The Falcons traveled all the way to London to fizzle in front of an international crowd. Doomed by uninspired offense keyed by a pair of truly ugly Desmond Ridder interceptions and further submarined by a couple of big defensive mistakes, Atlanta wasn’t able to turn a couple of stronger drives into points and once again managed under 10 points on the road.
The Falcons are just .500 now, a mark we’d have taken before the season given how strong the opponents looked over the first four games, but the way they’ve lost these past two games has been dispiriting. Fans and analysts are asking justified questions about how Ridder is playing, how this coaching staff is putting this offense in a position to succeed (or, as the case were, not succeed), and why there are so many mistakes for a team loaded up with playmakers. The defense gets a pass despite a couple of major lapses these last two weeks because the overall effort has been strong enough to keep the Falcons in games; if the offense doesn’t get back on track soon, though, that effort may be for naught.
The Jaguars, to their credit, played a sharper game and took advantage of every advantage the Falcons offered them. Trevor Lawrence looked sharp, the Jaguars pass rush ate against this Atlanta pass protection, and Lawrence even ran the ball effectively against a Falcons run defense that did a nice job stuffing Travis Etienne. In a different, less mistake-filled game, Atlanta at least makes this very competitive.
Heading into a home game against the Texans, the Falcons have to get this thing right and do some soul searching. They have to figure out if they’re willing and able to keep enduring growing pains from Ridder, how they can get a clearly dejected Drake London and Kyle Pitts more involved to lift this offense, and how they can avoid the errors in pass protection and coverage that have marred their games all season long. Looking at this team’s body language and collective faces on the sideline, it’s clear that they’re not going home happy with 2-2, and they honestly shouldn’t. It’s still early enough and the record is good enough in a weak NFC South for the Falcons to recover, but they can’t let the malaise of the last two games endure, whether that means personnel changes, sharper execution, the coaching staff re-imagining what they’re cooking up on a weekly basis, or all of the above.
If you want to re-live this, that’s your call. Here’s the blow-by-blow from all four quarters.
Travis Etienne got the first carry of the game after the Falcons won and deferred the coin toss, and he picked up about four yards. A second straight carry went for another fourish yards. A quick swing pass to Etienne on third down converted, and then Tank Bigsby got two yards on first down. and then Evan Engram was tackled after a short pickup by Richie Grant. On third down, the Jaguars called a timeout and then Trevor Lawrence missed Engram on the sideline. The punt was swatted inside the five and the Falcons took over inside the 10.
Bijan Robinson got the first carry and picked up about a yard on first down, with Jacksonville immediately in the backfield. On second down, the carry again went nowhere, setting up the Falcons for third and long. Robinson caught the ball and made a man miss on third down, but was just short of converting. Punt, and it was an absolute boomer by Bradley Pinion.
Lawrence threw a quick strike, but Richie Grant was all over for a tackle after just three yards. On second down, pressure got in but Lawrence was able to scramble for over 20 yards, which is not ideal. On first down, Lawrence took it again on a bootleg for six yards. Etienne got a yard on the next carry, and then Calais Campbell forced a throwaway on third down with a huge pressure. Unfortunately, Lawrence hit Christian Kirk over the middle for a first down. The Jaguars loss yardage on first down, but despite a nice pressure from Grant, Lawrence hit Ridley on a busted coverage in the end zone for the game’s first score. 7-0 Jaguars.
On first down, Ridder attempted to run and got nowhere. Bijan then got a quick swing pass to pick up three yards. Neutral zone infracting got the Falcons to 3rd and 1, and then Ridder was sacked on third down, looking like he held the ball when he should have gotten rid of it to Bijan. Punt.
Dee Alford did a nice job of tripping up a Jaguar on first down to prevent a first down, as Etienne got about eight yards on the catch. Etienne then ran for a first down, picking up seven yards, and then Lawrence zipped one to Kirk downfield to pick up 25. Bigsby then picked up nine yards on first down, but a penalty on Jacksonville backed them 10 yards. Engram caught it for five yards, and then the quarter mercifully ended.
Jessie Bates came in on a safety blitz on third down to force a bad throw and ultimately the field goal try. 10-0 Jaguars after they hit it from 56.
Robinson got four yards on the opening play, a toss. The second play was a throw in traffic to Drake London, but the pass was broken up. Jonnu Smith then caught the 15 yarder from Ridder for a first down. Robinson took it a yard on first down, and then Ridder launched one downfield to London but the defender was all over him and the ball fell to the turf. On third down, the pressure was there immediately and Ridder was sacked for a 14 yard loss. Punt.
Jessie Bates punched the ball out of Engram’s hands on first down, but Engram fell on it for a five yard gain. Then Kirk caught it for three yards, and Bud Dupree stopped a scrambling Lawrence shy of the first down marker. Punt.
