In recent years, the Falcons have made a habit out of looking so terrible in the third preseason game that it genuinely worries even jaded fans. They continued that tradition against the Jaguars.
There’s no other way to say it: Aside from stretches of strong performance, the Falcons looked bad against the Jaguars. Both starting units were down 2-3 starting-caliber players, but they still managed to play some really poor football. The backups didn’t fare much better against Jacksonville’s reserves, which made for a miserable night of football for Falcons fans.
That said, you should absolutely feel confident that the Falcons you saw playing tonight are not the Falcons you’ll see playing in Week 1. That has a lot to do with attrition, sure, but it also has to do with the team’s willingness to try things (and players) it would not trot out during the regular season. It also has plenty to do with the quality of the opponent, and despite Blake Bortles’ ongoing willingness to throw ugly interceptions, Jacksonville was one of the strongest teams the Falcons will face in 2018. There’s no great shame in losing to that team in preseason, so long as the issues with drops, pass protection and pass rush we saw tonight don’t carry over into the Eagles game.
Onward, to the breakdown.
A quick strike to Mohamed Sanu for a first down got us started, and the Falcons drove down the field with relative ease until the Jaguars’ pass rush got home. Matt Ryan was able to mix in passes to Mohamed Sanu and Tevin Coleman along the way before the Falcons settled for a Matt Bryant 47 yard field goal.
Falcons 3 - Jaguars 0
Unfortunately, Foye Oluokun was injured on the following kickoff and exited the game. Fortunately, the Jaguars ended their drive with a Robert Alford tip that turned into a Keanu Neal interception. The Falcons had the ball back.
Unfortunately, the Falcons didn’t do much with it. Matt Ryan’s first deep pass was tipped and fell well short of Reggie Davis, and the Jaguars again got pressure and finished the drive with a third down sack. No points, this time.
The Falcons got a turnover early with a big Damontae Kazee hit forcing a fumble which Duke Riley recovered, but Marqise Lee was hurt and Kazee got hit with yet another ticky-tack helmet rule call. I hate the way this rule is being enforced. The Jaguars got moving from there, despite some big hits and a near interception from Kazee, and missed a field goal attempt.
Atlanta ball! The Falcons didn’t do much with their next drive, owing primarily to pressure by the Jaguars, and were forced to punt. Thankfully, Matt Bosher got it on the two yard line.
Isaiah Oliver had a great pass breakup negated by penalty, and then was crisped. Then the Jaguars just destroyed the Falcons’ defense en route to a 21 yard touchdown run by Leonard Fournette, with missed tackles dominating the drive. Not a good look for the defense, which of course was still primarily starters at this point.
Falcons 3 - Jaguars 7
The Falcons went three and out. You’re stunned, I know.
The next defensive series went better for everyone but Duke Riley, who once again misread a play. Grady Jarrett got a sack, and the Jaguars had to punt.
The Falcons got a beautiful Mohamed Sanu grab over Jalen Ramsey, who you may remember from Matt Ryan is overrated interviews of a recent vintage, and that meant some movement. Then the line did a beautiful job blocking for Tevin Coleman, who busted a huge run to get the team into the red zone. Unfortunately, drops by Ridley, Austin Hooper and Sanu were a factor on this drive, and the Falcons settled for three.
Falcons 6 - Jaguars 7
The defense continued to struggle on the next drive until Jacksonville was deep in Atlanta’s territory, at which point the team pulled off the stop narrowly. A nice De’Vondre Campbell play at the goal line was the difference between three points and six, and indeed, the Jaguars settled for three.
Falcons 6 - Jaguars 10
The Falcons returned with Jacksonville’s starters still in the game. The Jaguars drove again, this time against backups, and then Blidi Wreh-Wilson picked him off at the two yard line.
The Falcons drive was marked by a pretty 44 yard pass and gain from Matt Schaub to Eric Saubert. The second year tight end looks very good right now, and you have to think the Falcons will find some uses for him this year, however situationally. Unfortunately, another Ridley drop and some miscues translated into a Schaub pick, and the Jaguars had the ball.
The Jaguars looked solid under Cody Kessler, but a Justin Zimmer sack at defensive tackle set them back a bit.
Of course, Cody Kessler ran in a touchdown. This is preseason, so you should expect nothing less than a very unassuming backup quarterback effortlessly jogging in a TD.
Falcons 6 - Jaguars 17
The Falcons did something, but not much. Let this be their preseason epitaph.
Honestly, at this point in the game I was somewhere between an overwhelming sense of deja vu at all the preseason-related panic and frustration over the team’s inability to give me something genuinely worth watching. Even Jacksonville’s deep reserves did a nice job of holding the Falcons in check, and while we won’t repeat that situation again at any point in this season, it did make for football that was less than inspiring.
Atlanta managed to exit the game without scoring again to land at 0-3 in the preseason thus far. We’ll talk a little bit more about pass protection and pass rush—both are concerns heading into the year—both otherwise this was little more than a soggy dress rehearsal we’ll hopefully soon forget.
But remember, the Falcons have been bad in preseason for years now, and it rarely has carried over into the regular season. Shake this one off and get some sleep, because we’re only a handful of days away from the final preseason game.