After a hot 5-0 start the wheels seem to have fallen off the bus for the Atlanta Falcons, perhaps it’s a cooling off period as turbulence is just a patch of bad air on the way to your destination, in this case becoming a good football team. They have the ingredients big arm quarterback, superstar wide receiver, a solid running back and a new up and coming head coach in Dan Quinn, all cylinders were working fine then the skid. In the last 5 games, they have lost 4. Where did this Jekyll and Hyde personality come from? After losing the last 2 in a row the Falcon faithful were hoping that the fix would come during the bye week which appeared to be at the perfect time.
The game started ideally for the Falcons, an interception by P. Worrilow on the second play putting the offense in scoring position at the Colts 34 yard line but they could only muster 5 yards against a stiff Colts defense. The drive ended with a doink off the right upright by M Bryant’s 46-yard field goal attempt. The Colts dodged that bullet. On their succeeding drive Frank Gore coughed up the rock (fumbled) P. Worrilow recovered at the 45 giving his team two turnovers within the first 5 minutes of the game. They had a second wind, unfortunately, this drive ended with an interception by the Colts D. Lowery when Matt Ryan tried to hit R. White deep down the middle of the end zone, after further review the call on the field stood resulting in a touchback, and the Colts ball on the 20-yard line.
It’s always a bad sign of things to come when you get two turnovers early in the game and don’t capitalize on either one. Give the Colts defense credit they rose to the occasion both times and built the foundation for their 24-21 victory.
With their challenges, the Falcons struck first and second blood establishing a 14 – 0 lead in the second quarter on a Matt Ryan 1 yard toss to P. DiMarco. Grandpa, the name some of his teammates jokingly call him, Matt Hasselbeck the 40 year old backup quarterback, playing in the absence of Andrew Luck who didn’t play due to a lacerated kidney woke up throwing a short pass up the middle to A Bradshaw for a 7 yard touchdown making the score 14-7 on a 13 play 80 yard drive with two minutes remaining in the half.
The Falcons came out of half time with the right mentality putting together a 10 play, 80-yard scoring drive that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown pass to L. Hankerson from Matt Ryan. Despite not capitalizing on the early turnovers they were up by 14 and looking good with the score being 21-7.
The Colts scored on their second possession of the half when they were gifted 39 yards of penalties a roughing the passer by P. Soliai for 15 yards, defensive holding by J. Collins for 4 yards, then the biggie pass interference by A King for 20 more yards leaving them first and goal on the two yard line.
The savvy veteran Matt Hasselbeck hit A Bradshaw for a 2-yard touchdown to cap off the 10 play, 90-yard drive with ten seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter started with good fortunes for the Falcons as R. Allen intercepted a Matt Hasselbeck pass intended for D. Moncrief at the Atlanta 2 yard line preventing a scoring opportunity. Again the Colts defense stiffened allowing them to pick up on 4 yards on a three and out series.
The impact play of the game was a terrific punt of 50 yards by the Colts P. McAfee that was downed at the one-yard line D. Moncrief as he tiptoed like a ballerina at the goal line preventing the ball from going into the end zone for a touchback.
Atlanta was first and ten from their own one then it happened, the play of the game, Matt Ryan dropped back for a short pass up the middle D. Jackson attracted the ball like a nail to a magnet for a pick 6 interception for a game tying touchdown. I thought how you make that call at your own one; why not get some operating room by calling quarterback sneak or a safe run to hammer out a few yards.
Matt Ryan perhaps answered the question best “That’s a tough play in the 4th quarter. When I came back out, obviously I did not see D’Qwell Jackson popping back out off the line of scrimmage, but it is just a play I cannot make. In critical situations, you cannot turn the ball over, and I have to be better than that.”
Julio Jones made the quote of the day when asked what was learned from today’s loss.
“I think we just have to keep pushing because you learn from losses. We were 5-0, we were on our high horses, and everyone was praising us and whatever, but now, you see everyone’s true colors. People will
talk poorly about you, but we have to stay tight here. We have to continue to keep working because we are still in it. We need to get on a roll.” Today he rolled by catching 9 passes for 160 yards but needed some help from his partners.
Indeed these have to become some defining weeks for the Falcons after starting so hot now turning so cold, it’s time to go inside and find that thing, that magic that had it going so well in the beginning. Good teams figure out how to get over the hump even if that hump is themselves.
The quarterbacks matched each other with 3 interceptions but the difference was the Colts defense.
Matt Ryan went 25-46 for 280 yards and 3 touchdowns while Matt Hasselbeck finished 23-32 for 213 yards and 2 touchdowns.
On the final drive of the game, it was about veteran leadership as Frank Gore was targeted 5 times by air and ground picking up a key 31 yards on a short pass from Matt Hasselbeck to get them down to the fifty. Hasselbeck was stellar with the game on the line connecting on 4 passes for 50 yards getting his team in scoring position with: 57 on the clock.
Then they trotted out their most seasoned veteran 42-year-old Mr. Adam Vinatieri who nailed the 43-yard game winning field goal maybe I should have simply called him Mr. Clutch.