Bengals vs. Falcons: 10 Things We Learned from Falcons' 24-19 Loss

Drew Tull@@drewtullContributor IIAugust 17, 2012

Bengals vs. Falcons: 10 Things We Learned from Falcons' 24-19 Loss

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    The Falcons hosted the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday at the Georgia Dome and dropped their second straight game, 24-19.

    Similar to last weeks result against the Ravens the Falcons led while the first team offense was in the game.  

    The Falcons were up 13-10 shortly after Matt Ryan and company left the game a few minutes before halftime but the backups were again outplayed by their opponent.

    This marks the seventh straight preseason loss for the Atlanta Falcons but is hardly a reason to be concerned.

    Here are 10 things to take away from Thursday's game.

1. Matt Ryan Excelled Against a Strong Pass Rush

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    Matt Ryan was methodical last night running offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's offense.

    He went 9-for-9 for 66 yards in the first quarter against an unrelenting pass-rush that his offensive line had trouble containing.

    He got going in the second quarter, connecting on 9-12 for 106 yards including a two-yard touchdown pass to FB Lousaka Polite.

    Ryan ended the night going 18-of-21 for 174 yards and a one touchdown.

    In two preseason games, he is 27-34 for 329 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

    Matt Ryan locked in on Roddy White early, who ended up catching four passes for 54 yards. Julio Jones caught three passes for 41 yards but beat his coverage on what surely would have been a touchdown but was tripped, and Cincinnati was called for pass interference.

    Tony Gonzalez was targeted four times and had three receptions for 44 yards but let an easy pass right through his hands at the goal line.

2. Starting Offensive Line Struggled

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    The starting offensive line struggled out of the gate against a strong Bengals pass rush.

    In the first two series, Matt Ryan was forced to move outside the pocket twice. He wasn't comfortable in the pocket, nor did he have a lot of time.

    The line did settle down some in the second quarter, allowing Ryan to get time to look downfield.

    In the running game, the line did a terrible job opening holes for running back Michael Turner.

    All in all, this was not the stellar offensive-line play the Falcons got in preseason Week 1.

    Rookie Peter Konz looked very good and could have earned a start over Garrett Reynolds in the next preseason game at right guard. 

3. New Coordinators Showed off New Looks

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    DC Mike Nolan showed a lot of different coverages tonight with the first-team unit.  They opened the game in the nickel, with injured MLB Akeem Dent not playing.

    Nolan's pass-rush did very well in disrupting Bengals QB Andy Dalton in the first half.  

    This defense has the potential to take major steps forward, especially when a healthy Dent can return.

    OC Dirk Koetter's offense rushed seven times and threw 29 times in the first half. 

    This is a far cry from the run-first offense under old OC Mike Mularkey.  

    The offense on Thursday even featured multiple screen passes out of the backfield and used multi-receiver sets quite often.

    While I don't believe this pass-happy game plan will be the exact regular season offense, the days of a run-first offensive approach seem to be over.

4. The Defensive Line Has Great Depth

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    The Falcons defensive line was very stout against the run in the first half.  They held the Bengals to just 11 rushing yards in the first half.

    Both DT's Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry stood out tonight with their run and pass defense.

    The DE's John Abraham and Ray Edwards made multiple plays at Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, forcing him to throw early and run to evade being sacked.

    Edwards entered the season needing to show more ability to get after the quarterback and did a good job in pursuit, although he did completely miss a sack on Dalton in the first series.

    Other players off the bench that stood out were Lawrence Sidbury and Travian Robertson.

5. Michael Turner Looked Slow

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    A lot of the struggles on Michael Turner's running plays can be attributed to sub-par blocking by the line.  

    However, the line can't take the full blame, as there were occasions where Turner showed no burst whatsoever.  

    Oddly enough, Turner actually did better receiving on Thursday night than he did running the ball.  

    Turner caught three balls for 14 yards against the Bengals, highlighted by a very nice eight-yard screen pass, yet rushed only three times for minus-3 yards.

    While it seems that Turner will continue to be the featured back, it is obvious that this offense does not suit his skill set.  

    Both Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling fit this new pass-first offense, but the Falcons seem content  trying to put the square peg in the round hole.

6. The Secondary Was Good but Can Be Better

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    The Falcons secondary, overall, had a very strong night and didn't make many mistakes.  

    DC Mike Nolan is trying to give a lot of different looks with his defense—he even started the game in a nickel package.

    He moved the safeties all over the field, which led to both safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud forcing fumbles.

    CB's Asante Samuel and Brent Grimes both played Bengals star wideout A.J. Green very well throughout the game.  That was until Asante Samuel got frozen on a double-move by Green en route to a 50-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton.

    Dunta Robinson did a great job in the slot and had some big hits in the first half, which is a pleasant surprise.  

    The defensive backfield has tremendous potential, and if Nolan can get an improved pass-rush, this unit can be one of the best in the NFL

7. 5th Receiver Battle Doesn't Get Any Clearer

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    The battle for the fifth receiver spot has seemingly come down to Kevin Cone and Drew Davis.

    Neither player did anything to stand out, and both dropped passes in the third quarter with backup QB Chris Redman behind center.

    Cone ended up with one pass for nine yards on three targets, Davis did not catch his only target.

    It was a rather disappointing performance that could be tied to the underwhelming play of Redman.

8. 3rd-String Quarterback Battle Should Have a New Leader

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    Dominique Davis may have become a folk hero in Atlanta with his play last night.  

    Davis went 11-for-18 for 121 yards and threw a touchdown pass to get the Falcons in the hunt to win the game in the fourth quarter.

    He did misfire on a few passes and had receivers drop two passes on the final drive, but his performance overall may have spelled the end for John Parker Wilson's third-string duties.

    Wilson went 2-3 for five yards and did little again to show that he has progressed.  This is Wilson's third year with the Falcons, and he had been expected to unseat the veteran Chris Redman by now.

    At the very least, Davis should have earned more snaps at practice next week in preparation for next Friday's matchup against the Miami Dolphins

9. New Name Emerges at Tight End

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    Undrafted free agent TE LaMark Brown from Minnesota State-Mankato, stepped up in the fourth quarter with a superb receiving effort and showed some pretty good blocking skills as well.

    That performance may have put the former college receiver into the drivers seat for a practice squad spot.

    He caught four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and should get an extended look in practice and next Friday's game.

10. The Falcons' Preseason Losing Streak Is Now 7 Straight

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    While there was not too much cause for alarm, the Falcons have established an exhibition-season pattern under Coach Mike Smith, according to AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter.

    Here are some quick facts that they pulled out on the losing streak.

    With the loss to the Bengals, the Falcons have lost seven consecutive exhibition games, dating to 2010.

    Their last victory was a 16-6 win over Miami on Aug. 27, 2010.

    The Falcons have never had a winning exhibition season under Smith. They are 6-12 overall.

    In 2008, they were 2-2 before going 11-5 in the regular season and earning a wild-card playoff berth.

    In 2009, they were 2-2 before going 9-7 in the regular season.

    In 2010, they were 2-2 before going 13-3, winning the NFC South and earning a playoff berth.

    Last season, they were 0-4 before going 10-6 and earning a wild-card playoff berth

    With the team heading to Miami next Friday for a matchup with the Dolphins, Smith will look to end the streak but remains fixed on what he feels the preseason is really about, getting better.

    “Every time that we go out, we want to win football games,” Smith said. “There is no doubt about that. But our number one goal in the [exhibition] season is to get to the first game [of the regular season] as healthy as possible. We’re going to out there and play our tails off to try to win the ball game, but first and foremost we are looking at trying to install our scheme and keep players healthy.”