrailo came in and was a solid back up for McGary.  After being evaluated, McGary told coaches that he was going back in, his team was depending on him and he was ok and needed to be out there with his brothers. 

Freeman Preparing to Block then Receive the Shovel Pass

While the numbers are not overly impressive for the running game this week, it was actually a successful week on the ground, gaining necessary yards at crucial times.  Devonta Freeman had 11 runs for 22 yards, one being a long 9-yarder, and several for loss when the O Line wasn’t so good.  Ito Smith had 4 carries for 32 yards, one was a 28-yard break out that was nearly a touchdown.  Often overlooked, Free had 3 receptions (which often look like runs – shovel passes) for 42 yards, a 28 of his own that was nearly a touchdown, and Ito caught 2 passes for 13 yards.  The Eagles using Cover Zero most of the day, while appreciated, didn’t make much since, playing Ju, Calvin, or Sanu 1:1 is never a good plan; leading to Julio’s 2 touchdowns and Calvin’s 1 on the day.

Julio had 5 receptions for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns, while 2nd year receiver Ridley had 8 receptions for 105 yards.  Sanu had 4 receptions for 16 yards, and tight end Austin Hooper finished with 4 catches for 34 yards, another big 14 yarder on the day.  Stocker was targeted once, caught, then fumbled that one.

Last week, the fourth play of the game was a blocked punt and the Falcons had 2 failed 2-point conversions.  While the return game was all but non-existent, we did finally got to see Matt Bryant’s leg, possibly more than we had hoped.  Matt Bosher pulled a hamstring in warm ups and did punt twice, but did not perform any of the kick offs in the game.  Bryant kicked a successful 50-yarder to give the Falcons the early lead, but then also handled all of the kickoff duties in the game.  Kicks were good, not touchbacks, but several times, the Special Teams over pursued and the returner gained more yards than preferred, but nothing crippling. 

On the second half kickoff, rookie Sheffield forced a fumble that was recovered by Sharrod Neasman providing the Falcons with excellent field position at the Philly 33.  Three plays later, Ryan threw a 4-yard pass to Julio for the touchdown.  A definite improvement from the first week.

In 2 games, the Falcons have committed 19 penalties, 10 this week.  A couple were questionable, so I will give them 8….either way, still needs to be cleaned up as several were costly on yardage at the wrong time. 

After seeing the play on the field this Sunday night, not just the fact that the Falcons won, but how they won against a really good Philadelphia team, I feel better about the season, but hope we do not start to play to our opponent.  We have seen some insufferable games against some mediocre AFC opponents in recent years.

Injury Report: 

  • Kaleb McGary – knee issue is being nursed, but not a deep concern. 
  • Matt Bosher – groin is being monitored, another punter has been signed to practice squad to watch throughout the week.
  • Kenjon Barner – ankle issue is being monitored and did not practice Wednesday.
  • Matt Gono – back issue is improving and was limited.
  • Keanu Neal – groin issue, also limited.

Golden Talon: 

Most people would say Trufant with his 2 interceptions, but I would have to say De’Vondre Campbell for his relentlessness, pursuing, 8 tackles and overall awareness of the day.  Also, Mohamed Sanu for his receptions, tackle after an interception, and constant blocking for his teammates.  Sanu is a leader on the team in so many unsung ways.

FALCONALLEY OWT

Posted in Gameday Goods

Mistakes in Minnesota

September 9, 2019

Article By:  Allison Smith

Photos Courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

The offense is one of the best in the league, on paper.  The Defense is back at full strength, young, healthy, and with a new Defensive Coordinator.  A revamped Offensive line, that never played together in the preseason.  New Special teams coach with restructured and built up return game.  Overall game plan.  BLAND.  Overall, team play.  BAD.  This is how the Atlanta Falcons begin the 2019 campaign.

The only player not active due to injury was Matt Gono, leading Kaleb McGary to start at right tackle.  Next to him is fellow first round draft pick, Chris Lindstrom.  McGary did share time with experienced Ty Sambrailo.

The first offensive play of the game was indicative of the entire game.  The Falcons offense takes the field after the opening kickoff.  The first offensive play ends in a sack on Matt Ryan for an 8-yard loss.  Followed by a short Devonta Freeman run, then a 12-yard scramble by Ryan, that resulted in a fourth down.  The punt was blocked and Minnesota starts their first drive on the Falcons’ 21.  Two plays later, Kirk Cousins finds Adam Thielen for the touchdown.

The Falcons managed 4 turnovers, while the defense officially forced one, but did not recover that ball.  Ryan threw 2 interceptions.  The first was a bad decision to an overly covered Julio Jones, the other seemed like a miscommunication to Luke Stocker in the end zone.  Stocker pulled up while Ryan threw the ball to the corner of the end zone, into the hands of Anthony Harris.  Meanwhile, Mohammed Sanu, Julio, and Calvin Ridley were on the sidelines.  The usually sure handed Freeman had a fumble in the red zone, which Sanu came up with, but was ruled a turnover to Minnesota.  As a note, Freeman was nearly down and going for extra yards and not just dropping or mishandling the ball, but in the end, a fumble is a fumble.

Ryan didn’t look comfortable Sunday, clearly beginning with a sack doesn’t help your quarterback feel confident with his mostly new offensive line.

