The preseason finale was about what you expected: Full of backups competing for roles, sloppy at times, punctuated by moments of brilliance. It also was a borderline dominant Falcons effort, with Atlanta’s backups winning out over Jacksonville’s.
We’ll soon see who made the roster, but it was a surprisingly fun game, with Desmond Ridder looking ready to go after an early interception, the defense clamping down hard, and a strong day from three different hopeful reserve running backs. That led to a big lead late and an easy win, but more importantly, it made me feel like this team is going to be a bit deeper than they were a year ago when injuries were catastrophic and the team was a bit listless. That’s a big deal for the Falcons, even if our expectations for the season ahead are still muted, because it means progress is being made and there’s potential here we’ve been hoping for.
Here’s a snap recap of the game.
The Falcons started with the ball after a touchback on the opening kick, with Desmond Ridder under center behind the third-team offensive line. Unfortunately, he threw an interception on the very first play of the game after Daniel Thomas made a heads-up play on a shaky throw.
The defense did a great job of following that up, effectively shutting down the Jaguars with sound tackling and good awareness, particularly by Arnold Ebiketie. The Jaguars tried a long field goal and made it. 3-0 Jaguars.
Atlanta got moving a bit on the second drive, picking up five yards on a Cameron Batson catch and a first down on an Anthony Firkser grab. Thanks to a sharp ball to Damiere Byrd and a game effort by Qadree Ollison, they picked up two more first downs, and then Ollison got them inside the 30 with a couple of nice runs. Caleb Huntley picked up nine more—the Falcons were running well—and got the team close enough for Ridder to hit a touchdown strike to Tyler Allgeier. 7-3 Falcons.
The Jaguars got it moving immediately with a 40 yard deep strike to get inside the 30, but quickly found themselves on 4th and 2 after a nice run stop by Teez Tabor and DeAngelo Malone batting down a pass. A holding call moved them back even further, and they ended up attempting a field goal, which James McCourt missed from 46 yards. 7-3 Falcons, still.
Allgeier was tackled for a loss on the first play and wound up punting, but not before Desmond Ridder took a deep shot to Damiere Byrd that was inches away from being complete.
The Jaguars completed a pass.
They fizzled out, though. Punt.
The Falcons fizzled out, too, with a third down sack of Desmond Ridder. Punt, and for good measure, an Ollison unnecessary roughness penalty on the return that on replay looked very suspect.
The Jaguars were rescued by a penalty. At 4th and 5, Timothy Horne was hit with the neutral zone infraction call, which gave Jacksonville new life. That got them close enough for a short field goal try, which they converted. 7-6 Falcons.
The Falcons had one nice MyCole Pruitt catch and otherwise nothin’. Punt.
The Jaguars fizzled out AGAIN, and it led to the best play of the game. Quinton Bell dove and blocked the punt, setting the Falcons up to recover it at the one yard line and punch it in with Qadree Ollison one play later. 14-6 Falcons.
Unfortunately, Dorian Etheridge was hurt on the next Jaguars drive and exited the game on the cart. We hope he’s okay. The Jaguars proceeded to move effectively, with a 41 yard shot that just beat out Corey Ballentine’s coverage getting them awfully close. They nearly stalled out, but did score on a Perry shot to Laquon Treadwell (former Falcon!) to bring it within two points. They tried the two point attempt but failed. 14-12, Falcons, as we went into halftime.
Jaguars ball. They got some life thanks to a Corey Ballentine pass interference call, but ultimately had to settle for the punt.
The Falcons got backed up near the goal line, but Desmond Ridder got out of trouble with a nice ball to Frank Darby, who pulled it down on the sideline and picked up a little extra. Unfortunately, a Bernhardt miss, Bernhardt-catch-that-was-missed, and a nice Tyler Allgeier run weren’t enough to get the Falcons to a first down. They tried to go for it on 4th and 3, but a false start on Jonotthan Harrison wiped out that chance. Punt.
The Jaguars did nothing and almost fumbled. Punt.
Atlanta’s next drive started off with a bang, when KeeSean Johnson picked up a ton of yardage on a short Ridder throw to get the Falcons near midfield. They kept moving, thanks to a Jacksonville penalty and a nice Anthony Firkser grab that brought them to the one yard line. Unfortunatelyy, Firkser got hurt on the play. Caleb Huntley punched it in on the next play and it was 21-12 Falcons.
Jacksonville was helped along by more penalties, though Derrick Tangelo got a cleanup sack on the drive. They still weren’t able to do much with it, ultimately settling for a punt. Darrion Daniels batted a pass on the drive.
Atlanta got moving thanks to some nice passing, including a great catch by Cameron Batson and Ridder successfully fielding a low snap to complete one to Tucker Fisk. Then the quarter ended.
Give it up for Caleb Huntley, who took advantage of a nice Justin Shaffer block and picked up 21 yards. Give it up for Tyler Allgeier, who handled the carries at the end of the drive and punched in a touchdown, one of three rushing touchdowns on the day for Atlanta. Falcons 28 - Jaguars 12.
The Jaguars finally made a very big mistake, with a tipped ball jumping right into Corey Ballentine’s hands after he made a nice move to put himself into position. Turnover!
Caleb Huntley kept rolling to start this one off for Atlanta, but the run game couldn’t quite get the job done on the drive. That left Feleipe Franks to try Qadree Ollison on fourth down, and it almost worked, but not quite. Turnover on downs.
The Falcons got another pick on the next drive. Troy Andersen showed off his speed when he came in like a missile and messed up E.J. Perry’s timing, forcing a duck of a throw that Nate Landman picked off. Turnover!
The Falcons kneeled it out and won the game. That’s a wrap on preseason.