Atlanta Falcons vs Cleveland Browns Full Review


The Falcons inexcplicably found themselved in first place in the NFC South coming into their week 12 matchup with the Cleveland Browns, and gained the much needed boost of returning home to the Georgia Dome for the first time in 42 dys. The Browns were boosted by the return of star wide receiver Josh Gordon but, with the Panthers on a bye, a Falcons win would solidfy Atlanta’s playoff credentials. Winning the toss and receiving, it was vital the Falcons got off to a good start and, with a plethora of healthy wide receivers, Matt Ryan had all of his toys for the game.

More from Blogging Dirty

Starting with an incompletion and a short rush, the Falcons offense was in danger of sputtering out, but Matt Ryan stepped up on third down to deliver a 20 yard strike to Roddy White for a first down. The next set of downs was not much kinder however, as another incompletion, short rush and incompletion sent the offense off the field with nothing to show for an early possession. With the Browns offense looking to established the run early, the Falcons D was facing a tough test on the ground. They started on the right note, brining down Isiah Crowell for a loss of 3 on the opening drive, before defending two passes (including a Desmond Trufant breakup of a deep shot to Josh Gordon) to force a three and out, and get off to a great start.

A good punt return from Devin Hester and a quick 10 yard gain for Roddy White moved Atlanta into the Browns territory for the first time. After yet another incompletion, the Falcons caught a break when, on 3rd and 8, the Browns jumped offside to shorten the distance. On 3rd and 3, Ryan scrambled, and moved the chains for the Falcons. Matt Ryan found Roddy White again, but was throwing a lot of balls into tight coverage, and the safety rotating across to cover short routes was really giving Ryan headaches. However, the Browns secondary jumping routes was opening up the deep ball, and when Ryan rolled out of the pocket and the Browns collapsed to the right hand side, Ryan connected on the deep 24 yard pass to Julio Jones for his first receiving TD in 8 weeks. 7-0 Atlanta.

The Browns offense again was slow to start, and Atlanta looked to have forced another punt fro a 3rd and 4 situation. However, the Browns went for it on 4th and 1 and, despite the ensuing pass falling incomplete, a Kemal Ishmael penalty in the secondary kept the drive alive. The following play, the big play ability of Josh Gordon was on full display, when a simple screen took the Browns 22 yards down field and into the redzone. The Browns dedication to the run game finally paid off when, on 2nd and 10, Crowell took the ball into the endzone on a nifty move to tie the game. A Browns penalty kept the Falcons alive on their touchdown drive, and Atlanta returned the favor the following possession.

Devin Hester had been aggressive all day, but decision to return the following kickoff proved costly, as Barkevious Mingo hit the return man inside the 10 to give a long field to Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense. The position was made even worse after a first down sack, putting the ball on the 1 yard line. Jacquizz Rodgers saw his first action of the day, carrying the ball for 7 yards, but on 3rd and 9 pinned deep on the field Ryan’s tendency to throw into a tight spot backfired, as Joe Haden picked off the QB giving the Browns great field position. A poor decision and a bad throw cost the Falcons, but the defense stepped up again and held, forcing a 33 yard field goal from Billy Cundiff. 10-7 Cleveland.

Nov 23, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) and tight end Levine Toilolo (80) celebrate Jones

The Falcons continued to air it out, hitting Hester on a decent pickup, before the Falcons attempted to grind out some yards on the ground. On 3rd and 3 near midfield, Paul Kruger sacked Matt Ryan, forcing the fumble and giving the Browns possession inside Falcons territory again. The Falcons defense again bailed out the offense, and held Cleveland to a field goal to improve the Browns lead to 13-7. The offense again took the field and struggled on early downs, but on 3rd and 11 Matt Ryan rolled out and connected with Roddy White for a 32 yard gain. Whilst inconsistent, there were some yards to be earned out there, but the Falcons were struggling on early downs and needed to correct that. Another 3rd down, this time 3rd and 4, proved too many for Atlanta, as an incompletion brought the defense out for another series.

After allowing several large gains on the ground, the defense yet again dug its heels in, and a dreadful throw from Brian Hoyer saw Kemal Ishmael haul in his 6th interception of the season, and his third pick in the past 3 games. The offense took the field and midfield, and Ryan hit Julio Jones for 21 on the first play, before hitting tight end Levine Toilolo to move the Falcons quickly into the redzone. A 3rd down conversion to Julio Jones saw Atlanta facing 1st and goal in the final minute of the half and, comng out of a timeout, Ryan connected with Jacquizz Rodgers on the shovel pass for a 9 yard TD. The Falcons took a 14-13 lead, and Ishmael’s interception for a third straight week proved to be the biggest play of the first half.

More from Atlanta Falcons News

The Browns were left with 50 seconds, and drove a fair way down the field to set up a 60 yard field goal attempt to close the half. However, the kick fell short and the best return man in NFL history caught the ball inside the endzone. Hester then brought the kick out, turning the corner and looking like a 110 yard return was on the cards, before just being caught form behind at the 30 yard line. The electric play would have been huge had it gone the distance, but with Cleveland getting the ball to start the second half Atlanta would need their D to continue its good performance if they wished to stay in control.

