Falcons Struggle Against Bengals in 24-10 Pounding

Matt Ryan was under duress for a large portion of the afternoon. (Michael Conroy)

Matt Ryan was under duress for a large portion of the afternoon. (Michael Conroy)

The Atlanta Falcons were riding high after a big divisional win over the New Orleans Saints in the season opener.

Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals brought the Falcons back down to Earth a bit.

The Falcons lost 24-10 to the Bengals, but the game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicates. If not for three missed field goals by Mike Nugent and a red zone stall, the Bengals would have scored over 30 with ease.

Cincinnati dominated with its run game, piling up 170 yards and two touchdowns. Andy Dalton was only asked to throw 23 times, but he completed 15 of those passes for 252 yards and a touchdown, including a backbreaking 76-yard touchdown to Mohamed Sanu. And Dalton was able to do this without top target A.J. Green, who left the game early with a toe injury.

Speaking of Sanu, he also threw a 50-yard pass to Brandon Tate on a gadget play that caught the Falcons completely off guard.

Offensively, the Falcons were overwhelmed by the Bengals defense. The same offense that churned out a franchise-record 568 yards last week was limited to 302 yards.

Ryan, a week removed from having arguably the best game of his career and passing for a team-record 448 yards, turned in one of his worst performances against the Bengals. He threw for 244 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions on 24 of 44 passing. His passer rating was 48.6 – the fourth time he’s had a passer rating below 50.

Atlanta also had trouble protecting Ryan against the Cincinnati’s front seven. The offensive line had trouble blocking both four-man rushes and blitzes. Ryan was hit on several occasions and sacked twice. In particular, Lamar Holmes struggled mightily.

But if there’s a sliver of silver lining for the offense, it’s that Ryan sensed pressure as well as he did against the Saints and was largely able to avoid it. Unfortunately – and surprisingly – the Falcons receivers had trouble getting open when Ryan bought more time.

During the offseason, the Falcons made it a priority to get bigger and tougher, with stopping the run being a top priority. Through two games, that idea hasn’t come to fruition with the Falcons being ranked 28th against the run. Overall, Atlanta is currently the 32nd ranked defense in total yards.

Like last week, the Falcons couldn’t get to the quarterback, either. Dalton had a clean pocket to operate from as Atlanta failed to generate any pressure. The Falcons are the only team in the league that hasn’t recorded a sack.

Atlanta didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter on a 14-yard reception by Julio Jones, and mustered just three successful third-down conversions on 12 attempts.

After the Falcons tied the game up 3-3 in the first quarter, the Bengals rattled off 21 unanswered points.

The defense’s display against both the Bengals and the Saints will likely be the norm for the season. On the other hand, the offense probably won’t be as great as it was last week nor will it be as bad as it was yesterday.

With a Thursday night game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming up, the Falcons have a chance to get this loss out of their heads and improve to 2-1 with two wins against opponents in the NFC South.

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