The Falcons offense looked sharp because of the explosive scoring plays they were able to generate against a weak Lions secondary. Matt Ryan had a solid game, but despite a very high earning his individual play was nothing special. But he gets credit for only have 2 poor throws, which is a fairly low total for him in the second half of the season.
The offense stagnated a bit in the second half because the Lions were able to dial up pressure. Ndamukong Suh made Peter Konz look pretty bad in this game. As I’ve said before, Konz is clearly the weakest link of the offensive line. It doesn’t mean that Konz going forward can’t become a very good player for the Falcons, particularly if he moves to center. But Suh really had a field day against Konz, with 2 pressures, 2 missed blocks, 0.5 sack, and 2 hurries all occurring when the two of them were matched up, including the safety. Konz is just miscast as a guard, as he lacks the polished technique and footwork to block 1 on 1 against quality D-tackles like Suh. He should fare better at center where those issues won’t be major liabilities. McClure’s lone pressure came when he was asked to block Suh 1 on 1 as well.
Thanks largely to Suh, the Lions were able to get Ryan a bit rattled with pressure and hits in the second half, and the running game wasn’t good enough to pick up the slack. I don’t think Turner played poorly, but there was a run in this game that I think well illustrates how much of his skill has declined. He had a run for a 2-yard loss in the fourth quarter on a sweep left. He got to the edge, and was in a one-on-one situation with rookie corner Jonte Green on the edge. The old Michael Turner would have just ran right through Green and gotten some positive yardage on that play. Instead now, Turner tried to bounce outside and run around Green, who was able to slow him up and allow his teammates to rally for the loss.
If you’re wondering why Tony Gonzalez was so quiet this week, it was a combination of a few factors. Mostly it was because Ryan was looking elsewhere, as Roddy White was near unstoppable in the first half, and Jones took over in the second half. Also, it was because there were some longer developing routes for Gonzo, and pressure forced Ryan to try and get rid of the ball quicker before Gonzo could come open. And it was also due to the fact that there were several instances where Gonzo was asked to chip as the Lions made ample use of the Wide 9s in this game.
Defensively, a lot of low earnings mainly because the Leader of the Decepticons was uncoverable in this game. I think all but 1 or 2 of the team’s blown coverages were on instances where Johnson made plays. The defense was also helped in large part due to the incompetence of Matt Stafford. As you’ve probably heard, Stafford’s mechanics are highly erratic, and that was on full display in this game. There was a couple of fairly easy completions that Stafford missed by a mile because of his sloppy mechanics and footwork. Some of them, could have been big plays to the tight ends and Durham. I’m not afraid to say it, but if Shaun Hill had started this game, the Lions could have really given the Falcons a run for their money. They probably wouldn’t have won, but it probably would have been much closer. The defense really had no answer for the Lions passing attack. A number of the blown coverages were when the Falcons played zone. It seemed like they played a lot more zone than normal due to the presence of Megatron. Or maybe it was their normal amount, it just got exposed more. But I think it was the former. Robinson couldn’t cover him. Samuel probably could have if challenged to do so, but he may still have lingering issues with that shoulder and it’s probably not a good idea to ask him to play tight coverage on a guy that has 50 pounds of Cybertronian muscle on you.
The defense didn’t play poorly, but they just weren’t great. Stafford didn’t see a lot of pressure. Biermann played well, with 2 pressures, a hit, and a pair of hurries. But otherwise the pass rush was pretty non-descript. My hope is that John Abraham’s slip in production is because he’s saving himself for the playoffs, not because he’s hit some sort of wall and/or has not adapted well to playing with his hand off the ground as he’s done for most of the past 10 games. But if the Falcons are going to have a deep run, they are going to need him to step up. I’ll give Peria Jerry some props as well, he’s stepped up his play the past few weeks.
I don’t know if the Lions special teams is bad, but both of Robert James stops came when he ran up the field unblocked, clean to Stefan Logan. And of course Logan made the bonehead decision of kneeling at the 4-yard line. I don’t think the Lions special teams coach, Danny Crossman, is going to be patrolling their sidelines next year.
Advanced Stats from Week 16:
Poor Throws (2): Ryan
Sacks Allowed (1): Baker (0.5), Konz (0.5)
Missed Blocks (4): Konz (2), Cox (1), White (1)
Pressures Allowed (3): Konz (2), McClure (1)
Tackles for Loss (0)
QB Sacks (0)
QB Pressures (4): Biermann (2), Babineaux (1), Jerry (1)
QB Hits (1): Biermann
Passes Defended (2): McClain, Robinson
Blown Coverages (12): Robinson (3.5), McClain (1.5), Samuel (1.5), Weatherspoon (1.5), DeCoud (1), Hope (1), Nicholas (1), Biermann (0.5), Franks (0.5)
Missed Tackles (5): Samuel (2), Weatherspoon (2), Biermann (1)
Key Blocked (3): Dent, Jerry, Nicholas