Coming off a disappointing showing in Philadelphia, the Atlanta Falcons stressed all week about the importance of starting fast and playing mistake free football against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals would come into the Georgia Dome well rested after their bye and a bitter loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This Bengal team figured to be hungry and focused for a season that has not gone as planned for the talented yet at times sloppy team.
Much of the pregame chatter revolved around the Cincinnati Bengals star receiver Chad Ochocinco, whose bravado and colorful manner had Bengal fans confident in a change of fortunes. Ochocinco would send a care package to members of the Atlanta Falcons secondary in an effort to get under their skin before the game.
Roddy White took exception, calling the move "disrespectful" setting the stage for a potentially combustible game environment. Instead of contributing to the pregame chirping, White instead let his game do the talking as he exploded for 157 yards and a TD in the first half alone.
White looked every bit of the superstar, making several spectacular one-handed catches and giving the talented Bengal secondary fits all game. The Bengals had no answer despite a second half rally to make the game respectable they could not even attempt to slow down White who finished with 11 catches for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
The Falcons focus of starting fast and finishing drives would culminate in the opening drive, which highlighted a beautiful 46-yard gain by Roddy White on 3rd-and-3 on the Falcon 24. The drive would be capped off by a touchdown throw by Matt Ryan to Brian Finneran for the first score of the game.
The Bengals would be benefactors of a fortuitous play review in which Cedric Benson would look to fumble the ball deep in Falcon territory only to have the play called an incomplete pass. Mike Nugent would kick the ball through to cut the Falcon lead to 7-3 late in the first quarter.
Falcon's Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey had come under some criticism coming off the loss in Philadelphia, but would make a brilliant call on a third and one on the Bengal 43. Matt Ryan would run the play action beautifully as he arched a perfect pass between two Bengals to Roddy White to push the Falcon advantage to 17-3.
The Falcons offensive line responded to the challenge this week, rising up and manhandling the Bengal defensive front for most of the game. Turner had some huge holes to run through and found yards and openings with some impressive results. The Burner would rumble for 36 yards the following Falcon drive before finishing the drive off with a two yard touchdown run to push the score to 24-3.
Michael Turner would finish the game with 121 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns, and continued to add an extra dimension hauling in two passes for 23 yards.
Halftime would have the teams at that score as Nugent would miss a late field goal, and the Bengals looked flat, out of gas and ready to go home. Matt Ryan would finish the half with a sparkling 150.2 quarterback rating, and it looked like a home blowout for the Dirty Birds.
But as we've already learned this young NFL season, parity rules and no game is over until the final whistle blows.
Cincinnati would come roaring back in the third quarter, scoring 22 points in the span of 8 minutes powered by a couple of Falcon turnovers. The first coming by way of a Matt Ryan interception with a beautiful play made by Leon Hall on a sideline throw to Mike Jenkins after the Bengals had added an Owens TD and field goal to make the game 24-13.
Palmer would make the Falcons pay shortly thereafter, throwing a quick pass to Jordan Shipley who ran for a 64-yard touchdown making the score 24-19 after a failed two point conversion.
On the first play of the following Falcon drive, Roddy White would have his lone blemish on an otherwise perfect game by fumbling the ball on the Cincinnati 41. Adam Jones would rumble 59 yards for a momentum crushing touchdown with 1:06 remaining in the third period for a Bengal lead 25-24.
The mantra for most of the Falcon season has been "Rise Up" coined with actor Samuel L Jackson, but the real story behind this 2010 Falcon team has been their resiliciency and will to win. The Falcons would come right back and respond accordingly with an eight play drive culminating in another touchdown toss to Roddy White.
Roddy would make a spectacular jumping catch for the two point conversion, returning the Falcon lead to 32-25.
The Bengals had employed a variety of comeback routes and curl routes the entire game, especially on Christopher Owens who took the tough assignment of covering TO as Dunta Robinson was ruled out this week. They would look to push the ball downfield in the second half and had moderate success, barely missing on a deep throw to TO after Christopher Owens had bit on the double move.
TO was ruled out as his left foot would step on the out of bounds line, Cedric Benson would fumble on the Atlanta 39-yard line the following play killing the momentum.
Brian Williams would scoop up the ball only to stumble and be ruled down on the Cincinnati 48-yard line.
Michael Turner and Matt Ryan would then lead another methodical, efficient drive resulting in another Turner touchdown on first and three on the three-yard line.
The Bengals got Chad Ochocinco into the act, adding a late touchdown to bring the game within striking distance, only to have the onsides kick recovered by Finneran.
The Falcons played as complete a game as they have all season, effectively dispatching a very talented yet underachieving Bengal team at home. The game was not as close as the final score would indicate, as Turner and White had their way with the Bengal defense for much of the game.
Star of the Game: Roddy White
And you were expecting...?
The Bengals had no answer for Roddy White, who not only put on a dazzling receiving display Sunday but showed the NFL that much of the pregame hype about the dynamic Bengal receiving duo might be a bit overrated. When goaded by Chad Ochocinco, White simply shrugged and proceeded to put a beatdown on the Bengals secondary.
Falcon fans can smile, knowing that Tony Gonzalez had only two catches this game and Michael Jenkins had a quiet game after posting 99 yards in his season debut last week. This team is loaded offensively and the different playmakers from a week to week basis only shows the depth this team can boast.
Honorary Mention: Offensive line
After being humiliated last week against Philadelphia, the Falcon offensive line returned home and put in a great effort, giving Matt Ryan time and Michael Turner holes. Matt Ryan also showed some mobility this week, extending plays and running for positive yardage. Sam Baker had a bad miscue late in the game, resulting in Ryan getting knocked out for one play.
Goat of the Game
Has to be Chad Ochocinco, for a week of talking trash and building up hype he was a very quiet 108 yards on ten catches for a TD. The receiver has done little since catching 12 balls for 159 yards and a touchdown in Cincinnati's opener. It was quite clear to anyone watching that newcomer Terrell Owens clearly has more chemistry and connection with Palmer.
To compound his issues, Palmer would be demonstrably upset with the receiver late in the second as he appeared to give up on his route and then let a pass whizz through his hands on the following play.
Batman and Robin? Ochocinco isn't even Alfred the butler.