Defense steps up as Falcons pull out victory over Browns

For the second week in a row, the Falcons’ defense came up with a clutch stop to help secure a victory.

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett got a sack and rookie cornerback Dee Alford had an interception to help secure a 23-20 win over the Browns on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The key plays came as the Browns were attempting a drive in the closing minutes.

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“We’ve got some dogs,” Falcons outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said.

The Falcons improved to 2-2, while the Browns dropped to 2-2.

With the passing game struggling, the Falcons leaned on their rushing attack. The Falcons rushed 35 times for 202 yards as Tyler Allgeier, Caleb Huntley and Cordarrelle Patterson carried the load.

The Falcons beat Seattle last week, and it was Richie Grant with the game-ending interception. It was the Falcons’ first back-to-back wins since Week 8 and Week 9 in 2020, when they won at the Panthers and beat the Broncos at home.

“We just have the right guys, the right group of guys,” Carter said. “Nobody is going to fold. Nobody is going to blink.”

With the score tied at 20, quarterback Marcus Mariota scrambled to his left, stopped and threw the ball back across the field to a wide-open Olamide Zaccheaus for a 42-yard gain. Cleveland’s Denzel Ward was called for grabbing Zaccheaus’ face mask.

The play and the penalty put the Falcons at Cleveland’s 34-yard line, well within Younghoe Koo’s field-goal range. He made a 45-yard attempt to put the Falcons up 23-20 with 2:28 left.

It would be on the defense to close out the game again. They came through with two key plays to stop the Browns.

“They ran a seam route,” Alford said. “I was able to speed up, turn around and get my head back to the quarterback and make a play on the ball, and I did. Sealed the deal.”

Alford kept the football for a keepsake.

Patterson, who was questionable for the game, rushed nine times for 38 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown run. Huntley rushed 10 times for 56 yards, and Allgeier had 10 carries for 84 yards, including a 41-yard run in which he carried Browns safety Grant Delpit for more than 10 yards.

“That’s our charge is to coach everybody on this roster,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “You never know when you need the next guy and he has to step up.

ExplorePhotos: Falcons win second consecutive game, edge Browns

“Caleb did it today. So did Tyler Allgeier, and so did Avery Williams. He had a big run late in the game. We had CP early. That was a good contribution from the run game.”

In the first half, the Browns outgained the Falcons 245 to 120 yards, but the score was tied at 10.

The Browns, on their opening drive, moved to the Falcons’ 2-yard line but were stopped for a loss and then threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line. The decision to bypass the field goal would be costly.

The Falcons came back and stalled in the red zone. Koo made a 30-yard field goal to put the Falcons up 3-0.

Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins forced Browns tight end David Njoku to fumble with a strong tackle. Linebacker Rashaan Evans recovered the ball at Cleveland’s 31-yard line.

“It felt good,” Hawkins said. “I went in with the intent to make the tackle. Hit hard. Shout-out to my boy Rashaan for getting the ball. That was really big.”

After Patterson was dropped for a loss of 4 yards, Mariota found tight end Parker Hesse for a 22-yard gain. On the third play of the drive, Patterson scored on a 13-yard touchdown run to give the Falcons a 10-0 lead.

Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett scored on a 4-yard touchdown run, and after a three-and-out by the Falcons, the Browns went back on the attack.

Brissett connected with wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones for 42 yards to move the ball to the 1-yard line. Alford was in coverage.

The Falcons nearly got a sack, and Cleveland was called for holding, which pushed the ball back to the 11-yard line. The Browns ended up settling for a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 10.

Mariota tried to squeeze a pass into wide receiver Drake London, but Ward, a two-time Pro Bowl player, undercut the route and made an interception with 6:57 left in the third quarter.

The Browns converted the turnover into a 45-yard field goal from Cade York to make it 13-10 with 3:06 left in the third quarter.

The Falcons answered with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took 5:15 off the clock. Huntley ran the ball eight times, and Allgeier ran the ball twice in the run-only drive. Huntley had a 14-yard gain in the drive, and Allgeier ripped off a 16-yard gain.

The Browns answered with a 28-yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb, who was untouched on the run. The run capped a six-play, 75-yard drive and put the Browns up 20-17. Chubb, the former Georgia star from Cedartown, rushed 19 times for 118 yards.

On the Falcons’ next possession, Allgeier broke free for a 41-yard run to Cleveland’s 4-yard line. Mariota bobbled a shotgun snap and lost 5 yards. After an incomplete pass on third down, the Falcons settled for a 21-yard field goal by Koo to tie the game at 20.

The defense got a stop and then was ready to close things out after Koo gave the Falcons the lead.

“It’s always going to be about us and the team,” Smith said. “Our defense, when we adjust, we’ve got really smart players and coaches. It’s a constant work in progress.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 NFL schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Oct. 16 vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m.

Oct. 23 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Oct. 30 vs. Carolina, 1 p.m.

Nov. 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 at Carolina, 8:15 p.m.

Nov. 20 vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

BYE WEEK

Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD