The most important outcome of any preseason game is to leave the stadium with a healthy football team following the game, and unfortunately, the Falcons fell short of that on Thursday night.
Star wide receiver Roddy White left the game with Baltimore during the 1st quarter with an ankle injury, and never returned to the field. As of now, we have no specific details regarding the severity of the injury, but D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC garnered this quote from Mike Smith:
“I have not had a chance to speak in depth with Roddy,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We made a decision that Roddy was not going to come back in the ball game. When we have (more) information on that we’ll give it to you. But until we get more information, I don’t want to speak to it.”
Obviously, that quote illustrates absolutely nothing, but it goes to the great “unknown” that we’ll be in until further details are uncovered. White has been the best receiver on the team for more than a half-decade, and any significant loss of time for him could be crippling.
As far as the game is concerned, the Falcons blew an early 23-7 lead by allowing 20 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to take the loss. The result is inconsequential, as the backups were the main culprits in allowing the run by Baltimore, and in actuality, the starting units performed extremely well.
Offensively, Matt Ryan struggled a bit with his completion percentage (8 of 15), but he engineered a go-ahead touchdown drive in the 1st quarter that ended with a Julio Jones touchdown grab. Steven Jackson also got into the act with a much better performance in game #2 with 8 carries for 42 yards and 1 catch for 13 yards. He showed flashes of the “beast mode” that we are all expecting, and that was extremely encouraging.
The aforementioned Julio Jones grabbed 3 receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown in his first action. Obviously, Jones would be the guy with the most increased pressure with any absence from Roddy White, but more importantly, it was good to see him on the field in a healthy and productive way after he missed the preseason opener.
On defense, the 1st-team was extremely effective for the most part. Asante Samuel picked off Joe Flacco in the 2nd quarter on a tipped ball, and the lone blemish on the record of the starters was a 77-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. It’s never positive to see a guy like Smith (who the team should be targeting defensively) run away from the pack on a long TD run, but on the whole, the defense played well.
Lastly, the offensive line put together a much better performance against Baltimore than they did against Cincinnati. I’ve been vocal in this space about concerns with the O-line, but for the most part, they mauled a strong Baltimore offensive line and created running lanes for both Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers. Lamar Holmes looks to be the front-runner for the right tackle job (which we already knew), and he was noticeably effective.
The massive story of the night is the status of Roddy White, but if we suspend that panic for a moment, it was a positive performance from the “real” contributors to this year’s roster.