I must apologize for getting this review up so late. I don’t know what it is about the bye week that makes me very lazy. But I think part of it was the fact that I didn’t really want to watch this game. It was was a throwaway game, and ultimately a throwaway loss.
But I did see some things in this game that give me pause. The Falcons continue to struggle with pressure, and when teams can get pressure on Ryan, the Falcons offense becomes very mediocre. Ryan was hit three times on the opening series. Then on the second series, the drive started out brilliantly, but then Lavonte David hit Ryan on a blitz, and the Falcons wound up settling for a field goal instead of a drive that a few plays earlier seemed like a guaranteed touchdown. This has been a problem throughout the latter half of the regular season. Agains the Lions, the offense stalled in the third quarter when pressure was dialed up. They looked very good against the Giants because there was hardly any pressure.
The Falcons seemed to be going through the motions in this one. Mike Smith made the right decision to play the starters, but unfortunately those starters just seemed disinterested in this game, looking as if they were hoping to get through this game with just perfunctory and minimal effort as possible. This is the same thing we saw a few weeks ago against the Panthers. The team just lacked an edge. So clearly despite Smitty’s best intentions, his plan did not work. Where I will criticize Smitty is when he opted not to pull the starters at the outset of the fourth quarter. The Falcons were down 12 points at that point, and while it was still a winnable game, there was no need for the Falcons to make the effort to overcome that deficit at this point in the year. It’s tough conceding defeat, and you know a guy like Smitty is a competitor, but that was one of the few times where you just got to know when it’s over, and to count your blessings that no one suffered a major injury. But then of course, Abraham did then suffer an injury. And we’re still waiting to know if he’s going to play next week in the playoff game.
I thought the running game was largely a non-factor, except a few nice runs on the second series. Matt Ryan did not play well. Part of that was because of the pressure and hits he saw early in this game. But he seemed to be staring down reads and just didn’t look comfortable in the pocket all game long. Ryan has not dealt well with pressure throughout the second half of the season, as I’ve noted several times. It’s a glaring weakness of this team, and if this team falls short in the next week or so, I’m absolutely certain it will be because of erratic pass protection.
There isn’t a lot to say about this game. If the Falcons go on to win in the playoffs, this game will be long forgotten. If the Falcons however should lose, then this game is going to stick out as a sore thumb. I really hope that the Falcons make me forget this game. I feel slightly dumber from having watched it.
Defensively, I thought the Falcons did a good job containing Doug Martin through the first two and a half quarters of this game. It got them in trouble a bit as on the Bucs first TD drive, they got beat by play-action passes for a combined 55 yards, including biting hard on the run-action on two plays that put the Bucs in prime scoring position. Then about at the 8-minute mark in the third quarter, the run defense must have worn down because after that the Bucs had little issue running the ball, as they were successful on 6 of their next 8 runs. Prior to that point, they had only been successful once on their previous 12 carries.
Asante Samuel, despite his interception did not play particularly well. He seemed to be going through the motions a bit, and this might have been his worst game as a Falcon. Thomas DeCoud struggled with tackling, and after some solid play the past two weeks Chris Hope looked overmatched. DeCoud’s total looks a lot better than it should because he got two tackles for loss on the final two plays of the game. I think the front did a fairly good job defending the run, as previously mentioned. Akeem Dent made some nice plays early, and solidified my theory that he’s an outside run defender, and thus somewhat miscast as a middle linebacker. I thought Vance Walker, Peria Jerry had the best games of the interior defensive linemen, able to get a few hurries and make some nice stops against the run.
The Falcons got hardly any effective pressure on Freeman this game. They had a number of hurries, but often Freeman would extend the play and find an open receiver downfield. While I counted 9 hurries total, which is a good number, given that most if not all of those wound up being completions for the Bucs it’s not nearly as good.
Bosher had another solid game. The blocked punt was mainly the fault of Josh Harris (low snap) and a missed block by Michael Palmer. Harris did not have a good snap on the previous punt either, and it was fairly close to being blocked too. After the block however, Harris snapping was on point. Harry Douglas looked solid on punt returns, a major upgrade over Dominique Franks. It’s a move that probably should have been made six weeks ago.
Advanced Stats from Week 17:
Poor Throws (10): Ryan
Key Blocks (5): Baker (1), Clabo (1), McClure (1), White (1), Blalock (0.5), Konz (0.5)
Sacks Allowed (2): McClure, Snelling
Missed Blocks (2): Clabo, Gonzalez
Pressures Allowed (3): Clabo (2), McClure (1)
Tackles for Loss (5): DeCoud (2), Babineaux (1), Walker (1), Weatherspoon (1)
QB Sacks (0)
QB Pressures (2): Abraham
QB Hits (1): Nicholas
Passes Defended (7): Abraham (2), DeCoud (1), Dent (1), McClain (1), Samuel (1), Weatherspoon (1)
Blown Coverages (6): Samuel (3), McClain (1), Nicholas (1), Franks (0.5), Hope (0.5)
Missed Tackles (4): DeCoud (3), Hope (1)
Key Blocked (5): Weatherspoon (3), Dent (1), Nicholas (1)