Why run when you can pass?
That seemed to be the Falcons’ mantra on Sunday, as the team aired their way to a 31-24 win in their home opener. After opening with a heavy dose of Steven Jackson, who got the ball or was targeted four of Atlanta’s first 11 plays, the former St. Louis Ram took a pass eight yards to the goal line for the score. The play turned out to do the Falcons more harm than good, though, as Jackson injured his thigh on the play and did not return to the game.
Fullback Bradie Ewing was also injured during the game and that effectively ended any and all attempts by the Falcons to tote the rock. Atlanta ran the ball for a grand total of 0 yards in the first half and finished the game with 36 yards, the majority of those coming from Jason Snelling’s 2 carries for 19 yards that came after successive play-action passes in the third and fourth quarters. The Falcons ran the ball a total of 16 times, with almost a third of those coming in the fourth quarter, as Atlanta nursed a 14-point lead that quickly dwindled to 7 points in the game’s closing minutes.
Ewing is the only fullback on Atlanta’s two-deep offensive roster and he missed all of the 2012 season for Atlanta after being placed on injured reserve before the start of the season.
Atlanta’s inability to run the ball cost them dearly in the second half, as they allowed St. Louis to mount a frightening comeback. After trailing 24-3 at halftime, the Rams capitalized on three straight drives while the Falcons were unable to keep drives going or take time off the clock.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradord finished with a staggering 55 pass attempts. He was 32 of 55 passing on the afternoon, with 352 yards and three touchdowns to go with one interception. The INT came courtesy of new Falcons acquisition Osi Umenyiora, who took a tipped Bradford pass 68 yards the other way for a score in the second quarter.
Despite their rushing woes, the Falcons were able to put their four-minute offense into action in the final two minutes of the game and put it away.
Julio Jones had a big day for the Dirty Birds, hauling in 11 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown, an 81-yard scamper down the field. Matt Ryan finished an efficient 33 of 43 for 342 yards and two touchdowns.