After reviewing the coaches’ film, it’s grading time for the Falcons from their 37-36 loss to the Bengals Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The third and fourth touchdown drives by the Bengals were just too easy. There was a blown coverage on the third touchdown and penalties by cornerbacks Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant, a cheap shot block in the back of Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd, aided the fourth touchdown.
With all of their injuries, the Falcons aren’t in a position to give away charity yardage or blow coverages. On the positive side, they cut their missed tackles down from 15 the week before to 3.
Also, there were too many breakdowns at key times by the offensive line. Two each by Brandon Fusco and Jake Matthews very extremely costly. With the ball on the 8-yard line after blocked punt, the offensive line crumbled on three key plays and they had to settle for a field goal.
With the offense needing a touchdown late to make it a two-score game, the line failed again.
Here are the grades:
Run offense: Tevin Coleman averaged 3.6 yards per carry on 14 attempts. Ito Smith scored a rushing touchdown and averaged five yards per carry on seven carries. The Falcons used wide receiver Calvin Ridley on an end around that looked promising until he slipped. The Falcons gained 25 of their 92 yards rushing running behind Matthews. Fusco was the second-most effective run-blocker with 14 yards on three attempts. The rushing attack needs to pick up in order to help run some clock and keep the defense off the field. Overall, the Falcons averaged a sub-standard 3.8 yards per carry. Fullback Ricky Ortiz had a nice block on Bengals linebacker Preston Brown that helped Smith on his 13-yard gain in the second quarter. After getting the ball on the 8-yard line after a blocked punt, the Falcons’ run game collapsed. Fusco had a holding penalty, Coleman had a nice run to move it to the 4-yard line. On the next play, Matthews missed his cut block on Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who then dumped Coleman for a 2-yard loss. On third-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Carlos Dunlap left right tackle Ryan Schraeder to sack Matt Ryan who was trying to step up and escape the pocket. A strong running attack would have pounded out the eight yards and scored a touchdown. Grade: C
Pass offense: Ridley, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu were all special. Ridley had two touchdown catches. He put a wicked double-move on Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on his 30-yard touchdown catch. Sanu caught 6 of 9 targets for 111 yards and Jones caught 9 of 12 targets for 173 yards, which was inflated by the 49-yard gain on the last play of the game. Tight end Austin Hooper caught one of his two targets and rambled for 19 yards. Ryan wisely threw the ball out of the end zone instead of trying to force a pass to Hooper from 19 yards out. Darqueze Dennard and Jessie Bates were both in coverage. The Falcons had to settled for what was a meaningless field goal in part because Fusco was called for holding on first-and-goal from the 8-yard line and Matthews was beaten on a nice inside move by Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson (Milton High/Auburn) to sack Ryan on second-and-goal from the 12. Grade: B-plus
Run defense: Bengals running back Giovani Bernard rushed 15 times for 69 yards. Overall, the Bengals rushed 23 times for 99 yards for a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. On Bernard’s 19-yard touchdown run, backup defensive end Steven Means lost his battle Bengals tight end Tyler Kroft, who blocked him down inside. Bernard was free to bounce the run outside and into the end zone. Grade: D
Pass defense: The jumbled secondary had a horrible day. Free safety Damontae Kazee got caught cheating over to Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green side twice and both resulted in touchdowns up the seam to tight end Tyler Eifert and to wide receiver John Ross. Both players were wide open on the busted coverages. Rookie Isaiah Oliver was a stand-up guy after the game. The rookie answered questions about the final play and how he didn’t drop deep enough. The Bengals attacked Trufant, who was playing nickel back, with Boyd, who finished with 11 catches for 100 yards. After Trufant dropped an interception that could have sealed the win, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed a 11-yard pass to Boyd to convert on fourth-and-8 from the Atlanta’s 35. On the fourth-and-6 from Atlanta’s 20, Dalton went back to Boyd for a 7-yard gain to keep the eventual game-winning touchdown drive alive. Trufant’s penalty for blocking Boyd in the back helped aid the Bengals’ fourth touchdown drive in the second quarter. It showed a total lack of discipline when the team needs some poise from its veterans. The Falcons got three sacks from their NASCAR nickel defensive line. On sack number one, Vic Beasley was at left end, Takk McKinley at left tackle, Grady Jarrett at right tackle and Jack Crawford at right end. On sack two, it was McKinley, Jarrett, Crawford and Beasley. On sack three, McKinley, Crawford, Terrell McClain and Beasley. Jarrett left the game after going down with 3:19 left in the third with an ankle injury. He was chasing Boyd down the field. Grade D-plus
Special teams: Returner Marvin Hall opened the game with a 53-yard return. New linebacker Bruce Carter’s holding on Hall’s second return was a 24-yard penalty. Instead of starting at the 32-yard line, the drive started at the 8. Reserve safety Keith Tandy had a blocked punt. Field goal kicker Matt Bryant made a 55-yard field goal. The kickoff coverage unit allowed a 47-yard return. Bosher had 3.78 seconds of hang time on his 41-yard punt in the third quarter. It was his only punt of the game. Grade B-minus
Coaching: After getting the blocked punt, the Falcons didn’t attack the Bengals from the 8-yard line. The offensive line imploded when it was time to take control of the game. They ended up settling for a field goal, which ended their string of 11 straight touchdowns in the red zone. The plan to switch to more man-to-man defense worked at the start of the second half. The plan to play zone as a change-up on the final drive back-fired against the veteran quarterback, who found his favorite receiver open in the end zone for the victory. The coaches must get the revamped defense up to speed immediately before the season goes of the rails. Grade C-minus
Next up: The Falcons (1-3) are set to play at the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field. It will be the 17th meeting in the series. The Steelers lead the series, 13-2-1. The Falcons are 0-6-1 in Pittsburgh.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.