Another explosive offensive showing, another brutal loss at home. Matt Ryan and the offense did more than enough to secure the win, but the defense — especially in the first half — was not stopping anybody. Atlanta moves to 1-3 with the playoffs looking more like an outside shot than realistic possibility. Here’s Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers for Week 4.
Ito Smith’s first NFL touchdown
In the absence of Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith has done a bang-up job as the Falcons’ change-of-pace back. Against the Bengals, he found the end zone on Atlanta’s first offensive drive — a 7-yard score where he displayed excellent vision and shiftiness, slipping a couple of tackles to cross the plane. Your account is officially open, sir.
Keith Tandy’s punt block
One of the Falcons’ newest additions to the safety spot, Tandy made what should have been a game-breaking play at the start of the third quarter. Shooting through the Bengal’s punt protection unit untouched, Tandy delivered a clean block that would see the Falcons take over deep in the Bengals’ red zone.
An immediate Brandon Fusco false start and Matt Ryan sack would render that promising field position effectively null in what should have been six. In a shootout where it seemed like the first team to settle for a field goal would lose, Matt Bryant came on and made sure points were salvaged from Tandy’s excellent play.
Keith Tandy has not seen many snaps on defense at all, but he made his special teams value blindingly apparent in this one. Well done.
Damontae Kazee’s pick to pick up Brian Poole
Alert: Brian Poole committed yet another dumb penalty that could have had massive implications on the game, but this time his teammate was there to bail him out. Late in the third quarter, Poole made a boneheaded move with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Mark Walton, turning a 3rd-and-17 into a new set of downs in Atlanta territory.
Damontae Kazee then took matters into his own hands — literally. Sitting back in coverage on the next play, Kazee secured a tipped pass and returned it 23 yards. The second-year player out of San Diego State, Damontae Kazee made a strong case to push for snaps during the preseason. He’s been forced into starting duty with the influx of injuries to the defensive backfield, and making plays like this one show that he can carry his weight.
Desmond Trufant dropped interception
A play that was depressingly emblematic of the Falcons’ last two games: Getting a prime opportunity and being unable to capitalize. Desmond Trufant had a disastrous game, and no play proved as consequential as his dropped interception in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Trufant let the ball slip through his fingers as he broke up the Andy Dalton pass to Tyler Boyd, setting up a 4th-and-8.
Cincinnati went right back at Trufant and converted on a pass to Tyler Boyd, eventually leading to the game-winning A.J. Green touchdown. It’s a book we’ve unfortunately read before: A Chance to Change the Tide and the Inability to Make the Most of It, the Atlanta Falcons story.
Refs rule Andy Dalton fumble an incomplete pass
This was like the tuck rule on psychedelics — just bizarro territory here. After a Vic Beasley strip-sack that was (correctly) ruled on the field as a fumble, a further booth review (incorrectly) reversed the call as an incomplete pass. I don’t want to live in a world where this play isn’t a fumble, but I guess that’s where we’re at right now.
Robert Alford (in general)
Falcons cornerback Robert Alford was roasted early and often in Atlanta’s loss to the Bengals, most notably on Cincinnati’s first possession where he surrendered a 38 yard reception to A.J. Green. Alford was just flat-out beat off the line of scrimmage by Green, and the play would set up the Bengals’ first touchdown of many on the day.
The next touchdown was even more egregious, with Alford losing outside contain and sloppily allowing Giovani Bernard to skip into the end zone. It was yet another frustrating mistake from a defense that can ill afford to give away plays.