ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 01: Kroy Biermann #71 of the Atlanta Falcons sacks Tyrod Taylor #2 of the Baltimore Ravens at Georgia Dome on September 1, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Falcons Vs. Ravens: Antone Smith, Defense Impress In Falcons 21-7 Loss To Ravens

Thursday night, the Ravens hit the Georgia Dome to give the Falcons their final test before the regular season begins.

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Falcons Vs. Ravens Final Score: Falcons Lose 21-7, Go Winless In Fake Season Play

Antone Smith had himself quite a game in this preseason finale against the Ravens. All in all, the Florida State running back finished the night with 11 carries for 114 yards and two catches for 44 yards. If there was any question as to who should be the team's fourth RB, they were answered emphatically tonight.

While Smith was essentially the only highlight on offense, the defense had quite a few players who had good nights. Some of those guys include Trey Lewis, Carlton Powell, Robert James, Bear Woods, and Kamaal McIlwain. Especially impressive was James, who racked up five total tackles and half a sack on the night.

As a whole the defense was pretty impressive. Most of the points allowed came off turnovers, usually QB-forced turnovers (I'll get to that in a minute), and generally kept Hunter Cantwell & Co. under wraps all night. The pass rush produced by guys like Biermann was also very promising, as several of those guys will play snaps in the Mike Smith's DE rotation.

On the negative side, the entire offense went to sleep in tonight's game. John Parker Wilson looked really shaky and turnover prone. Granted, he didn't get much help from his O-line, but he also threw two (should've been three) picks on the night. Not anything to get worked up over, but I wonder if the team cut Adam Froman too soon.

Also, I'll reiterate that the pass protection was less than stellar, to say the least. Excess pressure caused at least one Wilson INT, along with a fumble that led to Ravens points. Given that I don't expect guys like McMahon and Fenaroli to make the final roster, I wouldn't be too worried. Andrew Jackson was the exception to the group, and actually had himself a pretty solid night springing some good blocks for Antone Smith. I like that draft pick more every day.

One big plus from this game was that there were no major injuries that I'm aware of. Kevin Cone hobbled off the field under his own power in the waning minutes of the game, but it didn't appear to be serious. The Falcons are fortunate to have made it through the preseason relatively unscathed.

Yes, the Falcons were 0-4 this preseason, and every year some bonehead analyst will ask the question "does it matter?" No, it doesn't. Not now, not ever. Bring on the regular season!

For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic. For more on the Ravens, check out Baltimore Beat Down

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Falcons Vs. Ravens Update: Falcons (Finally) Score Via Antone Smith TD Run, Still Trail 10-7

Following that first half snoozefest, both teams have their third-string units out on the field. Now is where we really see the gritty battles between fringe players for roster spots. It may not always be pretty, but given that many of these guys are playing for their professional lives, one thing you won't see in this game is lack of effort.

And effort is exactly what we saw from Antone Smith. On the Falcons' first offensive drive of the second half, Smith carried the ball four times, the last of which being a beautiful 46-yard TD run that put the Falcons up 7-3 over the Ravens. For those watching, you probably just saw Smith win a roster spot right before your very eyes. He's already racked up an impressive 88 yards on only six touches.

However, for every up there's a down, and that down is the pass protection. A few plays could've been simply a product of JPW holding onto the ball to long, but both Redman and Wilson have taken shots all game. That pressure ultimately forced an errant pass that became a pick-six. Pass blocking could stand to improve all around.

The defense looked a little shaky early, but then settled down and continued their dominance from the first half. Kamaal McIlwain had the big play on defense, getting good position and picking off an ill-advised Cantwell pass. Also worth noting is a nasty Carlton Powell and Robert James combo sack on a third-and-10. 

Oh, and if you didn't know, Sean Weatherspoon has quite the voice on him. Given the slow pace of tonight's game, the broadcasting crew enticed 'Spoon to sing us a song, and I was quite impressed. 'Spoon also claimed Williams Moore to be the team's best rapper, which I would love to hear. Yes, I digress, but need I remind you that we're talking about practice preseason? Ravens lead 10-7.

