Inside The Game: Week 2 vs. St. Louis Rams

This game was a bit deceptive.  From first glance, it appears as if the offensive line was horrible (and parts were) but what you’ll see in this week’s review is many times the pressure is designed so that the offensive linemen can get up field and block for a designed screen pass.  This certainly wasn’t the case for all the pressure but was for a good chunk of it.  Interestingly on defense  there was a noteable change.  Akeem Dent was not in the nickel packages at the beginning of the game.  It was Weatherspoon and Bartu.  The coaches saw that Dent was not the best option for pass coverage.  I also believe that Jonathan Massaquoi may very well be the up and coming defensive end that the Falcons have been looking for.  He made several plays this game that showed some quickness, tenacity and his ability to get off blocks and make plays.  One thing that St. Louis picked up on at halftime (and Atlanta didn’t) was the Falcons inability to handle clear (aka pick) routes.  The Rams used this play 4 or 5 times to get 15 or so yards each play.

Instead of a formation summary I’ve decided that it would be useful to know down and distance as well as personnel groupings for each play.  Format will be —down-distance:  personnel grouping (P), how many STL had in the box (where noted) and then the comments on the play.

ATL starts on offense with drive #1

1-10: 21P, 8 box.  Jackson goes off left guard, line blocks to the left but Blalock misses his block which leads to the -2 yard rush.

2-12: 11P, empty backfield.  The throw to Jackson was a little behind him but was catchable and has to be called a drop.  Not sure if Ryan and Jackson are quite in sync with each other.

3-12: 11P.  Blocking was fine.  I didn’t really see where Long was offside on this play and if Holmes moved early, it wasn’t any different than when the rest of the line moved from what I saw.   After watching it 4 or 5 times, that’s where it ended up.

3-7:  11P.  Baker gets blown up, allows pressure but the play is still successful as Gonzalez got open.

1-10: 21P. I-formation, 8 in the box.  Ryan uses play action and the team sold it well.  Results in a 14 yard gain on the fullback pass.  Unfortunately, this would also be the end of the season for Brady Ewing.

1-10: 22P, I formation, 9 in the box.  Blocking goes to the right, Gonzalez goes in motion to draw attention, Reynolds makes a nice block but Toilolo gets beat and results in a 2 yard gain by Jackson but could have been more.

2-8: 11P.  Again, Ryan uses play action and Reynolds pulls  to sell the run but the defense doesn’t bite and the short pass to Jones goes nowhere.

3-8: 11P.  Good pass protection on this play.  Douglas makes an inside move that causes separation and picks up 20 yards.

1-10: 12P, 7 in the box.  Jackson goes for no gain and Baker gets abused (hate to use that word but it was bad).

2-10: 11P.  Short pass to Rodgers results in a big gain of 16 yards due to very good blocking and a well set up play.

1-10: 12P, 8 in the box.  Blocking was good.  Holmes puts Long on the ground.  Long just happened to land on Reynolds right leg which ends up becoming pressure.  Fortunately, Reynolds didn’t get hurt and Rodgers picks up 6 on another short pass.

2-4: 11P, This was one of the designed pressure plays.  Holmes is the lead blocker for Jackson but the LB read the play early and was able to outrun Holmes to get to Jackson.  Jackson scores but suffers a thigh bruise while landing on the linebacker’s arm.  7-0 Atlanta.

On defense for Drive #2 (and Drew Davis is another guy who’s a force on special teams by the way)

1-10: 4-2-5 (Weatherspoon and Bartu are the LB’s as noted earlier).  Moore gets pressure and Bartu picks up the RB for -3 yard pass.  Textbook coverage and well played.

2-13: 4-3 Jerry forces RB to cut back and Peters is right there to stop Richardson for a gain of only 2.

3-11: 4-2-5, 2 deep man.    Weatherspoon has great coverage on Richardson but can’t finish the tackle for a loss but Samuels cleans up and stops him after an 8 yard gain.  Samuels joins the injury list.

