My 55th and final game of the 2017 NFL Tournament was a fantastic contest between the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville jaguars. Atlanta won the coin toss and elected to defer. Right off the bat, it looked as if they may have made a mistake as the Jags marched right down the field, helped by two Falcon pass interference penalties . . . but, the drive stalled at the Atlanta 25 yard line and Jacksonville place-kicker, Josh Lambo pulled his 45 yard attempt and the Jaguars missed an opportunity to strike first.
The Falcons, on the other hand, were able to move the ball into Jacksonville territory on their first two offensive drives, with their kicker, Matt Bryant, nailing 34 and 53 yard field goals to give Atlanta a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Falcons added to their lead halfway through the second quarter as the remarkable Devonta Freeman ran one in from 14 yards out to give Atlanta a 13-0 lead.
But, Jacksonville had an answer, as they drove 75 yards in four minutes, culminating in Leonard Fournette’s one-yard touchdown run, an we went to halftime with Atlanta up 13-7.
The Falcons were impressive on their initial possession of the second half, driving from their 24 to the Jaguars’ 35, where Bryant once again drilled a 53 yard field goal, allowing Atlanta to up their lead to 16-7. And that’s the way the fourth quarter started.
Jacksonville, however, started the final period with Lambo splitting the uprights from 27 yards, cutting the Falcon lead to 16-10.
And, here is where it got fun. On Atlanta’s next possession after the Lambo field goal, Falcon’s quarterback, Matt Ryan was picked off by All-Pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey. Then, Blake Bortles, Jacksonville’s quarterback, led the Jags down the field, eventually scrambling for 14 yards to the Atlanta four yard line.
So, here it was, first and goal, down by only six points, and staring their first lead of the game right in the face!
But, a holding penalty, followed by an offensive pass interference penalty took Jacksonville all the way back to the 24 yard line, where, with 7:30 to play in the game, settled for another Lambo field goal, this one from 38 yards, to cut Atlanta’s lead to three, 16-13. But, it certainly felt like a successful stop by the Falcons defense.
But, what happened next really threw a wrench into Jacksonville’s comeback, when Ryan led them 75 yards in nine plays and Freeman, once again, scored a rushing touchdown – this time from three yards out. There was only 3:30 left in the contest, and Atlanta held a 23-13 lead.
Bortles, however, wasn’t done. He drove the Jaguars all the way to the Falcons’ nine yard line in only 2:22, with Lambo connecting on his third three-pointer of the game. Now, down by seven with only 1:08 to play, down by seven points, Jacksonville attempted an on-sides kick, and, amazingly, it was successful, with reserve defensive back, Jarrod Wilson, recovering the ball at the Jags’ 46 yard line!
But, Bortles had run out of magic, and, after a 19-yard completion to Keelan Cole, the drive stalled, and a fourth-down sack by Vic Beasley ended the contest. Final score: Atlanta 23 – Jacksonville 16.
Still, this game had a little bit of everything! Nine injuries, eleven punts, 352 yards rushing, five defensive pass interference penalties on Atlanta and only two turnovers.
Hard to believe, but we’re done for this year . . . . . . can’t wait to do it again next year!!
Ryan 16-33 225 yards 1 int
Freeman 14 rushes 82 yards / T. Coleman 8 rushes 51 yards
Jones 8 catches 124 yards / Sanu 2 catches 45 yards / Freeman 2 catches 16 yards
Bortles 17-37 168 yards
Fournette 20 rushes 60 yards / Ivory 5 rushes 50 yards / Yeldon 5 rushes 35 yards
Cole 4 catches 95 yards / Westbrook 3 catches 24 yards / Fournette 4 catches 13 yds