The Atlanta Falcons are like vintage Mike Smith teams on steroids. Their defense literally (not figuratively) cannot stop anyone, while the offense seems utterly unstoppable in its own right. The halftime score of this game was 28-24, and that was with the Falcons missing an opportunity to score early on.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen what the Falcons are going to be like against any good offense: Utterly incapable of stopping them. They’ve got the Steelers next week, which is going to be another tough matchup, and they just don’t appear to have the personnel or discipline to get this thing done. The offense can pile up tons of points, but will it be enough?
For the third quarter, we got a glimpse of the alternative. The Falcons stalled out largely on offense, turning opportunities into just three points, but the Bengals were shut out by a suddenly aggressive Falcons defense that got two timely sacks and a pick. The fourth quarter featured more aggressive defense and the revival of the offense as the team took a five point lead partially erased by a field goal that almost certainly would have been worse had Takk not destroyed Andy Dalton.
But in the end, the defense wasn’t good enough, the theme of this young season. The Bengals got the ball back with plenty of time and a five point deficit and proceeded to wipe out the clock and overcome some poor plays (with a referee boost on what I thought was a strip sack) to get into the end zone. The Falcons’ offense did almost everything they could to win this, but at some point the defense will have to allow fewer than 30 points for them to win games. At 1-3 and reeling badly, it’s starting to look very bad for Atlanta.
Here’s the quarter-by-quarter breakdown.
Marvin Hall got us started by returning the kickoff to almost midfield. The Falcons picked up a quick first down after a short Tevin Coleman run, a pass to Calvin Ridley, and a 3rd and 1 conversion by Coleman where he rumbled for eight yards. Coleman picked up eight more on his next two carries before Julio Jones picked up a neat third down catch for another first. Then Ryan hit Justin Hardy for four yards to get inside the ten, and Ito Smith pounded it in from seven yards out for his first career touchdown.
Falcons 7 - Bengals 0
The next drive started with a 35 yard Bengals return and eight yards on two plays, with Vic Beasley getting hurt on the second one. The defense promptly fell apart, with the Bengals picked up 30+, 10+, and then converting a pretty easy touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert to tie things back up.
Falcons 7 - Bengals 7
A nice Marvin Hall return partially erased by Bruce Carter’s holding backed the Falcons up. Fortunately, Ryan was dealing, finding Julio Jones for 24 and Tevin Coleman for 15 to get Atlanta get moving in a major way. Unfortunately, they couldn’t sustain the momentum, ending up stalling out near midfield on third down (Calvin Ridley couldn’t quite get the ball) and going for it on fourth down, only to see Matt Ryan sacked for a turnover on downs.
The Bengals got a neutral zone infraction by a recently returned Vic Beasley to start things off. Then they muddled their way to a first down, chiefly by running Giovani Bernard. The Bengals looked to be in a tough spot on 3rd and 6 in no man’s land, but then they got Giovani Bernard for a 17 yard pickup to get them into the red zone yet again. An eight yard Bernard run was followed by a 10 yard run for a touchdown by Bernard as the defense continued to stink.
Bengals 14 - Falcons 7
No chance for a good Hall return on the next one, and Coleman picked up six to start things off. This technically happened in the first quarter but eh. Coleman was the featured back early, getting a couple of nice carries and a seven yard pickup on a pass from Matt Ryan. Then Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu and Julio Jones for double-digit gains on back-to-back plays, getting the Falcons down to the 31. Then Ito Smith picked up 14 on two carries and Ryan found a wide open Logan Paulsen for a touchdown to tie things back up.
Falcons 14 - Bengals 14
The Bengals embarrassed Atlanta with a 24 yard pickup on a short pass to rookie back Mark Walton, followed shortly thereafter by a 12 yard pickup by Tyler Eifert. The defense didn’t even look competent enough to stop the 2014 Falcons offense by this point. Then John Ross scored on a 39 yarder from Dalton and the Bengals had the lead back lickety-split.
Falcons 14 - Bengals 21
Atlanta got things going again, too. With Mohamed Sanu accounting for 46 yards receiving on just two plays and Ito Smith playing well, the Falcons got into the red zone with relatively little effort once more. They capped things off with an 11 yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley, his fifth score in the last three weeks.
Falcons 21 - Bengals 21
Unfortunately, they left Cincinnati with a ton of time. The Bengals predictably had little trouble moving the ball minus one nice tackle for loss by Deadrin Senat, with a pair of ugly penalties on Falcons defensive backs making things even worse. The Bengals then erased 25 more yards in two plays, bringing them to the one yard line with 48 seconds left in the half. They scored on a one yard run.