4-11:  Punt, no return.

Drive #3 (offense)

1-10: 11P, 6 in the box, blocking is good but McLeod just makes a great read on the play.  Julio Jones tries to get there to block him but he really had no chance at all on that one.  I thought that Ryan would see him and audible to try to take advantage of the man coverage. No gain.

2-10: 11P, 6 in the box.  Blocking was good.  A word on what “blocking was good” means.  It doesn’t mean “having all day to throw” but means that Ryan has enough time to see the options and complete a pass. This was a designed short pass to Douglas and he gets 15 yards out of it.

1-10: 11P, 7 in the box.  Baker again allows pressure but Ryan is able to dump off to Jones for 4 yards.  At this point, I’m convinced that Baker is hurt pretty badly and not able to move well laterally at all.

2-6: 11P, 6 in the box.  Good blocking on another designed screen to Julio Jones but Ogletree makes a very athletic play to bat the ball at the line.

3-6: 12P, 5 in the box.  Ryan gets rid of it deep to Julio incomplete but Baker allowed pressure (again, beaten on the outside speed rush by Quinn) and forces a very early throw.

4-6:  Punt inside the 10.  Bosher has really become an excellent punter for us and what many thought was a wasted late round pick (myself included)  has turned into a very nice pick.

Drive #4 (defense)

1-10:  4-3, Osi doesn’t bite on the play action and this enables him to get pressure on Bradford.  Weatherspoon had good coverage on the receiver and results in an incompletion.

2-10: 4-3, Osi leaves his coverage area in order to rush which causes Richardson to be left wide open and gets a 17 yard gain.

1-10: 4-2-5, Rams try a reverse with Austin but the Falcons do not get fooled showing very good discipline and McClain makes the stop after a 1 yard gain.

2-9: 4-2-5, no pressure on Bradford combined with good coverage and a nice job by McClain on the incompletion.

3-9: 4-2-5, Biermann gets pressure and Peters follows up to force a throw away.

4-9: Punt.  Holding on Worrilow costs 10 yards.

Drive #5 (offense)

1-10: 21P, 7 in the box.   Baker allows pressure but Ryan gets it to his short route, Jason Snelling, for 3 yards.

2-7: 11P, Baker gets beat on the outside rush but gets just enough of a block to allow Ryan to throw incomplete to Gonzalez.  Half okay and half bad play on this.

3-7: 11P, Good blocking and a nifty move by Julio Jones for an 81 yard touchdown.  14-0 Atlanta.

Drive #6 (defense)

1-10: 4-3 with Jerry at LDE.  They had the numbers (blockers vs. defense) and Richardson gets 6 yards on the right end.

2-4: 4-3 Jerry still at LDE.  Jerry slides off the block and makes a nice play to stop Richardson for 1 yard.

3-3: 4-2-5: Defensive line wasn’t set and the Rams run an effective clear/pick route that Alford has to alter his coverage which gives Givens the separation needed to get open and picks up 13 yards.  You’ll see this play several more times in the 2nd half.


1-10: 3-3-5.  Massaquoi lined up as LB.  Pettis finds the soft part of the zone between Massaquoi and McClain for 9 yards.  Bigger problem is the 3 man front generates no pressure.  You’ll see this again too.

2-1: 4-3, Dent whiffs on the tackle and Richardson gets 8 yards. Biermann makes the tackle to stop a longer run.

1-10: 4-3, Dent gets swallowed up by a lead double team block which allows Richardson to get open (nice execution by the Rams) and excellent awareness on Peters’ part to make the stop after 4 yards.

2-6: 4-2-5, Short pass to Austin for 5 yards, Weatherspoon is right there to stop it.

3-1: 4-2-5, Great job by Weatherspoon, Biermann and Bartu closing holes and Cunningham goes for no gain.

4-1: 5-3-3, Offensive line just mauls the path for Richardson to get 2 yards and the first down.