Tyler Allgeier took it for about five yards on first down, and then Allgeier was stopped in the backfield with nowhere to go. On third down, Ridder threw one high to Bijan, who made an astounding one handed catch and ran for a first down. Jonnu Smith then caught it and stiff-armed his way for about seven yards. Allgeier then bullied his way for a first down, and then KhaDarel Hodgem made a jumping catch for another first down. Robinson then got it going on the ground to pick up eight yards, and then Bijan picked up another first down. Then Ridder threw a pick six directly to a Jaguars defender, turning what looked like a productive drive into yet another nightmare. 17-0 Jaguars.
Ridder threw another pick on the next play, and the Falcons may as well have been on the bottom of the Thames. The Jaguars picked up nine yards on their first two plays, setting up a 3rd and 1 before gaining nothing on a run on third down. The Jaguars decided to go for it on 4th and 1—why not, really?—but Lawrence was sacked by David Onyemata. Turnover on downs.
A penalty backed up the Falcons, with Robinson picking up four on 1st and 15. Ridder then checked it down to London for a handful of yards, and then Bijan caught it for a first down. An underthrown ball from Ridder to Mack Hollins was nearly picked off again, but he did hit a receiver for eight yards on the next play. Robinson’s next carry went nowhere. 4th and 2, and they punted.
Etienne got a handful of yards on first down, and then Lawrence found Kirk for 16 yards on second down. The first down pass was off of Kirk’s hands with tight coverage, and then Bud Dupree got the sack on second down.
The Falcons got the ball back, and Allgeier nearly got a first down on his first carry. Robinson then cut the other way to take it about 40 yards, before picking up three yards on first down. Ridder threw it in the dirt on second down with nobody open, and then threw one past a defender to KhaDarel Hodge for a first down. Robinson got two yards on first down, and then Ridder threw it a little high and far for Allgeier and the ball went off his fingertips. On third down, Ridder threw it to London at the one yard line, and London was able to bring it in for a touchdown to give Atlanta some life. 17-7 Jaguars.
On first down, the Jaguars completed one for eight yards. Etienne then caught it before taking a big hit from Nate Landman. Lawrence then found a tight end for a first down to keep things moving. Etienne was stuffed by Calais Campbell, and then Dee Alford made a big tackle on a short pass to ensure it went nowhere on second down. Lawrence’s third down pass went nowhere thanks to pressure. Punt.
Bijan took it on first down and picked up a few yards—making chicken salad out of chicken poop—but offsetting penalties forced a repeat of first down. Robinson then took it for nearly a first down on the very next carry. and then got just enough for a first down. Ridder then threw a sideline ball a little high to Pitts, who wasn’t able to reel it in as Tyson Campbell knocked it out of his hands. Robinson then took it for a first down and then some. Ridder then threw a sharp ball right into Pitts’ hands for a first down, before having to get rid of it to Allgeier for a loss of a few yards. The next throw was low and behind a slipping Hollins on the sideline, setting up a 3rd and 14. A false start on Jonnu Smith backed things up further. and then Robinson caught it for about eight yards. Punt, with Pinion pinning them inside the 10.
Nothing up the middle for Etienne on first down. Lawrence then hit Engram for a first down, and the next play was a flag on the Jaguars to back them up. A zippy ball to Engram got about 10, and then Etienne took it a handful of yards. Kirk was the recipient of a first down ball from Lawrence on third down.
First down for Engram to kick things off in the fourth quarter. Four yards for Etienne on first down gave way to nothing on second down, and then Lawrence scrambled for a first down. Etienne got nowhere on first down, and a quick catch by Kirk got him popped by Terrell for about five yards. An end zone shot while scrambling went too high, and the Jaguars drive finally ended with a field goal. 20-7 Jaguars.
Ridder’s first pass was to Mack Hollins but was tipped, and then next run by Allgeier saw him power through contact to give Atlanta 3rd and 6. Ridder then fired one in to London for a first down. Ridder then scrambled up the middle for about seven yards, and then Robinson took the carry for a first down and more. Ridder then found Jonnu Smith over the middle, and Jonnu did the rest with a stiff arm and a rumble for 31 yards. and then Allgeier was blown up for a loss on the next carry. Ridder’s pass was batted again on the next play, with Jonnu making yet another catch a couple yards short of a first down. Ridder had to throw it under pressure and got it to London, but a leaping London was too close to the back of the end zone to get his feet down despite a heroic effort. Turnover on downs.
A short gain by Etienne on first down, and then a pass to Engram for a first down. Lawrence threw it way downfield and picked up a pass interference call on Terrell that gave the Jaguars a huge gain. Etienne went nowhere again, a quick out picked up several yards, and Lawrence ran for a first down. Etienne was stuffed again before picking up four yards on second down, and then the run stuff on third forced a field goal try. 23-7 Jaguars.
The first down sideline throw to Jonnu Smith went for a first down, and then on second down Jonnu got it again. On third down, Ridder was hit on the arm as he threw and the Jaguars fell on the ball to recover the fumble. Game over.