090819 Sanu LeapAustin Hooper lead the team in receptions with 9 catches for 77 yards, but was used too late in the game to matter.  Ridley had 4 receptions for 64 yards and an uncelebrated touchdown.  Jones had 6 receptions, 31 yards, and a very late touchdown.  As usual, Sanu made some incredible catches for 57 yards and Justin Hardy looked sharp on limited time with 4 receptions for 41 yards.  Russell Gage had one reception that lead to a no call hit to the head and left the game under concussion protocol.

The offensive line that was built in free agency and the draft (including moving up in the draft to take 2 offensive linemen in the first round), was no better than last season.  The starting lineup never played together in any of the 5 preseason due to rotations, injuries, trials.  The Falcons rotated tackles in and out instead of settling on a single player for the game.

Freeman and Ito Smith were the only running backs activated for the game.   Freeman had 8 rushes for 19 yards while Smith tallied 31 yards on his 6 carries.  Ryan was the second leading rusher with 2 scrambles for 24 yards.  Third downs became easily predictable due to the lack of the running game.  The o-line allowed 4 sacks (3, against Jake Matthews) and 7 hits on Ryan, so he never really had time to set and make good passes and with the running game nearly non-existent, there were many 3 and outs, leaving the defense on the field much of the game.

That being said, the defense did a decent job and adjusted well after half time, but it was too little too late at that point.  The defense gave up 265 yards on the day, but could not stop the run game.  The first score for Minnesota was immediately after the punt block, so was a short field and an instant 7/0 lead.  Now healthy, Keanu NealDeion Jones, and Ricardo Allen had good games, with 1, 5, and 3 tackles respectively.  Likely Keke and Rico will receive fine letters this week due to “physical” hits.  Meanwhile, Vic Beasley pulled up on a possible sack, possibly because of the rules in the back of his head.

The leading tackler was new Falcon Tyeler Davison with 8 total tackles, followed by Minnesota grad De’Vondre Campbell with 6.  The interior defensive line had a decent day (Davison, Grady JarrettJack Crawford), however the defense could not set the hard edge and ended up giving up the soft corner too often.  Dalvin Cook had a 21-yard play when Takk McKinley ran inside and didn’t have containment.  Overall, the defensive ends had a rough day.  As expected, Isaiah Oliver was picked on, very successfully for the Vikings.

The defense was not able to make Kirk Cousins uncomfortable, so he was able to easily complete 8 of 10 passes for 98 yards, then rely on the running game.  Cousins did fumble three times, one caused by Jarrett, the other by Neal, but was ruled out of bounds, and simply missed the hand-off once.  The rest of the game however, Cousins was not under duress.

Like many fans, I think the Falcons did not have enough starters time on the field, or on the field at the same time during the preseason.  They needed more real playing time, together, and better communications.  The communication issues were even more prevalent in the offensive issues, offensive line as well as Ryan and some of his receivers.  The team accumulated 9 penalties.  And after the drama of bringing back Matt Bryant, when the Falcons did finally score 2 touchdowns, they went, unsuccessfully, for the 2-point conversion and did not even utilize Bryant.

Overall, the team looked ill-prepared for the start of the season.  All 3 phases of the games were near disasters.  The first play of the game was a sack allowed by the offense, three plays later, a punt was blocked, then two plays later, the defense gave up the first touchdown of the game.  Everyone’s post-game interviews sounded mad and frustrated with their performance.  As they should have.  Hopefully this means big things for the home opener on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Injury Update

  • Russell Gage:  In concussion protocol.
  • Chris Lindstrom:  Broken foot, on IR, out for 8 weeks.

090819 Grady SackGolden Talon:  Grady Jarrett – Grady recorded a sack, forced fumble, 2 tackles for loss, and 5 total tackles in the game.  He had good pressure all day, despite often being held with no calls.

 

#RISEUP

FalconAlley Owt

 

 

 

Posted in Gameday Goods

Atlanta’s “Explosive” Offense, Not Explosive in Season Opener

Atlanta 12 at Philadelphia 18

September 6, 2018

The reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles hosted the Atlanta Falcons on the opening Thursday night of the 2018 NFL season.  The game was delayed nearly an hour due to storms in the area.

Inactives of note for the Falcons were Ben Garland, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Josh Harris, and Isaiah Oliver.

Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Grady Jarrett, Ricardo Allen, Matt Bosher, and Alex Mack represented as captains.  The Falcons lose the coin toss, but, as we would have done, Philadelphia deffered….so the Offense comes out first.

The opening kickoff was a touchback and the 2018 Atlanta Falcons season begins at the 25.  It begins with Logan Paulsen jumping off sides and we are 1st and 15 at the 20.  And the first OFFICIAL play is 10 yards to JULIO JONES.  Then, an end around to Ju, who stiff arms the defender and makes the first down….as a running back.  Ryan Schraeder makes two good blocks to open up the field for Devonta Freeman and a 20-yard run.  Two passes in a row fall incomplete and the Falcons face their first 3rd down of the game.  From the Eagles’ 45, Ryan in the shotgun, directs a confused line and passes to Julio for 33 yards, down at the 6.  Freeman goes up the middle to the 1-yard line.  2nd and goal, Fletcher Cox stops Freeman.  Freeman then taps the pass in the end zone and it falls incomplete.  On 4th and goal…..no receivers are on the field and Freeman goes far around the left side and is stopped at the 2.

The good news, the Philadelphia offense begins at the 2.  A quick run by Darren Sproles who is stopped for a 2-yard gain.  A pass for another couple of yards with Robert Alford quickly forcing the receiver out of bounds.  3rd and 4 from the 8 and Ricardo Allen breaks up the pass.  Again, the defense does their job and the offense should come back out with good field position.