1-10: 4-3, Peters gets good pressure which forces Bradford to throw to the short route who didn’t appear ready for the pass which deflects off of him into the waiting arms of Osi, who stayed in coverage this time and gets a touchdown as a result.  21-0 Atlanta.

Drive #7 (defense)

1-10: 4-3, Dent shows good gap discipline and stops Cunningham for no gain.

2-10: 4-3, McClain should have intercepted this one but did disrupt the play enough for it to fall incomplete.

3-10: 4-2-5, No pressure and Givens gets behind McClain to get separation and a big play of 47 yards.

1-10: 4-2-5, Spoon makes a great play to fill the gap and stop Pead for 1 yard.

2-9: 3-3-5, Austin lined up as RB gets a good block from the LG on Weatherspoon to get 7 yards.  If that block fails, Austin gets stopped after 4 yards most likely.

3-2: 3-3-5, Biermann in coverage in the middle, no pressure from the 3 man front, Austin crosses and gets 9 yards.

1-10: 4-2-5, Jerry gets pressure forcing an incompletion.

2-10:  4-2-5, Alford may have been out of position on this one, fortunately an illegal motion penalty brings the play back.

2-15: 3-3-5 Biermann is beaten in coverage by Cook for 10 yards.  Again, the 3-3-5 gives up chunks of yardage.

3-5:  4-2-5, Trufant almost gets a pick 6 but settles for a pass defended.

4-5:  Field goal.  24-3 Atlanta.

Drive #8 (offense)

1-10: 12P, 7 in the box.  Blocking was okay, took a chance deep to Douglas and he really wasn’t open. Good coverage more than anything.

2-10: 11P, 6 in the box.  Gonzalez and Blalock both get turned towards the inside while blocking.  If they could have turned their man outside, the hole would have been huge.  Instead, Rodgers has to settle for 2 yards with no other option.

3-8: 11P empty backfield, blocking was fine, pass complete to Jones for 7, just a bit short.

4-1: Another 50 yard Bosher gem for no gain (Antoine Smith makes the play- no surprise there) and an illegal bock penalty flips the field.

Drive #9 (defense)

1-10:  4-3, Fullback wasn’t covered  and gets a 5 yard reception but pays for it courtesy of a spinebuster by William Moore.  That had to send a message.

2-5: 4-3, Goodman over pursued which springs Richardson for 10 yards.

1-10: 4-2-5, Osi gets pressure which forces an incomplete pass to Cook.

2-10: 4-2-5, Austin simply drops the pass. Bradford read the middle rush and threw it quick.  Moore was deep, the 3 DB’s were in coverage.  Play should have worked but the Falcons caught a break with the drop.

3-10: 3-3-5, Biermann gets pressure rushing as a LB, Cook was wide open as Moore was late with over the top coverage.  Trufant had the short route area of the zone.  If Biermann hadn’t gotten pressure this could have been a big gainer.

4-10: Punt, 4 yard return.  The Rams punter did a nice job as well in the game.

Drive #10 (offense)

1-10: 11P, 7 in the box.  Ryan again uses play action but the Rams don’t fall for it so Douglas only gets 2 yards on the reception.

2-8: 11P, 7 in the box, Ryan checks to a screen to Julio (or appears to), the apparent pressure is a designed part of the play.  Julio gets 16 yards.

1-10: 11P, 6 in the box, Reynolds gets pushed back but stands his ground long enough for Ryan to pass to Jones for 5 yards.

2-5: 11P empty, 4 in the box.  Holmes gets pushed back forcing a short (but effective) throw to Douglas for 6 yards and a first down.

1-10: 11P, 6 in the box.  Konz gets beat on the run block results in a -1 loss on Rodgers.

2-11: 11P, 6 in the box.  Designed quick pass to White for 6 yards.  Blocking was fine.

3-5: 11 P, 6 in the box.  Appears to be the same exact play as the previous one and White gets another 6 yards.

1-10: 11P, everything was good on this play, the DT just made a very athletic play to bat the ball in the air.

