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Bad Calls Overshadow Falcons in Loss to Ravens

Falcons at Ravens Game Summary December 24th

FALCONS AT RAVENS GAME SUMMARY DECEMBER 24TH - The Atlanta Falcons dropped to 5-10 after a frustrating loss to the Baltimore Ravens (10-5) on the road this Christmas Eve. With a chance to stay in contention for the NFC South, the Falcons were mired with bad calls and missed opportunities that hindered the team from taking advantage of an inconsistent Ravens performance. 

Arthur Smith looked considerably upset throughout most of the game as two key bad calls in the red zone cost Atlanta potential touchdowns. The Falcons had to settle for field goals throughout the day, as they could not overcome their mistakes inside their opponents' twenty.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers eliminated the Falcons from the playoffs with Tampa's come from behind win in Arizona on Sunday night. The Falcons will play the Arizona Cardinals (4-11) in Atlanta next week. They will finish the season against the Buccaneers at home, as they try to spoil the Bucs' playoff hopes.

The Ravens continue to stay in the wild card conversation with they win over Atlanta. Baltimore has relied on the play of Tyler Huntley and the defense to hold onto a playoff spot in the AFC while they await the return of Lamar Jackson.

Who Covered?

Falcons at Ravens (-6.5) (o/u 35.5)

Falcons 9 - Ravens 17

ATS (Ravens -6.5)


Over/Under (+/- 35.5)

UNDER (26 Total Points)

Bad Calls

Intentional Grounding

The officials shaped the game with two bad calls while Atlanta played from the red zone.

The first call came as time wound down in the second half. The Falcons trailed the Ravens 14-0 after a minuscule performance on offense for most of the first half. During their first drive with any momentum, the Falcons found themselves on the 1-yard line with a chance to score with 0:23 seconds left in the half.

Instead of running the ball with two timeouts to spare, Arthur Smith elected to roll rookie quarterback, Desmond Ridder, out to the right in hopes of catching the Ravens off guard for an easy score. Ridder could not find a receiver and, as he threw the ball, a Ravens defender hit his arm. Ridder was called for intentional grounding on the play, because the ball did not go past the line of scrimmage. The penalty should have never been called, because a defender interfered with Ridder's throw.

Incensed, Arthur Smith was forced to call a timeout, after a mandatory 10 second runoff, with 0:05 seconds left in the first half and settle for a field goal.

Phantom Hold

The Falcons started the third quarter with another terrific drive, where they took 8 minutes off the clock and drove 80 yards until a holding call forced Atlanta to kick another field goal.

With 8:06 left and the Falcons on the Ravens 13 yard line, Cordarrelle Patterson scampered through a litany of Ravens defenders and into the end zone for a touchdown. The six points would have put the falcons within one possession of overtaking the lead (14-9), but Atlanta was called for a hold that never happened.

As Patterson cut up the field on the edge, the officials called wide receiver, Olamide Zaccheaus, for a hold that nullified the touchdown and sent the Falcons back to the Ravens 23 hardline. Upon replay, it became clear that the Ravens defender flopped and duped the official into throwing the flag.


The Falcons played poorly enough to lose the game, but both key red zone calls created an insurmountable problem for an Atlanta team that has struggled to produce points all year.

There were many more missed opportunities that I will get to below, but the two bad calls undoubtedly impacted the game and hurt the Falcons' chances to keep themselves in playoff contention.

Press Conference

In the postgame press conference, Arthur Smith refused to comment on the officiating in order to avoid a fine. After the game, Smith commented on the intentional grounding call.

Without getting more into it, because I don't want to get fined. I'm not what I'm allowed to say and I'm not trying to be critical there, but there's a lot of communication that needs to happen in the situation. We're right there on the one. We'll look at everything [sic]. We can be better. Got to give Baltimore credit, so there's a lot of things going on right there. - Arthur Smith, Falcons Head Coach

One of the issues with the intentional grounding call was the mandatory 10 second run off, which left 5 seconds on the clock. Had the Falcons been able to avoid the run off, they may have had time to run one more play, especially with two timeouts left.

Still, it's curious that Smith chose to roll Ridder out in the situation. With two timeouts and the ball on the one, why not give it to Algeier and see if you can't get a yard.

You can watch Smith's press conference below.

Offensive Stutters

Ridder struggled to complete a pass on the first two drives of the game and the Falcons' offense could not stay on the field.

The rookie quarterback often folded under pressure, overthrew his receivers, and extended the play only for it to end in a sack. He took a few shots down field to his favorite target, Drake London, but the passes did not give London a chance to come down with them.

Ridder ended the day with 23 completions on 33 attempts for 218 total yards. He recorded a QBR of 51.5 and completed 66% of his passes. He looked much more comfortable in the second half and tended to spread the ball to more receivers than in his first start against the Saints, where he almost exclusively targeted London.

Drake London had another huge day with 7 receptions for 96 yards and Tyler Algeier caught four passes out of the backfield for 43 yards.

Throughout the game, Ridder targeted 9 total receivers and 8 of them came down with at least one catch. This shows much improvement over the Saints game, where Ridder managed to complete passes to only 4 receivers.

