Monday Night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles showed the heart of the present team, a few ghosts from the past and a glimpse of the future. With the 26-24 win, the Atlanta Falcons showed perseverance and resolve. That said, a few of the ghosts from previous seasons remain in short yardage difficulties, 3rd quarter lulls and Kroy Biermann. The future looks bright, however, with Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett up front and Tevin Coleman adding life to the running game.
One thing I like to pay attention to is personnel groupings. If you aren’t familiar with the numbering system, the first number represents the number of running backs and the second number represents the number of TE’s. The most used grouping was “11” personnel at 36 times. “21” personnel was second, “12” was third at 11, “22” and “victory” formation each used 3 times. The fullback was used far more than the past two seasons and the tight ends are also vital to the offense.
Play action was very effective and that was largely due to the pass/run ratio being almost 50/50 as well as the zone blocking motion of the line. Matt Ryan did make a few bad decisions/throws but that’s to be expected. Devonta Freeman seemed to be a little impatient on running plays and not waiting for the play to develop. Given the lack of preseason snaps, this is something that I’d almost expect to see. Pass blocking was extremely effective. According to Dan Graziano (ESPN), Ryan was only pressured 3 times and that was good for lowest percentage in the league. It’s been a long, long time since Falcon fans could boast that type of statistic.
The pass rush was heads and tails better than last season. While there were no sacks, Sam Bradford was under duress constantly from Beasley (despite what I’ve seen written, he had far more than just 1 play), O’Brien Schofield, Adrian Clayborn, Jonathan Babineaux and Jarrett. Babineaux looked like he did in his 20’s out there.
Noting the defense, the schemes were very easy to keep track of. There was the big base which usually consisted of Malliciah Goodman, Ra’Shede Hageman, Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson, the base nickel which featured Schofield, Babineaux, Clayborn and Beasley. Only 1 3-3-5 look that I noticed along with a “big nickel” package occasionally that featured a larger line.
Coverage had a slight bend don’t break feel to it but was aggressive with press elements to it and to a large extent very effective. Most of the Eagles completions were underneath routes that either caused confusion or quick passes in an attempt for yards after the catch. One area that stood out negatively was Kroy Biermann. Once he was spotted in coverage, Bradford immediately picked on him and was very successful in doing so. Add in the missed tackles and Biermann simply wasn’t very effective defensively. Brooks Reed was sorely missed in this regard.
Special teams, as everyone knows, were absolutely stellar and made a big difference in the outcome of the game not only from putting points on the board but in terms of field position with Bosher continuously booming kickoffs and punts essentially taking the return element of Darren Sproles out of the game.
I think what impressed me most about this game was the run defense. To virtually shut down Demarco Murray is an impressive feat.
Looking ahead, the run game will need to get more consistent with the backs being patient and also the timing of the line and backs being in sync with each other. As Matt Ryan stated in his interviews, he has to eliminate the turnovers and also a few underthrown passes, which really aren’t all that unusual early in the season.
Defensively, the sacks will be there. The Eagles offense is built around getting the ball out extremely quick so getting hits and hurries were effective. I’ve already discussed Biermann and the deficiencies that are there. Unfortunately, those may not be resolved until Brooks Reed is able to take the field. Justin Durant and Paul Worrilow really performed well. The secondary was very sound for the most part. William Moore had a few missed tackles but also made the nice read on the interception so I have no doubts that the misses will be cleaned up.
Next up are the New York Giants. Watching their first game, they really don’t stack up all that well when comparing to the Eagles. Odell Beckham is a better wide receiver than anyone the Eagles have but the combination of Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams are nowhere near a match for Murray, Sproles and Ryan Mathews. Defensively, the Giants simply do not have much of a pass rush. If the Giants can’t get to Ryan, they aren’t going to have much of a chance. What the Giants do have going for them is home field advantage and having the bad taste in their mouths of their week 1 loss. I don’t foresee that being enough to garner a victory. I’ll take the Falcons on the road 27-13.