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Falcons Vs Ravens Update: Defensive Unit Looking Stout As Ravens Lead 3-0 At Halftime

This may or may not be the most boring NFL game you've ever seen. The Falcons defensive success may be mostly a product of Hunter Cantwell's struggles more than great play, but I suppose it's better than getting shredded by the Ravens' third-string QB.

The Redman-led offense took over for their fourth drive of the game, and again were forced to punt. That's not exciting. What was exciting, however, was that the Falcons ran a WR reverse (gasp!) to Julio Jones that went for a nice 14-yard pickup. Both Julio and Redman took big hits at the end of that play though, so maybe there's a better time/place for those gadget plays, eh Mularkey?

Matt Bosher took the field and had another great punt, a 39-yarder that pinned the Ravens at their own 12. At this point, practically every defensive starter was pulled from the game. Thus, it's only fitting that on the three ensuing drives both offenses went three-and-out. Have we hit the record for three-and-outs in a game? I think we may have. I know the point of the game is player evaluation, but please Coach Smith you're killing me!

Following all those defensive shutdowns, Jacuquizz started the drive off right with a nine-yard rush on first down, and made it seem as though the Falcons would finally get that elusive first down they'd been looking for. However, Ravens LB Jason Phillips had other intentions, and on second down he picked off John Parker Wilson on a short pass intended for Strickland.

That turnover put the Ravens at the Atlanta 24-yard line with a few minutes to work with. The Falcons, however, held strong, and on third-and-goal a would-be TD pass over Chris Owens was negated by an offensive interference penalty. Following another incompletion by Cantwell, the Ravens elected to go for a field goal and this time Billy Cundiff's try would hold true, putting Baltimore up 3-0 at the half.

Still, there have been a few positive performances so far that are worth mentioning. Dominique Franks has played very well in his start against the backup Ravens. Peria Jerry has had a couple of nice QB pressures against Baltimore's second-team offense. We've even seen Mike Peterson play like his old hard-hitting self a little bit tonight.

A few guys to watch going forward are Chauncey Davis and Rafael Bush, as both could be fighting for their Falcon lives. At least you know not to watch the scoreboard. That's clearly not changing much these days.

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Falcons Vs. Ravens Score: Game Still Scoreless As Offensive Inefficiency Rules The Day

Following that lovely interception courtesy of the infallible Brent Grimes, the Falcons offense got back on the horse to give it another try against the Baltimore defense. Redman again looked controlled and efficient, spreading it around on dump off passes to Jacquizz Rodgers, Harry Douglas, and Eric Weems. 'Quizz put a really nice move on a Ravens LB on his catch and run, and continues to look impressive this preseason.

However, the offensive line again let us down on a third-and-six. Joe Hawley got absolutely embarassed by Parnell McPhee and it ultimately resulted in another sack of Chris Redman. All I can say is I wish Todd McClure the speediest of recoveries. On the bright side, Matt Bosher booted a really nice 52-yard punt. Then again, the special teams unit allowed yet another big return, this one a 33-yarder saved only by an Eric Weems tackle.

On the following drive, Kroy Biermann notched a nice tackle for loss on third-string QB Hunter Cantwell. Kroy looks like a man on a mission, and this Falcons DE rotation could be a dangerous unit this year. The linebacking corps also looked really strong against the run, albeit this was Jalen Parmele and not Ray Rice. A 57-yard field goal attempt by Billy Cundiff fell short and kept the game scoreless with a little over one minute left in the quarter.

A Falcons three-and-out and more offensive inefficiency from the Ravens brought the first quarter to an end. I warned you about this whole "preseason football" thing, didn't I? S-l-o-p-p-y. Game still tied 0-0.

For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic. For more on the Ravens, check out Baltimore Beat Down.

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Falcons Vs. Ravens Update: Grimes Interception, Redman Fumble Highlight Game's First Two Drives

If you were hoping to see any of Kelvin Hayden or James Sanders (as was I), well you're just going to have to wait. Neither is expected to play at all in tonight's game. As expected, Joe Hawley will start at center and Dominique Franks will start at CB in place of Dunta Robinson, who was unsurprisingly held out of this preseason finale. Kroy Biermann will also start in lieu of Abraham.

