Atlanta Falcons throttled by Cincinnati Bengals, 24-10


Week one brought a great deal of positive emotion with regard to the Atlanta Falcons, as an overtime victory over the arch-rival New Orleans Saints provided the highest of highs. However, that momentum was short-lived for Mike Smith and company, as the Falcons were lackluster from the opening snap on Sunday afternoon, losing a lopsided contest to the Cincinnati Bengals by a final score of 24-10.

The first half was anything but ideal from the side of the “good guys”. Offensively, the Falcons converted just 1 of 6 first downs before the break, limiting their ability to string together long drives, and the offensive line visibly took a step back in protecting Matt Ryan after a surprisingly productive week one showing. The Bengals were able to do as they pleased offensively throughout the opening half as well, but Andy Dalton took mercy on the Atlanta defense (or he’s just bad) in missing some open throws, and only a 132-yard half from Giovanni Bernard sustained the Cincy offense.

On the positive side, the struggles on the both sides of the ball were mitigated by circumstances that allowed the Falcons to remain within a single score at 10-3 going into the halftime break. Bengals kicker Mike Nugent missed three field goals in the opening half, including a 55-yard bomb at the buzzer of the half, and with that combined with Dalton’s inability to capitalize on certain opportunities, it seemed as if Mike Smith’s club dodged a significant bullet.

Then, the floodgates opened in the wrong direction. After the two teams traded three-and-outs to begin the third quarter, Andy Dalton connected with Mohamed Sanu on a 76-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bengals a 17-3 advantage. It was the perfect storm of a failed blitz and a blown coverage (read: an overly aggressive pursuit of the ball) by Robert Alford, and it felt like a dagger. Then, Matt Ryan quickly threw an interception in Atlanta territory (on a tipped ball), and the Bengals needed less than five minutes of clock time to convert that mistake into another touchdown, as Jeremy Hill crossed the goal line to put Atlanta in a 24-3 hole.

That, sadly, wasn’t the end of the negative fury for Atlanta, as Ryan followed that up with his second interception in as many possessions. In an attempt to find Harry Douglas near the goal line, Ryan unleashed a pass that was far too high (and into double coverage) for what was an easy interception, and any faint thought that the Falcons could climb back into the contest with a touchdown evaporated in the blink of an eye.

As noted above, there was no miraculous comeback from the Falcons (despite a touchdown catch by Julio Jones), and in general, this was a miserable afternoon. After a breakout game that netted him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, Matt Ryan was less than stellar on this day, finishing with 231 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The protection in front of him did take a step back in this one, but Ryan was noticeably less crisp throughout the day, and while he should not take singular blame for the defeat, the quarterback did little to combat the negative current.

Defensively, this is a group that isn’t inspiring. Cincinnati amassed 473 total yards in the game, and even the much-maligned Andy Dalton put together a productive afternoon with 252 yards and a touchdown. Scarily, Dalton missed many throws that an elite quarterback would make, and the duo of Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill were more than effective (164 yards, 2 touchdowns) against the “better” of the two units for the Falcons defense on the ground. The recipe for success this season was always an elite offense and a passable defense, but neither group lived up to that billing in Cincinnati.

The Atlanta Falcons have a short week in the wake of this defeat, as they return to the Georgia Dome to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the league’s only Thursday night game. It will be interesting to see how the group responds, but even against a lesser opponent, the Falcons must play better to compete.