Falcons vs. Bengals 2013: Rusty and Rugged

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons looked good early and poor late. Does it matter?

Well, that was a long game. Meaningless, too!

The Falcons wound up losing a seesaw game to the Bengals that saw a handful of individual performances drowned out by a generally middling performance, the kind you generally see from the Falcons in preseason. As always, you want to take these results with a grain of salt, because the Falcons simply don't lose 34-10 to the Bengals in the regular season. Doesn't happen, and the general malaise you saw last night doesn't happen.

You'll want to focus on the positives, like unheralded linebackers and wide receivers making an impact. You'll want to note that the first team did just fine, even if they came up a bit short on offense more than once. You'll want to not panic because we always panic and then the Falcons are fine in the regular season and we never learn because learning is lame.

Still, the same concerns that have been plaguing this Falcons team for years now were present here. The Falcons failed to make tackles, failed to convert short third downs, couldn't get the ground game going and were prone to some agonizing errors over the course of the night. None of that necessarily translates to the regular season, but we've seen this enough times to not let it pass without comment.

It's a pre-season game, so we won't delve too deeply into the nitty-gritty of the scoring and the ebb and flow of the game. I do want to share some observations on specific players, however.

Offense

  • Matt Ryan looked plenty sharp, connecting with Harry Douglas early and generally doing just fine before hitting the sideline.
  • Dominique Davis looked putrid for a couple of drives, leading many to call for his execution removal from the team, effective immediately. Naturally, he then led a touchdown drive.

    You can't make meaningful conclusions based on one preseason game. The Falcons like Davis quite a bit, and they're likely to keep him around unless he really falters in the next few games. Certainly his 0/5 start was frightening and his final line was lousy, but it's not time to panic.
  • Steven Jackson looked middling, but I would tend to blame the blocking for that one. Concern will only manifest if he's still doing this by the end of preseason.
  • Ronnie Wingo caught attention yesterday. You have to take the results with a grain of salt, given the level of competition, but Wingo looked powerful and certain in racking up 29 yards on four carries.
  • Harry Douglas may be inconsistent, but those highs are fantastic. He made the Bengals look foolish on a 42 yard reception on the very first drive of the game.
  • Drew Davis is nasty. There's enough talent there to make him a potential threat down the line, and he showed it when he made a 31 yard catch in traffic late in the first quarter, following that up with a top-tapping 22 yarder from Dominique Davis later on. Keep your eye on him.
  • Look, I'm not going to pretend that I'm not worried about the offensive line, because I am. The run-blocking was borderline atrocious, especially in the first half with the starters in, and the depth isn't looking fantastic. We need to give this unit more than one game—and Lamar Holmes is concerning—but this isn't going to be the Falcons' strength in 2013. Another game like that and they might be scouring free agency.
  • Alright, fine, I'll single out Holmes. The guy that more or less has to be your starting right tackle barring a free agent move should at least resemble an NFL tackle. Poor Holmes struggled mightily against the Bengals in run blocking, though upon further review he was solid against the pass rush. The Falcons will likely (and wisely) give him at least another week to right the ship, but quiet alarm bells are sounding.
  • The offense had all the same problems it did last year. It's easy to dismiss that in preseason, which is precisely what I'm going to do, but a caveat is warranted. If the Falcons can't get S-Jax going behind this offensive line,

Defense

  • Osi Umenyiora was a little shaky early, but he flashed the ability to get pressure that got him a job in the first place. Particularly coming off the edge late in the first quarter to force Andy Dalton into a panicked throw.
  • Jonathan Massaquoi made the most of his opportunities against backups, drilling Josh Johnson to the turf in the red zone early in the second quarter and finishing with two sacks. He'll have to show he can do it against top-end competition, but I feel like the light's coming on for Mass in a big way.
  • Defensive tackle was quietly a strength last night. Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, Travian Robertson and Adam Replogle all shone at different points in the night, giving me some confidence that the Falcons have some depth on hand.
  • Linebacker's going to be awfully tough to call. Paul Worrilow shrugged off being majorly lost on one run and went on to ring up a few very impressive plays and more than just a few quality tackles, catapulting himself into a competition that promises to be plenty heated through the next few weeks. If he can play like this every time out, he makes the team, no question. Pat Schiller and Joplo Bartu also did well.
  • Brian Banks didn't get into the game until the fourth quarter. There could be many reasons for that, but it's not promising for everyone's favorite offseason story.
  • Rookie safeties Kemal Ishmael and Zeke Motta looked sharp.
  • Desmond Trufant! The corner got trucked over early, but he showed quality athleticism and a ton of determination early on. Encouraging after his early struggles in camp.
  • Unfortunately for him, Robert Alford looked even better. He has truly game-breaking speed and looked incredibly sharp. It's early yet, but man does he look promising enough to make this a true battle for the job opposite Asante Samuel.

  • Dominique Franks is not making this roster.
  • The third-and-fourth string defense is that far down the depth chart for a reason. Rex Burkhead, Dan Herron and Dane Sanzenbacher KILLED them last night. It was tough to watch.
  • Matt Bosher continues to just punt the hell out of the ball. You give him a ball, he punts it, no questions asked.
  • Just throwing the punt coverage on here, too: Bad. I know it's preseason, but there's no excuse for letting Dane Sanzenbacher waltz downfield for a 71 yard touchdown. Keith Armstrong ought to be swinging a bastard sword in the film room tomorrow.

Game MVP

We won't do the traditional season format, but it's worth talking about the players who excelled in this one. Robert Alford looked very promising, Jonathan Massaquoi showed growth and Drew Davis proved he deserves to be a part of this offense.

Ultimately, though, this has to go to Paul Worrilow. He chalked up an unreal 9 combined tackles in the first half, also adding a pass deflection. The Falcons are looking for quality players at linebacker, guys who can combine athleticism with heads-up play at a position lacking in depth. If Worrilow can do this again throughout pre-season—or really anywhere near it—he may just make the roster.

Or you could go with any combination of forces that allowed the Falcons to come out of this game healthy. Either or.

Your thoughts on last night's game?

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