Preseason Overreaction, Week 2: Ryan, offense ease ‘fears’

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan celebrates after running back Devonta Freeman scores the game's first touchdown in the first quarter of Thursday's exhibition game against Cleveland. (AP photo)

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan celebrates after running back Devonta Freeman scores the game’s first touchdown in the first quarter of Thursday’s exhibition game against Cleveland. (AP photo)

Welcome back to Preseason Overreaction Week. In Meaningless NFL Full Retail Schlock No. 1, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went 0-for-4 during two three-and-outs and was possibly in danger of not making the 53-man roster, at least in the dark and disturbed corners of fandom and, of course, Twitter and sports-talk radio.

But Ryan looked significantly better Thursday night at Cleveland. That’s good because I’m guessing cutting him would’ve created a serious salary cap problem. The Falcons’ No. 1 offense drove to a touchdown on its first possession, with Devonta Freeman scoring from 19 yards out, Ryan going 2-for-3 with a 20-yarder to Julio Jones and the team converting all three third-down situations.

The starting unit looked in control and in sync.

Overall, Ryan played three possessions and was 6-for-11 for 78 yards. He had a third-down drop by Nick Williams that would’ve set up the Falcons outside the Cleveland 20, and kicker Nick Rose then missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt. So the No. 1 offense should’ve had two scoring possessions in three drives.

Alas, there’s no panic in the streets.

And now for something really meaningless: The Falcons won 24-13 and are 2-0 in the preseason.

Here are some other observations from Thursday’s game:

CHEAPSHOT OF THE WEEK: Cleveland linebacker Tank Carder took out Falcons punter Matt Bosher with a blindside block during punt coverage, forcing Bosher out of the game. Whether the block was deserving of a penalty can be debated. But at the very least, it seemed like an overzealous hit by Carder in an exhibition game. The Falcons left kicker Matt Bryant at home with muscle tightness, so they played most of the game with neither of their two specialists.

BONEHEAD PLAY OF THE WEEK: Sean Weatherspoon, what are you doing? Weatherspoon is trying to win a roster spot but what he did in the second quarter didn’t help. A shotgun snap flew over the head of Cleveland quarterback Robert Griffin III, and Griffin finally recovered the ball back at the Browns’ 22-yard line for what would’ve been a 24-yard loss. But Weatherspoon inexplicably grabbed Griffin’s face mask and was hit with a personal foul, giving the Cleveland another first down (even with a net of minus nine yards). Lost speed figured to be the biggest thing going against Weatherspoon’s roster chances. But there’s no excuse for a lost head.

WHO/WHAT LOOKED GOOD: The offensive line, particularly center Alex Mack, who was making his return to Cleveland after signing with the Falcons as a free agent. He seems to have calmed the unit and eliminated those chaotic moments. No matter who was in the game, the line run-blocked and protected well. The Falcons rushed for more than 200 yards. Freeman rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown on only four carries. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn also looked good with a sack on RGIII and a stuff of former Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell on consecutive plays.

WHO/WHAT DIDN’T LOOK GOOD: Pass coverage. Griffin was 6-for-8 for 96 yards and two touchdowns and he generally looked reborn (for as much as one can look reborn on the Browns in a game that doesn’t matter. Cornerback Desmond Trufant got burned by wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (yes, the former quarterback) for a 50-yard touchdown. Rookie safety Keanu Neal, who was playing in his first game, had solid coverage on Cleveland tight end Gary Barnidge until just outside the goal line, when he suddenly slowed down to turn around and look up for the ball. Mistake. He got caught short. Griffin threw a perfect toss over his head to Barnidge for the touchdown. Rookie mistake.


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22 comments
TOJacket
TOJacket

Hmmm....winning is good.....losing is bad....simple enough.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I don't know if you keep a veteran like Weatherspoon who's injury prone and too celebratory every time he makes a play. But what he did to RG111 was unacceptable. Des Trufant is solid with his technique, but lacks the ability to intercept the ball. Right now he's overrated, I like to see more this year. Clayborn was good and Brooks Reed might finally earn that contract. But what I want to see is a pass rush against Miami this week. I think they should throw the rookies back in this week and see if they can hold up against game planning.

DawgNole
DawgNole

"And now for something really meaningless: The Falcons won 24-13 and are 2-0 in the preseason."

