The story of the Atlanta Falcons as a franchise—and certainly the Falcons franchise this season—sometimes seems destined to be an incomplete one. For much of the day against Houston, it was the story again. But this time, the Falcons put pen to paper and wrote themselves a happy ending.
Atlanta was lackluster on their first drive offensively, and despite at least modest improvement from Desmond Ridder in that half, they were backed out of field goal range twice by dumb penalties. Their one touchdown drive was pretty and creative, but otherwise they stagnated, and the defense bent but didn’t break en route to three field goals and a 9-7 Texans lead at halftime. The second half featured a Bijan Robinson fumble, a rare thing that felt like a cosmic joke. At one point, the Falcons were down 12-7.
Once again, the defense was good-to-stellar, holding Houston to four field goals through three quarters and putting enough pressure on rookie sensation C.J. Stroud to force him into some rare bad throws. Holding up against Stroud and a very capable Houston offense much of the day, the defense only really fell apart a little late, when Stroud was able to throw a touchdown to give the Texans a late one point lead.
But at that point, the Falcons offense was cooking again. This was Desmond Ridder’s best game as a pro, as he avoided costly mistakes and put the Falcons on the path to victory, and then dealt his way downfield late to set up the short field goal try for Younghoe Koo. As time expired, he drilled it home, and what looked at points like it might be another tragedy turned into a fun one for the Falcons.
The team has a lot of work to do, but their backs were against the wall after two straight losses and they answered the call. There was enough here today to feel like this might be the Falcons doing the kind of work they need to do to blossom, and for now, we’ll take the win.
Here’s the drive-by-drive recap of the game you just watched.
The Falcons took the kickoff, with Cordarrelle Patterson taking it just past the 20 on his first return of the year, but a penalty brought them back to the 10. Bijan Robinson bumped into the back of his own blocker and lost about three yards, and a tripping penalty on Kaleb McGary was declined. Robinson then took it about six yards, and Desmond Ridder tried a sideline throw that didn’t convert to Drake London on third down. Punt.
The punt only made it slightly past midfield, and on first down, Dameon Pierce took it close to six yards before being tripped up by Jeff Okudah. C.J. Stroud then found Dalton Schultz over the middle for an easy first down and then some. John Metchie then got about six yards, and then Pierce got three yards and came up just shy of a first down. Bud Dupree came in and got a run stop on third down to smother Pierce. The Texans just hit the 38 yard try. 3-0 Texans.
The Falcons got it around the 25 on a touchback, and then a quick Ridder pass to Jonnu Smith went for close to 20 yards thanks to Smith’s ability and willingness to rumble. Scotty Miller got the handoff to get three yards, and then the Falcons handed it to Robinson who handed it to Drake London, who threw it for a first down to Smith again. Bijan Robinson then took it for a first down. Tyler Allgeier got nothing on first down, and then Ridder launched one to Kyle Pitts inside the 10 yard line. The Falcons then faked a handoff and Ridder ran it in for a touchdown. 7-3 Falcons.
Pierce took it for 11 yards on first down, and then lost six yards thanks to Lorenzo Carter blowing the play up in the backfield. Stroud hit Tank Dell for about six yards, with Kaden Elliss getting the tackle. Stroud felt the pressure and threw it short, but the pass was dropped. Punt.
Mike Hughes took it about ten yards on the punt with a nifty move. Ridder then threw a low, zippy pass to Hollins that went for 19 yards. Robinson picked up a couple of yards on first down, and an encroachment penalty on Houston gave Atlanta five more yards. Robinson got nowhere on the next play thanks to shaky blocking, and then a nice pass to Smith was dropped. The Falcons had a false start on the punt, and then punted again.
Houston returned it a little over 10 yards to get things started at the 25. Stroud hit Dell for a big gain over the middle, and then Pierce got about a yard. Nico Collins then got it for big yardage. Dee Alford then sniffed out a Dell run and made sure it went nowhere.
Stroud missed Dalton Schultz on the sideline to bring up 3rd and 15. Woods then bobbled and caught it to pick up about five yards, setting up a field goal try. 7-6 Falcons.
A neutral zone infraction gave the Falcons five quick yards, and then Tyler Allgeier took it about six yards before tripping himself up. A quick pass to Jonnu Smith went for just a yard, and Ridder tried to zip one to Kyle Pitts that was broken up after he clearly locked on to Pitts. Punt.
Stroud immediately threw it for 22 yards, and then Dell got nowhere thanks to Nate Landman. On second down, Stroud was flushed out of the pocket and missed Dell. On third down, they got pressure again and forced him to make a risky throw to Robert Woods that fell incomplete. Punt.
Ridder threw a pretty first down ball to Keith Smith, of all people, for a first down and then some to get Atlanta moving. On first down, the run went nowhere, but a quick ball from Ridder to KhaDarel Hodge got ten yards. Then Bijan got six yards after an encroachment call on a very pretty run, then lost a yard on the next one. Ridder had no shot on second down as he was hit trying to get rid of the ball quickly for an incompletion, and then a false start on Atlanta backed them up to 3rd and 16. Ridder wasn’t able to get London on third down, and that set up another punt.
Pierce went nowhere on first down thanks to Jessie Bates. Robert Woods couldn’t reel in the second down pass from Stroud over the middle despite it being on the money, and then a short pass to Schultz only got about five yards thanks to a nice tackle by Kaden Elliss. Punt.
