The 7-4 Atlanta Falcons traveled to Texas today to take on the 8-3 Houston Texans in what turned out to be a defensive struggle. The Texans got on the board first in this one, as Neil Rackers’s 43-yard field goal attempt split the uprights to give Houston a slim 3-0 lead with 4:03 left in the first. Dropped passes by the Falcons allowed Houston to contain the Dirty Birds offense quite easily throughout the first half, and gave the Texans the chance to increase their lead with 3-yard touchdown pass from rookie T.J. Yates to Joel Dreessen in the second quarter. Atlanta managed to tack on three points thanks to a 19-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with a little over five minutes left in the half, but going into the locker room the Falcons were dazed, confused, and down 3-10 on the road.
Looking to close the gap on one of the best teams in the AFC, the Falcons tied the game 10-10 with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White. Both defenses held serve from this point to the fourth quarter, when the Texans put together a energy-zapping nineteen play, 85 yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Arian Foster to give Houston a 17-10 advantage. Needing to respond in a big way, the Falcons got the ball looking to tie the game back up, but a costly delay of game penalty by Matt Ryan on 4th and 1 made this possibility near impossible. Ryan’s pass on the next play fell short of its intended target, and the Texans got the ball back.
Thankfully for the Falcons, the defense held the Texans to a three-and-out, giving the offense the ball back with just 0:59 left in the game. With so few ticks left on the clock, one would assume that the Falcons offense would be prepared for plenty of hurry up plays, but it appeared as if the team didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of their situation. The time continue to run off as the Falcons marched down the field, and with just one second to play Atlanta sat on the Houston 30, looking to tie the game up with a Hail Mary pass. Matt Ryan made a connection in the end zone with rookie Julio Jones, who cost the team several seconds earlier in the drive by walking back to the line of scrimmage, but the young receiver couldn’t make the catch. Once the ball hit the ground, the game was over, and the Falcons had lost a tough game 10-17.
The reason the Falcons lost this game is very simple: they made too many thoughtless errors. Off the top of my head there was 1) Illegal substitution penalty on what could have been a fumble recovery for a touchdown by James Sanders 2) Dunta Robinson’s thoughtless defensive hold on what could have been a pick six by Mike Peterson 3) Matt Ryan’s delay of game penalty on a crucial fourth down and 4) Roddy White and Julio Jones’ dropped passes. The Falcons were just as good as this Houston Texans team, especially given the fact that Houston was missing the likes of Matt Schaub, Mario Williams, and Andre Johnson (who left this game with an injury). T.J. Yates didn’t exactly impress everyone, but he played much smarter and efficient compared to his counterpart, as Ryan threw two costly interceptions. Atlanta needed a win like this to ensure they would make the playoffs, and although they still have a chance due to the injuries to some of the best players in the league, it definitely won’t be easy.
The Falcons will stay on the road for the second straight week, as they will take on the Carolina Panthers this Sunday. Carolina is 4-8 so far this year and are fresh off a 38-19 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and although they won’t be making the playoffs this season, it’s safe to assume the Panthers will be a handful for the Falcons. After all, Carolina would love nothing more to knock Atlanta out of the playoff hunt, and if the Falcons don’t show up ready to fight for sixty minutes, that is precisely what will happen at Raymond James Stadium a week from today.
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