A really tough outing for the Falcons as they had multiple opportunities to win this game, but could not take advantage. This is traditionally how the Falcons have played the Saints over recent years, and why they have lost most of those games. A dropped ball here, a penalty there, a blown assignment there, and it all adds up to the Falcons coming up short at the end of the day.
Personally, I think the decision to go for it on fourth down in overtime was the right call. If you can’t get 8 inches, then you probably don’t deserve to win. I didn’t agree with the play call on that play though, with less than a foot to go I think you just sneak it up the middle rather than handing it off to Turner.
For the most part, Matt Ryan had a really good game. He continues to struggle with throwing the ball downfield, as 6 of his 8 poor throws were deep (20+ yard) passes. He does a good job on the majority of his throws from 15-20 yards, but once you start pushing his throws to 25 yards or more, he tends to struggle. I’m still not in love with the Falcons overall play-calling and design of their passing plays, although there were several calls during this game that I think are good ones from Mularkey. I just want to see the Falcons use those plays more. Getting 4 or 5 options on the field at the same time, and running more vertical routes with clear outs worked very well for this team in the fourth quarter. We should be doing more of those plays earlier in the game, and particularly on first downs rather than running the ball into the pile for 1 or 2 yards.
Michael Turner had a strong start to this game, earning $7 of his $13 on the first series. But after that, he was pretty non-descript. Had a few more nice runs, but he didn’t do much. Part of that was because of the blocking. The blocking was solid early on, but as the game wore on the Falcons could not get any push.
Cameron Jordan was punking Tyson Clabo throughout this game. Will Svitek doesn’t really seem to be an improvement over Sam Baker in pass protection, although his run blocking is much better. But Ryan’s interception is probably just as much on him giving up the pressure to Will Smith as it is on Roddy White for dropping the ball. Joe Hawley is probably our meanest offensive linemen, but he’s miscast as a guard because of his inability to get consistent push. McClure is clearly starting to slow down, and Blalock is solid, but that doesn’t bode well for your offensive line when he’s your best blocker. He’s the type of player that should be your third best blocker.
Roddy White really struggled in this game, and without even checking I’m sure this is by far his worst earning since I started doing Moneyball in 2009, and probably is one of his worst games since his rookie year. One of his penalties was a ticky tack call (the offensive P.I.), but his blocking was bad in this game, and he just didn’t really seem to have his head in the game. Speaking of officiating, this game was pretty sloppy in that realm. The Falcons got some calls, the Saints got some calls, but I feel like the refs missed some calls. There was a hold on Jonathan Babineaux late in the game, that I felt they missed. There was a block in the back on Martez Wilson that I thought they missed on Sproles one good punt return. And the pass to Roddy in the endzone at the end of the game that could have won it, I thought it was certainly debatable if Greer got there too early for a pass interference. But I tend to cut the refs some slack, but I’m not sure this is going to get a lot of positive grades for Terry McAulay & Co. when it comes time to picking who officiates in the playoffs and Super Bowl.
Tony Gonzalez was money in this game, but the Falcons just didn’t get him the ball enough. Harry Douglas had an outstanding game, and when the Falcons spread the field, that’s where most of his plays were made. It was also nice to see the Falcons get Eric Weems involved as well. And this is another knock on Mularkey, but why can’t either of these two players get involved in the offense unless Julio Jones is out of the game. They combined for 11 catches, and I would say probably on 9 or 10 those plays, they were good play calls and designs. Yet, they never seem to run those same plays when Jones is on the field, and thus both players essentially disappear whenever Jones is in the lineup.
Defensively, I think when you consider how very little pressure the Falcons got on Brees throughout this game, they had a solid performance. They blew a number of coverages, but I think given that Brees had all day to throw, and the Falcons never ever ever try to jam receivers at the line, that is understandable and forgivable. I really think the Falcons could help themselves out a lot by not letting guys like Colston and Jimmy Graham and Meachem get free releases off the line. The simple fact of getting into their grills might give our pass rush the extra half-second or so it may need to get in the grill of Brees.
DeCoud had his ups and downs, but his two blown coverages came when he was stuck on an island against Robert Meachem, so I’ll cut him some slack there. Dunta Robinson? What can you do but just shake your head. But at least this game he didn’t look as bad against the run as he has for most of this season. James Sanders had a nice game filling in for Moore, and didn’t make any real mistakes. Weatherspoon had a solid game as usual, and was seemingly the only Falcons defender to get any pressure on Brees. Lofton had a solid game, which I’ve noticed he tends to do against the Saints over the past two years. Nicholas made some nice plays vs. the run (as usual), but looked a bit lost at times in coverage (as usual). Peters was pretty quiet this game, hopefully his little run isn’t over. Despite hardly getting any pressure, I can at least say Edwards, Abraham, and Babineaux made a couple of nice plays to make up for it.
On special teams, Bosher had a few nice punts and made that nice touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff to Sproles. Had he not made that play and Sproles taken that one to the house, I think this game would have been over much sooner than it actually was. I still believe that Bryant’s missed 41-yarder at the end of the first half was good. I don’t know if there is replay on field goals, but I believe that ball hooked over and squeaked inside the goalpost.
Advanced Stats from Week 10:
Poor Throws (8): Ryan
Drops (3): Douglas, Gonzalez, White
Key Blocks (7): Cox (2), Blalock (1), Gonzalez (1), Hawley (1), Jones (1), Svitek (1)
Sacks Allowed (0)
Missed Blocks (7): White (3), Blalock (2), Clabo (1), Jones (1)
QB Pressures Allowed (4): Clabo (2), Svitek (2)
Tackles For Loss (9): Abraham (2), Lofton (1.5), Nicholas (1.5), Babineaux (1), DeCoud (1), Edwards (1), Hayden (1)
QB Sacks (0)
QB Pressures (2): Weatherspoon
QB Hits (1): Abraham
Passes Defended (2): Grimes, Weatherspoon
Blown Coverages (8): DeCoud (2), Robinson (2), Grimes (1), Nicholas (1), Weatherspoon (1)
Missed Tackles (1): Weatherspoon
Key Blocked (2): Edwards, Lofton