First Quarter:The Falcons began shaky on Friday night, turning two defensive takeaways into only one field goal. Atlanta's running game was strong, featuring runs of nine yards by Michael Turner and 11 from Jason Snelling. Atlanta's defense forced the game's first turnover when Jacksonville's quarterback, David Garrard, took a deep shot down the field. Cornerback Brent Grimes played the over-thrown pass perfectly for the catch in the end zone. After the catch he returned it 62 yards to set up the drive that resulted in Matt Bryant's field goal to give the Falcons the 3-0 lead. On the Jaguars' next possession, wide receiver Cecil Shorts fumbled a reception with the Falcons pursuing him. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon recovered the fumble, giving the Falcons defense five takeaways in five quarters of preseason play.
Second Quarter:A Jacksonville field goal early in the quarter tied the game at three. Each team traded unsuccessful possessions before the Falcons took over late in the quarter on their own 5-yard line. The drive looked stalled before it truly began, but wide receiver Roddy White converted a third down with a 13-yard reception. Three plays later the most exciting play of the preseason happened. Wide receiver Harry Douglas turned a short pass on a slant over the middle of the field into a 76-yard touchdown run to give the Falcons a 10-3 lead. The defense continued to play well, swarming around the field. Defensive Kroy Biermann was getting consistent pressure on Jacksonville's quarterbacks and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux added a sack to stop a Jaguars drive on third down. The Atlanta first-team offense played the entire first half, led by quarterback Matt Ryan and entered the locker room holding the 10-3 lead. Ryan had another efficient night, going 7-for-15 for 116 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Third Quarter:Chris Redman took over for Ryan as the third quarter began and engineered a 13-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in another Bryant field goal, giving Atlanta the 13-3 lead. The drive was highlighted by the appearance of rookie running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers caught one pass for two yards, but added 20 yards rushing. Jacksonville mustered two field goals in the quarter to bring the score to 13-9, the second coming from an Antone Smith fumble on a kickoff.
Fourth Quarter:Fourth quarters of preseasons games can feature a lot of mistakes and a lot of action, fueled by players fighting to earn roster spots. Redman finished out the game at quarterback for the Falcons and though they failed to score any more, he continued to feed Rodgers, who finished the game with a team-high 39 yards rushing on seven carries. The Falcons defense gave up the game's final touchdown, allowing the Jaguars to take the 15-13 lead and the failed two-point conversion would make that score the final.
Play of the Game:Hands down the play of the night came from the hands of Douglas. Douglas, lined up in the right slot, on third-and-5 halfway through the second quarter found a step ahead of the defender and caught a pass from Ryan slanting across the field. From there, Douglas raced up the sideline, 76 yards, for the touchdown. The fourth-year receiver was escorted by rookie wideout Julio Jones, who blocked for him the entire way. The touchdown was Douglas' second in the preseason in as many games.
Player of the Game:The night was a tough one in many ways for the Falcons, but there were a handful of players worthy of the player of the game. Ryan's efficient night under center deserves credit, withstanding an at-times heavy pass rush from the Jags. Douglas' big night draws consideration. Defensive tackle Peria Jerry showed he's rebounding fully from him 2009 ACL injury, getting great push against the Jags line all night and finding himself in the backfield often. He totaled one sack on the night. Instead, kicker Matt Bryant gets the nod for his incredibly efficient game. Bryant was an automatic 2-for-2 on field goals, including a long of 40 yards and added a point after as well. Bryant's hits through the uprights were critical on a night when Atlanta's offense, at times, struggled to pick up the yardage needed to post touchdowns.
Turning Point:Sticking with the first teamers since it's preseason, the turning point is found in the first half. After a first quarter that ended with an Atlanta 3-0 lead and Jacksonville tying it up in the second, the Falcons were searching for a play to give them some momentum and confidence. Douglas stepped up and provided that spark with this big catch and run. It appeared to be the turning point the Falcons needed entering the half. Had the first team continued to play, it's possible they'd have picked up right where they left off with the 10-3 lead.
Stat of the Game: Much of Atlanta's struggles on offense on Friday came because of their uncharacteristic inability to convert third downs. Though it's the preseason and much of the first-team's plays were scripted, the stat of 25 percent is alarming. The Falcons offense converted only three of 12 first downs on the night and it's something that head coach Mike Smith and his staff will work to correct immediately.
Tweet of the Game:Rookie defensive end Cliff Matthews is slowly becoming a sensation through the preseason. The seventh-round pick out of South Carolina had a sack last week and Friday night he continued to show up, making a case for a roster spot for himself. He didn't register a sack on the evening, but he was in pursuit often, something Falcons fans are getting used to seeing. One such moment with Matthews in the backfield prompted fan-favorite Falcons analyst Dave Choate, also know as The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) to say: "Cliff Matthews must have a long commute back to his home dimension of Passrushia."
Quote of the Day:In Douglas' postgame comments, he made sure to give credit to the help he had on his 76-yard catch-and-run. Julio Jones was an integral piece to that puzzle and Douglas reminds everyone that Falcons wide receivers are more than just pass catchers: "It's going to be hard for a lot of teams. It's not just the receiving corp. You have Tony (Gonzalez) at tight end, Mike Turner at running back and then you have Matt at quarterback. There's the O-line who take pride in protecting Matt so we can have those explosive plays. Once again Julio did a great job getting a block for me. It never would have happened if he hadn't had a great block for me. That's one thing we take pride in, blocking down the field, all 11 guys that are on the field."