This was your classic Falcons-Saints game where the Saints proved victorious. The Falcons had numerous opportunities to steal the win, but they didn’t take advantage of enough of them.
The Falcons couldn’t move the ball against the Saints as the game progressed mainly because of their woes in pass protection. From my count, the Falcons gave up pressures or hurries on 8 of their 12 third/fourth down attempts, which shows you why it is not surprising that they only converted 3 of them. Thus why most of their drives after the first quarter were stalled.
Lamar Holmes had a really bad game. And the only reason his earnings aren’t lower than they are, is because I don’t subtract points for pressures and hurries given up. I probably should, but I don’t because otherwise our offensive linemen would be in the negative almost every week. Cameron Jordan just worked over Holmes, as I counted 3 hurries and 2 pressures from Jordan alone when working against Holmes. The one time it wasn’t Jordan that beat Holmes on a pressure, it came off a stunt from Tyrunn Walker, where Holmes couldn’t get outside quick enough after releasing Jordan inside to Reynolds.
Sam Baker also had one of his weaker games. I did notice early in the game (maybe the second series?) Baker got his leg rolled up from behind and was slow to get up. Did the affect him the rest of the game? Perhaps, and it’s interesting that he sat out Wednesday’s practice with a knee ailment.
Maybe that is an excuse for his shoddy play. Twice Baker got beat when the Falcons were inside the 5-yard line. The first time came in the 1st quarter, when Galette beat him on 3rd down forcing Ryan to throw it away and the team to settle for a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown. The second time came when he gave up a hurry to Curtis Lofton at the end of the game on Ryan’s lob to Gonzalez. I only considered it a hurry rather than pressure because Ryan did seem to hold onto the ball a bit too long waiting for Gonzalez to get open.
Speaking of Ryan, I thought he had a good game. But at the very end on the last two plays where first Steven Jackson and then Gonzalez couldn’t reel in the game-winning touchdown, he seemed to lock on both guys early on. Jackson definitely should have caught his pass. Gonzalez should have too, given that he is the G.O.A.T., but at least in his case he has the excuse that Kenny Vaccaro tipped it just before it hit his hands. Given that Ryan was running for his life most of the game, he probably deserves MVP honors for the game.
The running game was mostly non-effective. Not due to Jackson, who on several plays made something out of nothing. But the Falcons couldn’t consistently create push and open holes. They might want to mix in some more stretch plays, as it seemed that early on some of their early success occurred when guys were blocking on the move.
Roddy White clearly was not fully healthy and was a decoy for most of the game. Harry Douglas stepped up and filled in ably. Jones played well, the only negative being that fumble he had which was one of several plays that really turned the Falcons’ fortunes. The holding call on Baker that negated a 3rd down conversion to Douglas at midfield was another killer.
Defensively, despite giving up a ton of yardage, I thought the defense played well. They were stout in the redzone and bottled up the Saints’ rushing attack for the most part. Corey Peters was outstanding in that capacity with a team-leading 3 stops, and Jonathan Babineaux was also a major contributor there. Babineaux’s earning doesn’t properly indicate his level of play, as there were several plays where he knifed into the backfield, disrupting several plays that other players eventually took credit for making the actual tackle/stop. The pair of them would probably be my Co-MVPs for the defense this week. Akeem Dent was much improved against the run, as you could see him reacting rather than thinking. He did a good job and reminded me a lot of Curtis Lofton on his better days in that capacity.
The pass rush was a little lackluster, certainly more than it seemed live. The Falcons only pressured/hit/sacked Brees on 3 of his 37 dropbacks, as Babs’ pressure came on the Peters sack, and one of Osi’s hits was on Jerry’s sack. My general rule of thumb is that an average pass rush should be able to pressure/hit/sack the QB on one in seven dropbacks (roughly 15%). So in essence on Sunday, the Falcons were only half as effective as an average pass rush should be. That needs to pick up in the coming weeks.
Dent got beat a couple of times in coverage, but I don’t really fault him on blown coverages given up to Darren Sproles (who also beat Moore twice and Spoon once for much bigger plays) and Marques Colston on the touchdown. Dent was actually in pretty good position, but Brees threw a pass that only Colston could catch (remember he did have to lay out for it). But it does appear that he has definitely made strides since last year, where he was consistently in my doghouse.
I thought the rookie corners played well above expectations. Alford had a pair of nice breakups, including an interception. Although both plays as well as McClain’s breakup came on underthrown/inaccurate throws from Brees. Brees definitely looked a bit off considering his normal standard for pinpoint accuracy. There were a lot more poor throws on his part in this game than what you normally come to expect, especially at home. I’ve heard some discussion about whether Brees is losing it, and initially I was very dismissive of that. But if you just watch his last two performances against the Falcons, you could argue that he isn’t quite the same. Although to be fair, that’s only two games, and a “down” Brees is still better than at least 25 of the starters elsewhere in the NFL. Trufant was solid although nothing special. His play sort of embodied the bend but don’t break style of the overall defense.
In terms of missed opportunities, William Moore’s dropped interception was another killer. He would have picked that off and given the Falcons the ball near midfield. Instead the Saints continued to drive and retook the lead midway through the third quarter. After that point, the Falcons’ pass protection woes really kicked in. Had they gotten that pick and at least gotten 3 points on a short field, it would have made the ending of the game drastically different.
Antone Smith was outstanding on special teams working as a gunner on punt coverage, with two solid stops on Sproles as well as downing a Bosher punt inside the five. Drew Davis also did a solid job at the other gunner position.
And I have to give it up to Peria Jerry. I thought he got to a very slow start, particularly against the run in this game. But as the game wore on, he started to flash a bit more as a pass rusher. And he nearly blocked a field goal.
Advanced Stats from Week 1:
Poor Throws (2): Ryan
Drops (2): Jackson, Jones
Key Blocks (4): Ewing, Gonzalez, Holmes, Toilolo
Missed Blocks (2): Holmes, Konz
Sacks Allowed (3): Baker, Gonzalez, Holmes
Pressures Allowed (7): Holmes (3), Baker (2), Blalock (1), Konz (1)
Hurries Allowed (4): Holmes (3), Baker (1)
Tackles for Loss (5): Weatherspoon (1.5), Biermann (1), Dent (1), DeCoud (0.5), Goodman (0.5), Moore (0.5)
QB Sacks (2): Jerry, Peters
QB Pressures (1): Babineaux
QB Hits (2): Umenyiora
QB Hurries (3): Umenyiora (2), Babineaux (1)
Passes Defended (3): Alford, McClain, Trufant
Blown Coverages (7): Moore (2), DeCoud (1.5), Dent (1.5), McClain (1), Weatherspoon (1)
Missed Tackles (1): DeCoud
Key Blocked (1): Trufant
Stops (12): Peters (3), McClain (2), Moore (2), Weatherspoon (2), Babineaux (1), DeCoud (1), Umenyiora (1)