It’s come to this.
It was an up-and-down battle (to say the least), but in the end, Jets kicker Nick Folk split the uprights with no time remaining as the New York Jets toppled the Falcons, 30-28. The loss brings the Falcons to 1-4 on the young season, and with that, there are many questions, but before we (quickly) address them, let’s take a look at what transpired on Monday night.
In a first half marred by ineffective offense and some woeful execution, the Jets led (seemingly in a flash) by a 17-7 margin as the game headed for halftime. Matt Ryan was spectacular on the stat sheet throughout the night, but the offense generated only a 4-yard shovel pass touchdown to Jason Snelling through the game’s first 30 minutes.
After the break, the Falcons struck first, as Jacquizz Rodgers turned in a 4-yard touchdown run to cut the margin to 17-14, before the aforementioned Folk took the lead back to 20-14. Following that, however, the Birds quickly went 3-and-out while losing 2 yards, and in a snap, the Jets took a seemingly insurmountable 27-14 lead.
Matt Ryan and company have (rightly) earned a reputation for late-game heroics, and they fought gamely to make up the deficit. First, Rodgers took a handoff 19 yards to the house after a fantastic cutback that cut the lead to 6 at 27-21. Then, the defense took to the field, and with the help of an enormous 2nd-down sack from Osi Umenyiora, forced a quick 3-and-out. Ryan hooked up with Julio Jones for an incredible 1-handed catch on the ensuing drive, and quickly, it seemed as if the Falcons would grab the lead with about 3 minutes remaining.
The red zone didn’t allow for anything “easy” for Ryan and company, and in fact, the drive ended up flatly stalling. On 4th down and goal, Ryan’s pass went begging, but he was unceremoniously bailed out by a defensive pass interference call that was, at best, questionable. The Falcons would capitalize, however, as Ryan found Levine Toilolo for the game-winning score, while leaving the Jets with just 1:54 to scale the length of the field.
If you read the opening stanza, you know what happens next. Geno Smith absolutely knifed through the unsuspecting Falcons defense, as the front 4 could summon no pressure, and the rookie went 4-for-4 through the air in addition to running for an additional first down with his legs. Smith’s excellence, along with a 6-yard scamper from Bilal Powell, set up the Jets for the game-winner, and Nick Folk split the uprights.
To be frank, this is a devastating defeat for the Falcons. Falling to 1-4 as the team heads into the bye puts them in ugly shape with regard to the division (New Orleans remains undefeated), and it will now take at least 8 wins (and likely 9 wins) in the final 11 games to punch a ticket for the playoffs. In the midst of the loss, the Falcons incurred yet another injury, as Roddy White left with a hamstring issue (no details yet), and this is a battered roster for all intensive purposes.
Matt Ryan was, predictably, fantastic throughout the night (36-for-45, 319 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions), but he can only do so much with subpar running game, and frankly, woeful defense. There will be a lot of soul searching in the next 12 days (give or take), and while the season isn’t over, the margin for error is gone.