__________________

I'm just pleased to see the Falcons winning for a change. Nothing worse than hearing all those delusional defenders of perpetual mediocrity rationalizing yet another ATL loss. 

As Herm Edwards said, these games may not count, but they do matter.

What ATL as a sports city has always sorely lacked is a winning attitude, a winning culture.

As ol' Herm also said, "You play to WIN the game!" Amen to that.

Natrone
Natrone

The falcons play in the weakest division in football--only 1 top team---they should easily make the playoffs this year---hopefully they can pull an upset in the wildcard game

candlin14
candlin14

@Natrone


The weakest division in football? Get the hell out of here. The Texans, Colts, Titans, Jax is brutal. The NFC East (which we swept) last year is not that good.


As for easily making the playoffs, maybe you do not watch football that much but have you seen there schedule? 


Come back and talk to the big boys when you do some homework. Thank you.

JSSN
JSSN

What you learned is that the Browns can't stop run. Two preseason games, 151 yards given up to the Packers and 224 to the Falcons on the ground, Ray Horton (Cleveland's DC) has his work cut out for him.

Another week, another game with near double digit penalties and flirting with the century mark in penalty yards for the Falcons. Don't say it is "preseason," this is the first and second team offense and defense across the board. Only thing that can be poo-pooed is the special team's errors in the penalty game

Base-v-Base is all you ever learn about from preseason. Or are you weak or strong, capable or incapable, fast or slow, or mentally smart, dumb, or plain foolish. In that case, you got plenty of fodder on the table.

This week you're going to find out if they've found out anything from the rehearsal game last season. Will they be able to block a supposedly strong and athletic defensive line? Will Miami actually take away the shallow cross, and the silly screen game? 

People lauded the defensive youth last week, linebackers and secondary, well they got a lesson in the weekly nature of the NFL. As for Weatherspoon, good grief, you can have him! 

candlin14
candlin14

@JSSN


I am one of few who give Matt Ryan the benefit of the doubt. The main reason I like Ryan is because he stays healthy. He has only missed 2 games in his career. What I hate about Ryan is his inability to throw the ball down field. This is pre season. I don't think he threw one pass over 15 yards (maybe the one to Julio). This is obviously a time to take some chances. The small check downs are starting to really get me.


As for the defense, I have said it since the draft. If we plan on starting 3 rookies on defense, this will be a horrible year. Rookies are about to get exposed by top tier NFL QBs in Rodgers, Brees, Cam, Palmer, Rivers, and more. Our secondary is awful. Plain and simple. 


Pretty soon, teams are going to realize that Trufant is not as good as people claim he is, and when they figure that out, we are in real trouble. 

Falcons63
Falcons63

@JSSN OK..  I'll bite..  what is a "silly screen game"?  Like them or not every team from the NFL down to HS has those same screen plays in their playbook.  They are a staple of the spread offense. 

JSSN
JSSN

@TOJacket

Everyone except you know he means NFL titles!

UGA76
UGA76

Weatherspoon, that was a dirty and embarrassing play.  You better clean up your act or you can go home.  I hope the league fines you so maybe you will get the message. 

Neal looked lost in coverage just like he did at Florida.  I'm not buying the rookie mistake.

The first team (as with Ryan in the game) offense looked pretty good to me.  

The defense still worries me. 

candlin14
candlin14

@UGA76


Defense has been Atlantas achilles heal for 50 years. They were much improved last season but the secondary is terrible. Add the lack of pass rush and the secondary gets even worse because they can't cover all day. 


If we start 3 rookies on defense, this season will get ugly real quick. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@candlin14

With four of the first six games on the road, it's likely to get ugly real quick regardless.

Falcons63
Falcons63

I guess this whole preseason win thing is matter of perspective and timing.  I remember a couple years ago when the Falcons started 0-2 in preseason and Schultz's was leading the crowd with pitchforks and torches, ready to run Mike Smith out of town on a rail.  This year.. a couple wins and.... meh...  On a brighter note I guess Matt Ryan's job is safe for another week.

khd713
khd713

@Falcons63 Exactly. With Schultz, it only matters what he writes today. Who cares what he wrote yesterday. In a few years when the Braves are in the World Series he'll be praising Coppolella and Schuerholz for their genius plan to rebuild the team. He doesn't know half of what he thinks he does, but that's never slowed him down.