The Falcons got their starters on the field to start the game, and they put together a nice drive on offense stalled by penalties and a tipped interception, followed by a defensive drive mixing penalties with nice stops that concluded with great coverage in the end zone. It was 0-0 by the time the reserves came on, but we saw evidence of competence on both sides of the ball, and that’s perfectly fine for the second preseason game.
Then the reserves came on, and once again, they won their own game-within-a-game. A defense that occasionally frustrated still held the Bengals to a pair of field goals, while the offense mustered ten points behind Taylor Heinicke’s arm, much improved work from the receiving corps, and some nice runs from Godwin Igwebuike and Carlos Washington. That, too, was more than enough for roster hopefuls, especially given how lackluster reserves have been in past preseasons.
The only problem? The Falcons did ultimately tie this instead of win it, with the offense wilting entirely late and the defense giving up the winning drive in lackluster fashion thanks to a couple of long Jake Browning scrambles and a nice sideline throw that led to the score that put the Bengals in the lead before Logan Woodside drove them back into range. If you’re looking for things to clean up, both for the starters and the reserves, you won’t lack for things to point to.
It was, in short, another fine night for the Atlanta Falcons. The starters got their tune-ups and plenty to study and work on from a solid if uneven effort, while the coaching staff once again got a good long look at potential depth pieces, with some obvious standouts among them.
It was a solid Friday evening for all of us, and now we have one more game before cutdowns that will likely serve as a final audition for reserves. Here’s a quick recap of the game you just watched, in case you missed any of it.
The Falcons started with the ball, and the game started with KhaDarel Hodge getting called for holding. Tyler Allgeier then picked up a couple of yards before another call (this one on Chris Lindstrom backed the Falcons up further. Now on 1st and 20 from deep in their own territory, the Falcons picked up 12 yards with a pass to Mack Hollins. Ridder then got Kyle Pitts (who made a one-handed spinning grab as the ball was a bit behind him) to pick up the first down. They followed that with a sweet Bijan Robinson carry that picked up another first down, followed by a quick three yard carry. Then Ridder found Mack Hollins, who slipped and recovered for another first down, before hitting Drake London for the first time for yet another first down. A false start on London backed the Falcons up slightly. Ridder rifled it to London a little high but catchable, but excellent defense prevented the completion. Robinson then picked up a few yards before running into defenders and the backside of Ryan Neuzil, leading to a 3rd and 12 where Ridder found Drake London, who made an excellent sideline grab. The Bengals chose to throw a challenge flag, however, ruining everything. Fortunately they were unsuccessful, and a six yard pass to Robinson followed by a short run brought us to a red zone third down. Ridder got some excellent blocking and ran for the first, bringing the Falcons to Cincinnati’s doorstep, and then he dove and picked up three yards on the next play before a flag on Lindstrom backed Atlanta up. A Kaleb McGary false start then backed them up further. A sharp ball from Ridder to Hodge got most of the yardage back, but Hodge left the field limping a bit. A quick pickup by Robinson led us back to third down, then a tipped pass ended up as a tipped ball after Scotty Miller was mugged and was subsequently intercepted, with Ridder making the tackle, ending a long drive in disappointing fashion.
The Bengals picked up a yard on their first carry. Trevor Siemian then found his back for a quick pass that went for a first down. Another quick pass went for another first down for the Bengals, who got moving in a hurry. The Bengals then picked up a few yards on the ground, and then a false start backed them up. A first down gave way to a short carry which gave way to a holding call on the Falcons’ defense, followed by some great pressure which forced a throwaway...which was negated by another holding call. Arthur Smith was pissed at this point, and justly so. A short carry up the middle was followed by a nice grab that Jessie Bates prevented from becoming a first down, and we were at fourth down and two yards heading into the next quarter.
The Bengals took an end zone shot that fell incomplete thanks to excellent coverage from Dee Alford. Turnover on downs.
Two yard run to kick things off, and then Taylor Heinicke connected with Parker Hesse for about five yards. A nice Godwin Igwebuike run picked up a first down, and then he got a handful of yards again on his next carry. Heinicke picked up a few yards on a scramble, then a penalty backed Atlanta up, and then Heinicke missed a little high to Josh Ali. Punt.
I missed the subsequent Bengals drive, which I’m going to apologize for, owing to a non-emergency situation. Cincinnati did not score, however, so I can’t have missed that much.
The Falcons got to midfield despite Heinicke nearly being picked off, but he followed that up with a nice first down pass to Xavier Malone. A pair of Godwin Igwebuike carries picked up six yards, then Heinicke took a shot at the end zone that was just slightly out of bounds. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Bengals gave Atlanta a first down, however, followed by a penalty that backed Atlanta up five yards. A short Igwebuike carry picked up two yards, and then Heinicke got Josh Ali for a few yards. On third down, the Bengals took down Heinicke for a sack. Younghoe Koo banged it home, however, to give Atlanta the lead. 3-0.
A four yard run followed by a first down pickup on the ground is not what we were hoping for. A run that went nowhere and a low ball, however, was more like it. A third down pressure from DeAngelo Malone that forced another off-target throw ended the drive. Punt.
