This was a better performance by the Falcons offense as they looked much more comfortable and were more effective moving the ball.
The offense was still fairly vanilla, but there were instances where it did some things that they haven’t done a lot of in over the past four games. There were a couple of deeper pass attempts early in the game with two downfield throws in the second quarter, which isn’t much, but is two more than we’ve seen in recent weeks. But the Falcons game plan still centered largely on short and intermediate throws and trying to stem together longer drives, rather than seeking big plays down the field. This gameplan was helped by a more productive rushing attack headed by Steven Jackson.
Matt Ryan was better in this game, but still had a couple of missed opportunities. The most glaring one was at the end of the game with 2:34 left, where he took a sack with a congested pocket rather than trying to throw a deep pass to Drew Davis. Due to the muddied pocket, it was likely going to be an incomplete pass. But it would have been better than the sack, given that backed up the Falcons to 3rd-and-15 and forced Mike Smith to opt for the field goal two plays later, instead of possibly going for it on 4th-and-10.
The Saints were able to dial up the pressure in the second half of the game. In the first half, the Falcons gave up a sack, a pressure, and 3 hurries on 20 drop backs. Then in the second half on 24 drop backs, they gave up 3 sacks, 3 pressures, and 3 hurries. The right side of the line had the most troubles with Garrett Reynolds and Jeremy Trueblood looking overmatched. And it’s going to be interesting to see if the team makes changes there over the final month of the season. Peter Konz was better than Reynolds, but still struggled somewhat in his half of playing time.
Cameron Jordan hit the pass-rushing “cycle,” tallying a sack, pressure, hit, 1.5 hurries, and a pass deflection. Akiem Hicks also gave the group a lot of trouble. But there were also plenty of instances where John Jenkins, Junior Galette, and Tom Johnson were able to get pressure on Ryan. And that second-half pressure was one of the primary causes why the Falcons were shut out in the second half. Joe Hawley got some key blocks early in the game blocking downfield, an area where is a clear upgrade over Konz.
Roddy White was non-existent in this game, and he seems less effective than he was a decoy earlier in the season with a high-ankle sprain. Harry Douglas and Darius Johnson had good starts, making plays on those shorter throws. But Johnson obviously had two huge mistakes with a wide open drop on third down and his fumble at the end of the game.
On defense, the Falcons should get full credit for slowing down the Saints offensive attack. But they gave up too many big plays, with the two big plays from Jimmy Graham helping the Saints get 10 points. The Falcons also struggled to stop Pierre Thomas on the ground with giving up too many long runs.
The pass rush was pretty iffy, although it wasn’t non-existent. It was just sporadic and the Falcons didn’t get enough heat on Brees to disrupt him as much as they had done a year ago when they beat the Saints. A year ago, John Abraham had a sack, two hits, and 4.5 hurries. This year, Osi Umenyiora got a hurry and a hit. His hit came when he was one-on-one against Jed Collins, indicating that he only was effective when he was facing a clear mismatch. His hurry came on a 8-yard scramble by Brees, where Charles Brown forced him wide around the back of the pocket, but because it forced Brees to climb the pocket and subsequently scramble, he got credited with a hurry. I know I’ve been hard on Osi in these reviews this year, and it’s not Osi’s fault that he just isn’t very good at this point in his career. If he could help it, then he would have by now. But he perfectly embodies the mistake by the front office of thinking that Abraham was declining, and replacing him with a far lesser player in Osi.
Desmond Trufant broke up three passes, making up for his streak being snapped last week. But he got abused quite a bit in run-support with a pair of missed tackles due to stiff arms. The safeties gave up prominent plays, with William Moore getting beat on Graham’s touchdown. Then DeCoud got picked on the 35-yarded by Graham, but also was culpable on Ben Watson’s touchdown. On that play, he was picked by the referee, but he made a mistake of turning his back and letting Watson get behind him. The ref getting in the way prevented him from having any chance of recovering after that initial mistake.
Akeem Dent almost got a blocked punt, when he came unblocked late in the second quarter. I still don’t understand why the team continues to put DeCoud on kickoff coverage, especially now that the team has reverted Drew Davis back to special teams. But for whatever reason, with Davis back on kickoff coverage, Kevin Cone was pulled off that unit. Cone did get reps on punt coverage but Davis, who has been outplayed by Robert Alford as a gunner, was also left off that unit. It just makes no sense that DeCoud and a player like Cliff Matthews are covering kickoffs instead of Cone and Davis.
Advanced Stats from Week 12:
Poor Throws (3): Ryan
Drops (1): Johnson
Key Blocks (4): Hawley (2), Blalock (1), Johnson (1)
Missed Blocks (1): Trueblood
Sacks Allowed (4): Reynolds (2), Holmes (1.5), Snelling (0.5)
Pressures Allowed (7): Trueblood (3), Blalock (2), Hawley (1), Konz (1)
Hurries Allowed (5): Holmes (2), Gonzalez (1), Konz (1), Trueblood (1)
Tackles for Loss (1): Worrilow
QB Sacks (1): Jerry
QB Pressures (1): Worrilow
QB HIts (2): Bartu, Umenyiora
QB Hurries (5): Massaquoi, Matthews, McClain, Peters, Umenyiora
Passes Defended (4): Trufant (3), DeCoud (1)
Blown Coverages (5): DeCoud (3), Moore (1), Weatherspoon (1)
Missed Tackles (4): Trufant (2), Moore (1), Weatherspoon (1)
Key Blocked (7): Worrilow (2), Babineaux (1), Bartu (1), Jerry (1), Weatherspoon (1), Worrilow (1)
Stops (8): Bartu (2), Peters (1.5), Matthews (1), McClain (1), Worrilow (1), Babineaux (0.5), Dent (0.5), Maponga (0.5)