With no need to further risk Matt Ryan in a meaningless exhibition game, Chris Redman started the game at QB and promptly got to work, completing a pretty 25 yard pass over the middle to Julio Jones on the very first play from scrimmage. However, just as the Falcons began methodically chugging down the field on the back of Jason Snelling, Paul Kruger of the Ravens burst through the middle of the Falcons O-line and forced a Chris Redman fumble that was later recovered by Baltimore.

Tyrod Taylor then took over the Ravens offense. After producing a first down with his legs, Taylor was then brutally sacked by Biermann coming off the edge. I mean, it really was a thing of beauty. On only a couple of plays later, Taylor was then picked off by (guess who?) none other than Brent Grimes, his third of the preseason. With that, the Falcons have the ball back and it's still tied at zero.

For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic. For more on the Ravens, check out Baltimore Beat Down.

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NFL Roster Cuts: Falcons Drop Adam Froman, Matt Murphy To Make Room For Additions

We'd thought we had a look at the Atlanta Falcons 80-man roster, but then the team went and picked up veteran defensive backs James Sanders and Kelvin Hayden. Thus, the team announced Thursday that former Louisville Cardinals quarterback Adam Froman and UNLV Rebels offensive lineman Matt Murphy must seek opportunity elsewhere.

Froman has likely earned a consideration as the practice squad passer, but the pickups of Sanders and Hayden likely just accelerated the process of sending him down that path. I'll be totally honest and say I still don't know a great deal about Murphy, but if he made it through several rounds of cuts so far, the team must at least think something of him. 

The next round of roster cuts will come on Saturday, when the team has to put together its best 53. It's a good thing the Falcons play the Ravens Thursday night, giving them an extra few hours of evaluation.

To the updated spreadsheet:

 

Name No. Pos. Age Exp.

 

Quarterbacks

 

Adam Froman 13 QB 23 UDFA

 

Chris Redman 8 QB 34 11

 

John Parker Wilson 4 QB 25 2

 

Matt Ryan 2 QB 26 3

 

Running Backs

 

Antone Smith 35 RB 25 2

 

Gartrell Johnson 27 RB 25 2

 

Jacquizz Rodgers 22 RB 21 Rookie

 

Jason Snelling 44 RB 27 4

 

Jerious Norwood 32 RB 27 5

 

Michael Turner 33 RB 29 7

 

Philip Sylvester 32 RB 22 UDFA

 

Fullbacks

 

Lucas Cox 42 FB 23 UDFA

 

Ovie Mughelli 34 FB 31 8

 

Thor Merrow 40 FB 21 UDFA

 

Wide Receivers

 

Andy Strickland 15 WR 23 1

 

Brandyn Harvey 17 WR 23 1

 

Brian Finneran 86 WR 35 12

 

Doug Beaumont 18 WR 22 UDFA

 

Drew Davis 19 WR 22 UDFA

 

Eric Weems 14 WR 26 4

 

Harry Douglas 83 WR 26 3

 

Julio Jones 11 WR 22 Rookie

 

Kerry Meier 80 WR 24 1

 

Kevin Cone WR UDFA

 

Michael Jenkins 12 WR 29 7

 

P.J. Gore 89 WR 23 UDFA

 

Roddy White 84 WR 29 6

 

Tim Buckley 16 WR 22 1

 

Tight Ends

 

A.J. Simmons TE

 

Justin Peelle 87 TE 32 9

 

Marquez Branson 85 TE 24 2

 

Michael Palmer 81 TE 23 1

 

Robbie Agnone 48 TE 25 2

 

Reggie Kelly TE 34 12

 

Ryan Winterswyk 86 TE 24 UDFA

 

Tony Gonzalez 88 TE 35 14

 

Tackles

 

Garrett Reynolds 75 OT 24 2

 

Rob McGill 70 OT 23 UDFA

 

Sam Baker 72 OT 25 3

 

Tyson Clabo 77 OT 29 7

 

Will Svitek 74 OT 29 6

 

Guards

 