2-10: 11P, good blocking with Ryan having two open options.  Chooses Gonzalez for 11 yards.

1-10: 11P, Baker and Reynolds just about get Ryan folded in half. I would have liked to have seen the Falcons try one more play but given the results of the previous play, I’m thinking that Smith’s explanation was more to cover the fact that Ryan took a pretty good lick and didn’t want to risk it.

2-10: Field goal. 24-3 Atlanta


Drive #11 (defense)

1-10: 4-3, Good coverage by Moore but Kendricks muscles for 4 yards after contact for a gain of 6 on the play.

2-4: 4-2-5, Massaquoi makes a great play to stuff Richardson at -1 yard.

3-5: 4-2-5, Dent rushes and gets pressure forcing a rushed pass that falls incomplete.

4-5: Punt of 48 yards with no gain.

Drive #12 (offense)

1-10: 21P I-formation, 7 in the box.  Konz loses his man on the upfield block and Snelling’s block was ineffective which gets Rodgers stuffed for -4.

2-14: 11P, 7 in the box.  Blalock pulls and springs Rodgers for 7 yards.

3-7: 11P, 6 in the box.  Holmes and Baker allow pressure but Quinn gets the -10 sack on Ryan.

4-17: 56 yard Punt for -1 yard return (Drew Davis again!) and a 10 yard penalty tacked on flips the field.

Drive #13 (defense)

1-10: 4-2-5, No pressure up front and Givens beats McClain for 15 yards.

1-10: 4-2-5, Holding on Peters by Wells opens the hole for Richardson to get 9 yards but the penalty was called.

1-20: 4-2-5, Massaquoi brings the pressure and should have gotten the sack but misses and results in an incompletion.

2-20: 4-2-5, Both Massaquoi and Osi get pressure and Bartu keeps up with Austin in coverage, incomplete.

3-20: 4-2-5, Dents gets juked by Richardson for 19 yards, Moore makes the stop to prevent the 1st down.

4-1: Short punt of 39 yards, no return.

Drive #14 (offense)

1-10: 12P, 7 in the box.  Blocking is good, Ryan passes to Gonzalez for 4 yards.

2-6: 12P, What is interesting to note here is that the offensive line is in a run blocking scheme to help sell the play action and it works, 14 yards to Julio Jones.

1-10: 12P, 8 in the box.  Konz should have picked up the MLB but doesn’t and Rodgers loses a yard.

2-11: 11P, 7 in the box.  Designed screen to Rodgers that goes for 6.  Konz missed his block.

3-5: 11P, 7 in the box.  Baker allows pressure forcing a rushed throw to Gonzalez that falls incomplete.

4-5: Punt to the St. Louis 10 backed up 5 by an illegal block.

Drive #15 (defense)

1-10: 4-3, Bartu seals the hole, Dent left his gap but got back to stop Richardson after a 6 yard run.

2-4: 4-3, Bartu comes of the right end and stops Richardson for a 1 yard loss.  Very quick.

3-5: 4-2-5, Good coverage resulting in a throw away.

4-5: 57 yard punt no return.

Drive #16 (offense)

1-10: 11P, 7 in the box.  Holmes trips over Gonzalez’s left foot, Snelling makes something out of nothing and gets 8 yards.  The vision and moves that Snelling showed on this play are very impressive.  When you watch this play and break down the elements of it, you can’t help but be amazed at the fact he got positive yardage much less almost picking up a first down.

2-2: 21P I-formation, 8 in the box.  Snelling’s block failed, Rodgers gets stopped after a 1 yard pickup.

3-1: 11P, Line goes with run blocking again to help sell the play action, it works but Gonzalez is guilty of pass interference.

3-11: 21P, 7 in the box.  Ryan gets sacked for 7 yards but this one is on him.  He held the ball too long and must not have seen that Julio had gotten open.

4-18: Bosher punts for 54, Davis misses  but Smith is right there to get the stop after a 5 yard return.  Davis and Smith make up a very good duo of gunners.

