“Obviously, we have to do a better job, it starts with me, of jump-starting the offense early,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “We put ourselves in a hole again. For different reasons, but the reality is that we put ourselves in hole.”
It was 17-0 hole and the Falcons could fight back into the game.
“We can’t turn the ball over,” Smith said. “That’s something that we have to look at. It’s not just one person. When you make life hard for yourself, you come back and you’re in four-down territory. You don’t make the fourth-and-3 and cut it to a one possession game late. We’ve got to do a better job early in games, there is no doubt about it.”
The Jaguars improved to 2-2 on the season and the Falcons dropped to 2-2.
The Falcons wasted a dazzling performance by running back Bijan Robinson, while quarterback Desmond Ridder had a tough day passing the football. The Jaguars made two interceptions.
“We can’t come out there starting slow as an offense,” Robinson said. “We need to get it together so that we can help our defense and help this team play complimentary football, because if we don’t, it’s going to end up with these results that we don’t want.”
Falcons, who are hoping to end a streak of five seasons without making the playoffs, didn’t up against a team that went to the playoffs last season.
This was the first of three games this season against a playoff team. They have two games left against the Bucs, who also went to the playoffs last season.
Robinson had 14 carries for 105 yards and caught five passes for 32 yards. Jeff Okudah made his first start at cornerback for the Falcons.
“I think we are going to be good though coming into it,” Robinson said. “We just have to go out there next week and fire off as a team.”
Ridder completed 19 of 31 passes for 191 yards. He tossed a touchdown pass and two interceptions. He finished with an anemic 62.7 passing rating.
“I did a terrible of taking care of the ball,” Ridder said.
Also, running back Cordarrelle Patterson made his 2023 season debut after overcoming a thigh injury. He was only in to return kicks and did play from scrimmage.
“It was tough loss for sure,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “We definitely didn’t come over here for this. We learned some tough lessons today that will make us better. We just have to press harder and be better.”
With the offense continuing to sputter about, the Jaguars built a 17-0 halftime lead and cruised to victory.
Ridder had a dismal first half. He completed 9 of 14 passes for 73 yards and tossed two interceptions. He was sacked three times and intercepted twice. One of the interceptions was returned for a touchdown. He has a passer rating of 37.8.
The deficit could have been more if the Jaguars had attempted a field goal after the second interception, but the defense sacked Lawrence on fourth-and-1 to get a stop.
After an exchange of punts to open the game, the Jaguars got moving. The went for it on a fourth down-and-1 from the Falcons’ 38. Lawrence completed an 10-yard pass over the middle to Christian Kirk. On first down the Jags loss 2 yards.
On second-and-12, the Falcons got burned by the blitz. Lawrence side stepped a blitzing Richie Grant and tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to former Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley.
The Falcons’ second possession end with a punt after a sack on third down.
The Jaguars added a 56-yard field goal by Brandon McManus to make it 10.
The Falcons third offensive possession ended with a sack. The defense got the ball back and the offense finally got moving.
Ridder drove the Falcons from their 13-yard line to the Jaguars’ 45.
Then things went haywire for Ridder on his next two passes. His pass intended for Drake London, who was not open at all, was intercepted by Jacksonville’s Darious Williams and he returned it 61 yards for a touchdown.
After the kickoff, Ridder’s next pass was intercepted by safety Andre Cisco, who jumped Kyle Pitts’ route over the middle. He returned it 18 yards before fullback Keith Smith forced a fumble. However, former Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun recovered.
Thanks to Jarrett and Onyemata’s stop, the Falcons made it to halftime and could try to regroup.
“It’s felt good to go out there and get a stop and try to do what we can,” Jarrett said. “Control what we can. But at the end of the day, we came up short. I think everybody has something where we can go back and work on and just better for the whole team.”
The Falcons received the ball to start the third quarter.
Ridder shook off those two interceptions and took the Falcons on an eight-play, 75-yard drive that was capped with a 15-yard touchdown pass to London.
The defense forced a punt and the Falcons got the ball again, but that drive stalled and ended with a punt.
The Jaguars went on a 13-play, 65-yard drive that took 7:21 off the clock and carried into the fourth quarter. McManus made a 43-yard field to make it 20-7 with 10:36 to play.
The Falcons went on a drive, but on fourth down and 3 from the Jacksonville 6-yard line, Ridder’s pass to London was caught, but he was out of bounds with cornerback Tre Herndon in coverage.
The Jaguars drove down and added a 38-yard field goal by McManus with 1:56 to play.
The Falcons last-ditch drive ended with a sack-strip by Jacksonville defensive end Josh Allen. It was recovered by Angelo Blackson and the Jaguars ran out the clock.
“They are a great team,” Falcons right guard Chris Lindstrom said. “Great program. We knew that going in. That’s the beautiful thing about the NFL is that there is great competition every week. You’re going to get everybody’s best shot.”
After flying back over the pond, the Falcons will host the Texans at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Bow Tie Chronicles