Andrew Jackson 69 OG 26 Rookie

 

Harvey Dahl 73 OG 30 6

 

Joe Hawley 61 OG 22 1

 

Jose Valdez 65 OG 24 2

 

Justin Blalock 63 OG 27 4

 

Matt Murphy 66 OG 22 UDFA

 

Mike Johnson 79 OG 24 1

 

Centers

 

Paul Fenaroli 68 C 21 UDFA

 

Rob Bruggeman 67 C 25 2

 

Ryan McMahon 64 C 23 UDFA

 

Todd McClure 62 C 34 12

 

Defensive Ends

 

Chauncey Davis 92 DE 28 6

 

Cliff Matthews 98 DE 21 Rookie

 

Emmanuel Stephens 96 DE 24 1

 

Jamaal Anderson 98 DE 25 4

 

John Abraham 55 DE 33 11

 

Kroy Biermann 71 DE 25 3

 

Lawrence Sidbury 90 DE 25 2

 

Ray Edwards 93 DE 26 5

 

Tom McCarthy 70 DE 22 UDFA

 

Defensive Tackles

 

Corey Peters 91 DT 23 1

 

Jonathan Babineaux 95 DT 29 6

 

Kiante Tripp 76 DT 23 UDFA

 

Peria Jerry 94 DT 26 2

 

Trey Lewis 97 DT 26 4

 

Vance Walker 99 DT 24 2

 

Linebackers

 

Akeem Dent 43 LB 23 Rookie

 

Bear Woods 45 LB 1

 

Coy Wire 52 LB 32 9

 

Curtis Lofton 50 LB 25 3

 

LaMarcus Thompson 46 LB 23 UDFA

 

Mike Peterson 53 LB 35 12

 

Robert James 45 LB 27 2

 

Sean Weatherspoon 56 LB 23 1

 

Spencer Adkins 59 LB 24 2

 

Stephen Nicholas 54 LB 28 4

 

Youri Yenga 49 LB 22 UDFA

 

Cornerbacks

 

Brent Grimes 20 CB 28 4

 

Brian Williams 29 CB 32 9

 

Christopher Owens 21 CB 24 2

 

Darrin Walls 29 CB 23 UDFA

 

Dominique Franks 24 CB 23 1

 

Dunta Robinson 23 CB 29 7

 

Kamaal McIlwain 26 CB 23 UDFA

 

Kelvin Hayden CB 28 6

 

Kirk Belgrave 37 CB 23 UDFA

 

Safeties

 

James Sanders S 27 6

 

Matt Hansen 30 S 21 UDFA

 

Rafael Bush 36 S 24 1

 

Rafael Priest 38 S 24 1

 

Shann Schillinger 39 S 25 1

 

Suaesi Tuimaunei 41 S 23 UDFA

 

Thomas DeCoud 28 S 26 3

 

William Moore 25 S 26 2

 

Special Teams

 

Andrew Schulze 47 LS 23 UDFA

 

Jacob Harfman K UDFA

 

Joe Zelenka 82 LS 35 12

 

Ken Parrish 6 P 27 4

 

Matt Bosher 5 P 23 Rookie

 

Matt Bryant 3 K 35 9

 

Michael Koenen 9 P 29 6

For more, head to Falcons blog The Falcoholic.

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Falcons Vs. Ravens: TV Schedule, Game Time And More

The Atlanta Falcons will play their final preseason game of the year on Thursday night when they play host to the Baltimore Ravens in what Jason Kirk describes as the NFL's most curious rivalry. The TV schedule, game time and everything else is posted below, but first, a short preview from our friends around SB Nation.

Dave Choate of the Falcoholic, SB Nation's Atlanta Falcons blog, wrote on Wednesday night how the signing of James Sanders and Kelvin Hayden might change how the front office looks at the team's defensive backfield on Thursday night. 

What happens next, considering the Falcons have to cut down to 80 players? Chris Owens could get the boot, or an undrafted free agent type like Kamaal McIlwainChauncey Davis and his fancy salary could be looking for work, too, if the Falcons want a little more cap breathing room.

