The Atlanta Falcons dropped a close one in their first action of the preseason, losing to the Denver Broncos 14-10 in the NFL's annual Hall of Fame Game.
A fourth-down touchdown pass gave the Broncos a three-point lead with 1:26 remaining, and the Falcons couldn't mount a last-minute comeback. With the loss, Atlanta remains win-less in the preseason since the final exhibition game of the 2016 season.
Despite the loss, the Falcons looked sharp at times during their first action of 2019. Atlanta finished with 261 yards on offense, and its defense held Denver to 188 yards. Both teams struggled on third downs with the Falcons going 3-of-16 and the Broncos going 3-of-15.
Here are some observations from Atlanta's first preseason game:
- Third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert may have been the most impressive Falcons player on Thursday night. The ball shot out of his hand with really nice zip, and he was especially accurate while rolling out of the pocket. If not for several drops, Benkert's night would have been even better, yet he finished 19 of 34 for 185 yards with one touchdown. Benkert left the game early due to a toe injury but not after making a good opening case for the No. 2 job.
- Rookie defensive lineman John Cominsky was a standout player for the Falcons' defense and special teams. Two plays after stopping the Broncos' running back for a loss, Cominsky dropped quarterback Drew Lock for a 7-yard sack. Midway through the first quarter, Cominsky recovered a muffed punt, giving the Falcons' offense the ball back. Cominsky has a lot of upside along the defensive line, and Thursday night's performance was encouraging.
- Alongside Benkert, running back Brian Hill was also very impressive for Atlanta's offense. He scored the Falcons' lone offensive touchdown, a 1-yard touchdown catch from Benkert, and he finished a run in the third quarter with a memorable pop against a Broncos defender. Unfortunately, Hill was called for lowering his helmet on that play, which negated the run. Still, Hill ended his day carrying the ball 11 times for 57 yards and the touchdown catch. He continues to make a great impression thus far.
- Speaking of dropped punts, both Marcus Green and Olamide Zaccheaus lost the ball while back returning. Fortunately, both players managed to jump on top of the ball, but they will certainly be hearing about those mistakes.
- Thursday's game was not the cleanest one for Atlanta. The Falcons were penalized 11 times for 93 yards.
- In his Falcons debut, first-round pick Chris Lindstrom certainly looked the part. He had a few notable blocks at the line of scrimmage and looked balanced and agile while performing his blocks. There hasn't been much to say about Lindstrom that isn't positive to this point.
- Second-year receiver Christian Blake quietly had a good first preseason game. He was one of the most dependable pass-catchers for the Falcons, reeling in five of his six targets for 46 yards. Those numbers won't wow anybody, but Blake continues to build momentum ahead of the 2019 season.
- Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio missed his first field goal attempt of the season for the Falcons, a 54-yarder early in the second quarter. He rebounded in the third quarter, however, hitting a 27-yard field goal that gave Atlanta a 10-7 lead.
- Just ahead of halftime, Kendall Sheffield punched the ball loose from a Broncos receiver and linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips came up with the recovery.
- After Benkert left the game with an injury, second-team quarterback Matt Schaub re-entered the game. He was intercepted midway through the fourth quarter on a pass that was well behind receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. Schaub finished the game 4 of 14 for 10 yards with an interception.