During a night in which many players were getting a chance to really prove themselves in their coach's eyes, some Falcons really played well and made their case tonight. Others either struggled or simply didn't show up.
The starting units for both teams only played a few series to open the game. The Falcons were able to take advantage early going up 3-0 for the only score of the first quarter. Matt Ryan looked solid in his first preseason game, going 6-9 for 89 yards. Ryan had a couple of vintage passes that looked straight out of last season, including a brilliant 42 yard screen pass to WR Harry Douglas that would set up Matt Bryan's eventual field goal.
Falcons new starting RB Steven Jackson saw some early action as well, but didn't fair as well. He had five carries for only eight yards on the night before departing early.
New Falcons DE Osi Umenyiora had a fantastic first night in red and black. Umenyiora terrorized quarterback Andy Dalton. Even though he didn't get a sack, he was in Dalton's grill during the first quarter. He easily beat his man on two plays early on and forced two hurried incomplete passes by Dalton. Umenyiora finished with one tackle as well for no gain.
The Falcons limited Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton to a 3-7 night for only 37 yards, forcing three 3 and outs. Some of this could be due to the fact he was missing his favorite weapon, receiver AJ Green, due to injury. Nevertheless, it was good to see the Falcons get some pressure on Dalton and limit his effectiveness.
But once the backups came in, Cincinnati took off. Back up QB Josh Johnson terrorized the Falcons with his arm and his legs, going 9-16 for 100 yards and one touchdown. Johnson led the Bengals in rushing with 64 yards.
Johnson orchestrated three scoring drives in the second quarter, including a 21 yard strike to receiver Brandon Tate.
The Bengals would score 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a 17-3 lead at the half.
Back up Falcons QB Dominique Davis had a very rough first half, going 2-8 for 11 yards and an interception, and was stymied by the Bengals defense. Many passes were hurried and ill advised.
Davis was able to lead one scoring drive for the Falcons. He put together a 10 play, 83 yard drive for a touchdown in the third quarter, capped off by an 8 yard screen pass to RB Jason Snelling to pull the Falcons within seven points. The score at this point was only 17-10 Bengals. Davis would finish 8-19 for 78 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
But Cincinnati would put the Falcons away as receiver Dane Sanzenbacher owned the second half with a 71 yard punt return for a touchdown. Sanzenbacher would also catch a touchdown for the Bengals next and final score, a 36 yard strike from QB John Skelton.
The Falcons couldn't score the rest of the game, and couldn't really find a rhythm after Davis' lone scoring drive that came in the third quarter.
The Falcons looked completely outmatched by the Bengals offense and defense once the backup players entered. The only real silver lining was LB Paul Worrilow for the Falcons. He really made a case to be on the 53 man roster with his performance tonight. Worrilow was all over the field making tackles, leading the team with 11 total tackles and one tackle for loss.
Rookie Robert Alford also had a nice night with two passes defended and three tackles.
Jonathan Massaquoi had the lone sack for the Falcons that he collected against Johnson.
Drew Davis made his case for the 4th WR spot, grabbing two passes for 57 yards, showing his ability to be a deep threat.
RT Lamar Holmes, who was starting in place of the injured Mike Johnson, struggled early with run protection. On one play he ran into Steven Jackson resulting in a loss. However he appeared to settle in later on, especially during pass protection. Holmes worked a lot with the first and second team O-line.
Still, the Falcons struggled to run the ball early with their projected starting O-line. There were shades of last year showing with no success in short yardage situations.
The Falcons backups on defense have a lot of work to do, and outside of Worrilow and Alford, there was very little to write home about. Cincinnati simply had their way with the Falcons backup defense. To help solidify the depth of this team, the backups are going to need to make adjustments over the next three weeks.
Julio Jones and Sean Weatherspoon were held out of the game due to injury. Cincinnati's AJ Green was held out due to injury as well. Brian Banks entered late in the 4th quarter and registered two tackles. Matt Bryant was 1-1 kicking, nailing a 37 yard field goal.
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