To put it simply, the Falcons got their butts kicked in this game. They just really came out with zero intensity or passion for this game and seemed to be going through the motions.
I thought Matt Ryan got off to a poor start. And it really wasn’t until late in the game did he really start to play at a relatively high level. He only looked comfortable when he was running the no-huddle. I know many will complain why did the Falcons wait so long to go to the no-huddle. Well they didn’t wait that long. They went to it on their 10th offensive play during the 3rd series. But I don’t think Ryan looked his usual self or at least the guy that was playing at an MVP level earlier in the season. I mentioned it before, but I do think Ryan does look a little less. It wasn’t until late in the game (when he got into a rhythm in the no-huddle) did I really see him put good zip on the ball. Frankly, his arm looks a little tired. He wasn’t as quick on the trigger on a some early throws that had he pulled the trigger a half-second earlier could have wound up being big plays for the Falcons. They were not, and the offense was stagnant. I also thought he struggled a bit when the pocket was muddy, not setting his feet and struggling when he was moved off his spot. That reminded me too much of last year’s Ryan, not this year’s, who for the first half of the season did an excellent job working behind a subpar O-line.
That was not the case this week. The Falcons O-line once again got pushed around by the Panthers front. Every single lineman gave up at least one pressure, and there were a number of hurries. Peter Konz struggled in this game. And I think it’s reached a point where a change might be in order. The guy just isn’t really cutting it at right guard. He gave up a 3.5 hurries, 1 sack, and a pressure. And he was somewhat responsible for another sack (the first, attributed to McClure). He and McClure were double-teaming Frank Kearse, then Konz left to chip Charles Johnson who was working against Clabo. The shove Konz gave Johnson, allowed Johnson to get free of Clabo and pressure Ryan to step up in the pocket. And at that point, McClure got beat by Kearse with a rip move and had an easy sack on Ryan. It would be one thing if Konz had been going up against Ndamukong Suh or Geno Atkins, but Nate Chandler, Greg Hardy, and Frank Alexander are beating you, then it becomes an issue. And it’s not just this game, but it’s been at least two or three straight games where he’s clearly been the weakest link on the offensive line. So the Falcons might want to think about giving Mike Johnson a shot (who got credited with the key block or rather “hold” on Turner’s touchdown).
Clabo’s false start was credited to McClure, who failed to snap the ball. As for the run blocking, it wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t good.
The Falcons passing game had a lot of success going to Roddy. I don’t know if he was working against James Dockery all game, but he was abusing him throughout the second half. Jones had a number of drops in this game. Not all were perfectly thrown passes, but still catchable for Jones.
I thought it was interesting that on Turner’s first 2 carries of the game, he was unsuccessful. Then the Falcons ran to Quizz 4 straight times, and he was successful on all of them. Then Turner got the rock twice, neither successful runs. Then he got a successful run on the 5-yard gain (his 5th carry), then was stuffed at the goalline, and then had an obviously successful run on the touchdown carry. Does any of that mean anything? Eh, not really. Just thought it was interesting that the Falcons clearly were not going with the hot hand.
For the people that want to call out Koetter for his play-calling/management in the game, there is some fodder. It did not appear that the Falcons called any plays until a minute left in the 3rd quarter that was designed for Ryan to throw downfield. That first play was the one where Roddy stumbled and Ryan overthrew him. After that point, they took many shots downfield. And by that point Ryan had 21 pass attempts. Other than that, I really don’t think you can find much fault in Koetter’s play-calling that isn’t just nitpicking.
I’m going to defend the defensive performance in the sense that they gave the offense plenty of opportunities in the first to capitalize on. Besides strong performances in primetime, this is not a particularly good defense. Missing Samuel and Moore hurt. McClain is competent, but was overmatched at times. Hope did not play well. His run support was lackluster at best.
Abe might have had the least productive game of the season as a pass rusher. Corey Peters did do some nice things, and it’s probably the best game he’s played in over a year. He looked fairly competent playing the nose in pass rushing situations.
One positive that is not necessarily in the defense’s favor is how erratic Cam Newton was in this game. He really struggled throwing from the pocket when he was indeed pressured. He also missed Greg Olsen for a wide open TD at the outside of the 2nd quarter (he instead hit Murphy on a 16-yard pass). A few plays later the Panthers kicked a FG. And then he also missed that wide open deep shot to Murphy later that should have been a touchdown. Those two plays alone left 11 points on the field in the first half.
One of the issues the Falcons defense has dealt with all year long is that they are prone to giving up a couple of big plays per game. Thus when the offense is struggling and they aren’t off-setting those big plays with turnovers (as they did 10 days ago), they tend to get exposed.
But overall, no real defensive standouts besides Peters. It just didn’t seem like the defense had a ton of pep in their step. And it makes me think that all of the talk about the swagger that Asante brings to the table is legitimate.
On special teams, I think Bosher may have had his first really bad punt of the season with a 35-yarder that went off the side of his foot out of bounds. It was nice to see Matthews continue to do well on special teams coverage, but he was outshone by Jonathan Massaquoi, who looks decidedly heftier than I last remember from the summer.
Advanced Stats from Week 14:
Poor Throws (7): Ryan
Drops (3): Jones
Key Blocks (2): Johnson, McClure
Sacks Allowed (2): Konz, McClure
Missed Blocks (0)
Pressures Allowed (5): Blalock (1.5), Baker (1), Clabo (1), Konz (1), McClure (0.5)
Tackles for Loss (3): DeCoud, Dent, McClain
QB Sacks (1): Walker
QB Pressures (5): Peters (2), Babineaux (1), Biermann (1), Nicholas (1)
QB Hits (2): Biermann, Peters
Passes Defended (2): Owens, Robinson
Blown Coverages (5): Owens (2), DeCoud (1), McClain (1), Robinson (1)
Missed Tackles (6): Biermann (2), Hope (1), McClain (1), Owens (1), Robinson (1)
Key Blocked (9): Dent (2), Nicholas (2), Weatherspoon (2), Abraham (1), Babineaux (1), Peters (1)