Justin Hardy is back to receive the punt and returns it for a couple of yards, which is added onto with an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Eagles.

The offense comes out for their second possession of the game.  The pass to Mohamed Sanu is low and falls uncaught.  2nd down is a run by Tevin Coleman who runs up the middle for 5 yards.  On 3rd and 5, Ryan runs for the first down himself.  Now at the 33, Coleman runs along the outside and loses 3 yards, then catches the shovel pass and gains 23 yards.  From the 10, Ryan passes to Austin Hooper who managed to catch the ball nearly on the ground.  Eagles’ Head Coach, Doug Pederson challenged the catch.  The call was upheld and the Eagles lost their first time out and have one challenge remaining.  Just inside the 7, it is 2nd and goal.  Finding no one open, Ryan throws the ball out of the end zone.  Now, 3rd and goal, Ryan is sacked by Chris Long, but there is a flag for off sides on the defense.  The ball is moved to the 3 ½ yard line, Ryan throws toward Hooper, who was knocked down, but no penalty.  Finally, Money Matt Bryant comes out and easily puts the Falcons on the scoreboard.

img_7671Matt Bosher kicks it to the 1, where he ends up assisting with the stop at the 31.  Sproles runs 1 yard to the left side and is immediately stopped.  Takk McKinley was off sides on the next play.   At 2nd and 4, Nick Foles passes up for the first down, where the receiver was immediately wrapped up by Rocky.  Brian Poole highlights the next play with an immediate SACK for a loss of 7 yards.  Corey Clement gets the call and is stopped by Grady Jarrett for no gain.  On 3rd and 17, Takk has another movement penalty on the hard count.  Still 3rd down, now for 12 yards, Foles drops the snap…..Takk is all over Foles’ blocker, not allowing him to escape as Jarrett finally gets his leg to take him down.  The Eagles punt to Hardy, who lets the ball roll into the end zone.

First and 10 at the 20 and the pass goes thru Julio’s hands as the defender is wrapping him up.  Freeman and Coleman are both in, Freeman goes in motion as Ryan hands the ball to Coleman who is stopped in the backfield.  The first quarter ends with the Falcons leading 3/0 and the ball.

On 3rd down, Freeman is stopped behind the line and Bosher is on to punt from the end zone.  Sproles fair catches the ball with Justin Bethel just a few feet away.

The Eagles start their 3rd possession on their own 40 with a pass for a single yard where the receiver is met with De’Vondre Campbell.  A handoff to Jay Ajayi goes up the middle for 2 yards.  Foles drops back to pass to Nelson Agholor for the first down, in the arms of Rocky.  Next pass, to Agholor, slammed by Rocky and Rico.  On 2nd and 4, DeAndre Carter is wide open on the right side for the first down and more, pushed out of bounds by Poole.  Ajayi picks up 9 yards running hard of the middle.  He takes the ball again for the 2 yards for just short of the first down and is stopped by Campbell.  3rd and inches, Sproles uses some fancy footwork to gain the necessary inches and is tripped up by Campbell.  Takk had an arm on him, but was in a complete bearhug with the offensive lineman.  Continuing in the no huddle, Foles passes up the middle to Sproles, where he is slammed by Deion Jones.  On 3rd and 7 from the 17, Foles drops back and fires the ball to Wallace who is tapped by Desmond Trufant and he is called for the Pass Interference.  Keanu Neal is injured on the play, but walks off under his own power.  Damontae Kazee comes in for Keke.  Sproles runs up the middle, with the help of a hold, which is called and the Eagles are backed up to the 19 with a 1st and goal still.  Kazee was already in on the first tackle after entering the game.  Foles goes big to the end zone, but Dallas Goedert is out of bounds, being pushed out by Duke Riley.  Clement is met by Deadrin Senat and Brooks Reed.  3rd and goal from the 18, Zach Ertz catches the ball, but too far to go for it on 4th and goal. The game is now tied at 3.

The kickoff goes through the end zone again, and the Falcons will begin at their own 25.  Coleman takes the end around for a couple of yards.  Ryan opens it up and has a 23-yard pass to Julio.  Now near midfield, Ryan hands off to Coleman for a single yard gain.  On 2nd down, Ryan has a first down pass to Sanu, and tag on a roughing the passer penalty by Chris Long and the Falcons are suddenly on the 27.  Ryan cannot find a receiver and scrambles and slides at the 23, where he knocks his brace out of whack.  The Falcons take a timeout to get Ryan fixed back up.  With just over 2 minutes left, they removed the brace.  Ryan overthrows Sanu causing a 3rd and 8, where Ryan is sacked at the 34-yard line.  Bryant comes on, drops a 52-yard field goal like it’s an extra point and the Falcons lead again.

The kick-off is returned, where the returner keeps shuffling side to side to avoid Bethel and Kemal Ishmael, til Ish gets tired of that and lays him out.  Meanwhile, they also had a holding penalty, so the Eagles begin on their own 5.  Keke is back on the field.  Foles is in the end zone with Jack Crawford all over him and throws the ball at the feet of a covered receiver.  The 2-minute warning gives both teams time to regroup.  2nd and 10, Foles is nearly sacked in the end zone by Jarrett who is called for roughing the passer and the Eagles are given the ball at the 25.  Tru has good coverage on the receiver as Foles scrambles with Grady chasing him, and Tru is called for PI again.  A drop, then an errant pass, and the Eagles are forced to punt.

