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By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Falcons put forth a very strong start to their 2012 preseason, but will be hoping for a better finish in their matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals from the Georgia Dome.
Atlanta's offense was rolling early on in last Thursday's opener against the Baltimore Ravens, with quarterback Matt Ryan engineering touchdown drives of 80 and 85 yards that gave the Falcons a 14-point lead less than a minute into the second quarter. The second half was a different result, however, as the Ravens forced three Atlanta turnovers and scored 24 unanswered points to come away with a 31-17 victory.
Ryan finished 9-of-13 for 155 yards with one touchdown and one interception while leading the Falcons' first four possessions, with most of his damage coming on connections with Julio Jones. The standout second-year receiver burned Baltimore for 109 yards on six catches during his short stint, including a 36-yard scoring grab from Ryan on Atlanta's first series.
Roddy White added three receptions totaling 46 yards to help the Falcons' first-team offense pile up 193 yards in just over a quarter's worth of work, but the unit sputtered afterward with the backups in place and Atlanta wound up saddled with its sixth straight preseason loss dating back to the 2010 campaign.
The Falcons also didn't fare well on the injury front in Thursday's defeat. Rookie Bradie Ewing, slated to be the team's top fullback, suffered a season- ending torn ACL in the first half, while starting middle linebacker Akeem Dent sustained a concussion in the second quarter that will keep him out of this week's contest.
To take Ewing's spot on the roster, Atlanta signed veteran fullback Lousaka Polite on Saturday.
Running back Jason Snelling (lower leg), defensive tackles Corey Peters (foot) and Vance Walker (foot) and cornerback Chris Owens (hamstring) all sat out the opener for Atlanta and aren't expected back against the Bengals, though slot receiver Harry Douglas could return after missing the Baltimore game with sore ribs.
Cincinnati didn't come out of Friday's 17-6 triumph over Tim Tebow and the New York Jets unscathed either. Left guard Travelle Wharton (knee), running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot), middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee), defensive end Carlos Dunlap (knee) strong safety Taylor Mays (concussion) all exited early with injuries, with Wharton feared to have an ACL tear that would sideline him for all of the 2012 season.
Dunlap is projected to miss about a month with a right knee sprain, which further thins the depth on a defensive line that will also be without experienced end Robert Geathers for the entire preseason with a knee injury. Rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, the Bengals' first pick in this past April's draft, is also presently on the shelf due to a reported fractured bone in his knee.
Cincinnati's defense was still effective despite the depletions, limiting the Jets to a mere 173 total yards and 11 first downs while recording five sacks, with reserve linebacker Dontay Moch coming up with 1 1/2 sacks and forcing a fumble on the evening.
The Bengals will also be short-handed at the running back position, with both Green-Ellis and backup Bernard Scott (broken hand) ruled out for Thursday's game. Versatile veteran Brian Leonard and usual special-teamer Cedric Peerman will handle the majority of the ball-carrying duties.
Peerman accounted for both Cincinnati touchdowns in last week's win, recovering a blocked punt in the end zone late in the first half and adding a one-yard rushing score in the third quarter.
Atlanta has prevailed in eight of 10 all-time preseason meetings with Cincinnati and has won the last seven such bouts between the teams, most recently a 24-19 decision at the Georgia Dome in 2007. The Bengals haven't bested the Falcons in exhibition play since a 13-7 road overtime verdict on Aug. 17, 1974.
08/14 17:18:46 ET
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