Another preseason game and another late loss for the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons held a 13-3 lead at the half over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday but gave reserves gave up 14 unanswered points and the offensive reserves floundered.
There is a big divide between the Matts under center (Ryan and Schaub) and the two other QBs fighting for a roster spot. And by the way Matt Simms and Alex Torgersen may make the powers be wonder if they need a third string quarterback or assign one or both to the practice squad.
Ryan and Schaub were a combined 5-of-7 with a combined quarterback rating average of 102.8. While Simms and Torgersen were a combined 17-of-37 with a combined QB rating of 29.6 with Torgersen’s QB rating being 0.5.
Steelers QBs didn’t fare much better as Joshua Dobbs and Bart Houston were a combined 15-of-28 with a combined average QB rating of 48.9. They say comedyisn’t pretty. Neither is exhibition football.
The Steelers defense sacked Simms four times and intercepted him and once as well as Torgersen once.
Despite the ugly offensive play the Falcons managed to gain 386 yards of offense against the Steel Curtain while the Falcons defense gave up only 189 total yards. The Falcon defense did not give up an offensive touchdown until the six minute mark in the fourth quarter.
The punters got the biggest work out as they combined for 15 total punts. Special teams for the Steelers helped turn the tide in the third quarter as Trey Williams returned a Matt Bosher punt 64 yards to bring the Steelers within three with 4:06 to go in the third quarter. Pittsburgh’s third round pick running back James Conner was impressive as he gained 98 yards on 20 carries for a 4.9 yard per carry average. Both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Campbell set out the game as the Steelers came away with the victory on a Houston six-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hunter with 6:35 to play.
“I thought, right off the bat, both sides really had intent mindsets – really ready to play,” coach Dan Quinn as the Falcons scored with relative ease on their first two drives to take a 10-0 lead before faltering late.
Ryan was sharp again as the reigning NFL MVP engineered a 10-play scoring drive that was capped it off by a five-yard touchdown run by Terron Ward. Once again the first team moved the ball with ease putting to ease any doubt that the loss of Kyle Shanahan as OC was going to affect the team.
Ward seems to be winning the battle for third running back for the Falcons as he averaged over four yards a carry Sunday compared to Brian Hill’s two-yards per carry. “I think I had some good plays, and I had some bad plays,” said Ward.
Special teams does seem to be a concern for the Falcons as Bosher had a punt blocked at the end of the first half and then had another returned for a score in the third.
The Falcons will finally introduce the world to the Mercedes Dome Saturday as they host their first preseason game in their new home. The Falcons will host the Arizona Cardinals Saturday that should be a full dress rehearsal for both teams with starters playing the majority of the first half.
But alas, it’s still only preseason. Wake me up when September comes.
– Dave Weinthal
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