I needed an extra day to process and get over this loss. Personally, I was very disappointed with how poorly the Falcons played in this game. But as usual with these reviews, upon re-watching the game, I’m not as upset.
Matt Ryan played very well in this game. The problem the Falcons had in this game offensively was that they had some critical mistakes, particularly penalties and pressure killing a couple of their drives. If there is any complaint I have about Ryan’s performance is that in the third quarter when the Falcons were down 18, I think Ryan started to play a bit too conservatively. Perhaps it was the pressure that was causing him to get rid of the ball a bit too quickly, but he seemed a bit too willing to check the ball down. And then the intentional grounding later that drive in the redzone, forced the team to settle for a field goal. But other than that series, he had one of his better performances.
The running game was a non-factor in this game, and part of that seemed to be by design. It looked like the Falcons entered this game with the intention of throwing the ball, and it was effective for the most part in terms of moving the ball. But drives stalled mainly because of penalties. Rodgers holding penalty was a killer in the second quarter, and the Falcons punting on that drive was probably the major momentum shift.
The Falcons had opportunities to get it back in the third quarter, but again penalties on Svitek and Clabo, as well as pressure given up by Clabo killed subsequent drives. I think Mularkey’s game plan was a pretty good one. Only two complaints were his play calls on 3rd & 1 in the 2nd quarter and 4th & 1 in the 4th, where the Falcons tried a pair of rollouts.
The blocking was not poor, as the Falcons only gave up 3 pressures on 52 dropbacks. But those pressures came at inopportune times. But overall, this was just your typical Falcons-Saints game. The Falcons managed to shoot themselves in the foot a few too many times, and the Saints were able to fully take advantage of those situations. And when the Saints made mistakes, the Falcons were unable to take advantage.
Defensively, this was easily the worst performance of the team all year long, which is very disappointing given that they had a few extra days of rest and prep to get ready for this game. But the biggest failure in this game was the lack of pass rush. Babineaux, Peters, and Edwards might as well not have gotten on the plane, because they had minimal impact in this game. Abraham was working, but could not make the plays when necessary. And the secondary really had no answer for the Saints passing attack. Brent Grimes and William Moore had good games, but the rest of the secondary struggled in this game. The 41-yard pass to Meachem after the Saints had a delay of game penalty that forced a 3rd & 13 was a perfect illustration of the point I made earlier about the Falcons not being able to take advantage of their opportunities. On that drive in particular, in the last 2 minutes of the first half they could not get off the field on 3rd down. Three times, the Saints were able to convert on 3rd down and extend that drive, ultimately resulting in a touchdown to really push ahead in the game. On the first third down, Abraham got pressure on Brees, but he was able to dodge him and find an open Meachem over the middle. The next time was on the 41-yarder to Meachem, which was a blown coverage by Robinson. Robinson thought that he had safety help over the top, but the slot receiver was able to freeze him. Then later on 3rd & 8, the Saints were able to run Sproles up the middle for a 16-yard gain to set up the touchdown throw to Graham on the next play. That was another play where Babineaux was able to get pressure on Brees, but he scrambled around and was able to deliver the ball to Graham for the score.
A huge problem for this team was their inability to stop the run. On the Saints first 8 runs, they were successful on 7 of them. Then they went on a slump for 3 runs, but then were successful on their next 5 runs.
As for the earnings, Lofton, Grimes, Spoon, and DeCoud did not play as poorly as their earnings merit. Robinson played poorly, as did Peterson.
Special teams, the only real issue was the 92-yard return by Sproles. Other than that, they had a pretty solid game. But that play signified again that anytime the Falcons had built up some momentum, they made mistakes that allowed the Saints to regain it.
Advanced Stats from Week 16:
Poor Throws (5): Ryan (4), Redman (1)
Drops (1): White
Key Blocks (0)
Sacks Allowed (0)
Missed Blocks (1): McClure
QB Pressures Allowed (3): Clabo (2), Snelling (0.5), Svitek (0.5)
Tackles For Loss (3): Lofton (1), Peterson (1), Abraham (0.5), Weatherspoon (0.5)
QB Sacks (1): Walker
QB Pressures (0)
QB Hits (2): Biermann
Passes Defended (8): Moore (3), Grimes (2), DeCoud (1), Franks (1), Lofton (1)
Blown Coverages (12): DeCoud (3), Grimes (3), Robinson (2.5), Franks (1), Lofton (1), Weatherspoon (1), Moore (0.5)
Missed Tackles (4): DeCoud, Grimes, Lofton, Robinson
Key Blocked (6): Lofton (3), Peterson (2), Moore (1)