First-round pick Calvin Ridley was the star of the second exhibition game, and here are 10 things we learned in the Falcons’ 28-14 loss to the Chiefs on Friday night:
1. Kazee makes plays. Second-year defensive back Damontae Kazee continued to make plays. He intercepted a Patrick Mahomes deep pass intended for wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the second quarter.
He followed his 11-tackle performance against the Jets the previous Friday with another strong showing.
2. Run defense was stout. One the biggest questions is if the run defense would be stout with the lost of massive tackle Dontari Poe. The Falcons held Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt to 15 yards on seven carries. He led the league is rushing last season.
Defensive end Brooks Reed, defensive tackle Terrell McClain, linebacker Duke Riley, nickel back Brian Poole and defensive Grady Jarrett all showed up in the run defense against Hunt.
3. Pass rush missing. The Falcons starters didn’t have a sack as Mahomes had time to find his receivers.
Reserve defensive tackle Garrison Smith had a sack and two quarterback hits. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner also had a sack.
4. Mixed rushing-attack news. Running back Tevin Coleman ripped off a couple of 15-yard gains behind the first-team line, which included Brandon Fusco at right guard.
“It was a big emphasis this week,” Fusco said. “We didn’t come out and play the way we wanted to last week. We wanted to make sure we ended our night feeling good and I think we did. It was a start. It was good step to take.”
Coleman rushed five times for 35 yards.
“Every since I’ve been here the big emphasis has been on running the ball, wearing opponents out and setting up for the big plays with play action,” Fusco said. “That’s what we are all about. It’s really important for us to get that run game going, opening those holes up to set everything else up. That’s how this offense works.”
Fusco, who’s battling Wes Schweitzer for the starting spot, is blending in with the first unit. He enjoyed playing extended time next to center Alex Mack for the first time in a game.
“It’ really impressive about how they go about their business,” Fusco said. “It’s a really calm huddle. It’s calm and collected in that huddle. No panic in that huddle whatsoever. It’s pretty cool. It was a lot of fun. I’ve never been around so much talent in my life. It’s really impressive.”
Backup running back Ito Smith didn’t fare as well. He had 13 carries for 34 yards and was stuffed on a fourth-and-1.
“Devonta Freeman and Coleman (would tell) me what I could have done better; just coaching me up, saying let the game come to you and the holes will open up eventually,” Smith said.
The Falcons know that Smith can catch the ball out of the backfield. They wanted to see if he would run with authority in their outside zone scheme.
“Just trusting my reads and doing what I got to do, making sure that I get all of my assignments right, and just go out there and try to be great,” Smith said.
5. Sarkisian on the sidelines. With quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp upstairs sending down information, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian called the game from the sidelines. He also called last week’s game against the Jets from the sidelines.
“Greg brings a lot of experience to us,” Quinn said. “Both as a quarterback coach and as a play-caller. His eyes up in the press box are really valuable, too. As it stands today, I’m comfortable with how it looks. We said that after this game is when we’d make an evaluation for (Sarkisian) to go up or not. I’ll have more about it that this week. So far, I’m comfortable with that.”
6. Gage shines. Sixth-round pick Russell Gage caught a nice 18-yard pass along the sideline, showing that he may be more than just a special-teams gunner.
“It was cover-3,” Gage said. “I kept very close and it turns into man with me in the corner. It was an out-breaking route and it was a great throw by (Matt) Schaub. Even on that route I saw some things that I could clean up on.”
7. Oluokun gets start. Rookie linebacker Foyesade Oluokun made the start at weakside linebacker, and Riley started at middle linebacker, with Deion Jones held out with a mild undisclosed strain.
He appeared comfortable and played 22 defensive snaps (33 percent). The Yale product assisted on one tackle. The Falcons wanted to see if he could match up on Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce.
“He'll certainly have a big role on teams as well,” Quinn said. “He's a good tackler. He has length, he can guard tight ends. The more guys we have to do that, especially in our division, the better.”
8. Fullback battle. Luke McNitt was in the game early, but Ricky Ortiz played more snaps.
McNitt played three plays, while Ortiz was in for 13 plays.
9. Injury report. There were no announced injuries for the Falcons during the game.
Pro Bowl middle linebacker Deion Jones suffered a mild strain Thursday and was held out of the game.
Also, kicker Matt Bryant, who has an undisclosed injury, did not play.
Wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman were held out of the game in a coaching decision. Neither player has an injury and both were held out of the exhibition opener against the Jets on Aug. 10.
10. Hooper’s hurdle. Tight end Austin Hooper was determined to get to the end zone in the first quarter and hurdled Chiefs’ cornerback Steven Nelson. Hooper started the drive with a 29-yard reception on third-and-11 to help jump-start the offense.
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