If the purpose of preseason is to get your players ready for September football and look good doing it, the Falcons did exactly what they needed to Thursday night, even if they ultimately lost 27-23.
The Falcons showed off the high-octane offense that has so many fans excited for the regular season and mixed that with some mighty effective defense, albeit one that gave up a couple of huge plays. The whole team looked amped, active and alert against a team that just won the Super Bowl a year ago. For preseason, that's more than enough to get me excited.
Most importantly of all, the concerns we all shared to some degree just a week ago were allayed by the Falcons' performance.
The only dull spots? A couple of big plays and both Roddy White and Martel Moore exiting the game with injuries. We await updates on both.
Just as I urged you not to freak out over the first preseason game, I'll urge you not to invest too much in this one. The Falcons have plenty of work left to do before the season begins, and we wouldn't want to anoint them based on one meaningless pre-September contest. Knowing that they're a quality team already, however, it's fair to be encouraged with what they were able to accomplish.
So that's another preseason game in the books. Let's take a closer look at what we learned, and apologies if I've forgotten the thing you really wanted to talk about. That's what the comments are for!
- What can you say about Matt Ryan? He was efficient, effective and downright deadly at times last night, carving up the Ravens defense at will even without Tony Gonzalez on the field. Kinda can't wait to see what he does in the regular season, especially with a touchdown and 97 yards to his name last night.
- Dominique Davis bounced back in a huge way, showing off his athleticism and passing skills on his way to an evisceration of the Ravens backup. The pendulum is swinging back toward "we love Dominique Davis."
- Steven Jackson set some minds at ease tonight. In the first quarter alone, he reeled off 7 carries for 31 yards, looking sharp and finding holes behind a better offensive line.
- I said earlier this week that Antone Smith needed to make his case to stay on this roster...and it's hard to argue he didn't. Those two catches for 40 yards looked excellent, and even though he looked only pedestrian running the football, that special teams value matters.
- Josh Vaughan looked impressive, albeit against backups. He runs with a lot of power, and should get a few more snaps next week as the team evaluates fourth running back.
- Julio Jones is a beast. On one drive alone, he reeled in three passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, terrorizing a pretty good Ravens secondary. The league is his this year.
- Kevin Cone had an impressive reception, but Drew Davis continues to really grab my attention by making receptions in traffic, showing steady hands and running steadily crisper routes. He's making this football team.
- Roddy White, be healthy. Please. Forever. Martel Moore was also injured in a game that didn't do my abiding hatred for preseason injuries any good.
- Darius Johnson has to have some guys in front of him, but keep an eye on him for a practice squad spot. He displayed excellent hands, reeling in six catches for 50 yards from Sean Renfree.
- The offensive line looked really, really good against a talented Ravens front seven. They bought Ryan and Davis plenty of time, sprung Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers and just generally stepped up in a big way. Lamar Holmes and Garrett Reynolds each had one major whiff, but overall this unit impressed.
- Jonathan Babineaux was in mid-season form, making key stops against the ground game and generally being the disruptive pain in the ass we know and love.
- Paul Worrilow didn't have 12 tackles this time around, but he did manage to get into the backfield and bring down the very mobile Tyrod Taylor for a sack. He also should have recovered a fumble, if not for referees (grumble grumble). I know it's only two preseason games, but I'm not sure you can keep him off the roster at this point, even if he looks like a work in progress in coverage.
- Brian Banks and Nick Clancy are probably not making the roster. Little early to call it, but neither really got on the field and Worrilow and Joplo Bartu continue to impress. Banks only got a couple of snaps at the end of the game.
- Robert Alford continues to look athletic and aggressive, at least against backups. He may not start, but he'll get plenty of playing time this season even if he's the fourth corner. He did get nailed with a penalty.
- Dominique Franks is pushing to at least making the roster with a nice interception, shortly after I predicted he would not make this roster. I'm always wrong. He did whiff on a tackle later on, however.
- Everybody looked bad on that 77 yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. Peyton Thompson got burned early in the fourth quarter. You can hang the former on Asante Samuel, you can hang it on William Moore or the entire defense, but certainly this Falcons defense remains prone to the occasional big play. Nothing to panic over, but nothing I love watching.
- Kemal Ishmael is showing impressive tackling on special teams. That kind of performance is going to win him a spot on this roster, given the team's love of ST performers.
- Seriously, this was maybe the most fun preseason game of the Mike Smith era. Everything was clicking and the Falcons looked ready for the regular season to begin right now.
- One final note: What was up with the officiating in this game? There were several penalties that seemed ticky-tack even as they were happening.
No one player truly stood out here, but we'll give co-co-co-co-MVPs to Matt Ryan, Steven Jackson, Jonathan Babineaux and Paul Worrilow. Heck, just give it to the team. I'm feeling good.
Your reaction to last night's game?