By Matthew Asher
The last four Falcons games, going back to the 2012 NFC Divisional game against Seattle, all started out the same. The Falcons were hot in the first half, shutting out their opponent in the first quarter but by the second half, the Falcons somehow lost control of the game. Atlanta lost the previous two games each in the fourth quarter but were able to hold onto their lead and defeat the St. Louis Rams 31-24 this Sunday.
While Atlanta’s defense couldn’t stop Sam Bradford and the Rams in the second half, the Falcons were able to put the game out of reach in their second-to-last possession when they drove the ball 80 yards in nine plays when backup running back Jason Snelling scored an 11-yard touchdown run, his first since 2010, giving Atlanta a 31-17 lead with under seven minutes left in the game.
It was a day of firsts for two of the newest Falcons. Running back Steven Jackson was able to score his first touchdown as a Falcon against his former team in the opening drive of the game when Ryan tossed an eight-yard pass to cap off an 11-play, 80-yard drive. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Jackson was injured on the play and would not return to the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, newly acquired defensive end Osi Umenyiora recorded the first NFL interception of his career in the second quarter and converted it into a 68-yard pick six, the fourth touchdown of his career. Great game Osi, or in your native tongue across the pond: Bloody good show, old chap!
Julio Jones Grade: A+
With Roddy White essentially a decoy, Julio Jones stepped up and was simply unstoppable. He finished the game with 11 receptions 182 yards and one touchdown. The one touchdown was an 81-yard pass from Matt Ryan late in the first quarter. On Atlanta’s final scoring drive, Jones caught three passes for 47 yards.
Falcons First Half Performance Grade: A
Atlanta’s offense was clicking in the first quarter. Ryan threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter and ended the half completing 19 of 26 passes to eight different receivers for 237 yards and no interceptions.
Defensively the Falcons limited the Rams to under 175 yards in the first half. Sam Bradford only completed 12 of his 21 pass attempts for 124 yards, no touchdowns and the pick six. On the ground, Atlanta limited the Rams to 38 rushing yards on nine attempts.
Atlanta’s Second Half Defense Grade: D
Atlanta was able to hold the Rams to three three-and-outs to start off the third, but then gave up three straight touchdowns. These weren’t quick scores either. St. Louis spent 30 total plays on drives going for 74, 75 and 80 yards, respectively including going 2-2 on 4th down in the final drive.
Atlanta’s 3rd Quarter Offense Grade: F
Four drives. Three of them were three-and-outs going for just 16 yards. Atlanta’s other drive was just five plays for 23 yards, meaning Atlanta was only able to muster seven total yards in the third quarter.
Atlanta will travel to Sun Life Stadium in Miami next week to take on the Dolphins for their first of four games against the AFC East. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.