On the punt, the Eagles have a false start and must punt from the 30.  Hardy lets the ball go over his head, but it stops and the Falcons will begin at the 11 with a minute and a half until the half.  Ryan throws a quick pass for a first down to Julio.  Ryan’s first pass to rookie Calvin Ridley is knocked down before it reaches Ridley.  Ryan passes to Freeman for 7 yards.  On 3rd and 3, Ryan throws low to Julio who is covered tightly and cannot hold onto the ball.

As Bosher punts, another flag is thrown, a false start by Foye Oluokun.  Bosher hits another punt, where another flag is thrown, a personal foul on the Eagles, backing them up….the foul is on former Falcon, LeRoy Reynolds.  With 33 seconds until the half, the Eagles begins on their own 12.  Reed came across the line too soon.  Foles airs it out where Keke and Rico cover Wallace tightly.  With 2nd and 5, at the 17, the Eagles take a timeout as the 40 second clock expires.  The next pass is thrown out of bounds.  3rd and 5, Foles passes to Sproles who is short of the first down.  With 9 seconds to go and a 4th and 1, the Eagles call their final timeout of the half.

On the punt, Oluokun is blocked into the kicker and with 5 seconds left, the Eagles have another “gimme” first down.  They take a knee and go to the half.

Bosher is back out to kick to the back of the end zone, so Philadelphia will begin the 2nd half on their own 25.  Foles with the fake hand off and pass to Ertz for an 8-yard gain.  Ajayi gains 3 for a first down.  Foles is pushed back in the pocket, Keke jumps for a pass block, but Poole is in coverage on the receiver and stops a reception, nearly getting the interception.  However, Rocky is called for a 5-yard penalty.  Sproles runs into the defensive line for a 1-yard gain.  Play action, Foles throws a pass….nearly to Rocky, who cannot hold on for the first turn over of the season.  Agholor makes the reception for a short gain and has Tru on him immediately.  Keke is down again, with the same leg injured.  The Eagles punt again to Hardy who fair catches the ball at the 20.

Freeman gets the first call for an 8-yard gain.  Freeman in the backfield, picking up a block, gives Ryan time to get a quick, short pass to Julio for a first down.  A fake to Free and Ryan lobs the ball down the field to Julio for a 52-yard gain.  Called out of bounds as Julio was bobbling the ball as he fell and slid across the chalk, but DQ challenged the ruling and the ruling was upheld.  Under immense pressure, Ryan throws out of bounds and is called for intentional grounding. Now at 3rd and 24, Ryan throws across the middle to Julio for a few yards and Bosher punts again.

The Eagles begin at their own 37 and gain a quick 5.  Foles passes to Ertz who is stopped a yard short of the first down marker.  Ajayi gets the call and gains more than the needed one yard for the first down and the Eagles are across midfield. Foles drops back and is surrounded as his pass to Agholor falls incomplete in tight coverage by Debo.  Ajayi tries to juke through the middle, being met by numerous swarming Falcons, for a 5-yard game.  As we now see Takk sitting on the field.  Foles hands off then the ball is handed to Agholor, who passes for 15 yards to Foles and Tru takes him out of bounds.  Now…Tru is injured on the sideline.  Foles’ pass is low and incomplete.  Ajeya spins for 2 yards.  At 3rd and 8, Foles passes to an open Ertz, who gets to the 6-yard line, finally stopped by Rico with Kazee coming fast.  First and goal, a toss to Sproles who is knocked out at the 2 by Poole.  Now Debo is dinged up and has to come out for a play.  Takk is back on the field.  The first touchdown of the 2018 NFL season is by Ajayi and the Eagles take the lead 10 to the Falcons’ 6.

On the kickoff, that was a touchback, the Eagles still managed a penalty and the Falcons begin on their own 40.  Ryan hands off to Coleman who gains one yard.  Then a toss back to Coleman who runs for 6 yards is called back as Schraeder is flagged for clipping and a 15-yard penalty.  On 2nd and 25 from the 25, Ryan throws up to Hooper for a 15-yard gain.  3rd and 10 and time running out, Ryan drops back and the pass to Julio is perfectly defended and knocked out.

The Eagles being with another Ajayi run for a 4 yard gain, as we see Tru and Debo have returned to the field as well.  Foles drops back and passes to Ertz, which is called incomplete, while the D thought it was a turnover.  It’s 3rd and 6, with Vic Beasley holding Foles’ arm, he gets the ball to Ertz, but it is too low to catch.  Another punt to Hardy who returns a few yards, with another flag out, this time on Kazee for a block in the back.

Freeman gets the first call on this possession and gains 4 yards along the right side.  Ryan fakes to Free and lobs it down to the 15 to Julio, but the ball is slightly overthrown and Julio cannot get there.  On 3rd down, Ryan goes over the middle to Eric Saubert who catches then drops the ball.  Bosher on to punt again.

As the short punt rolls, 6 Falcons surround it to let it roll, but an Eagle touches it with their foot, and the Falcons quickly realize and cover the ball.  Now at the Eagles 32, Ryan nearly throws an interception, which would have been a Pick 6 because the defender and pass were behind the line.  Sanu reaches back to make the low reception as the 3rd quarter ends.

The fourth and final quarter of the game begins with the Eagles jumping off sides and giving the Falcons a first down instead of the sack.  A pitch pack to Coleman, who is stopped in the backfield, but then pushes through and gains 5 yards.  Coleman gets the call again for a couple of yards.  Freeman comes back in for the 3rd and 3 at the 15.  Ryan throws an interception at the 4-yard line.