Drive #17 (defense)

1-10: 4-2-5, Trufant or Bartu missed an assignment on the underneath zone but Bradford chooses to go to Givens who beats Dent over the middle for 20 yards.

1-10: 4-2-5, Alford trails Pettis a bit and the Rams pick up 11 more yards.

1-10: 4-2-5, Osi gets pressure to force Bradford to roll out.  Massaquoi is there to force the throw away deep.

2-10: 4-2-5, 3 man rush only.  Either Alford or Bartu missed an assignment resulting in a 20 yard completion to Pettis.

1-10: 4-2-5, No pressure from the line, Kendricks beats Bartu in coverage for 17 yards.

1-10: 4-2-5, again, 3 man rush gets no pressure.  Either McClain was beat straight up or Alford missed a zone assignment.  I lean towards Alford missing the assignment based on McClain stopping when Austin breaks the route off towards the sideline.  McClain may have gotten his part wrong so it’s hard to say for certain but the play results in the Rams first touchdown.  24-10 Atlanta.

Drive #18 (offense)

1-10: 11P, 7 in the box, Douglas runs a designed short route and the oline blocks for it, sucks in the defensive back leaving White open for a 9 yard reception.  Excellent execution.

2-1: 11P, 6 in the box, Rodgers goes for 9 but Reynolds is called for holding.  Looking at it 4 or 5 times, you can see where it looks as if Reynolds may have been pulling him down by the jersey.  That said, you could also make just as good of a case that he didn’t.  Tough call really.

2-11: 12P, Holmes allows pressure and Ryan almost dies.  (Overdramatic, sure, but it looked just that bad)

3-11: 20P, Baker allows pressure, Holmes gets pushed back but held his ground just enough.  Incomplete pass again.

4-11: 63 yard punt by Bosher, nothing else need be said there.


Drive #19 (defense)

1-10: 4-2-5, no pressure, Alford gets beat at the line and then missed the tackle , 18 yards for Pettis.

1-10: 4-2-5, Richardson runs for 2 yards off left tackle.  McClain made a very good read to fill the gap and stop it at just 2 yards.  If he doesn’t do that, the hole is wide open.

2-8: 4-2-5, good coverage but DeCoud blows the tackle completely and Quick turns what should have been a short gain into a 15 yard gain.

1-10: 4-2-5, coverage cleared the middle, Bradford sees it and takes off.  DeCoud gets faked out by Bradford and picks up 23 more yards

1-10: 4-2-5, Dent was late in coverage, McClain made the stop to keep it from being worse than just a 11 yard catch.

1-6: 4-2-5, Dent is covering the middle of the field and for some reason goes to his left, Bradford sees that and takes off.  Fortunately, Moore stopped him after 3 yards otherwise Bradford would have scored.

2-3: 4-2-5, Clear/pick route opens up Pettis  for the touchdown.  The Rams clearly took note that the clear routes work. 24-17 Atlanta

Drive #20 (offense)

1-10:  11P, 6 in the box.  Konz and Baker allow pressure, somehow Ryan is able to step up and over, throw off balance and get it to Snelling for 11 yards.

1-10: 21P I formation, 8 in the box.  Good blocking, Snelling gets the 5 yard reception.

2-5: False start on Holmes.

2-10: 11P, Designed screen/pressure to Julio that goes 22 yards off of a good lead block by Baker.

1-10: 11P, designed short pass to Rodgers but Snelling was easily more open on the opposite side, no gain.

2-10: 11P empty, designed pressure to set up the short pass to Julio for 7 yards.

3-3: 11P, 7 in the box.  Baker allows pressure forcing a rollout. Ryan gets it out to Julio who makes a great play on the ball and picks up 18 yards.

1-10: 12P, Baker and Blalock allow pressure but Ryan gets it to Toilolo for 4 yards.

2-6: 12P, Baker allows pressure again but Ryan gets it to Gonzalez for 7 yards.

