Several Falcons starters, including quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Devonta Freeman, made their exhibition season debuts in a 22-10 loss to the Jets on Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Falcons wanted to cut down on their penalties, but finished with 12 for 118 yards. They have committed 12 penalties in each of their three exhibition season losses and have now dropped 11 straight exhibition games.
“Foul wise, we still ended up with 12,” a dejected head coach Dan Quinn said. “That’s an area we thought heading into the week, we wanted to put some work in.”
Game balls: Ryan was sharp as he completed 10 of 14 passes for 118 yards. He was victimized by three dropped passes, two in the end zone.
Defensive end Vic Beasley had a sack and a quarterback hit. Also, reserve tight end Jaeden Graham, who made it easy for the Falcons to trade Eric Saubert to the Patriots last week, had a game-high four receptions for 55 yards.
“We are trying to find a role and what he can do,” Quinn said. “He had an excellent catch, a couple of catches tonight, but one (specifically) where hurdled over a guy. ... We were all kind of having a good time with that because of the urgency he was playing with. That was good to see.”
Here are five things we learned from the loss:
1. Injury report: Cornerback Damontae Kazee suffered injured ribs in first quarter. He was replaced by rookie Kendall Sheffield, who then suffered a hamstring injury.
Also, wide receiver Russell Gage suffered a hip injury after trying to haul down a pass that was a just a big under thrown by Ryan.
“Gage and Kazee were able to return,” Quinn said. “It doesn’t sound like anything that’s going to be a setback for a long time. They ruled out breaks and those kind of things right here at the stadium, which we are fortunate to do.”
2. Freeman shakes off rust: Freeman played in the opening series. He had one carry for two yards.
Freeman played in only two games last season after being slowed by knee and groin injuries that led to a season-ending sports hernia surgery.
“He’s been begging for it,” Quinn said.
3. Offensive line gets good test: The Falcons started left tackle Jake Matthews, left guard Jamon Brown, center Alex Mack, right guard Chris Lindstrom and right tackle Ty Sambrailo.
Mack and Sambrailo gave way to Wes Schweitzer and Matt Gono.
The line struggled as they couldn’t open up any holes in the run game and gave up three sacks when Ryan was in the game.
“We’ll have to see what’s going on in the film,” Mack said. “You definitely want to keep your quarterback clean and comfortable so he can throw the ball whenever he wants to. They blitzed a fair amount.
“I think that’s good. It gives us a lot of practice at that. This is a practice game. To be able to learn and grow from that and take it in to the season will benefit us.”
The Jets, which is not normally the custom early in the exhibition season, blitzed the Falcons relentlessly at the direction of their defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Schweitzer and Lindstrom gave up sacks as they didn’t handle stunts that they probably were not expecting to see. Also, Sambrailo appeared shaky in some of his one-on-one matchups.
“This time of the year is about improving and finding ways to get better,” Ryan said of the line’s poor showing. “Making sure that we are dialed in when we start week one.”
Quinn said all of the blitzing was good for the running backs, too.
“There were some good blitz pickups from that group,” Quinn said. “Corners, safeties and linebackers, in a game like tonight you just kind of trust your rules. Although, the pressure you don’t like to see it, but it’s one of those one (where) you’re glad that you do (see it). You get to practice on different looks and different things.”
4. First-team defense cut up by Darnold: Jets second-year quarterback Sam Darnold mixed in four runs with four pass attempts as he marched the Jets' 66 yards on eight plays for a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Ty Montgomery.
Darnold was 3 of 4 passing on the drive, including a nicely thrown pass to wide receiver Robby Anderson on a back-shoulder throw with Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver in coverage.
Darnold also completed a 15-yard pass to Quincy Enunwa with Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant making the tackle.
The defense was also gashed by Montgomery for a 14-yard run on the drive.
“I was not happy with how the defense started,” Quinn said. “I thought they kind of came back after the first drive, but I didn’t like how the first drive felt for sure.”
5. Tavecchio's bad day at the office: Giorgio Tavecchio woefully missed a 52-yard field after the team's opening drive stalled at the Jets' 34-yard line. Quinn contended that the kick was tipped. He made a 24-yard field goal in the second quarter before missing another 52-yard attempt, wide left, in the third quarter.
He has the support of Quinn ... for now.
“We know that he’s had a good camp,” Quinn said. “I didn’t see the one that was tipped. I don’t know if we were getting pushed too much…I know he missed on the other one. He’s had an excellent camp. We’ve got great trust in him. We anticipate getting lots of opportunities for him to rip it.”
It was Tavecchio’s second and third miss of the exhibition season.
He also missed a 54-yard attempt in the exhibition opener against the Broncos on Aug. 1.
Tavecchio is attempting to replace the dependable Matt Bryant.
Tavecchio made all five of his field-goal attempts in part-time duty with the Falcons last season, including 50 and 56-yarders in a 23-20 victory over the Giants. The 28-year old is stumbling as he tries to replace Bryant, who had 250 field goals in 10 seasons with the Falcons.
Subscribe to "The Bow Tie Chronicles" podcast with the AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter on iTunes or on the new AJC sports podcasts page.
About the Author