The Eagles buy themselves some room with a 4-yard gain.  Another handoff gets close to the first down marker.  On 3rd and inches, Agholor runs for a big gain, up to the 29.  FINALLY….Kazee knocks the ball out of the receiver’s hands and bounces into Debo’s welcoming arms.  After a runback, the defense turns it back to the offense.  A pass to Ju, a run by Coleman….and we have our first TOUCHDOWN of the season.

With Josh Harris out, the long snapper hits Bosher with a bad snap which he bobbles, and Bryant’s extra point hits the upright and falls back into the field, so the Falcons lead by 2 with just under 10 minutes to go in the game.

Another Bosher touchback and the Eagles will begin at their 25.  Ajayi runs for 7 yards.  There is no room on the next run.  Foles passes up to Agholor, who is stopped by Debo, but a flag for pass interference calls it back and makes it 3rd and 14.  Grady is telling the D what they need to be preparing for, as Philadelphia is late getting the play and are forced to call their first time out of the 2nd half.  Foles fires up to Ertz who cannot catch the ball.  Hardy lets the punt go over his head and it rolls to the 20, another flag, on both teams, therefore there is a re-kick.  Not likely that Hardy will let this one roll past him again.  On this second punt, Hardy keeps the ball in front of him and it goes out at the 34.

With 7 ½ minutes to go, Freeman takes the ball around the right side and takes a loss, but Schraeder was holding so it is 1st and 20.  A pass down the line to Sanu is caught and now it is 2nd and 25.  Ryan is sacked, fumbles and Mack falls on the ball.  It is 3rd and 29.  Ryan drops back and throws up a few yards to Freeman, who manages to make a 12-yard gain.

Bosher on to punt to the 20 where Ish makes the stop at the 31, and a flag is on the field for Saubert and a huge facemask penalty.

The Eagles begin on their own 46.  Foles passes to Agholor for a few yards.  Foles goes deep to Wallace at the 2, but Rocky plays it perfectly and knocks the ball out.  3rd at 8 at the 48, Foles drops back under pressure and Sproles makes the reception and forces his way to the first down.  To Sproles again, Rico on the stop, after a 6-yard gain.  Ajayi goes up the middle for 2 yards.  Takk tweaks his leg again and is assisted off the field.  On 3rd and 2, Clement goes through the middle of the field untouched until Kazee catches him and saves the touchdown.  Clement runs again for a couple of yards.  Then, Ajayi takes the ball around the outside left and scores the touchdown, taking back the lead.  The Eagles succeed in their 2-point conversion attempt and lead 18 to 12 with 2:19 on the clock.

Ryan’s first pass is a 5-yard pass to Hooper.  Then, before the 2-minute warning, Ryan finds Julio for 36 yards.  Coleman is in as Free’s knee is tweaked.  An incomplete pass brings up 2nd and 10 with 1:50 and 33 yards to go.  Ryan is scrambling and slips at the 40.  As Ryan is inches from being slammed, he pitches it up 18 yards to a falling Julio.  The Falcons take their 2nd timeout.  Another pass to Julio for 9 yards to the 11-yard line.  Ryan is caught up in swarming Eagles and sacked.  3rd and 8 and a quick pass that Sanu snatches out of the air for the first down.  The final Falcons timeout of the game with 24 seconds remaining.  Ryan scrambles, runs towards the sidelines and throws it into the stands.  2nd and goal at the 10.  The next pass is just over Julio in the middle of the back of the end zone.  On 3rd down, Julio is double covered again.  Nearly sacked, Ryan throws a short incomplete pass.  Seven seconds remain for a final play that is way out of bounds, a flag is called on the defense.  Illegal contact.  So there is 1 second and 1 play left with the Falcons’ ball on the 5.  Julio and Sanu are both on the left side…..Ryan throws to Julio who falls out of bounds with the ball.

The Falcons begin their season 0-1 and will have extra time before hosting the Carolina Panthers on September 16, 2018.

#RiseUp

@FalconAlley OWT

Photos courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

Posted in Gameday Goods

Defense Shines in Falcons Third Pre-Season Game

August 25, 2018

Falcons 6 at Jaguars 17

Inactives for Game 3:  Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Desmond Trufant, Deion Jones, and Ricardo Allen.  Getting the start in their place, Justin Hardy, Tevin Coleman, Isaiah Oliver, Foyesade Oluokun, and Damontae Kazee.

After the coin toss, the Atlanta Falcons’ offense begins the game, which means that Calvin Ridley is back to receive the kickoff.  Kicked into the end zone and Ridley downed it there.

Starting with a play fake and then a 20-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Mohamed SanuLogan Paulsen is the starting tight end with Brandon Fusco getting the start this game at right guard.  Tevin Coleman has a single yard run, to the right.  Ryan and Paulsen are in the backfield, Coleman goes on a slant to the left side and gained the first down.  Behind a big Ryan Schraeder block, Paulsen makes a catch for 7 yards.  Coleman gains another first down, this time behind the right side (Fusco).  Ito Smith joins the fun.  From the backfield, Smith gains 3 yards.  Then, they give up a 3-yard loss sack.  Tyler Patmon knocks the ball intended for Ridley down, leading to Matt Bryant coming in and easily making a 47 yard field goal.

