REPORT CARD: Falcons’ Jones, Ishmael powered the victory

The Atlanta Falcons snapped their six-game losing streak with a 23-17 win over the Jaguars on Sunday. CineSport’s Courtney Fallon recaps the victory with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones tries to stay in bounds after a reception against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones tries to stay in bounds after a reception against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

JACKSONVILLE — The Falcons’ win over the Jaguars wasn’t an artistic gem, but it was good enough to halt their six-game losing streak and stop the buzzards from flying over Flowery Branch.

The Falcons improved to 7-7 and need to win out and have some football miracles come to fruition over the next two weeks in order to make the playoffs. CLICK HERE for the playoff update.

Game balls: Safety Kemal Ishmael and wide receiver Julio Jones get our game balls this week. Jones powered the offense with nine catches for 118 yards and one touchdown. Ishmael’s interception right before the half was huge. He probably just wishes that he’d gotten a block from linebacker Justin Durant so he could have scored.

Quarterbacks, B. Matt Ryan completed 22 of 35 passes for 246 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The offense also came up with a clutch 14-play drive that took 6 minutes, 44 seconds off the clock in the fourth quarter. Only four receivers caught passes, while Jones was targeted 13 times and running back Devonta Freeman was targeted 10. Ryan did have an interception that led to the Jaguars tying up the game, 17-17, in the third quarter.

Running backs, C-plus. Freeman and Coleman ran hard even though they weren’t that productive. The Falcons were determined to run the football even against eight-man fronts. By staying with the run, they probably eliminated some of the turnovers and miscues that were popping during the losing streak. Freeman averaged a paltry 2.2 yards on 25 carries, which is normally unacceptable but with the Falcons striving for balance, every carry was important. Coleman ran for 23 yards on four carries. Freeman finished the game with 101 total yards – 56 rushing yards and 45 receiving yards. This was his eighth game this year with at least 100 total yards. Freeman also became the sixth running back in franchise history to score 10-or-more rushing touchdowns in a single season. He joined Michael Turner (four times), Gerald Riggs (twice), Jamal Anderson, William Andrews, and T.J. Duckett as the only players to accomplish that feat.

Wide receivers/tight ends, B. Jones is now within striking distance of breaking the league record for most catches in a season. Jones became the franchise’s career leader in receptions in a single season with a 12-yard catch in the third quarter. Roddy White held the mark of 115 catches in a season, which he accomplished during the 2010 season. Jones had 109 catches for 1,426 yards before facing the Jaguars. He had nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars. The 12-yard grab was Jones’ seventh of the game. Jones has 118 catches for 1,544 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. With two games left to play, Jones has an outside shot of breaking the league mark of 143 catches in a season which is held by former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison. He set that mark in 2002. Earlier this season, Jones had 13 catches against the Giants on Sept. 20 and followed that up the next week with 12 against Dallas. If he can repeat that feat, he’d be tied with Harrison. Late in the game, when Jones was getting extra attention, Justin Hardy and White made some key third down grabs. No tight end caught a pass.

Offensive line, C-plus. Center Mike Person has trouble climbing to the second level to block Jacksonville’s Paul Posluszny, who finished with 10 tackles, including two for losses. The line needs to create more space for Freeman. After giving up five sacks and 11 quarterback hits against Carolina, the Falcons gave up just one sack and three quarterback hits.

Defensive line, B. Adrian Clayborn and Philip Wheeler had sacks. Clayborn also had a quarterback hit. The Falcons held Jaguars running back Denard Robinson to 28 yards rushing on 14 carries. Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley were both active before leaving with injuries. After the game Beasley told our Michael Cunningham that he’s been playing with a torn labrum all season. Seems like that’s an injury that should have been listed on the injury report.

Linebackers, B: Nate Stupar and Wheeler did a good job filling in for linebacker Paul Worrilow, who was inactive with a knee injury. Stupar finished with six tackles. Justin Durant, who didn’t finish with a good block Blake Bortles on Kemal Ishmael’s interception return, led the team with seven tackles.

Defensive backs, C. The Jaguars didn’t shy away from throwing at cornerback Desmond Trufant, who shadowed wide receiver Allen Robinson. Trufant struggled at times and had a couple of penalties. He was also beaten for a 10-yard touchdown pass that tied up the game 17-17. The Falcons dodged a bullet when Bortles missed wide receiver Allen Hurns after he got behind the secondary for a potential game-winning touchdown.

Special teams, C. The Falcons pulled out all stops and called a fake punt. It picked up the first down, but Ishmael was called for holding on the play. Shayne Graham made two field goals of 33 and 46 yards. Returner Devine Hester has not provided a spark since he returned from the short-term injured reserve list. Punter Matt Bosher averaged 43.2 on five punts.

Coaching, A. The Falcons stuck with their plan on offense and even ran some no-huddle with Ryan. The defense was able to get to Bortles and move him off his spot. How the team stuck together when the Jaguars stormed back from a 14-point deficit can be attributed to good coaching.

NEXT UP: The Falcons (7-7) host the Carolina Panthers (14-0) on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons have been out-scored 72-3 over their last two meetings with the Panthers, who are still fighting for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.


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