This was not Ryan’s best game at least in terms of how he started, as he had 5 poor throws on the first two series. I think the slick conditions could be a culprit, but I noticed the majority of those missed throws were downfield ones. The deep ball to Jones on the first series was almost counted as a drop, but it wasn’t clear that Jones would have come down in bounds, so ultimately it was chalked up by another poor throw by Ryan. But after the pick-six, Ryan seemed to settle in and play at his usually high level this week.
Tony Gonzalez had an excellent game, winding up with 7 of the Falcons 19 passing first downs in this game, which doesn’t include his touchdown. Jones had a nice bounce-back game, although part of it seemed to be that there was a concerted effort by Ryan and Koetter to get him the ball in the first half. 11 of his first 15 targets came before halftime. Roddy White didn’t get a ton of work, but he made the most of his opportunities.
Turner had a nice game on the ground despite a limited workload. The blocking up front was solid given how many times the Falcons dropped back to throw, and there were holes created on the ground. It’s extremely rare in games where Sam Baker stands out as a run blocker, but he did a good job in this game with a pair of key blocks (including a good one on Turner’s TD run). McClure had his trademark struggles in pass protection vs. the 3-4 nose tackle, but he did a fairly solid job run blocking at times. There were really no bad performances by the Falcons blockers up front despite only modest earnings by all except Baker. Giving up only 4 pressures/sacks in 53 dropbacks is rock-solid. There were a couple of times where they gave up some pressure, but Ryan was able to move around the pocket and still find an open receiver. Baker and McClure were usually the culprits on those plays. But for the most part they gave Ryan ample time to find open receivers, and I did notice Ryan took more shots than normal downfield, which is also a testament to added time in the pocket.
The Joe Hawley Experiment at fullback/tight end did not really work out in the passing game. But their jumbo package with Hawley and Johnson on the field did seem to be quasi-effective in opening run lanes. I’m sure most people groaned when Hawley dropped those two passes, although I found them humorously inept. Against a better opponent in a tighter game, it might have been more irksome, but for now I can shrug it off as a one-game outlier.
Defensively, the Falcons run defense struggled early in this game. Alfred Morris was gashing their eight-man fronts. I can’t say it was because the defensive line was getting whooped. I just think it had more to do with the linebackers and defensive backs struggling to get off blocks and make stops. From the tape, it looked like for the most part guys like Babineaux, Biermann, and Walker were “plus” run defenders, in that they seemed to be hitting their assignments with relative consistency. As far as everyone goes, I can’t really say that was the case. Akeem Dent looked particularly bad in this game, and it’s making me start to wonder if it’s time for the Falcons to start plugging Mike Peterson into the lineup on defense. Dent missed 3 tackles and was consistently late in pursuit, struggling to get off blocks on the second level. My recollection from 2008 was that Curtis Lofton also got off to a slow start as a rookie, but it was around Week 5 or 6 where he started to make some plays. Not really the case with Dent now. And there are just too many times, particularly in this game that he looks like a liability. The instinctual/fundamental part of playing the position just doesn’t seem to be coming together. And I think the Falcons have to think long and hard after this week in plugging Mike Peterson there during the bye. I’m willing to chalk up this week as just a bad game, but if he doesn’t play better vs. Oakland, then I think the Falcons have to really think about benching him. We know Peterson isn’t lacking on the instinctual/mental aspects of playing the position. It’s really only a question can he run well enough to take advantage of that. I don’t really have a firm answer to that question, but after watching Dent struggle throughout this game, I have to think the team should be willing to roll the dice and find out.
It’s funny because during the week I said that Babineaux is not the same player on twitter, and he goes out and has one of his best games. He really got the better of a number of Redskin blockers. The sack that was attributed to Biermann, I gave to Babineaux. On that play, Babs was lined up outside vs. Tyler Polumbus and beat him on the edge rush. He knocked Kirk Cousins into Trent Williams, who was working against Biermann. The play was blown dead when Cousins hit the ground, and Biermann got the official credit because he went over and touched Cousins down. But Babs should have gotten the sack. Biermann instead got credit for a pressure against Williams.
On the big touchdown to Moss, I didn’t really know who to assign blame on that play. McClain was the slot corner lined up in front of Moss, with Samuel on the outside against Garcon. DeCoud was the safety to their side of the field, with Moore on the other side. Moss ran a skinny post that split the two safeties. Garcon looked to be running a fade-stop. McClain went to cover Garcon in the flat, with Samuel dropping back into zone over the top. If he was supposed to trail Moss, then he did not, which left Moss to split the two safeties, both of them staring into the backfield. I ultimately attributed blame to both safeties on the blown coverag. Moss did cross DeCoud’s face and he didn’t react. My assumption is because he believed Moore was covering the deepest (which he did not).
Weatherspoon’s sack was a tackle for loss, since Griffin went from passer to runner on the scramble. That was the play that he got hurt. John Abraham was pretty quiet early in this game, but seemed to step things up late. He got his 3.5 pressures/hits on the last 11 pass plays from scrimmage that Washington ran. Kudos to Dunta Robinson for a very good game. Making plays in both coverage and against the run.
If the Falcons move Peterson into the defensive lineup, that could help out special teams since Dent should get more reps there. Coverage wasn’t particularly great in this game. Bosher didn’t earn on his punts, thanks to two touchbacks. Both were good punts where D.J. Davis, as the gunner, was in position to down them inside the 5 if he had been able to locate them before they bounced into the endzone. On the Redskins punt that was downed the 2, Franks gets blame there because he barely chipped Niles Paul to prevent him from downing the ball. I’m betting Keith Armstrong is not going to be particularly thrilled with his normally solid special teams unit.
Advanced Stats from Week 5:
Poor Throws (8): Ryan
Drops (4): Hawley (2), Rodgers (1), Turner (1)
Key Blocks (5): Baker (2), McClure (1), Reynolds (1), Snelling (1)
Sacks Allowed (1): McClure
Missed Blocks (5): Baker, Blalock, Douglas, Reynolds, White
Pressures Allowed (3): Blalock, Clabo, McClure
Tackles For Loss (6): Robinson (1.5), Weatherspoon (1.5), Babineaux (1), Biermann (1), Jerry (1)
QB Sacks (2): Babineaux (1.5), Robinson (0.5)
QB Pressures (6): Abraham (1.5), Biermann (1), Jerry (1), Walker (1) Weatherspoon (1), Babineaux (0.5)
QB Hits (3): Abraham, Babineaux, Edwards
Passes Defended (3): Abraham, Moore, Robinson
Blown Coverages (2): Robinson (1), DeCoud (0.5), Moore (0.5)
Missed Tackles (5): Dent (3), Moore (1), Nicholas (1), Walker (1)
Key Blocked (4): Babineaux, DeCoud, Robinson, Weatherspoon