As the Falcons D hits the field for the first time, they come out READY.  Jacksonville’s drive begins with Blake Bortles scrambling for a 4-yard gain, then a handoff to Leonard Fournette for another 4 yards, where he is quickly met by Terrell McClain and Brooks Reed.  On 3rd and 2, Bortles’ short pass is tipped by Robert Alford and picked by Keanu Neal.  Suddenly, the Falcons have the ball back and at the Jacksonville 42.

Then…..the Falcons go 3 and out.  Again.  Incomplete to Reggie Davis, a Coleman 1-yard run, then a sack on Ryan.  Matt Bosher on to punt 39 yards to the Jaguars 7-yard line.

Kazee starts the Jags possession with back to back tackles, followed by a Brooks Reed stop of Fournette, then an Oluokun stop of TJ Yeldon.  Kazee is back at it and blasts Dede Westbrook for a 2nd down stop.  Bortles passes to Fournette who gets by Duke Riley for the first down, with Brian Poole closing quickly.  The elusive Fournette spins past Jack Crawford and gains 4 yards.  Kazee deflects the next big pass down the field.  Kazee almost intercepts the next Bortles pass, while Grady Jarrett is grinding him into the ground.  Now the Jags are forced to kick and miss a field goal.

The Falcons get the ball on downs at the 37, but immediately go 3 and out and are forced to punt.  The 54-yard punt falls at the 5 and JUSTIN BETHEL downs it on the 2.

The Jaguars begin at their own 2.  Deadrin Senat, anticipating the snap jumps offsides to move the ball up to the 7.  The running back heads up the middle, but Senat and De’Vondre Campbell quickly meet him for an immediate stop.  Isaiah Oliver makes the next stop after a big reception, clearly a mix up on coverage as Oluokun or Campbell should have been on that side to slow down that reception.  From the 18, Bortles throws another pass that is deflected, this time by Oliver.  Meanwhile, Poole was called offsides and negated the play.  Donte Moncrief gets a 37-yard reception, with Oliver spinning and trailing the entire way, finally being pushed out by Alford.  Two plays later, Fournette gets in for the 21-yard touchdown behind good blocking and missed tackles by Neal and Campbell.

Another unreturnable kick.  Wes Schweitzer comes in at center in place of Alex Mack – who is not injured.  Andy Levitre and Jake Matthews are on the left side, with Fusco and Ryan Schraeder to the right.  Ryan had 4 receivers on the field, but could not find anyone open and runs out of bounds for a “sack.”  Russell Gage is in, but Ryan throws to Austin Hooper who cannot hold onto the ball and suddenly it is 3rd and 11.  In the gun, Ryan overthrows Coleman.  The o-line did not hold up well on this series, the 3rd 3 and out in a row.

Bosher on for the 52 yard, unreturnable punt.  Campbell, playing inside linebacker now, was fooled by the play fake, but did make the push out of bounds after a big gain.

Fournette gets by Riley again, for another 3rd down conversion.  Oluokun stayed in his gap and stopped Fournette for minimal gain.  Bortles steps up for a big pass but is met and sacked by Crawford with Brooks Reed coming.  Grady Jarrett, being jealous, grabs his Clemson buddy Vic Beasley, Jr and heads to the backfield.  Beasley is shoving one lineman back blocking Bortles’ path, while Grady is being held up by a lineman, causing Bortles to trip and immediately Grady is on top of him.

The Jags are forced to punt to Hardy.  Ryan finds Sanu (against mouthy Jalen Ramsey) for a nice and quick 16-yard game.  Sanu is in motion with a play fake to Coleman, but Ryan overthrows the ball.  The next pass, to Ridley is dropped.  On 3rd and 10 to Hooper, Barry Church is charged with the pass interference penalty and moves the Falcons to the 48.  Coleman gets the call for a few yards, then….behind Matthews and Levitre (left side), escapes down the field for a big 21-yard run down to the 24-yard line.  Smith pushes the ball down 5 yards, inside the red zone.  A short pass to Hooper, then at the 15-yard line, it is 3rd and 1, and a pass to Sanu at the back of the end zone is knocked out and Bryant is back on for another successful field goal.

Bosher handles the kickoff where Manual Smith makes the stop at the 25, where the Jags will begin their next drive.  Kazee and Riley meet to make the tackle on Keelan ColeCorey Grant on the screen play is knocked out by Campbell after a 28-yard gain.  Defense was caught blitzing.  In confusion, Takk McKinley was off the field trying to get on in time, so, alertly, Grady shoves Crawford in to DT and Grady plays DE for a play.  The Jags gain 6 yards, stopped by Keke.   Takk is clearly back on the field and makes the next tackle, then nearly makes another.  Oliver and Kazee combine for a stop forcing a 3rd down and timeout by Jacksonville.  After a Campbell pass break up, it’s 4th down and the Jags settle for another field goal.  Teams head in to the half with Jacksonville leading 10 – 6.

As the second half begins, Bortles comes back out with most of the first team, starting at the 16.  The Falcons have completely reset.  Senat is still in, but Anthony Winbush, Casey Jones, Justin Zimmer, Jonathan Celestian and Kemal Ishmael, Blidi-Reh Wilson and Justin Bethel are all in now.  TJ Yeldon gets the first two plays and is stopped by Celestin then Ish for minimal gains.  Bortles has a 9-yard pass to Moncrief that is covered by Blidi Wreh, then runs up the middle himself and CB Bethel comes up to make the stop.  Senat makes a good read forcing 3rd down.  The Falcons are in man-to-man and as Bethel gets tripped up covering his man, gets Moncrief out of bounds at the 17.  The next play, Bortles throws down to the 2-yard line, where he finds Blidi Wreh.  And, the defense heads off the field in lieu of the 2nd team Falcons offense.