Robinson only got a yard or two again on first down thanks to nice run defense by Houston, and then Patterson reeled in a high ball to bring the Falcons close to a first down. Allgeier was able to muscle his way across the line for a first down. Allgeier got about five on the next play, and then Robinson was hit quickly on a play with a holding call that was declined to lose about three yards. Ridder threw it over the middle to find Kyle Pitts for a big first down, and then once again Atlanta forced an encroachment to pick up five yards. Ridder then tried Pitts on a sideline ball that he wasn’t able to come up with, and Allgeier had no room to run on second down and lost two yards again. A very quick ball to Pitts set up the field goal try, but an unnecessary roughness penalty on Drew Dalman backed the Falcons up 15 yards. That forced a punt.
Stroud found Dell for a first down and then some, and unfortunately, A.J. Terrell was injured on the play. On the next play, they got about eight as the clock kept running, and then got the first down to Schultz. On the next play, the pass fell incomplete but Jeff Okudah got called for holding. The next pass from Stroud went into the dirt, and then Woods couldn’t get it thanks to nice coverage on Dee Alford. Unfortunately, Stroud got Tank Dell downfield, getting Houston within field goal range. A quick pass picked up seven yards on first down, and then Stroud got a first down again on another quick out to Nico Collins. A delay of game on the Falcons gave Houston another five yards. Grady Jarrett batted down the first down pass, and then Houston decided to kick a field goal. 9-7 Houston.
Patterson got the return but wasn’t able to house it, understandably.
Houston had the ball, and they wasted no time getting moving with a 14 yard pass to John Metchie from Stroud. Calais Campbell got the run stop on first down to back Houston up a yard, and then the Falcons flushed Stroud out of the pocket and forced him into a short throw for three yards to Schultz. Unfortunately, the next play was a strike over the middle for an easy first down to Schultz. Flushed out of the pocket by Lorenzo Carter, Stroud had to throw it out of bounds. Pierce got a couple of yards on second down, and then Stroud just missed Nico Collins on third down. Punt.
Ridder’s first down pass was batted at the line, and Robinson almost tracked it down in the air. On the next play, Robinson had a killer run to pick up 11 and get the Falcons moving, with his next run going for a couple of yards but also fumbled with Houston picking it up.
Pierce got four yards, and then two yards on the next play as Grady Jarrett made the tackle. Stroud just missed on third down, and the field goal was good. 12-7 Texans.
Storm Norton was in on the next drive for an injured Kaleb McGary, who was questionable to return. Ridder rolled out of pressure and hit Jonnu Smith for a first down. Allgeier then got it for a quick yard or two, followed by some angry words and gestures from both teams. Ridder then stood in and hit Kyle Pitts for 20-plus yards. Bijan got about eight yards on the next carry, and then got hit hard after picking up two yards on the subsequent play. Allgeier plowed ahead for a first down and another five yards or so to get the Falcons on the cusp of entering the red zone. Allgeier got about three yards, but a holding call on Jake Matthews brought things back for Atlanta. Mack Hollins got it for 10 yards on 1st and 20, and then Jonnu Smith should’ve had a first down...but fumbled it away and the Texans recovered.
Pierce was tripped up for a four yard gain, and then Stroud threw it out of bounds. On the next play, the pass was tipped and nearly intercepted. Punt.
Bijan got about four yards on first down, and then Ridder fired one in to Pitts once again for a first down. A quick screen to London got about four yards, and then Allgeier got nothing before a flag came in for an illegal shift call that was declined. Ridder then hit London well short of the sticks, but London hit the spin move to pick it up. A few yards for Robinson on first down, and then a quick flick to Scotty Miller nearly got a first down.
Allgeier got the first down via sheer force of will, and then picked up seven yards on the next play. On the next play, though, he didn’t get the blocking to get a first down and wound up with no gain. On third down, MyCole Pruitt not only got the first down but rolled for 22 yards to get the Falcons close to scoring again. A direct snap to Hodge was dropped and then picked up for a small loss, but then Ridder flipped it to Bijan Robinson for a touchdown. A quick pass to Tyler Allgeier for a two point conversion gave Atlanta a three point lead. 15-12 Falcons.
Jessie Bates nearly had the interception on first down, but then Pierce picked up seven yards on second down. Pressure forced a quick three and out for the Texans and Ryan Nielsen went nuts on the sideline. Punt.
A long shot to Drake London down the sideline ended in an impressive catch for big yardage, and then Allgeier picked up another first down on a big carry. Allgeier got about three on the next play, and then Jonnu Smith got about a couple of yards on second down by keeping his legs moving. Another strike from Ridder to Pitts got another first down. Allgeier lost a yard, and then the pass to Pitts on second down was incomplete. Ridder threw it away on third down to set up the field goal try for Younghoe Koo, who nailed it. 18-12 Falcons.
Pierce had a great carry at last on first down thanks to some good blocking, picking up the first down and then some. He went nowhere on first down, but then Stroud him over the middle for 16 yards. Pierce then picked up five yards on first down, followed by Pierce getting four more on second down with Calais Campbell walking off the field with an injury. Stroud got the first on a sneak. Pierce got four on the next yard, and then Stroud found Woods for a first down. On first down, Richie Grant and company brought Pierce down for a three yard loss after Bud Dupree ruined the play, and then Pierce picked up about five yards. Stroud hit Dalton Schultz for a touchdown on the next play as the tight end got behind Jessie Bates. 19-18 Houston after the extra point.
Robinson made the quick catch for six yards on first down, and then Ridder hit London for a quick first down. Ridder then scrambled for five yards on the next play, and then found London again on the sideline. Ridder hit Pitts again for four yards, and then hit London for 20-plus yards. A call on Houston gave the Falcons a few more yards. A penalty and then four yards from Allgeier got the Falcons awfully close. Ridder kneeled to get the clock running and force Houston to take their final timeout, and then kneeled again to set up the 37 yard field goal try for Younghoe Koo with one second left. He got it, and Atlanta won 21-18.