Five takeaways from Falcons’ win over Browns

FLOWERY BRANCH --With the game against the Browns in the balance, the Falcons gave them a hefty dose of AFC North football by calling 14 straight running plays. The late rushing attack and some timely passing helped carry the Falcons to a 23-20 victory Sunday and stopped a streak eight straight of losses to AFC North teams.

The Falcons were not pushed around like the last eight games against the division and improved to 2-2 overall this season. They face the Buccaneers (2-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Here are five takeaways from the win over the Browns:

1. Red zone stops: The Browns made it to the Falcons 1-yard and 2-yard line and only had three points to show for it.

The Browns’ opening drive stalled at the 2. On fourth-and-3 from the 4, the Browns went for it and tossed an incompletion.

Later, after Donovan Peoples-Jones caught a 42-yard pass, the Browns were at the 1-yard line late in the second quarter. Running back Nick Chubb appeared to lose the ball, but his forward progress was determined to be stopped when he reached out with the ball to try to break the plane of the goal line. On the next play, the Browns were called for offensive holding and ended up settling for a 29-yard field goal to tie the game 10-10.

“That’s what you have to do,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “You’ve got to play every down.”

The second quarter stand kept the Browns from taking a lead.

“They made a play and they got down there,” Smith said. “The big pass right before half. Stopped them on the run and then the ball came out ... forward progress. Those are things you assess whether you want to take a time out, there or not. We let it play out and tried to put more stress of them. We were able to back them up and make them kick a field goal.”

The Browns gashed the Falcons defense to open the game. But the defense calmed down and fought for those last two yards.

“So, that was big, not letting them punch it in there,” Smith said. “Obviously the first drive of the game, too. They made a couple plays. We needed to settle down and credit to them ... they went for it on fourth down. We showed them a couple different looks. We made him hold the ball a little bit.”

2. Ballhandling issues persist: Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota has had ball-handling issues in every game. He had another bobbled snap against the Browns that could have proved costly.

I mean it’s been something different every time,” Smith said. “I know on the surface, it’s happened. We will do a lot of different things to fix it. There’s a lot of things I think that can be improved, but you can’t deny the fact that something has happened.”

Mariota had a fumble against the Saints, an untimely fall against the Rams and a dropped RPO against Seattle when the Falcons were trying to run out the clock and secure the victory.

“It’s been a different scheme every time, too,” Smith said. “I’ll do some things different. I’m not gonna get into the scheme of it. But yes, it’s been something different every time. We got to get it fixed.”

The Falcons had asecond-and-goal on Cleveland’s 2 when Mariota bobbled the snap. He recovered the ball and tossed an incomplete pass out to his right. After an incompletion on third down, kicker Younghoe Koo tied the game up 20-20 with a 21-yard field goal.

3. Power football: It was simple for the Falcons. The passing game wasn’t working so they switched to the run.

“We were running at a pretty good clip, it’s all kind of practical,” Smith said. “Why pick it up? Nothing new. ... So, it’s a pretty matter of fact, but got a lot of faith. It certainly wasn’t perfect.”

4. Passing attack: The Falcons won the game by completing just seven passes.

“We’ve shown a lot of different looks,” Smith said. “We’ve moved the launch points all over the place. They’re going to adapt. We also can go traditional. Some of the early throws in the game were traditional dropped backs.”

The Falcons attempted 19 passes and had an interception.

“I thought we were decent and there’s a lot of little things that add up that can affect the quarterback,” Smith said. “We got to be a little more in sync and we will. Certainly wasn’t our best game in terms of timing and spacing and a couple of little mistakes. We all have got to do better job.”

Mariota’s last pass and completion was a nifty one he threw after scrambling, stopping and throwing back across the field to a wide open Olamide Zaccheaus for a 42-yard gain.

“But at the end of the day we found a way and when we needed it and that wasn’t easy throw we had to OZ either,” Smith said. “I don’t know what the official time was between throws, but felt like it had been about an hour. For him to be able to make that throw, off balanced when you needed it. ... The other thing I’ll say about Marcus, he got us out of some things.”

Smith also liked his 22-yards pass to tight end Parker Hesse.

5. Offensive line power: The Falcons ran the ball 35 times for 202 yards.

“We’re very proud of that,” Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said. “Especially as a group up front when your number is called like that and to be able to make those plays and put us ahead. That’s a special thing.”

The Browns were playing without three starters along the defensive line in Myles Garrett, Taven Bryan and Jadeveon Clowney.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like that where we’ve ran the ball that many times in a row,” Matthews said. “I thought that was very exciting. A cool thing to be a part of.”

For more content about the Atlanta Falcons

Follow me on Twitter @DorlandoAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta Falcons News Now

On Instagram at DorlandoLed

Atlanta Falcons coverage on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Bow Tie Chronicles

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.


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