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Falcons vs. Steelers preseason recap: The thrill of starters, the agony of reserves

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Just like last game, Atlanta was good in the first half and fell apart in the second half. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter.

Atlanta Falcons v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Falcons came into the second preseason game excited to see Takkarist McKinley play, but without a lot to prove. They gave us a fun game and the first teams impressed again, which means we’re gonna call this one a success before we get into the nitty gritty.

Make no mistake: The second half was full of ugly football once again, but thankfully the outcome did not matter in the slightest. The first half was the team’s starters and immediate backups, and those players more or less kicked the Steelers up and down the field. We’ve seen nothing to this point to indicate that the starters are anything less than capable, which is extremely reassuring. If we have to put up with some lousy football along the way, so be it.

It helped that Takk debuted and played well, Matt Ryan slung it around without much problem, and the defense looked downright lethal in the early going, holding the Steelers to not many yards for even fewer points. Now to just carry that over to the regular season.

Let’s get to the full recap.

The Good

  • Hell of a start for the defense, which looked lightning quick and en route to a three and out. They repeated the feat on the next set of downs, and we got a glimpse of just how terrifying this defense can be.
  • For the second straight week, Terron Ward looked incredibly impressive. This time out, he picked up two carries for 21 yards on the Falcons’ opening drive, punching in a five yard touchdown. Considering that Brian Hill once again had a quiet day behind a mediocre backup line, Ward still seems to be in the driver’s seat.
  • Reggie Davis and Anthony Dable both looked good again, meaning this is still a tight race between three guys with considerable upside but no clear path to a role. Davis, by virtue of a couple of brilliant catches in this one and a consistent performance throughout the summer, may well be in the driver’s seat for the sixth receiver/practice squad role. Marvin Hall looked good again but also had a costly drop.
  • Chris Odom got a sack! He and J’Terius Jones drew some praise from Dan Quinn, and they look good thus far.
  • De’Vondre Campbell came up with another big play, albeit one where the fumble he forced via a massive hit bounced out of bounds. He looks significantly improved in his preseason action so far, and we’ll hope it carries over to the regular season.
  • This week, it was undrafted free agent Quincy Mauger who came up with a terrific play, a diving interception that had to catch a few eyes on the sideline. This is the rare group of UGA players who look good in Atlanta so far, though Mauger has a slimmer chance than Davis of actually hanging around.
  • Jarnor Jones had an ugly missed tackle on a fourth quarter touchdown pass, sure, but he also played admirably against the likes of Martavis Bryant earlier in the game. I think he’s going to make the practice squad.
  • Once again, the first team offense and defense looked insanely good. The usual caveats apply, but the Falcons breezed by the Steelers the same way they breezed by the Dolphins. The rest of what you’ll read here hardly matters, especially since we didn’t see any particularly severe injuries.

The Ugly

  • As was the case last week, guys who want to make the roster rather desperately made mistakes that could hurt their cases. There was Eric Saubert’s hands in the face penalty and false start, Marvin Hall’s costly (by preseason standards) drop, and Deji Olatoye’s ticky-tack pass interference call. Mistakes happen, but when you have so little playing time to make a case, mistakes like that can also hurt.
  • I tweeted out something half-seriously about Matt Simms being better than Matt Schaub yesterday—the half part being because Schaub has been atrocious for a while now, at least on the field—and he made me regret that shortly thereafter. Simms did pretty well in the first half and sort of disintegrated when the players around him got worse—and the Steelers defense got worse, to be fair—taking a bunch of sacks, throwing a pick, and missing a bunch of throws. If he has practice squad eligibility, he’s still the favorite, especially with Alek Torgersen not standing out in his very limited opportunities.
  • Matt Bosher had a punt blocked. In a preseason game. That’s textbook definition of ugly ugly, and considering he also had a punt returned for a touchdown thanks to terrible special teams play, neither he or Keith Armstrong is particularly likely to be happy tomorrow.

The Wrapup

Game MVP

Lol, right.

One Takeaway

The first team looks great. That’s enough.

Next Week

The Arizona Cardinals are up next Saturday. Check out Revenge of the Birds to learn more about next week’s opponent, who might actually start a starting quarterback!

Final Word

Let’srollon.