1-10: 11P, 6 in the box. DT bit on the play action and was in pass rush mode, opens the hole for Snelling to run right through for the score.  Reynolds intended to block him but was fortunate he was in pass rush mode.  31-17 Atlanta

Drive #21 (defense)

1-10: 4-2-5, Osi and Massaquoi get pressure while Dent gets burned in coverage and gets flagged for holding.

1-10:  4-2-5, Osi gets pressure and Bradford misses Givens who was open off of yet another clear route.

2-10: 4-2-5, good contain coverageTrufant misses tackle but Dent stops it after a 9 yard gain.

3-1: 4-2-5, Trufant gets beat on the slant but stays right with Givens to stop him right after the catch for 10 yards.

1-10: 4-2-5, No pressure and Bradford went deep to Pettis who was covered but had the shorter route open.

2-10: 4-2-5, Peters drops back in coverage, Austin’s route takes advantage of it but Bartu is there to seal the hole and stop Austin after a 6 yard gain.

3-4: 4-2-5, McClain had good coverage, Austin just turned left and got enough room for a 9 yard catch.

1-10: 4-2-5, Jerry gets the initial pressure and Matthew forces the throw away.

2-10: 4-2-5, no pressure, Dent gets beat by Pead for 9 yards.

3-1: 4-2-5, Dent makes a nice play to bat the ball down.

4-1: 5-3-3, completely unexpected FB pass for 6 yards.

1-10: 4-2-5, coverage is soft zone, Babineaux gets initial pressure but Pettis finds a spot and gets 8 yards.

2-2: 4-2-5, good coverage, Peters forces the throw away deep

3-2: 4-2-5, No pressure but Dent was there on the coverage on the incompletion.

4-2: 4-2-5, I still don’t see how they called Trufant for interference on this play.

1-10: 4-2-5, Good coverage, incomplete pass.

2-10: 4-2-5, Pead is open but gets a bad throw from Bradford.

3-10: 4-2-5, Moore looked late on top coverage, Austin scores to make it 31-24 Atlanta.


Drive  #22 (offense)

1-10: 22P I formation, 8 in the box, Rodgers gets 1 yard.  The numbers simply weren’t there to make this play work.

2-9: 11P, 8 in the box, Baker allows pressure but Ryan gets it to Julio for 8 yards.

3-1: 21P, 7 in the box.  Good blocking allows Ryan to get to Snelling for 22 yards on the short pass. This is a killer instinct play.  You can choose to run for the yard or catch them off guard and get the high percentage pass.

1-10: 22P, good blocking results in Rodgers picking up 5 yards.

2-5: 22P, good blocking again and Rodgers gets 3 yards.

3-2: 22P, good blocking yet again and Rodgers picks up 4 yards for the last play of the game.


Overall, given the amount of injuries, I thought the Falcons did well.  Once the injuries occurred it was a slightly different game, although it took all the way until the very last part of the 3rd quarter for the game to change.  The defense was fairly limited on what could be called with 2 starting linebackers out injured.  Given how Baker played it’s no surprise (as noted earlier, written before the news today) he’s out this week.  Hopefully, he’ll get healthy and play more like the Baker of 2012.  I’m sure the coaches addressed the clear routes and how to counter those.  The team was clearly not ready for those.  The other note that I hope Nolan got from the first two games is that the 3-3-5 with only the 3 man rush is not going to be effective.  A good “prevent” package, yes, but standard game situations, just not going to work.

From what I’ve seen of Miami, the two teams are very similar.  Tannehill has a better arm than Bradford and can run better as well.  That’s easily countered though.  The player I’m most intrigued with this game is Jonathan Massaquoi.  This could very well be his breakout season and he showed flashes in the game against the Rams.  I’m also curious to see if Josh Vaughan gets to see a few carries.  Other than that, I think it will be business as usual.  Hopefully, these breakdowns give insight as to what make things work or where things went wrong.  Any comments or suggestions, please feel free to post them below!