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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