Igwebuike carried us into the two minute warning with a short pickup. Then Heinicke hit Scotty Miller for five yards, and Igwebuike had a very nice carry up the middle for a first down and a lot more. A quick five yard pass was followed by a low incompletion to Miller, who couldn’t corral it. Heinicke took matters into his own hands with a little pressure coming in on third down, evading a couple of defenders and picking up the first with his legs. A penalty then backed Atlanta up, and then Heinicke couldn’t quite find his receiver on consecutive passes, the second one under considerable pressure. He found Carlos Washington for 10 yards on the next play, and the Falcons decided to stay on and go for it before calling a timeout. A low snap doomed the next play, and Heinicke’s rushed pass under pressure was too low to be corraled. Turnvover on downs.
Nice defense kept the Bengals from completing their first two passes, but the third down try to rookie Charlie Jones went for a first down. With just 11 seconds left on the clock, the Bengals got one pass off, leaving four seconds to go. They hit the field goal to tie it up from 50 yards out. 3-3.
Deep reserves in! A short carry went for a couple of yards for Cincinnati. Then Jake Browning found a receiver open over the middle and he took off for (I’m not being totally accurate here) one million yards. Offensive pass interference wiped out the gain, but the Bengals found their way to a first again before a nice run stop put them at 2nd and 11. Browning once again found an open receiver, this time for just over six yards, Browning was then able to scramble for a first down. Then a sideline strike deep drew a pass interference call on Breon Borders that gave the Bengals excellent field position. A missed throw and a penalty put the Bengals at 2nd and 15. A deep shot didn’t connect thanks to strong coverage by Natrone Brooks, and then DeMarcco Hellams ended the next play after Browning got a short pass off under considerable pressure. The 31-yard field goal attempt was good. 6-3 Bengals.
Igwebuike brought it out of the end zone, and then Heinicke stayed on the field. He connected with Parker Hesse for a first down on first down, setting things in motion for Atlanta’s offense. Heinicke then zipped one to Josh Ali for another first down. A pass to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside set up yet another first down. Carlos Washington then took it for eight yards, picking up the first down on the subsequent play. Heinicke then hit J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for a deep touchdown pass, capping off a short and very productive drive. Or it would have been, except the officials ultimately changed the ruling and placed the ball down at the one, giving Carlos Washington a chance to punch it in. 10-6 Falcons.
The Bengals were backed up immediately by a penalty. An incomplete pass followed, and then Browning was able to connect on a pass that picked up close to ten yards. The next pass went for a first. A two yard carry was followed by what would have been a first down, if not for a holding call on Cincinnati. On second and 18, Browning connected on a sideline shot that went for a first down before Micah Abernathy could get the (nice) stop. On the following play, Andre Smith Jr. had a nice run stop in the backfield. It was third and 11 before the Bengals seemingly picked up a first down on a pass play, aided by a declined pass interference. The third quarter was then over.
The Bengals picked up seven yards, but Delontae Scott and Justin Ellis picked up a sack on the next play to set Cincinnati back a yard. Browning got away from pressure on the next play before Mike Jones Jr. brought him down, with a fourth down attempt going just shy of a first down thanks to a nice tackle by Andre Smith Jr. The Bengals turned it over on downs.
On the next play, Igwebuike picked up a handful of yards before Heinicke threw a nice ball to Mathew Sexton for a big pickup. A short run and then a short pass to Washington got us to third and short. Washington couldn’t get the blocking on the next play and the Falcons were stuck at 4th and 2, but decided to go for it. A fourth down pass to Penny Hart with two defenders converging on him left Hart shaken up. Turnover on downs.
A deep shot went incomplete for the Bengals, followed by a run that went nowhere and an incomplete third down shot. Punt.
Logan Woodside time! It ended swiftly, with a three and out. Punt.
Pressure flushed Browning out of the pocket and he threw it right to a waiting DeMarcco Hellams, who read the play perfectly and picked off the pass. That’s his second interception in two weeks.
The offense once again did nothing, and Woodside found himself in the dirt on third down thanks to shaky pass protection and hesitation on his part. Punt.
A nice first down tackle by Hellams was followed by a quick first down pass, followed by another first down pass as time wound down. Unfortunately, a long scramble by Browning gave the Bengals another first down. Then Browning scrambled again for another first down, bringing the Bengals inside the 25. A strike down the sideline led to a completion against Natrone Brooks, putting the Bengals just inside the 5 yard line. LaCale London got a nice run stop on the next play, fighting through trash to make it to the ball carrier, but the next carry went for a touchdown, the first one allowed in preseason. 13-10 Bengals lead with 50 seconds left.
Woodside got cooking with time running down, finding Malone and John FitzPatrick for significant gains over the middle before the team stopped the clock. A false start on Barry Wesley pushed Atlanta back, and then a Carlos Washington grab and Woodside spike gave Atlanta solid field position with 11 seconds left. Woodside took a crack at the end zone but couldn’t connect with Malone, who nearly had it but couldn’t quite bring it in. That brought on Koo, who lined up for a 45 yard attempt and drilled it. 13-13.
The Bengals put together a solid return, and that was that. Tie game.