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Falcons win 'big boy fight' with big effort from defense

Michael Cunningham, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Football

There was no palatable nervousness among Falcons fans before Younghoe Koo’s field-goal try. That came after Koo’s kick went through the goal posts, like usual, with less than three minutes to play. The cheering was muted at Mercedes-Benz Stadium even though the Falcons led the Browns by three points.

The Falcons had played good defense all game. The Falcons stopped the Seahawks to secure a road victory a week earlier. But the psyches of Falcons supporters have been scarred so badly that they figured this is where it would all fall apart.

Instead, Atlanta’s defense came through again. After Dee Alford intercepted Jacoby Brissett’s pass, the home fans finally could believe it. The Falcons beat the Browns 23-20 for their first-back-to-back wins since Weeks 8 and 9 of the 2020 season.

It was an old-school victory for the Falcons. They didn’t exactly stop Cleveland’s high-powered offense, but they forced two turnovers and halted the Browns on a fourth-and-goal. The Falcons matched that defensive effort by running through Cleveland’s defense with better run blocking than I’ve seen in a while from this team.

The Falcons make plenty of mistakes. They are limited offensively, and their defense is up-and-down. The bottom line is the Falcons are 2-2, with two losses by a combined five points and a total victory margin of seven points. We’ll see where the Falcons end up but, after four weeks, they’ve been solid.

“We’re a team, and we’ll find different ways,” coach Arthur Smith said. “We believe in these guys, and we’ve got to keep improving. These guys believe. That’s the way they work.

 

“We know we’ve got a huge divisional game in Tampa next week, and we’ve got to get ready.”

The Falcons will go to Tampa off a victory after their defense held Sunday. The Browns had no timeouts when they started their final drive from their 25-yard line with 2:28 to play. Cleveland made it to Atlanta’s side of the field before Grady Jarrett sacked Brissett on second down with a little more than a minute left. Alford picked off Brissett to secure the victory.

The Falcons’ defense made plenty of big plays. It seemed like it would be a long day early. The Browns had the ball first and needed less than three minutes to get into scoring range.

Cleveland gained 13, 25, 11 and 20 yards on its first four plays. Atlanta’s defense finally stiffened when Cleveland had third-and-1 at the 2-yard line. Nick Chubb tried to score around right end, but safety Richie Grant slipped through a crease and dropped Chubb for a 2-yard loss.

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