Matt Schaub comes out to lead the offense, including Justin Crawford with the first carry of the 2nd half, for a loss of 1 yard.  Offensive line updates to Jamil Douglas, Ty Sambrailo, Matt Gono, Sean Harlow, and Wes Schweitzer.  Schaub has a short pass to Gage, then a short pass to Eric Saubert that turned into a 44-yard gain.  A play fake to Crawford, throws up to Ridley for a 12-yard game.  Gono has a false start.  Another run by Crawford, for another lost yard.  Schaub in the shotgun is hit as he throws, Gage almost reeled it in, but could not.  It’s 3rd and 15, due to offsetting penalties on a defender and Gage (again) for movement.  Schaub lets one go, Ridley cannot handle the pass, it bounces off of his foot and is intercepted and returned 27 yards before Gage makes the stop.  The play is reviewed and reversed determining the pass was incomplete.  Bosher on to punt 20 yards to the Jacksonville 17.

Cody Kessler comes in replacing Bortles at quarterback and immediately throws a 33-yard pass to midfield.  Ryan Neal makes the next 2 tackles, forcing Grant out of bounds, then tackling Rashad Greene for short gain.  Cooper and Celestin made the next few stops for 12 and 4 yard gains.  Then Zimmer has a big 7-yard sack at the Falcons 49, then is in the backfield again.  Unfortunately, Kessler is able to get a short pass away to Wilds who goes for 31 yards to the Falcons 8, then another to Grant down to the Falcons 4.  R. Neal makes the stop at the 2, while Celestin makes the stop at the 1.  These two are making the Jags work for this score.  On the next play, Kessler fumbles the hand-off, sees and recovers it, then scrambles into the end zone.

Ito Smith brings the kickoff out to the 31-yard line, with no bobbling the ball like last week.  Crawford gets the first run, for 5 yards.  Then newly acquired RB, Justin Fowler takes the ball another 3 yards.  Schaub throws incomplete to Byrd, forcing another Bosher punt.  This one for 49 yards, covered by Reggie Davis for a 1 yard loss on the return.

Jacksonville has a quick 3 and out with the new defense stepping up.  The 53-yard punt is muffed by Oliver, who loses the ball, but is recovered by Crawford and the Falcons will begin at their 31.

Malik Williams has the first 3 carries, for 9, 2, then 1-yard gains, trying each side, left, right, then up the middle.  Kurt Benkurt in at quarterback passes up to Christian Blake for a 9-yard gain, then is sacked for an 11-yard loss.  From the shotgun, Benkert hits Crawford for 4 yards, then hits his favorite target, Devin Gray for a 15-yard gain.  On 4th and 2, the Falcons go for it, but the pass goes off the hands of Dontez Byrd and falls incomplete and they turn it over on downs.

The Jaguars begin at their own 40-yard line.  Grant goes for 4 yards and meets Neal.  A quick pass for no gain, then a sack by Richard Jarvis for a 9-yard loss.  And another punt and chance for Oliver, who catches the ball cleanly and returns the punt 6 yards.

Benkert opens it up quickly as he goes deep to Byrd for 41 yards.  Crawford carries it for 8 yards, then 7 yards.  After 2 incomplete passes, Benkert finds Gage for 12 yards to the Jacksonville 8-yard line.  Another 2 incomplete passes by Benkert, but Jacksonville is called for roughing the passer and the Falcons have a 1st and goal at the 4.  Four incomplete passes and the Falcons turn the ball over on downs.  Gray caught the pass in the end zone, but could not get both feet down.  Crawford had the ball go through his hands.

Time winds down and the Falcons are 0-3 in the pre-season, remember last season, they were 0-4 and a play away from the SuperBowl.

Some guys are definitely making the play for starter spots.  Kazee is continuing to play incredibly well and shows himself as extremely versatile.  If Kazee could be brought in, Keanu Neal can be moved up to play more inside and really cause a raucous on offenses.  Blidi Wreh continues to impress defensively as well and made a definite jump from last season.  Oluokun is playing well and looks to be on that 53.

Fusco looks to be the winner at the right guard spot playing well against a very good Jacksonville defense.  Ricky Ortiz has likely won the fullback spot.

Oliver is struggling in man-to-man, but doing well in zone coverage.  Of course, Grady was very disruptive and Campbell stopped a touchdown.  Overall defense, causing turn overs was good, but gave up allot of yards as well.  They still need more pass rushing to be dominant this season.  There were signs of fatigue (again – as seen in previous seasons) late in the 2nd quarter.

Levitre allowed a sack, the left side O-line was weak and allowed too much pressure on Ryan.  Coleman looked good as expected, especially running left when Matthews and Levitre did pair up for good blocking.

Special teams is much improved from last year, the obvious addition of Bethel, but some of the young guys trying to make the team too, Gage and Paulson especially.

Again, no one injured – so there is that.  And the Jaguars are a very good team and therefore a good test.  They did not sit anyone, while the Falcons did have several key players on offense and defense that did not play at all.  Also note that Jacksonville played their starting offense later than the Falcons played their first team defense.

