There were the obvious winners and losers from Sunday’s preseason games, which pitted the Falcons against the Steelers and the Saints against the Chargers. The Steelers and Saints won, and the Falcons and Chargers lost. But several other things stood out on Sunday — some in a good way, and some not so much.
Week 2 of the preseason typically features a lot of younger players trying to make enough of a mark to carve out a roster spot for the coming season. Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson said during the Chargers game that we’re seeing “growing pains” from these second- and third-team players, and that’s true for every team.
They were only on the field for one series, but the Falcons’ first-team bore a strong resemblance to last year’s offensive juggernaut. But Matt Simms and the third-team offense were a different story, and special teams play was a particular nightmare for Atlanta in its 17-13 loss to the Steelers.
The Chargers looked bad in Week 1 of the preseason, and that didn’t change on Sunday. Los Angeles struggled, in large part because offensive line play was absolutely abysmal. The Saints landed eight sacks and 12 quarterback hits, and the defense shut out the Chargers entirely. Los Angeles’ only points in the Chargers’ 13-7 loss came off a pick-six.
Here are the winners and losers from Sunday’s preseason action.
1. The Steelers’ special teams
The Falcons’ special teams deserve criticism, but the Steelers’ performance shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Pittsburgh gave Falcons punter Matt Bosher fits on Sunday. The Steelers very nearly blocked one punt and did knock down another one:
The Steelers also pulled off a 64-yard punt return touchdown:
And the effort to down this punt at the 1-yard line was flawless:
Let’s just say that the conversation Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith will have with his players is going to be very different from what Falcons coordinator Keith Armstrong is going to say to his guys.
2. Matt Ryan
He wasn’t on the field much, but Ryan looks to be playing at the same high level he did last year when he won league MVP honors. Ryan was 4-of-6 on Sunday with 57 yards. Over two preseason games, Ryan has impressed:
In two series during the preseason, Matt Ryan has gone 6-of-8 for 88 yards and one touchdown, and a 123.6 passer rating. #Falcons— Curtis Jackson III (@falconsfiddy) August 20, 2017
3. Alvin Kamara
The Saints already had Mark Ingram when they brought in Adrian Peterson this offseason. Then they selected running back Alvin Kamara out of Tennessee in the third round of the 2017 draft. Kamara’s play on Sunday suggests he may earn a decent workload.
Kamara had five carries for 61 yards and a score against the Chargers. The touchdown was a beauty:
4. The Saints defense
The New Orleans defense has been — well, there’s no nice way to say it. It’s been lousy over the past several seasons. Granted, it’s preseason play, but things may be looking up on that side of the ball for the Saints:
The Saints ranked 27th in the league last year for sacks with just 30. They had eight — EIGHT — on Sunday night against the Chargers. If they can sustain anything remotely close to that in the regular season, it could make all the difference on that side of the ball.
5. The Chargers defense
This was Los Angeles’ second rough game in a row, but the aggressive defense was a bright spot. Los Angeles had three sacks on the Saints quarterbacks, but the Chargers got to them much more than that with seven quarterback hits:
Dexter McCoil added an interception that he returned 99 yards for a touchdown:
The only thing that could have made that play better was McCoil’s celebration dance:
1. Steelers safety Sean Davis
Sean Davis stood out for just one reason — being on the receiving end of this absolutely brutal Mohamed Sanu stiff-arm:
Bless his heart.
2. Matt Simms
The Falcons extended the contract of backup quarterback Matt Schaub this offseason, and Simms is out of practice squad eligibility, so he’s probably the odd man out in Atlanta. He had an opportunity to make a case for himself to other teams when he played against the Steelers on Sunday, but had very mixed results.
He started off strong, with a 44-yard pass to Reggie Davis early:
But then things fell apart. As the game went on, the players around him were further down the depth chart, and he was sacked four times. He completed 15 of 29 passes for 197 yards and one interception.
He looked outmatched, and he didn’t do himself any favors:
3. The Chargers offense
Neither Kellen Clemens nor Cardale Jones could accomplish much with the amount of pressure the Saints defense was bringing constantly. The Los Angeles offensive line is a concern after it allowed 11 sacks over two preseason games.
Clemens completed 10 of 17 passes for 99 yards, and Jones went 7-of-15 for 61 yards and one interception. The good news is that Philip Rivers didn’t play at all, so fans will have to hope the offense can turn things around with the starting quarterback behind center.