Injuries suffered by key members of the Atlanta Falcons’ defense might be having a more damaging effect than head coach Dan Quinn originally anticipated.
The Cincinnati Bengals scored a touchdown on every one of their first-half drives, as well as their final drive, to secure a 37-36 win over the Falcons today at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“The last two weeks have been tough as hell,” said Quinn during his post-game press conference. “In all three phases, we had opportunities to close it. At the end of the day, we have to get these moments right.”
“Through our first quarter of the season, our record doesn’t show that we have that part down. So, we’ve got work to do. We’re a good team, and our record doesn’t show it at this point.”
The Falcons had an explosive start to the game. On the initial kickoff, receiver Marvin Hall returned the ball for a 50-yard gain. The Falcons’ field position set up running back Ito Smith’s first career touchdown, a seven-yard run that gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead.
The Bengals responded right away. On their first drive, quarterback Andy Dalton found a wide-open Tyler Eifert for a 15-yard touchdown against what appeared to be a confused secondary.
After the Falcons turned the ball over on downs, the Bengals scored again on Giovani Bernard’s 10-yard touchdown, giving Cincy their first lead, 14-7.
Late in the second quarter, Bernard found the end zone again, this time on a one-yard carry.
On the second play of the second half, Eifert was tackled by De’Vondre Campbell. Campbell’s body inadvertently rolled onto Eifert’s ankle, causing a very graphic injury that will likely sideline him for the remainder of the season.
With 1:53 remaining in the third quarter, Falcons’ safety Damontae Kazee intercepted a pass intended for Bengals’ tight end, Tyler Kroft. This set up a 30-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Calvin Ridley, who currently leads the NFL in touchdown catches (6). This score gave the Falcons a 33-28 lead.
After the two teams traded field goals, Cincy began its last drive of the game with 4:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Dalton’s composure in the final quarter proved to be the difference in the game. He completed two passes on fourth down to continue the drive, both attempts going to wideout Tyler Boyd. The second completion to Boyd moved the ball to the Atlanta 13-yard line with 16 seconds left in the game.
After an incompletion to Alex Erickson, Dalton threw a 13-yard laser between two Falcons defenders to AJ Green for the winning touchdown.
Ryan expressed obvious disappointment about the loss but noted that there are still plenty of opportunities in the season to change the team’s course.
“There’s a lot of football to be played,” Ryan said. “We’ve been really close, we just haven’t been able to get it done. But we have to have the belief and confidence that…we’re going to get it done moving forward. There’s plenty of football in front of us.”
Ryan completed 29 of 39 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns. Julio Jones caught nine passes for 173 yards.
Kazee and cornerback Desmond Trufant both finished with seven total tackles.
The loss drops the Falcons to 1-3 on the season. The last time the Falcons started 1-3 was 2013 when they finished 4-12.
Next week, the Falcons travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.