In this week's match-up, the Atlanta Falcons are across the pond in London taking on the Detroit Lions at Wembley Stadium.
The Falcons stormed out to a 21-0 lead in the first half with some masterful play by quarterback Matt Ryan and an offense that looked as if it had found the footing it lost in the previous four games. Ryan was efficient to start the game, going 9-of-10 for 104 yards with two touchdown passes, but the wheels fell off after halftime. The Lions began to find an offensive rhythm, and costly mistakes doomed the Falcons, including a near-pick-six by Ryan that gave the Lions three crucial points they would need in the 22-21 win over Atlanta. Lions kicker Matt Prater missed a field goal attempt with four seconds left but a delay of game penalty caused the down to be replayed with a 5-yard markoff. Prater hit the next attempt to hand the Falcons their fifth straight loss.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
- Ryan's ability to sustain drives was key to the first-half lead. The offense was three-of-four on third down situations during the opening two quarters and that allowed the Falcons to put themselves in scoring positions. Even when they got themselves into trouble, the Falcons were able to find a way out. Facing a second-and-17 after a penalty on the second drive of the game, Ryan stayed calm and cool to get the Falcons into third-and-8 before delivering a first-down pass to WR Harry Douglas. The Falcons later found the end zone on the drive with a pass to TE Bear Pascoe.
- Before halftime, the Lions found a rhythm on offense and drove into Falcons territory. Threatening to cut the Falcons' lead to 21-7, quarterback Matthew Stafford was intercepted by Robert Alford.
- On their first possession after halftime, the Lions again found some offensive steam, but a batted pass on second down by Tyson Jackson and third-down pressure by Osi Umenyiora forced the stop and made Detroit settle for a field goal.
- In the middle of the third quarter, the Falcons backed the Lions up thanks to a couple of penalties. Facing third-and-25, the Falcons brought pressure but couldn't get to Stafford before he slung a long pass downfield and hit Golden Tate for a 59-yard touchdown that made the score 21-10.
- Ryan threw an errant pass on the next offensive drive that brought the Lions right back into it. Rolling to his left, Ryan threw back across his body and found no one but Lions cornerback Cassius Vaughn, who almost took it the rest of the way for a score. Julio Jones made the TD-saving tackle.
- Facing a change to run the clock down even further under two minutes with a long third down, a screen pass out to Julio Jones was dropped, leaving loads of time on the clock for the Lions to operate with. Detroit would march down the field for the winning points.
Halftime. The Falcons stormed out to the 21-0 lead in the first half to come out with more of what we've seen over the previous four games. The Lions were 2-of-6 on third down conversions in the first half and improved to 6-of-9 in the second half. After putting up 211 yards in the first half, the Falcons managed just 90 offensive yards in the second.
The Falcons already got into the history books Sunday by participating in the earliest NFL game ever, but Steven Jackson went out and made a little bit of his own. Earlier in the game, Jackson passed former Falcons running back Warrick Dunn on the all-time career rushing yards list, and before halftime, Jackson surpassed the 11,000-yard mark for career rushing.
On a 4-yard run at the 5, Jackson moved past the milestone. Two plays later, he would score from the 1-yard line.
Running back Antone Smith left Sunday's game with a neck injury. While it's unclear how the injury occurred, it happened near the end of the first half. He was announced as questionable to return and was later ruled out of the game at the start of the fourth quarter.
Rookie running back Devonta Freeman scored his first NFL regular season touchdown on the Falcons' first drive, a 7-yard reception from Matt Ryan. … TE Bear Pascoe scored just the second touchdown of his six-year career in the first quarter.