Despite having home-field advantage, the Atlanta Falcons headed into Sunday’s game vs. the Cleveland Browns as underdogs.
With two methodical offenses facing off against one another at the Mercedes Benz Stadium, the victor was ultimately always going to be the team that made the fewest mistakes and could run the ball effectively.
Sadly, for the Browns Nick Chubb clearing 100 yards for the 3rd time in 2022 was not enough to see them over the line.
Costly turnovers both early and late in the game, including David Njoku’s in the first quarter which set up a Falcons touchdown and Jacoby Brissett’s interception in the fourth sealed a 23-20 loss.
The Atlanta Falcons defense are making a habit of game of finding a way to win late defensively despite allowing 403 yards of offense to the Browns. For the second consecutive week the Atlanta defense has come up with a game-clinching interception.
With the Browns not doing nearly enough to deserve victory in Atlanta, here are our key takeaways from the game.
Browns Redzone Troubles
The Browns only managed 10 points in the first half despite entering the redzone three times. Stefanski must shoulder some of that responsibility with his aggressive play calling, which the offense failed to execute on.
The Browns were stalled on their opening drive as Stefanski turned to Brissett to pass on fourth-and-3. Brissett looked for Njoku in the endzone, but he had Atlanta defenders swarming all around him, and the pass never had a chance.
Likewise, on the Browns final drive before the halftime interval, they had the ball spotted at the Falcons 1-yard line. Stefanski called a run play which was shut down at the line of scrimmage and switched to a pass play on second down, but a holding penalty moved the Browns back another 10 yards. Two more incompletion attempts followed which led to a 29-yard field goal from Cade York.
The Browns aggressive attitude, but poor execution on those high risk, high reward plays backfired. They should have been out of sight and in control going into the half, but the team will need to be better offensively for Stefanki’s play calling on fourth downs to pay off.
Marcus Mariota Struggles
The Falcons rushing attack shined on Sunday when needed most as Marcus Mariota finds himself in the offensive spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Atlanta quarterback Marcus Mariota struggled heavily, only completing 36.8% of his pass attempts, going seven of 19 for 139 yards with no touchdowns. He also had an interception and only three rushing yards in the game. In what would be his worst game of the season so far.
Mariota was a bottom 10 graded starter in the NFL before the game and is only going to go lower after this performance. With Tampa Bay Buccaneers up next, the Falcons may look at benching him if he fails to find his rhythm for rookie Desmond Ridder.
Falcons Rush Attack Shines
The Falcons outran what is considered a run-heavy Browns Offense 202 yards to 177 yards. Rookie running back Tyler Allgeier who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL draft lead Atlanta rushing stats on the day with 84 yards on 10 carries. He also caught his only target for a 20-yard gain. With Cordarrelle Patterson not the profile of an every down player, Allgeier provides that perfect balance in the backfield.
Allgeier said after the game. “I think their defensive line wasn’t ready for what we were ready to give them, so we ended up just pounding the rock at the end.” The stats reinforced this, with the Falcons combining for 172 of their 202 rushing yards in the second half. Browns head coach Stefanski said “They wore us down, we ran out of gas a couple times, and they made us pay. We have to find a way to get off the field.”
This game was always going to be decided by the team that ran better on the day and that proved true for Atlanta against the Cleveland Browns. Through the last two games, the Falcons have rushed for 381 total yards on 66 carries which has been the catalyst in securing their first two wins of the season.
Browns: The Los Angeles Chargers (2-2) travel to meet the Cleveland Browns (2-2) Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Falcons: The Atlanta Falcons (2-2) travel to meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) Sunday at the Raymond James Stadium.