Written by Brian Pohl
Atlanta, GA- An offensive thriller in Atlanta saw two high-powered offenses go back and forth until the final minute, where the Cincinnati Bengals put the nail in the coffin to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 37-36.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn spoke about the loss and failing to come up with the big plays needed when games come down to the final play saying, “These last two weeks have been tough as hell, and in all three phases [of the game] we had opportunities to close it out. At the end of the day, we have to get these moments right. It’s some of the best parts of playing and coaching are those times when it comes right down to the end to do it, and we’ve got to nail those.”
It was another disappointing loss for the Falcons early in the season as they now fall to 1-3 on the year. The injuries on defense have proven too much to overcome thus far in what was a season of high hopes for Atlanta and their fans. Much of the season remains, and the Falcons are still confident in themselves that they will correct their mistakes and get back on the winning track.
Despite the loss, it was another good showing by the offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan. The veteran completed 29 of his 39 passes for 419-yards and three touchdowns. With all of the injuries on defense, it has been up to the offense to step up and put up points, and the performances by Ryan and his supporting staff have kept them in every game despite the 1-3 record.
With injured starting running back Devonta Freeman still recovering from a knee injury suffered in week one, Tevin Coleman has stepped up as the primary running back in the offense, and had another positive game in the role rushing 14 times for 51-yards, while also catching three passes for 26-yards. Despite Coleman’s impressive work, it was rookie running back Ito Smith that would get in the end zone, rushing seven times for 35-yards for the game and showcasing the potential for an increased role in the future.
In the passing game, quarterback Matt Ryan continued to spread things around to his ultra-talented group of receivers headlined by star wideout Julio Jones, who reeled in nine catches for 173-yards and was commonly turned to in big third-down situations when he was needed most. Mohamed Sanu also turned in a big performance, catching six passes for 111-yards. The duo of Jones and Sanu make for one of the best tandems in the NFL, but they may have a teammate looking to turn that duo into a trio in a rapid ascension.
In my preview, I listed rookie receiver Calvin Ridley as the player to watch after he turned in a breakout performance last week against the Saints. The first-round draft pick out of Alabama continued his great work this week, catching six passes for 54-yards and adding two more touchdowns to his early career collection. Ridley now has six touchdowns through four games, which leads the NFL in touchdowns by a receiver, and is now placing himself squarely in the discussion for rookie of the year consideration.
With all of the positive offensive performers on display, it magnifies the disappointing play by the Falcons defense. Giving up over 400-yards and 37 points to the Bengals offense is a troubling performance even for a group that has been riddled with injuries this season and will need to be addressed going forward if Atlanta is going to salvage the remainder of their schedule.
It wasn’t all bad, as Atlanta received a big game from defensive end Takk McKinley, who was returning from a groin injury that sidelined the second-year starter out of UCLA last week. McKinley delivered three sacks in crucial situations but was ultimately not enough to overcome the holes in the secondary for the Falcons.
All three of the Falcons losses have been close games that have come down to the final plays. Unfortunately, Atlanta has been unable to create the one big play to secure a win in those moments and their record has suffered for it in the early season. The Falcons have time to correct this with the bulk of the schedule remaining, but must work quickly if they are going to reach their lofty goals that looked so achievable before the season.
Coach Quinn talked about his team and what they need to do to improve moving forward saying, “We’re a good team and our record doesn’t show it at this point so after these three tough losses we’re going right back to it to get to work and correct the things we would like to get corrected, and to find the answers to play our best during those moments [at the end of games].”
The Falcons will next travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers next Sunday from Heinz Field.