ATLANTA – The Atlanta Falcons said they were looking to be more explosive and they may have finally found it. Atlanta’s starters looked like they were in midseason form Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, putting on a clinic on both sides of the ball.
Matt Ryan completed all of his first five passes for 71 yards, which included a 7-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. Ryan finished 9 of 13 for 155 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
“At the end of the day, it’s about production and we moved the ball down the field pretty well,” said Ryan. ”We were able to put the ball in the end zone and that’s what you want to do.”
Although its still preseason, Jones showed more than a few glimpses of greatness. In one quarter of play, Jones racked up 109 yards and a touchdown on just six receptions. That’s an average of roughly 18 yards a catch.
Preseason or not, that’s remarkable.
“It felt great. We’ve been working during OTA’s, plus the offseason. This is kind of my first offseason and OTA’s,” said Jones. “But just being able to go out there and connect like that was a really good feeling.”
The starting defense was just as impressive, only giving up six yards to the Ravens. They also forced a three-and-out on Baltimore’s first three possessions.
For a team that struggled mightily on third down last season, that is encouraging to see, even if it is still early. Getting off the field on third down is key for a team’s success and the Falcons’ defense may finally be coming together.
“Third down possessions is an area of focus and continues to be for our defensive unit,” said linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. “I believe we can build from tonight’s performance moving forward.”
While the offense and defense both looked impressive, both suffered injuries. Starting middle linebacker, Akeem Dent went down with a head injury while blocking on a punt return, and backup fullback Bradie Ewing went down with a knee injury.
After the starters were removed from the game, Atlanta backup Chris Redman struggled to move the chains, going 1-for-6 passing for eight yards. Third-string quarterback John Parker-Wilson fared a little better, going 8-for-13 passing for 69 yards.
After jumping out to an early 14-0 lead, Matt Bryant’s 31-yard field goal gave the Falcons a 17-7 halftime lead. The field goal would be the last points the Falcons scored as the Ravens reeled off 24 unanswered points.
Parker-Wilson fumbled a handoff at the Falcons 10-yard line that was recovered by the Ravens who would capitalize three plays later. Ravens backup quarterback Curtis Painter threw a 4-yard pass to Billy Bajema to tie the game at 17. Painter later tossed a 22-yard pass in the third quarter to give Baltimore the lead for good.
Although some of the reserves struggled, it is imperative for them to improve in case a starter goes down.
“Again, there are a lot of guys on this football team that just aren’t on the first and second teams that are going to have to play well for us at some point and time during the season,” said Smith. “That’s the main focus of these first couple of preseason games to see what those guys are capable of doing as part of the evaluation process involving guys.”
The evaluation process on the starters should be very positive when the coaching staff looks over film on Friday. When it comes to the backups, well, there’s work to be done.