Sorry for the delay in posting this, I was traveling last week for my day job and procrastinated over the weekend which prevented me from watching the All-22 of the Bills game until this morning. It shouldn’t happen again.
The big takeaway from this game was how aggressive the Falcons were offensively. They took multiple shots down the field, with 11 passes thrown beyond 15 yards and four passes thrown beyond 20 yards. That included four deep throws in the first half, which is a significant increase from previous weeks where the Falcons typically only started to throw down the field after they got behind in games in the second half.
Matt Ryan was able to hit those deep shots to Roddy White, who was able to make contested catches in traffic. I noticed quite a bit how little separation all of the Falcons receivers were able to get against the Bills defensive backs. But White and Tony Gonzalez, to a lesser extent, were able to make those grabs while Harry Douglas was not. This was a very frustrating watch in regards to Douglas, who just seems unable to make any grabs in traffic or whenever he is asked to extend away from his body. The notion that he and Ryan have a strong rapport, judging from this game alone, sounds ridiculous. For a pair of players that have been playing together for five years, Ryan doesn’t seem to ever be able to put the ball in the “sweet spot” where Douglas may be able to catch it like he seemingly does with his other targets. It’s like the conversation they have walking back to the huddle after another incomplete pass is this:
Ryan: “I thought you were going to dive/jump/extend for that one.”
Douglas: “Oh sorry, I didn’t know.”
Although the argument I’d probably make is that there isn’t a sweet spot for Douglas.
It’s going to be so laughable a year from now when the Falcons are overpaying Douglas when Darius Johnson is perfectly capable of filling his role for one-seventh the cost. If you’re going to pay someone to struggle to make contested catches in traffic, might as well pay 14 cents as opposed to a dollar.
Douglas really botched up that late scoring drive in the fourth quarter with his penalty for removing the helmet of Aaron Williams on a block, but got gifted a pass interference call on Nickell Robey on the next play. Yes, Robey was grabbing him, but it was incidental contact (tangling of the feet) that prevented Douglas from coming back to the ball rather than the “hand checking” that Robey was doing. It was a gift of a call, so you can’t always say that the refs are out to get the Falcons.
About the only positive I can say about Douglas is that he could have scored on that screen in overtime had Justin Blalock made the block against Leodis McKelvin.
The pass protection wasn’t great, but they gave Ryan enough time to make several of the throws he needed. Jeremy Trueblood and Peter Konz really struggled in the second half, giving up multiple hurries. I penalized Ryan on the sack where he tripped, although it was Konz that stepped on his foot. Lamar Holmes had early struggles, with Jerry Hughes and the other Bills ends giving him particularly problems with their speed. Holmes just appeared to be stuck in molasses as there was just neither explosiveness to his movements nor power in his punches. Joe Hawley also did not have a good game, although most of his struggles came when he was matched up against a Bills nose tackle (either Marcell Dareus or Alan Branch), similar to Todd McClure over the years. But there were also a couple of breakdowns in the protections, as a couple of times Bills defenders were able to come unblocked because someone missed an assignment (the first sack by Manny Lawson, and later sack by Corbin Bryant) were two good examples of that. That wasn’t reminiscent of McClure from yesteryear, as the Falcons rarely had such breakdowns due to missed assignments. Breakdowns in the past were simply because guys got beat.
Blalock was the only lineman that I would say played well, although he was credited with 1.5 sacks. One of which was due to a stunt by Hughes, that I split between him and Holmes, mainly because Holmes whiffed and when Blalock tried to clean up his mess, he also missed the block. If I was being technical, I’d probably say that play was 75 percent Holmes’ fault. His other sack came when Bryant came unblocked between him and Holmes, and I think it was a blown assignment as Blalock blocked the inside man. It’s just a guess, but I think that was probably more on Hawley for confusion on what the protection was than Blalock messing up.
I don’t know if I can say the Falcons defense played well. Too many missed tackles on the back-end and almost no pressure up front characterized this defensive performance. But I’ve definitely seen worst this season.
I think they made the plays they needed to in order to steal this win from the Bills, particularly in regards to the two late turnovers.
Robert McClain got tagged with four blown coverages, all against Stevie Johnson on inside routes (slants and crosses) out of the slot. But I don’t particularly think he played poorly. I think Robert Alford could have easily been worse in coverage, as multiple times was beat on deep patterns by Marquise Goodwin, but because E.J. Manuel did not make good throws, they were incomplete. I’m starting to think that the inevitable cutting of Asante Samuel might not be a great idea. I like Alford’s upside, but based off his play thus far this year, I’m expecting him to have a very up and down first year as a starter in 2014. Even though Samuel is having a “down” year (mainly because he isn’t picking off passes), I don’t expect Alford to be better.
Sean Weatherspoon had a good game, although he did blow two coverages when working against Scott Chandler, including the one in overtime that led to Moore’s forced fumble. It goes to show that the Falcons struggles of covering tight ends wasn’t exclusively a Stephen Nicholas problem. The Falcons are still in need of a coverage specialist at the linebacker position.
On special teams, if Kevin Cone had hit his block, it’s possible that Antone Smith could have scored on the opening kickoff although Jim Leonhard might have had an angle. But it still would have been at least a longer return. Akeem Dent was charged with a penalty on an illegal block on a punt return, but it was really Stansly Maponga that should have been flagged. And I’d love to sit down with Keith Armstrong and ask him why players like Cliff Matthews and Thomas DeCoud are covering kicks when Cone, DiMarco, or Jason Snelling would probably be better options. Also why is Nicholas active and only playing special teams, when he has a faster, slightly younger, and probably better option in Omar Gaither inactive? And why isn’t Joplo Bartu out there on special teams instead of Nicholas? Is he really exhausted from the 19 defensive snaps he had? Doubtful, considering that Jacquizz Rodgers works as the up back on punts, and he’s playing 27 snaps on offense. Jonathan Massaquoi is covering kickoffs, but yet plays 34 snaps on defense. So are DeCoud, McClain, and Alford, who are playing 66, 46, and 36 snaps on defense, respectively.
These are the things I wonder about.
But on a brighter side of special teams, Matt Bosher had a great day punting, helping pin the Bills back multiple times.
Advanced Stats from Week 13:
Poor Throws (5): Ryan
Drops (2): Johnson, Smith
Key Blocks (5): Blalock (2), DiMarco (2), Holmes (1)
Missed Blocks (3): DiMarco (2), Hawley (1)
Sacks Allowed (6): Holmes (2.5), Blalock (1.5), Konz (1), Ryan (1)
Pressures Allowed (4): Holmes (2), Hawley (1), Trueblood (1)
Hurries Allowed (10): Trueblood (4), Konz (3), Hawley (2), Holmes (1)
Tackles for Loss (3): Babineaux (1), Worrilow (1), Alford (0.5), Moore (0.5)
QB Sacks (0)
QB Pressures (1): Babineaux
QB Hits (0)
QB Hurries (2): Goodman, Jerry
Passes Defended (5): Alford, McClain, Moore, Trufant, Weatherspoon
Blown Coverages (7): McClain (4), Weatherspoon (2), Trufant (1)
Missed Tackles (9): Moore (1.5), Worrilow (1.5), Babineaux (1), Goodman (1), McClain (1), Trufant (1), Alford (0.5), DeCoud (0.5), Umenyiora (0.5), Weatherspoon (0.5)
Key Blocked (5): Peters (2), DeCoud (1), Goodman (1), Worrilow (1)
Stops (9): Weatherspoon (3), Peters (2.5), Babineaux (1), Massaquoi (1), Bartu (0.5), Jerry (0.5), Umenyiora (0.5)