First Quarter: **Some of Atlanta's starters on defense never even suited up for Thursday's game, but cornerback Brent Grimes did and he came to play. The starting corner snagged his third interception of the preseason in the first quarter on Baltimore's first possession, grabbing Ravens quarterback Tyrod Taylor's pass at Atlanta's 19-yard line. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers took over at running back on Atlanta's second possession and picked up his impressive preseason where he left it off last week. His second touch was a catch from Chris Redman. After making the catch, he put a move on Paul Kruger that left the Ravens linebacker bent at the knees and falling to the ground. Rodgers gained ten yards on the play for a first down. A Baltimore missed field goal late in the quarter left the game scoreless.
Second Quarter:The second quarter featured a lot of Falcons punter Matt Bosher and his Ravens counterpart. By halftime, the two teams had combined for eight punts. Bosher's punts were impressive however, pinning Baltimore inside the 15-yard line twice. An interception by the Ravens put their offense on Atlanta's 24-yard line late in the quarter. The Falcons defense kept Baltimore out of the end zone, but Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff hit a 32-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 3-0 lead entering the half.
Third Quarter:It was the Antone Smith show in the third quarter. The third-year running back carried the offensive load for the Falcons rushing for 88 yards and catching one pass for 42 yards. One of Smith's runs was around the left end for 46 yards and a touchdown, giving the Falcons the 7-3 lead. About halfway through the quarter undrafted free agent corner Kamaal McIlwain intercepted a Baltimore pass and returned it 44 yards. Four plays later on Atlanta's possession the Falcons returned the favor, tossing an interception to rookie corner Chykie Brown, who returned it 65 yards for a touchdown, and allowed the Ravens to take back the lead, 10-7.
Fourth Quarter:The wheels came off for the Falcons in the fourth quarter. Though Smith's running kept them in the game, the defense couldn't fully stop the Ravens offense from moving the ball. Kicker Matt Bryant attempted a 54-yard field, his first miss of the preseason. A Ravens field goal gave them a 13-7 lead and after a sack of Falcons quarterback John Parker Wilson and a fumble recovery, Baltimore punched it in from five yards out to take a 21-7 lead. Smith ended the game with 114 yards rushing on 11 carries and added 44 yards receiving on two catches.
Play of the Game:Smith's running in the second half showed everyone Rodgers isn't the only breakaway threat the Falcons have at running back. His 46-yard touchdown scamper with a few of his other runs after the ball was in his hands showcased Smith's speed. With the Falcons lacking much offensive punch for much of the game, Smith took a hand off and raced away from the Ravens' defense for his 46-yard run.
Player of the Game:It's hard to ignore what Smith did on Thursday night. His chances were spotty throughout the preseason and when his number was called in the preseason's final game, he did all he could. His touchdown run was exciting, but it wasn't all he did. He carried Atlanta's offense in the second half and finished the night with 158 all-purpose yards on 13 touches, over 12 yards per touch.
Turning Point:Focusing on wins and losses in the preseason is futile. Although the Falcons finished 0-4 in the exhibition season, many of the players that will make a difference in the season impressed. Newcomers like Rodgers and wide receiver Julio Jones have shown they'll have a place in the offense. A player like Smith was hanging on to an opportunity this preseason and what he did Thursday night may have been the turning point for his season with the Falcons. His explosive play in the third quarter for the touchdown gave the Falcons brass something that will be hard for them to ignore. Though the defense struggled to maintain the lead, Smith's big run gave the Falcons momentum in the game and provided his own stock a nice boost as well.
Stat of the Game:Bosher showed Thursday why he's deserving of the punter's job with the Falcons. He booted seven balls for a 33-yard average. Four of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line and he had a long of 52 yards.
Tweet of the Game:Though it was only for a 10-yard gain, Rodgers' move after the pass catch in the first quarter was one of the game's more exciting moments. It helped cap an impressive preseason by the rookie, showcasing a weapon the Falcons unearthed in the fifth round. After his hip fake left a Baltimore defender in his dust, @falcfans shared this tweet: "I myself fell out of my seat here at home with that little move by Quizz #atlbal11"
Quote of the Day:Smith knew this was a big night for his chances with the Falcons or otherwise in the NFL. He made the most of it, but now he waits for the final decisions on the roster and he admits it's going to be a long weekend: "This is when it really counts. The older guys didn't play so the younger guys got a chance to go out there and show what they can do. That's what I did. I took advantage of the opportunity. Hopefully it will help me out. The duration of this weekend, it's going to be tough. Tough decisions have to come and I'm just ready for them. What may happen may happen."