 

#RiseUp

@FalconAlley Owt

 

Photo Credit:  Atlanta Falcons

Posted in Gameday Goods

Falcons First Half Highs, Second Half Lows

August 17, 2018

Chiefs 28 at Falcons 14
Deion Jones and Matt Bryant were in street clothes, announced inactive. Again, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones were dressed, but did not play at all. So many teams have seen season ending injuries already, so happy to have those guys sit.
Justin Hardy and Calvin Ridley were sent back to receive the opening kickoff. Ridley received the kick and returned it 34 yards.
Brandon Fusco got the start at right guard. Ridley, Marvin Hall, and Mohamed Sanu with the start as receivers. The first play was to Ridley for no yards. Then to Tevin Coleman for no yards. Third and eleven, Matt Ryan finds Austin Hooper for 29 yards. Tevin stepped behind Alex Mack and rushed up for back to back 15-yard gains. Ito Smith now in at running back for 3 yards. Then a 4-yard diving touchdown pass to Hooper.
Matt Bosher resumed his kickoff duties. Foye Oluokon had a good stop on kick coverage. Terrell McClain and Duke Riley made a good stop. Clearly Riley trying to step up his game this week. Brian Poole came across the field and took the receiver out of the air to stop the Chiefs with a 3 and out.
Hardy is starting for punt returns as well and returned it 17 yards. Unfortunately, Smith had an illegal block in the back to cancel the return, but we did get to see what Hardy can do.
The first team returns to the field and Ryan shoots a 16-yard pass to Hall. Then, the upcoming star of the year, Ridley catches a big 36-yard pass over his left shoulder as he falls. And the Falcons are instantly inside the Chiefs’ 30. A few plays later, facing a 4 and 2, Andy Levitre had a hands to the face penalty and the Falcons turn the ball over on downs.
Brooks Reed, Deadrin Senat, and Keanu Neal combined for a stop, and Neal (not surprised) gets called for the helmet to the head penalty. But if you watch the replay, he did not lead with the head, but took the call. Grady Jarrett got major pressure up the middle and Poole was able to make the 11-yard loss tackle. Poole continued to show out with another tackle to the sideline. Then Grady made a stop to cause 3rd and 5. The running back was able to get around the side along the sideline where he was stopped by Ricardo Allen. Duke Riley was in pursuit, but got caught up in a block. Robert Alford had a nice pass break up. As seen in training camp, Blidi Wreh-Wilson has greatly improved and playing smart and aggressively and nearly had a pick in front of Sammy Watkins.
Kansas City had a first down at the 4 and the Atlanta defense stood up and forced a field goal.
For the third offensive set, Matt Schaub comes in. Smith is in at running back.  Ben Garland and Ty Sambrailo are in on the left side, while Wes Schweitzer is in at right guard. Hardy had a nice quick reception for a first down. Russell Gage gets his shot and hauls in an 18-yard reception. Reggie Davis comes in at receiver. Smith is getting allot of carries and being successful with his quick spin moves and pushing through for some good yardage. Schaub finds Ridley on a crossing route for a first down. Justin Crawford gets a chance at running back and gains 2 yards. Back to Smith who goes to the right side for another few yards. On 3rd and 4, Schaub finds Davis. Then, Big Play Ridley, catches his first touchdown as a Falcon.
Blidi Wreh made the stop on the kick off.  Patrick Mahomes threw up a pass to Sammy Watkins, and Damontae Kazee picked it off. Kazee came to play tonight again. Blidi Wreh knocked Watkins off his timing a bit and Kazee reads the play from the start, cuts across the field, and leaps up and rips the ball out of the air.
Schaub and the offense come back out. More successful hand-offs and passes to Smith, then a big 24-yard catch by Eric Saubert, with many of those yards after the catch. Schaub finds Davis on a crossing route, just short of the first down, due to having to slow up for the pass. On fourth down, Smith gets stuff and the Falcons turn the ball over on downs.
The second half took on the same hot mess as last week’s game. Kurt Benkert looked good, until he threw an interception that he should have tucked in. Oliver looked good in kick coverage. Ito Smith had several kick returns, which except for bobbling each several times, looked good. He also had 13 carries for 34 yards at running back. Brandon Fusco looked good at the right guard spot and pancaked several guys making room for Tevin to get some good yards.
Foye Oluokon flew around at the linebacker spot, finishing with 1 tackle, but also very active on special teams. Duke Riley stepped up tonight and was better in coverage most of his time in. As always, Brian Poole was on point and covered the explosive Tyreek Hill perfectly. Russell Gage came in with the 2nd team and had 1 reception for 18 yards.
Of course, Damontae Kazee is a stand out again, with no tackles, but a big interception. Terrell McClain really stepped up tonight.
The first team offense got into a good rhythm tonight. No pre-snap penalties, Ryan went 5 of 7 for 90 yards and a touchdown. Calvin Ridley had 3 receptions, 1 touchdown, 49 yards, and a 35-yard return. Austin Hooper had a touchdown and 2 receptions for 33 yards. Definitely more consistent.
First team defense did not give up a score. Robert Alford with the knock down in the end zone. They started with a 3 and out. And the regulars were swarming.
Dave Archer spoke to Calvin Ridley after the game, he is so humble, with his stats on the night and he is just “ready to contribute.” Ridley said he’s just working and practicing, and again, “Willing to contribute however the team wants me.” Again, said that Julio Jones is coaching him up after every play.
Overall, this game was not as painful as the first, and saw some real bright spots for the first teams and some guys on the 2nd or 3rd. And another week and no one is hurt.  Likely, 50 spots are already on lock and there are not many position battles. We will see what we see in game 3 next Saturday.

#RiseUp
FalconAlley OWT

 

Photo Credit: Atlanta Falcons