Falcon Newcomers Impress, But Penalties Cost Birds 2nd Preseason Win

In their second preseason game last Friday against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals, there was both good and bad to make note of for the Atlanta Falcons.

First the good…

-Noteworthy preseason starts for Mathew Bergeron, Bijan Robinson, and DeMaccco Hellams.

-A pretty good first outing in a Falcons uniform for QB Taylor Heinicke.

-A defensive front end that held the Bengals to 13 points.

but then there was…

-10 penalties accumulated by the Falcons that canceled potential scoring plays.

-An interception in Desmond Ridder’s single-quarter of the game which scuffed an otherwise solid short outing.

There’s no question the newly rebuilt Falcons defense is making the team much stronger to the point those who say the team could sneak into the playoffs this season aren’t getting laughed at. Among the attention-getting Dirty Birds is the just-drafted running back Bijan Robinson who landed his first career down and averaged 5 yards per carry on Friday. Although Friday’s was a short preview of what he could do going forward, one could see Robinson being an immediate star at Julio levels if he keeps up these kinds of performances.

Head Coach Arthur Smith was impressed, saying he “operated well” in his first professional game “It certainly wasn’t too big for him.”

Guard Bergeron, who stepped into Matt Hennessy‘s cleats after the latter suffered an knee injury, and Safety Hellams performed well in their respective roles.

Heinecke went 13 of 21 for 162 yards, 100 more than his Bengals counterpart Trevor Siemian, who was 7 of 14 in the game. Heinecke did manage a touchdown. He served the last three quarters after the first quarter performance of Ridder.

Ridder made the best of the short time he spent on the field. He got 7 completions out of 9 passes for 80 yards. On one drive which was a heartbeat away from the end zone, a pass to reciver Scotty Miller was interupted by Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton, and the ball ended up in the hands of Bengals DE Jospeh Ossai. No pass interference flag was thrown for that.

But those yellow flags made a lot of appearances on the Benz’s field, mostly charged to the Falcons. Some observers thought the Falcons were getting hit harder by those calls than they should have, while oblivious to the Hilton/Miller contact.

“The ref didn’t make the call,” said Ridder after the game. “That’s something I’ve got to live with.”

The calls that hit the Falcons included a holding on the opening kickoff return, and two holding calls on guard Chris Lindstrom. These calls likely prevented the Falcons from getting to the endzone more than the sole touchdown they scored. They do however have to thank Younghoe Koo for the three field-goal kicks that put six on the board for the Falcons.

But Coach Smith wasn’t blaming the lack of a win on officiating, nor was he making excuses ether.

“The thing I wasn’t happy about is the pre-snap stuff. That”s not who we want to be, self-inflicted wounds,” said Smith, who clearly wasn’t thrilled with the errors racked up by his team. “We were effective, I guess (at moving the ball.) But we got to come away with more points when you have that many yards, we didn’t score enough points.”

The Falcons secured 391 total yards with 9 total drives and 67 plays. The Bengals got 280 for 10 drives and 57 plays. All that for the Falcons first 13-13 draw in preseason, where they are now 1-0-1.

The Falcons head back to the practice field at Flowery Branch to work on their penalty problems in time for their next game, this Thursday at Mercedes Benz Stadium when the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town.