This game reminded me some of the classic sorts of games the Atlanta Falcons would typically lose in past years, particularly in matchups against the Saints. The Falcons would have a number of opportunities, but due to a few too many breakdowns, they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of them.
The key difference is that this game wasn’t against a Super Bowl-contending Saints team, but against a cellar-dwelling Tampa Bay Bucs team. And the other difference is that after the twenty-minute mark, the Falcons took a notable dive. Bobby Rainey ran for a 43-yard touchdown, which was followed by an onside kick recovery, and things snowballed from there. And that’s when the bad Falcons team that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the past month showed up. Before the Falcons could blink, things quickly went from a competitive 3-3 tie three minutes into the second quarter to a 24-3 score in a nine-minute span.
I honestly thought that the Falcons offensive game plan and execution through the first quarter was pretty solid. The only real mistakes were the pair of sacks given up by Peter Konz. Konz just couldn’t handle Gerald McCoy’s quickness and speed, his lack of footwork and punching power showed.
Then at the outset of the second quarter, the Falcons were moving the ball but then things ground to a halt once they got into the red zone. On 1st-and-5 at the Buccaneer 18, Lamar Holmes whiffed on a block that allowed Adrian Clayborn to chase down Jacquizz Rodgers for a 3-yard loss. Then Ryan looked for Rodgers over the middle on a check down but McCoy read it perfectly, sitting back to try and knock down the throw. Ryan tried to throw it over him, and it was off the mark to Rodgers. And then McCoy beat Konz for a third time on the next play, using power this time, and forcing the Falcons to settle for a field goal.
If I’m desperately looking for a positive, it would to say that at least up until this point in the game, the Falcons looked similar to the team they were at the outset of this season, which was a team that could move the ball before things stalled in the red zone. So perhaps that could be considered improvement from some of their recent performances.
But thereafter, the Falcons really did nothing offensively. Ryan did not have a good game as he saw quite a bit of pressure up the middle, particularly from McCoy (3 sacks, 3 pressures). And the Bucs were also effective with delayed blitzes and stunts from other players. But Ryan was not very accurate and was off-target on a lot of throws, matching his season-high of 7 poor throws. He also had 7 against the Cardinals, but it should be noted that Ryan threw the ball 61 times against Arizona as opposed to only 36 attempts against Tampa Bay.
And once again, the Falcons didn’t really dial up any deep shots. On the red zone play I mentioned earlier, other receivers did run deeper routes, but Ryan looked for Rodgers underneath. Although I can’t really blame him because Rodgers was the only receiver that got open thanks to bracket coverage on Tony Gonzalez. The first real designed deep play didn’t come until 1:50 left in the second quarter, where Ryan could have taken a deep shot to Roddy where he was 1-on-1 against Darrelle Revis on the outside. But in truth, Ryan really wanted no part of Revis throughout the game, content to basically look at other receivers. That reminded me of a younger Ryan, when he would generally avoid top cornerbacks (I’m reminded of games against Antoine Winfield and Charles Woodson from 2008-10) at all costs. On that particular play, Ryan locked onto Harry Douglas early, but Dashon Goldson was in position, thus forcing Ryan to flee the pocket and ultimately throw it to Antone Smith for a 4-yard gain. That again led to another field goal. It should be noted that White wasn’t open on that play, but it just illustrates the current tentative state of the offense. Whether due to the fear of Revis Island or Roddy not being 100-percent, in previous seasons (or even games this season) I could guarantee you that would have been Ryan’s first read.
In the second half, the Falcons took a few more measured shots down the field, but didn’t connect because Ryan either made a bad pass or the pass protection wasn’t there. The deepest passes Ryan threw was a 16-yard throw on the 80-yard touchdown to Douglas, which was largely thanks to Mark Barron being out of position. And then later, Ryan’s second interception was when he forced a pass to Douglas over the middle on a 17-yard throw. Goldson picked it off as Ryan did not look him off. He had Tony Gonzalez open on a corner route where he had gotten behind Lavonte David.
As for Dominique Davis, in his limited action, the play-calling centered on quick drops and throws to get the ball out quickly. With the Bucs settling for underneath stuff, Davis had little issues completing most of his throws. His best pass was one where he threw a laser to Douglas, but it went through Douglas hands probably due to timing and the ball came on him out of his break probably a lot faster than he’s used to with Ryan’s throws.
I thought the running game looked fairly solid. Steven Jackson ran hard early, broke some tackles, and seemed to out-producing his blocking. It’s funny because that was often the case with Michael Turner last year, where after games where I was highly critical of Turner in suggesting he needs to be benched (and I had similar sentiments with Jackson last week), he came out and had a strong performance. Then he’d typically fall back to Earth the following week, so we’ll see if Jackson bucks that trend against the Saints on Thursday. If Rodgers had gotten better blocking, he could have had a more productive game. Antone Smith showed good speed in garbage reps and I think the team needs to be more willing to get him involved on some screen passes in future games.
I should also note that the official box score credited Josh Vaughan with a 12-yard catch when it was clearly Gonzalez that made the catch.