The Run Game

The Ravens defensive front did a nice job of disrupting Atlanta's run game all day. The Falcons need to be more aggressive in the passing game to stay balanced on offense, but it seemed as though Smith gave up on the run game very quickly when he realized he couldn't use his two running back system to the same effect.

Tyler Algeier had another big game on the ground and continues to emerge as the Falcons primary back. Algeier carried the ball 18 times for 78 yards. Algeier runs north to south off of the right side, where the Falcons have some of the best offensive lineman in the NFL. When he can hit the holes, the offensive line gets a nice push and opens up the field for him.

Atlanta likes to balance out Algeier with Patterson, who gets the defense moving side to side with designed runs to the edges. The Ravens defensive front is much too fast for these types of designed runs and they frustrated Patterson all day. Patterson ran 8 times for 17 yards. His best run (13 yards into the end zone) was called back on a holding penalty.

Missed Opportunities

With 9:20 left in the second quarter, and the Falcons yet to score, Ridder completed a 20 yard pass to London on a 4th and 2 that would have put Atlanta in the red zone. Upon catching the ball, London turned up field and fumbled. Ravens' Patrick Queen recovered the fumble and Baltimore took over on their own 25 yard line.

This is the second time in as many games that London has fumbled after catching a 4th down pass.

With 8:13 left in the fourth quarter and the Falcons down 17-6, Atlanta found themselves in a 2nd and goal situation on the Ravens' 2 yard line. Ridder handed the ball off to Algeier who had a massive opening on the left side. As Ridder handed Algeier the ball, he tripped his running back and the play went for no gain.

Algeier came off the sidelines visibly upset at yet another missed opportunity. After a failed Ridder scramble, the Falcons chose to go for the touchdown on fourth and goal and came up empty.

This mistake would cost the Falcons a chance at bringing the game within one score.

Defense Bends

The Ravens' offense, manned by backup quarterback, Tyler Huntley, struggled to expose the Falcons' defense and score points.

While Huntley looked strong in the first half, he ended the game with 9 completions on 17 attempts for 115 yards and a QBR of 16.3. The Falcons are known to have a weak secondary prone to giving up chunk yardage, but they defended Huntley well for most of the game and eliminated the threat of the Ravens' explosive receiving core.

The Tight Ends

The Ravens like to utilize three tight ends in their passing game: Mark Andrews, Isiah Likely, and Josh Oliver.

They often run big tight end packages that allow them to use their tight ends as either run blockers for Gus Edwards or J.K. Dobbins or threats in the passing game.

This personnel suits the Falcons more than a team with explosive receivers, because it allows Atlanta to work in soft zone and limit big plays as their linebackers stick with the Ravens' big tight ends. Rahsaan Evans and Lorenzo Carter had big days for the Falcons at linebacker.

Run, Run, Run, Run

The Ravens' offensive line dominated the Falcons defensive front. Edwards ran 99 yards on 11 carried (9.0 yards per carry), while Dobbins ran for 59 yards on 12 carries. Huntley scrambled 11 times for 26 yards, as the Falcons gave up 184 yards total rushing in the game.

The defensive front continues to be a problem for Atlanta. Grady Jarrett is double teamed on almost every play and none of the other interior defensive lineman seem to be disrupting the running game. Abdullah Anderson does make plays for the defense, but not enough for offenses to game plan around him.

Even though Huntley had a bad day under center, the Falcons didn't create pressure and a better quarterback would have been able to exploit the amount of time Huntley had to throw the ball.

Bend, Don't Break

The Falcons came up with some major stops and forced some field goals on drives that could have been touchdowns, but the defensive anxieties linger. This team will need to reload on the defensive side of the ball next year if they want to be competitive.

The Falcons did block a field goal in the second quarter, which swung the momentum and kept the game within reach.

Game Notes

Here are some erratic notations from the notebook I keep during Falcons games:

  • AFC North this season is 13-1 against the NFC South (Falcons have the only win.).
  • Ravens D looks good early, but Ridder looks absolutely lost.
  • Ridder finally completes a pass. He seems to work better out of the pocket. Get him on the move.
  • How many times in London going to fumble the ball in the red zone? (Second time in 2 weeks.).
  • Ravens already have 4 runs of 10+ yards and it's only the second quarter.
  • London can really come down with some unbelievable passes.
  • Bad calls killed two drives.
  • Ridder trips Algeier (WTF!).
  • Falcons lose. UGH.

Parting Words

Falcons at Ravens Game Summary December 24th

The Atlanta Falcons may have been plagued with bad calls that ended their red zone drives in field goals, but the mistakes and missed opportunities on both sides of the ball tell the real story on Saturday's loss.

Atlanta has been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but will have two more games to see how Ridder figures into the franchise's future. Next week's game against an anemic Arizona Cardinals team with no playoff pressure should give Ridder ample opportunity to show us why the Falcons believe he could be their starting quarterback for years to come.

Do you like our Falcons at Ravens Game Summary December 24th? Slick here to read more from Godzilla Wins.

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