Atlanta Falcons Play Lackluster, Lose Third Preseason Game

Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Falcons offense was lackluster, and the defense was inconsistent in the Falcons 6-17 preseason loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Atlanta Falcons traveled to Jacksonville on Saturday night, hoping to show how prepared they were for the regular season. Our Christopher Townsend, previously wrote about the Bird’s attempt to shake off the rust in this article. Regrettably, the dress rehearsal didn’t go so well for the Dirty Birds. The Jaguars gained over 200 yards in the first half, compared to the Falcons’ 96 yards, and led 10-6 at halftime. The Falcons’ starters didn’t play in the third quarter, while the Jaguars regulars played one series after halftime.

Atlanta Falcons Starting Offense

The Atlanta Falcons got off to a decent start against the stingy Jacksonville defense, with a nine play, 46 yard drive. Missing starter Devonta Freeman, the team made a concerted effort to establish Tevin Coleman. Three of the nine plays on the drive were designed for the running back. A second down sack, followed by a third down drop by Calvin Ridley, caused the drive to stall. Matt Bryant kicked a 47 yard field goal to give the Dirty Birds a 3-0 lead.

The Jacksonville defense tightened up, after giving up the first drive field goal. They forced the Atlanta Falcons to go three and out, on three consecutive drives. The series of drives were marred by dropped passes and missed blocks.

Halfway through the second quarter, the Atlanta Falcons’ offense got the ball back, and had some success. They targeted Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey early, and Mohamed Sanu caught a back shoulder fade route, for a 16 yard gain. Ramsey recently referred to Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan as “overrated” in a GQ magazine article.

Matt Ryan also had a 15 yard pass to tight end Austin Hooper on the drive. The biggest play was a 22 yard run on a stretch play, by Tevin Coleman. The cut-back lane was cleared by a block, from free agent acquisition Brandon Fusco. Fusco started at right guard for the second consecutive preseason game. He appears to have won the starting job, opposite of Andy Levitre.

This drive stalled when offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian decided to pass from an empty back set on third and one. It was the second consecutive game Sark forfited the opportunity to convert a short yardage run, in favor of a pass play with no threat of the run. Mohamed Sanu dropped the pass in the end zone. Matt Bryant chipped in a 33 yard field goal to pull the Atlanta Falcons within four points.

Matt Ryan finished an unimpressive 5-12 for 57 yards. Tevin Coleman logged a respectable 38 yards on seven carries, and had 48 total yards. It is important to note that superstar wide receiver Julio Jones did not play for the third game this preseason. Jones is not believed to be injured.

Rookie first round pick Calvin Ridley dropped three passes. Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu dropped one pass each as well. Hooper also missed a key block. Jake Mathews failed to chip a Jags defender on a screen pass, causing Matt Ryan to take one of three sacks he took. The Falcons must protect Ryan better, when they open the NFL season in Philadelphia. The two teams meet Thursday September the sixth at 8:00 pm.

Atlanta Falcons Starting Defense

The Atlanta Falcons defense was an inconsistent, mixed bag. The good was, that they forced Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles into two interceptions. The defense nearly had a third turnover, when Damontae Kazee forced a fumble on Jags wide receiver Marqise Lee. The turnover was nullified by a controversial flag, due to the new rule that prevents lowering the helmet. The hit by Kazee seemed to be with the shoulder.

The bad was, the Atlanta Falcons gave up three drives of 60 yards or more. One of the drives resulted in a 21 yard touchdown run, by running back Leonard Fornette. Another drive yielded a field goal, and the other a missed field goal.

The starting defense conceded more than 60 yards on the ground, and over 200 yards of total offense. The main mishaps were missed tackles, and overpusuit, allowing huge cutback lanes for the Jacksonville runners. The biggest play the defense allowed, was a short pass to wide receiver Dontae Moncrief that was sprung for a 37 yard gain. He beat rookie cornerback Isaiah Oliver, for the explosive gain.

Starting middle linebacker Deion Jones, missed the game as did starting defensive backs, Desmond Trufant, and Ricardo Allen. Defensive tackles Grady Jarrett, and Jack Crawford, each had a sack. Damontae Kazee continued his stellar preseason, with five tackles, and a pass breakup. Keanu Neal, and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, each had interceptions for the Dirty Birds’ defense.

The Reserves

The Atlanta Falcons third and fourth string, failed to score for the third consecutive week. Eric Saubert and Dontez Byrd, contributed explosive pass plays  of 44 and 41 yards respectively. Russell Gage showed to be more than just a special teams’ ace, with two grabs for 18 yards. Running back Malik Williams was impressive running for power, averaging four yards per carry.

Linebacker Foye Oluokun played well, and could push for playing time as a sixth round pick. Linebacker Jonathan Celestine, has played well all preseason. He had five tackles, plus half a sack, and has given himself a good chance to make the 53 man roster. Safety Ryan Neal lead the team with 6 tackles. Defensive tackle Justin Zimmer turned heads with one and a half sacks. Richard Jarvis, a linebacker from Brown College, added a sack also.

Running back Ito Smith, a fourth round draft pick, has yet to impress this preseason. Cornerback Isaiah Oliver, struggled yet again. He gave up a big play, and is often trailing in man coverage. He also muffed a punt return attempt. Look for both men to get major playing time, in the preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins. The teams meet on Thursday August 30th at 7 pm.

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Going Forward

The Atlanta Falcons giving the fans cause for concern after the third preseason game, is starting to become a regular thing in the Dan Quinn era. Looking at how things have worked out over the last three seasons, there is no reason to hit the panic button. However while the third, and fourth string players, are battling for the few remaining roster spots, the starters must work out some kinks in practice before the season opener. I suspect they will be fine, but an ominous stat looms. No team has ever won the Super Bowl after going win-less in the preseason.

Stay tuned for more coverage on the Atlanta Falcons, as we rapidly approach the start of Football season. Check with us for coverage of all your favorite Atlanta Sports Teams. Also don’t forget to download the FanSided app  and favorite All Atlanta Sports.