Written by Brian Pohl
Atlanta, GA- Playing without offensive stars in receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman, the Atlanta Falcons found their offensive groove in their second preseason game despite a 28-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
It was a good bounce-back performance by the Falcons offense, who were held scoreless in last week’s NFL Preseason opener. After receiving the ball to start the game, quarterback Matt Ryan and the first-string offense would march right down the field on a seven-play, three-minute and forty-second drive that was capped off by a Matt Ryan 4-yard completion to Austin Hooper, who hurdled a defender into the end zone.
Ryan and the starters would see only one more drive, and he would finish completing five of his seven passes for ninety yards and the touchdown to Hooper. Getting things going offensively was the goal for Atlanta in this game and they certainly are moving towards being ready for the regular season that is approaching quickly.
In his post-game press conference, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn talked about seeing the offenses quick start to the game saying, “We really challenged offensively, could we come back out after last week where we had struggled with penalties that set us back, to come back and not have those fouls and execute the way that we had so I was pleased to see that through the first quarter of the game.” He continued, “I think it showed a little versatility of the group.”
Other than the offense as a whole getting going, the big story of the game is the coming out party for first-round pick Calvin Ridley. The receiver out of Alabama made his presence known both in catching the ball and on returning kicks, where he showed off his ability to make defenders miss tackles. The rookie led the team with 49-yards receiving on three catches and scored his first professional touchdown on a 7-yard pass from backup quarterback Matt Schaub. If Ridley can prove to be as talented as he showed in this game, he makes an already elite offensive group that much deeper.
The Falcons defense was a similar story as the offense, as the starters impressed, but struggled as backups played throughout the second half.
The standout was cornerback Brian Poole, who was seemingly everywhere in his short time on the field. He finished with three solo tackles, leading the way for the starting group that limited the Chiefs to just three points on a field goal. Those three points were a big test for the starting unit, as they were pinned deep in their own territory with Kansas City threatening to tie the game up at seven. On third and long, quarterback Pat Mahomes would try to find a receiver in the end zone, but cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson would break up the pass on a nice pass deflection, holding the Chiefs to the field goal.
In my preview, I labeled safety Damontae Kazee as the player to watch on the Atlanta defense, and he did not disappoint. The second-year Falcon entered the game leading the NFL in tackles after the first week and would create a highlight play with an interception in the second quarter off of Pat Mahomes. Kazee is labeled as the second-string safety, but if he continues his strong play, will vie for more playing time with the first-string defense.
Scores don’t matter overall during the NFL preseason, as starters don’t see large amounts of playing time and more emphasis is put on giving players who wouldn’t normally see the field time to showcase their talent. Although the Falcons lost on the scoreboard, they achieved most, if not all, of what they needed to as the regular season is just weeks away now.
With only two preseason games left, the Falcons will begin to shift their focus toward preparation of their week one opponent, where they will face the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on September 6th.