That's all for the next day or two to determine. What is clear is that the Falcons just got better, without a clear downside. That's the kind of thing every Falcons fan, even the ones in lead-lined bunkers, can get behind.  

Over at Baltimore Beatdown, SB Nation's Baltimore Ravens blog, Bruce Raffel broke down a few of the players to watch when not focusing on the Falcons' high-octane offense.

"WR David Reed was a fifth round draft pick last year who couldn't stay healthy and only recently returned to the practice field this week. However, he is already ahead of the rookie WR's and proved he can be a solid kick returner as he returned one for a TD last season.  The other guy is punter Sam Koch, who is a linebacker in a punter's body and booms kicks far and can touch them down near the goal line almost on command, which is a very under rated skill."

Now, to the game information!

Game Date/Time: Thursday, September 1 at 7 p.m.

Location: Georgia Dome

TV ScheduleCBS - WGCL 46; NFL Network re-air on Saturday at 1 p.m.

TV Distribution MapThe506.com

Radio Schedule: 790 The Zone and Star 94

For more, head to The Falcoholic and Baltimore Beatdown.

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James Sanders Signs One-year Atlanta Falcons Contract, According To Report

Recently released safety James Sanders signed a one-year deal to play for the Atlanta Falcons Tuesday night, Adam Schefter reported, with Falcons radio announcer Dave Archer confirming. Flowery Branch was Sanders' first stop after being cut earlier this week. He was scheduled to stop by the Chiefs next -- both the Falcons and Chiefs have ties to New England's front office.

He was once named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in a game he didn't even start. With three interceptions last year, he reached eight for his career. And he has a solid reputation off the field, once taking less money to stay in New England. People like to hear that kind of thing.

Yes, but could he challenge for the nickel spot?

Sanders has only been listed as a safety during his NFL career, even though he's played both strong safety and free safety. He's started 50 games in that span, appearing in 84. At Fresno State, he made his mark as a strong safety. It looks like this is a move to provide a challenge to the team's two starting safeties, along with some versatile veteran depth and a special teams presence.

For more Falcons, head to Falcons blog The Falcoholic. For more New England, visit Patriots blog Pats Pulpit and SB Nation Boston.

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Falcons Vs. Ravens: NFL's Most Curious Rivalry Provides Preseason Finale

Thursday night, the Ravens hit the Georgia Dome to give the Falcons their final test before the regular season begins.

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NFL Cuts 2011: Atlanta Falcons Reduced Roster To 79 On Tuesday, According To Report

The Atlanta Falcons made another round of NFL roster cuts on Tuesday as they slowly make their way toward the 53-man limit needed prior to the start of the regular season. The team needed to have its roster reduced to 80 players, but it did one better by making it down to just 79 players in anticipation of the team's final preseason game.

The Falcons cut wide receivers Kirk Belgrave, Doug Beaumont and Tim Buckley, running back Philip Sylvester and linebackers LaMarcus Thompson and Youri Yenga to get down to 79 in accordance with the NFL-mandated roster cuts, according to CBS Sports' Knox Bardeen.

None of the six players were expected to be anything more than bit players on the Falcons for the upcoming season and therefore it wasn't a particularly surprising move on the part of the Atlanta front office. Releasing three wide receivers proves the decision makers have a pretty good idea of who is in their plans to play behind Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas, though.

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Todd McClure Injury: Falcons C Out For Season Opener Against The Bears

Todd McClure's injury has already caused the Atlanta Falcons' center to miss two preseason games.  According to the most recent reports, it seems that the typically injury-free offensive lineman has been officially shut down for the fourth and final game of the exhibition schedule along with Atlanta's Week 1 opener versus the Chicago Bears.

McClure underwent knee surgery on Monday for what the team called a "minor procedure."

Falcons head coach Mike Smith told the media on Tuesday that McClure won't be available for the next two weeks, according to Jay Adams. McClure had previously started 166 straight games for the Falcons, dating back to 2001 after the Falcons acquired him as a seventh round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

The team hasn't made a formal announcement regarding which backup will replace McClure in the starting lineup, but veteran Joe Hawley appears to be the top option according to the depth chart posted on the team's website.

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