13. 53. 14. 44. Final

In a first half dictated by opportunistic defense on both sides, the Falcons D looked the better of the two units. The Browns got possession first to begin the half, and immediately moved the chains with a huge gain to Andrew Hawkins. The Browns faced little resistance in driving to the goalline, and continued to chew up yards on the ground. On 3rd and goal from the 4, Hoyer dropped back, pumped, and was brought down hard by Kroy Biermann. Yet again the Falcons D held inside the redzone, and forced another Billy Cundiff field goal, and the unit had clearly come to play today.

After attempting a bomb to Julio on 1st down, the Falcons again found themselves with an early 3rd down in the series. Ryan connected with Devin Hester after being very patient in the pocket, converted, and moved the chains. The Falcons again failed to move the chains and allowed another 3rd down, this time failing to convert after another Paul Kruger sack. A short punt from Bosher took a fortunate bounce, and Cleveland took the field looking to add to their 16-14 lead.

Cleveland again set the tone, much like their first drive, chewing out yardage on the ground and continually moving the chains. The drive featured few large gains, but consistent picking up of yards and keeping the ball on the ground. Eventually, Crowell punctuated the drive with a 26 yard TD, his second of the day, as the Falcons defense looked gassed from a hard first half and a tough drive. 23-13. Atlanta again struggled to move the ball early, but a Ryan to Hester connection again picked up the first down on a 3rd down. As the third quarter ended, the Falcons faced a two possession deficit but had a chance to close the gap. Yet another third down conversion, moving Atlanta to 8/13 on the day, this time to Harry Douglas, saw the Falcons move past midfield and gaining a bit of steam.

More from Atlanta Falcons News

Ryan continued to connect with Roddy White, before taking a deep shot to Julio Jones. The decision was again poor, forcing a pass into tight coverage, however a penalty on the defense moved the chains automatically. On the coverage, two Browns corners collided and were injured. Tashaun Gipson came off worse for wear, and the loss of the defensive back proved to shape the way the Falcons attacked in the final 11 minutes. After the extended break, Ryan went straight at the new corners, hitting Julio Jones and Roddy White consecutively to move the ball to the 1. Steven Jackson pounded the ball for his 5th rushing TD, cutting the margin to just 2 points following the 14 play, 80 yard drive. Cleveland 23, Atlanta 21.

Another Cleveland drive saw familiar results, as the Browns kept the ball on the ground and continually moved the chains. Terrance West, along with Crowell, continued their nice days, and slashed the ball to the 6 yard line. On 1st and goal from the 6, the Browns chose to abandon the run, and opted to target Josh Gordon in the end zone. Desmond Trufant, who’d had several penalties on the day, made a huge play, coming down with a freakishly athletic interception in the end zone to give the ball back to Atlanta with 5 minutes remaining and all the momentum.

Nov 23, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This time, the Falcons picked up a first down before facing a third down, as Hester continued his strong showing with a 13 yard reception on 2nd down. The offensive line, which had held up decently well, allowed a free runner as Matt Ryan took an enormous hit. Clearly in pain, Ryan again took a hit the following play, as a floated pass was nearly picked off. The Falcons punted with just over 3 minutes remaining, with a full complement of time outs. Could they stop the run and get possession back?

On 1st down, Crowell slashed through for 8 yards, but a penalty and incomplete on 2nd down set up a huge 3rd down. On 3rd and 7, Hoyer threw the deep ball to Josh Gordon, which was picked off by Desmond Southward for his first career pick. The Falcons defense had held, used minimal time, and given the ball back in great position. Ryan hit Julio as the 2 minute warning ticked over. 3rd and 2 from the Cleveland 46. Steven Jackson took the handoff and burst through the line for a 1st down, as Atlanta moved near field goal range down just 2. Another 3rd and 2, this time from the 35, fell incomplete. A 53 yard field goal attempt would be required, as Matt Bryant strode out to attempt a field goal to take the league. The kick was up, straight and good, and Matt Bryant had done it yet again. Cleveland had 44 seconds and 3 timeouts to drive themselves into field goal range, but Bryant proved his value to Atlanta yet again. 24-23, 44 seconds.

The kick was up, straight and good, and Matt Bryant had done it yet again…Bryant proved his value to Atlanta yet again. 24-23, 44 seconds.

As Brian Hoyer took control form the 20, the Browns needed to come out slinging it. Johnathan Babineaux forced early pressure, but completions to Miles Austin and Josh Gordon moved the Browns into Atlanta territory. With 16 seconds to go, the Browns gained yet another completion, moving the ball to what would be a 48 yard field goal attempt from Billy Cundiff. A short completion to Miles Austin, along with the spike, got the ball even closer to a field goal. With 7 seconds left, Billy Cundiff took the field attempting the game winning 27 yard field goal. The kick was up and good. A crushing defeat for an Atlanta team that had hung on so well on defense. The inability to get one last stop on the final drive, along with the season long problem of failing to stop the run, saw the Browns come away 26-24. Despite a solid yardage total from the Browns offense, the defense came to play today. The occasional big played marred what was otherwise a good showing, forcing several red zone field goals and forcing three turnovers. The inconsistent offense was the real issue today, as a poor running game and questionable clock management moved Atlanta to 0-7 out of the division.

26. 53. 24. 44. Final