As previously noted, the blocking was poor. I thought Ryan Schraeder handled himself down the stretch, although I didn’t see anything to suggest he was clearly better than Jeremy Trueblood. But I do think he needs more reps and maybe alternating series would be a good idea this week. Just like Konz, Garrett Reynolds had his hands full against McCoy, but seemed a bit better because he is stronger and has a better punch. Joe Hawley handled himself fairly well in the middle. He’s a much better second-level blocker than Konz is, and looked similar to an older Todd McClure in the sense of his ability to get position but not push as a run blocker. If that sort of competent performance continues for Hawley, there’s no reason to plug Konz back into the lineup. I’m more than willing to give Konz another shot in 2014, but at this point it’s clear that he’s not among the best five-man unit the Falcons could field.
Defensively, it was another example of the “classic” Falcons, but more so to what we’ve grown accustomed to this year in that they can play tough for about a quarter and a half, but eventually big plays and breakdowns are going to bust the game wide open in favor of the opponent.
I thought Paul Worrilow had a Curtis Lofton-esque game at middle linebacker, where he got key blocked quite a bit and got beat in coverage. A lot of his tackles came down the field, and he was able to pad his earnings a bit with a stop and tackle for loss in the final two minutes of the game. But I do like some of the things that Worrilow is doing. He can get caught playing on his heels a bit too much (which Lofton did from time to time), but that should improve with added experience. And his two blown coverages were on a quick throw in the flat to Brian Leonard (exposing his lack of ideal range, again similar to Lofton) and when he was picked on the touchdown pass to Rainey. But there are times when you see him actually shed a block on the second level (which seemed rare with Lofton) and when he does attack downhill rather than play on his heels, he can make plays in the backfield and near the line of scrimmage (which was the best aspect of Lofton’s game).
Sean Weatherspoon’s return was nothing special, but of course he’ll need some time to get back into shape. Typically I allow a grace period of three games when a player has been absent as long as he has before I start to place expectations back on him.
Corey Peters’ knee injury, no Malliciah Goodman, and too many reps for Cliff Matthews and Peria Jerry, I think were the possibly main causes for some of the problems defending the run. Matthews struggled getting off blocks, and Jerry has consistently struggled at the point of attack this year in comparison to his ability to rush the quarterback.
Speaking of rushing the quarterback, the Falcons did absolutely none in this game. While Osi Umenyiora is officially credited with two sacks, both were on instances where Mike Glennon was scrambling and was tackled for loss (per Moneyball rules). The first sack actually came when Glennon slipped and Osi touched him down. And those two plays, plus his lone stop all came in the fourth quarter. His impact on the game was non-existent through the first three quarters, you know, when the Bucs had built a 32-point lead.
I know Thomas DeCoud and Asante Samuel drew a lot of venom from fans following the game, and I won’t say they played well, but I don’t think they played that poorly. DeCoud’s two big mistakes was his not locating the ball on one of the deep throws to Vincent Jackson, as well as him being a step late to close on Rainey’s 43-yard touchdown. But it should be noted that Rainey made an excellent cut to the outside, so even if he had been early, he still probably would have missed.
Samuel was credited for sharing that blown coverage on that deep toss to Jackson, as well as another. Although on the one where he was beat earlier, Samuel wasn’t in bad position. He was maybe a yard too far inside, but then Jackson made an excellent one-handed grab so I can’t be too mad at Asante on that play. Other than that, there really isn’t anything overly negative about Asante’s performance.
So I’m not sure I quite buy that either should be benched, particularly not this week against the Saints, a team that they have historically had some pretty solid performances against. If they struggle again, I might think about platooning them against the Bills the following week.
On special teams, Josh Vaughan whiffed on the block against Dekoda Watson that led to the blocked punt. Also on the onside kick, the Bucs made a smart move. They saw that Stephen Nicholas played back off the front line and thus left Zeke Motta alone, making it essentially four against one in their favor. But what was somewhat a head-scratcher was that the Falcons continued to use this configuration the remainder of the game after it had been exploited. Had the Bucs attempted another onside kick, I’m not convinced the Falcons would have stopped them.
Matt Bryant seems to be the only player that is angry about the current state of the Falcons, as he nearly got into a fight with Revis on a field goal attempt. I wish the rest of the team played with the sort of passion and fire that Bryant and Bosher seem to have.
Advanced Stats from Week 11:
Poor Throws (8): Ryan (7), Davis (1)
Drops (4): Johnson (2), Douglas (1), White (1)
Key Blocks (4): Gonzalez, Konz, Toilolo, Trueblood
Missed Blocks (3): Holmes (2), Hawley (1)
Sacks Allowed (3): Konz
Pressures Allowed (4): Reynolds (2), Hawley (1), Trueblood (1)
Hurries Allowed (3): Holmes, Konz, Schraeder
Tackles For Loss (3): Massaquoi, Umenyiora, Worrilow
QB Sacks (0)
QB Pressures (1): Jerry
QB Hits (0)
QB Hurries (4): Jerry, Massaquoi, Matthews, Weatherspoon
Passes Defended (1): McClain
Blown Coverages (6): Worrilow (2), Samuel (1.5), McClain (1), Trufant (1), DeCoud (0.5)
Missed Tackles (4): Moore (1.5), Weatherspoon (1.5), Jerry (1)
Key Blocked (12): Worrilow (3), Jerry (2), Babineaux (1), Bartu (1), Maponga (1), Matthews (1), Peters (1), Samuel (1), Trufant (1)
Stops (13): Worrilow (3), Bartu (2), Moore (2), Weatherspoon (1.5), Babineaux (1), Jerry (1), Massaquoi (1), Umenyiora (1), McClain (0.5)