The Falcons put forth a strong effort in rallying from a 17-point deficit Sunday, but when it came time to take charge, the failed miserably against the Arizona Cardinals and lost 34-33 at State Farm Stadium.
The Falcons trailed 27-10 with 11:25 to play in the third quarter.
The defense somehow managed three stops with help of a Pharoh Cooper dropped pass. Matt Bryant made a 44-yard field goal, Matt Ryan tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Freeman and a 6-yard touchdown pass to Austin Hooper to tie the score with 10:50 left in the fourth quarter.
After the Cooper drop which would have a first down, the offense got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but the after 17-yard pass to Julio Jones, the drive fizzled. The drive ended with a sack on third-and-10 when Jake Mathews got beat by Terrell Suggs and Kaleb McGary barely touched Chandler Jones. Also, Mohamed Sanu ran the hot route too deep, and Ryan had to hold the ball. He was body-slammed by Suggs and Jones. He fumbled, but Jamon Brown recovered and the Falcons had to punt.
What followed was the phantom fair-catch interference call on a weak 35-yard punt by the new guy Kasey Redfern, matching touchdowns, a missed extra-point attempt and a phantom first down.
The Falcons dropped to 1-5.
Only three teams have rebounded from 1-5 starts to make the playoffs, including the 2018 Indianapolis Colts. The Colts joined the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals and 2015 Kansas City Chiefs in this club. Neither went on to win the Super Bowl.
Can the Falcons stop the tailspin and get their season turned around?
On to the grades:
Run offense: There was some running room for Devonta Freeman, who rushed 19 times for 88 yards and had a long run of 15 yards. The Falcons rushed for season-high 103 yards on 25 carries for a respectable 4.1 yards per carry. The Falcons previous high was 93 yards against the Colts in Game 3. They also dusted off the fullback dive play as Keith Smith and picked up a first down. OC Dirk Koetter credited tight ends coach Mike Mularkey with putting the fullback play back in the Falcons’ short yardage package. It was good to see some good old-school power football. Grade: A
Pass offense: The Falcons wasted another spectacular performance by quarterback Matt Ryan, who completed 30 of 36 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns. He finished with a quarterback rating of 144.9. He completed passes to nine receivers including McGary, who gathered in a tipped pass for a 3-yard loss. Tight end Austin Hooper had another strong game. He caught eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones had eight catches for 108 yards. Freeman had two touchdown catches, and Calvin Ridley had a nice touchdown catch. Ryan was sacked twice. Corey Peters beat Wes Schweitzer and Rodney Gunter beat Jamon Brown for the shared sack in the second quarter. Grade: A-minus
Run defense: The Cardinals had 29 rushes for 102 yards for 3.5 per carry. The run defense gave up long gainers of 17, 15 and 14 yards, or they could have had a really strong day. Linebacker DeVondre Campell led the way with nine tackles. Grade: C
Pass defense: Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray was impressive as he completed 27 of 37 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with a passer rating of 128.2. On the first third-and-10, he went after Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who had some nice coverage on Trent Sherfield. It was an interesting decision because Falcons rookie cornerback Kendall Sheffield was making his first NFL start on the left side. Sherfield came down with the contested catch for a 38-yard gain. Murray went back at Oliver in the second quarter and got a 58-yard gain on play that was reviewed as it appeared that Damiere Byrd fumbled. Safety Ricardo Allen was late getting over the top to help Oliver. The TV announcers thought it was a fumble. But when you’re playing zone defense, you can’t allow them to throw over your head. The whole concept requires you to stay deep and rally up to the ball. Make teams methodically drive until they make a mistake or you create a turnover. There was another blown coverage on running back David Johnson, who took a simple check-down pattern out of the backfield for a 30-yard gain. “There’s not a Falcon within 40 yards of Johnson,” noted Fox analyst Thom Brennaman. The explosive plays, lack of turnovers and no pass rush are why the Falcons are 1-5. Grade: F
Special teams: Redfern averaged a respectable 42.3 net on his three punts, but when he needed to boom one, he hit a 35-yarder that put Sharrod Neasman in a bad spot. He placed one punt down inside the 20. Bryant took the blame for the missed extra point, but the ball appears to be leaning toward holder Matt Schaub. On replay, it looks like a bad hold. Ito Smith had two returns for 59 yards (29.5), then the Cardinals kicked away from him and to Kenjon Barner, who had a return for 24 yards. Barner had three punt returns for 17 yards (5.7 per return). Grade: C-minus
Coaching: The defense continues to struggle with getting stops. They are complicating the problem by giving up big plays. Give Dan Quinn credit for sending the offense out after winning the toss. The Falcons were able to get off to a good start and scored a touchdown on the opening drive for the first time this season. The defense allowed scores on Arizona’s first five possessions, before settling down. The challenge fumble on the 58-yard play was the right move. The refs made the wrong call. Quinn is now 6-of-16 on replay challenges. “(In the) first half, to see the ball get thrown overhead in zone, we wanted to make sure that doesn’t happen where we can stay on top, that’s kind of part of playing zone,” Quinn said. “More than anything, I thought, just the mindset to challenge more. We’re extremely disappointed not getting any takeaways. I thought we had a chance to get one, but we didn’t get that, so we’ll keep battling for those.” Grade: C.
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