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Falcons show no pass rush in loss in Cleveland

By
Alan Cole, The Sports Xchange
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield throws a pass from his own end zone against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield throws a pass from his own end zone against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

Zero sacks. Zero tackles for loss. Zero quarterback hits.

Those numbers from Sunday in Cleveland really say it all about the Atlanta Falcons' pass rush in their 28-16 loss to the Browns. Against a Cleveland team that entered the game with the most sacks allowed in the NFL at 35 in nine games, it was an embarrassing performance from Atlanta's defense.

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"No. None. I wish there was," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said on an explanation for the way his defense played Sunday. "(There was) no reason why we didn't play with the effort and intensity, and energy I should say, that normally characterizes the guys."

The loss leaves the Falcons at 4-5 and all but eliminates them from the NFC playoff picture. Matt Ryan and the offense had struggles, but the defense was the main culprit on an embarrassing day.

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The highly anticipated addition of Bruce Irvin did little to move the needle as he finished the game with just two tackles. Right from the start, the Browns had whatever they wanted on offense.

Cleveland went on an easy eight play, 88-yard drive in the first quarter that only took 4:55 off the clock. Baker Mayfield completed five passes on the drive of at least ten yards, including the 28-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins.

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The chunk plays through the air became a theme, as Mayfield was able to drop back in the pocket without much pressure. Dan Quinn knows his team needs to correct this going forward.

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"I thought they did a good job," he said. "Even at the end on the third-and-1, to go scramble for 1 -- there is a lot of things that we need to work on. That's what we're going to get right back to and get it right."

But at the moments when Atlanta needed to get stops the most, they didn't come. Right before halftime while clinging to a 10-7 lead and the Browns driving, Mayfield found Nick Chubb on a screen pass into the end zone for a touchdown.

When Mohamed Sanu fumbled and the defense needed to come up with a stop on third-and-6 to keep the deficit at one possession, Mayfield had all day to throw and hit Duke Johnson for a touchdown.

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The final nail in the coffin was a perfect metaphor for the lack of penetration the Falcons could get on defense all day. Atlanta still had a little bit of life down 21-10 with the Browns backed up inside their own 10, but they needed a three-and-out to get the ball back with good field position.

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Instead, Chubb ran free untouched off the right side for the longest touchdown run in Cleveland Browns history at 92-yards.

"We have to be more disciplined upfront," said defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. "Giving up 200 (yards) is not something we are proud of. We have to be better, there's no way around it."

In that moment, it was all gone. The work the Falcons did to get back to 4-4, the chance to get over .500 for the first time this season, and any sliver of optimism about a third consecutive trip to the playoffs. All of it vanished into thin air.

"Each week for us you've heard me say it, to focus on us, championship preparation or performance, and that's every week, no matter if we've been 1-4, or 4-4, or 8-0, that's the mindset," Quinn said. "So trust me, we're all pissed and disappointed. But just like when we were 1-4, we didn't plan on staying there. Certainly not backing off what we think we can get done this season."

--LB Deion Jones (foot) began to work out on the field last week. Coach Dan Quinn would not say Monday whether Jones would be able to return this week against the Cowboys. "Too early to make a prediction," Quinn said Monday.

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--PK Matt Bryant (right hamstring) missed his second game, but the team is in no hurry to rush the veteran back onto the field until he's fully healthy. That's because Giorgio Tavecchio has done a good job as a replacement.

--DE Derrick Shelby continues to have issues with his groin injury. Shelby was listed as questionable, but was able to start on Sunday and made four tackles.

--WR Mohamed Sanu (hip) did not participate in practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. But the veteran was able to start and caught six passes. It appears Sanu will be dealing with the problematic injury the rest of the season.

--WR Julio Jones had a 30-yard reception in the second quarter that put him over 10,000 career receiving yards. It occurred in his 104th career game, making him the fastest player in the league to reach the milestone. Calvin Johnson had the record with 115 games.

--QB Matt Ryan threw for 330 yards, the sixth time he has surpassed 300 yards this season, the second-most in a single-season in Falcons history. He had a 102.2 quarterback rating, the seventh time this season he's been over 100.

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