<
>

Rapid Reaction: Atlanta Falcons

CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium:

What it means: The 1-1 Falcons still have plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball, but particularly on defense, after getting dominated. The final score would have been worse had Bengals kicker Mike Nugent not missed three field goals, although one was a 55-yarder. The whole offseason theme of getting tougher and stronger up front seemed missing as the offensive line allowed too much pressure on Matt Ryan and the defense allowed too many strong runs up the middle, among other issues. The quick turnaround with Thursday night's NFC South game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't give the Falcons much time to make adjustments.

Stock Watch: Cornerback Robert Alford recovered to make a few nice plays against the Saints in the opener. This time, Alford found himself one-on-one against Mohamed Sanu in the third quarter as defensive coordinator Mike Nolan called a blitz. Alford trailed on the play across the middle and tried to gamble, but it proved to be costly as Sanu got by him and, with no safety help, trotted all the way to the end zone for a 76-yard score. You expected the Falcons to do much better with their one-on-one battles considering top receiver A.J. Green exited the game early with a right toe injury. But that wasn't the case on this play.

Line woes: Going back to the offensive line, there were obvious concerns for the Falcons with rookie left tackle Jake Matthews sidelined by an ankle injury and veteran tackle Sam Baker already on injured reserve after preseason knee surgery. The starting tackles were Lamar Holmes and Gabe Carimi. Holmes struggled miserably at times, which contributed to Ryan being unable to go down the field like he did in the season opener. The Falcons started the game 1-for-7 on third down, and the pressure on Ryan had a lot to do with it. Ryan ended up throwing three interceptions while completing 24 of 44 passes for 231 yards. The Falcons need Matthews to heal very fast to help protect Ryan.

Game ball: It's hard to give anyone too much credit during a game like this, but at least Julio Jones scored a 14-yard touchdown. It wasn't his fault he wasn't more involved, and at least his touchdown helped some of the fantasy team owners.