Falcons 21 - Bengals 28
The Falcons did an impressive job of managing their time and not giving up, driving far enough for Matt Bryant to drill a 55 yard field goal and tighten things up heading into halftime.
Falcons 24 - Bengals 28
Things got off to a gruesome start, as Tyler Eifert’s ankle went in the entirely wrong direction on the second play of the half, which put him out for the rest of this game. He may very well have broken it, which is awful. The Falcons followed that up by sacking Dalton for a million yard loss (thanks Takk!), and then KEITH TANDY BLOCKED THE PUNT OH MY GOD. That gave the Falcons the ball at the eight yard line.
The Falcons were immediately backed up by a false start, but Tevin Coleman rolled for nine yards on first down. Unfortunately, the Falcons got nothing on their next two plays and Matt Bryant kicked the field goal, leaving Atlanta down a single point.
Falcons 27 - Bengals 28
The Bengals looked like they’d score again after getting big chunks of yardage, but they were stopped thanks to a nice Vic Beasley pressure and a key third down sack from Takkarist McKinley, his second of the game. That forced the short punt.
The Falcons, unfortunately, flamed out on offense again, with a questionable incompletion and some shaky, short plays ending the drive in short order. I summarized it briefly because I was too bummed out to do otherwise.
The Bengals, starting close to midfield, got seven quick yards on a Giovani Bernard run. The Falcons got them to 3rd and 17 thanks to a timely penalty, but then a costly mistake by Brian Poole (an unnecessary roughness penalty) made for another first down. But then the wonderful Damontae Kazee picked off Andy Dalton, turning a dispiriting drive into a turnover. Offseting penalties on Kazee and Cincy led to the team starting their next drive at the 46.
The Falcons got a nine yard run by Ito Smith that was called back due to an Alex Mack holding penalty, followed immediately by a sack and forced fumble for Matt Ryan erased by a roughing the passer call. A short Ito Smith run later and it was the fourth quarter.
The Atlanta Falcons still had the ball. They took advantage, tossing it to Julio Jones for a quick 12 yards and then nailing Calvin Ridley for his sixth touchdown of the year, a 30 yarder. The Falcons had the lead back, but their two point conversion attempt failed. Still, Calvin Ridley remained amazing.
Falcons 33 - Bengals 28
The Bengals needed to answer, as they hadn’t scored since the second quarter, and they got busy. A huge return put them right near midfield, and they followed that with a first down (though Duke Riley did his best to prevent it), and then picking up 16 on a play that Robert Alford also held on. A Bobby Hart illegal use of hands to the face penalty backed the Bengals up, Desmond Trufant was penalized for defensive holding, Dalton whiffed and then found Tyler Boyd, and it was 3rd and 5 deep in Atlanta territory. Then our bruising lord and savior Takk McKinley came to the rescue, sacking a hapless Andy Dalton on third down and forcing a field goal attempt. It looked like he got a strip sack, but the knee was ruled down, and the Bengals hit the three pointer.
Falcons 33 - Bengals 31
The Falcons got a 32 yard beauty of a pass from Ryan to Mohamed Sanu to kick off the fesitivites before quickly finding themselves in a long third down situation. A 19 yarder to Austin Hooper took care of that, however, and brought Atlanta into field goal range. Ryan and Sanu couldn’t connect on first down, Ito Smith picked up three, and then Julio Jones picked up 15 to convert. First down say Brandon Fusco commit his second penalty of the game, backing the Falcons up by ten yards, and they couldn’t move any further. Matt Bryant’s field goal was blocked but the Bengals were offsides, and the second try went in.
Falcons 36 - Bengals 31
The Bengals had plenty of time to drive and predictably started to do so against what had to be a tired Falcons defense. They swung past midfield thanks to nice passes to Tyler Boyd, some decent runs and an 11 yard Andy Dalton scramble, but just as they got close Vic Beasley got a huge sack and stripped the ball...but it was reviewed. They called it incomplete, even though it wasn’t. That proved to be an extremely costly call, because Desmond Trufant had an interception go through his hands and the Bengals converted a fourth and eight. Then Cordy Glenn was penalized and backed Cincy up to the 34, the Bengals picked up a quick 14 yards and then whiffed on third down, and Tyler Boyd beat Desmond Trufant for a first down. There were 11 seconds left. Isaiah Oliver knocked away a pass on first down, but the Bengals found the Dalton-to-Green connection for a touchdown with one second left on the clock.
Falcons 36 - Bengals 37
That was that.