The delay in posting this was partially due to the holidays preventing me from looking at the All-22 earlier in the week, and then technical issues involving access to the internet later in the week.
In reviewing the game, the offense had their typical game in terms of what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the years. One that starts promising, then sputters in the third quarter, but then is able to turn it on in the fourth quarter. But the promising start wasn’t really all that promising. They did find some success moving the ball in the second quarter thanks mainly to a healthy running game and that big play to Drew Davis.
Matt Ryan had a decent game, although there were a couple of times where he once again seemed hesitant to throw down the field. But it wasn’t anything too glaring. There were other instances where he seemed to once again get locked onto his first read, which was often Roddy White. White earned quite a bit with a lot of short completions that helped move the chains. Six of his first seven receptions didn’t go more than seven yards in the air.
The running game had its moments, although most of their missed opportunities came due to poor blocking as once again with the young guys on the right side missing the majority of those assignments. I still believe that Harland Gunn is a better option to start at right guard than Peter Konz. Gunn didn’t have a great game, but it’s clear on tape that Gunn is simply better at everything than Konz. He’s quicker off the snap, got better feet, more violent hands, better mobility, etc. Konz isn’t playing poorly, but he’s just not showing the things on tape that suggest he’s got the potential to get demonstrably better than he has been the past two years.
Overall, the pass protection was solid. Aldon Smith was able to get the better of Lamar Holmes a couple of times on the bull rush, but for the most part, he, Justin Smith, and Ahmad Brooks had relatively quiet games.
It’s hard to put an exact reason on why the Falcons failed to move the ball in the third quarter. Konz missed a block on 3rd-and-1 on the opening drive of the third quarter, trying to pull and block Patrick Willis. Willis was able to blow up the play and halt Steven Jackson in the backfield, forcing a punt. The Falcons did take their first designed deep shot of the game on the opening play of that series, with a play-action pass to White that went 14 yards in the air, although I say it was deep because the reason why it wasn’t over 15 yards was because of Ryan’s throw not the design of the play.
Then on third down on the second series of the third quarter, Blalock gave up late pressure after Ryan had time in the pocket. I won’t blame that one on Blalock though, that was just simply the receivers not getting open. Ryan was looking at White, but was hesitant to pull the trigger because Navorro Bowman was sitting underneath and could have jumped the throwing lane. Then Ryan scrambled and threw the ball away, although had he kept his eyes downfield he could have thrown a first down to Drew Davis who was crossing the field and was open. But Ryan threw it away and the Falcons punted. The first down play on that series was a play-action bootleg where Ryan threw to a spot, but Harry Douglas got no separation from Carlos Rogers and couldn’t get to the spot where he was supposed to be.
I’d love to sit here and pick on Douglas some more, particularly for his inability to win in traffic at the end of the game on the pick-six where he got outmuscled by Tramaine Brock. But what needs to be said about Douglas that hasn’t been said already? The Falcons need to find an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason. They have been complacent there for the past two years, and this is the offseason where that needs to change. But I’m not overly optimistic that it will change.
This is another game where I believe that the Falcons defensive success was largely thanks to inaccurate and erratic play from the opposing quarterback, rather than this defense doing anything spectacular. They did a few nice things as there was some pressure early in the game, but it disappeared after that point. That has been a commonality throughout this season. But Colin Kaepernick seemed to get much more settled at halftime, and started doing a better job hitting his receivers in the second half. That was coupled with the 49ers really having no problems running the football.
Both the sacks by Corey Peters and Stephen Nicholas were counted as tackles for loss due to the fact that Kaepernick appeared like he was looking to run rather than throw.
The 49ers did push the Falcons around in the ground game, but not to the degree it was in last year’s NFC title game. Although considering the butt-whooping the Falcons took in that game, it was unlikely they could fare worse. But the one thing that went unchanged was how open 49er receivers seemed to be. Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis were open multiple times throughout the night. And not just open, there were multiple yards of separation between them and the defender covering them. The majority of times when Kaepernick threw to them and didn’t connect it was because he made an errant throw, not because the Falcons had a defender in position to make a play.
Guys like Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu had trouble getting off blocks. Stephen Nicholas was very active and showed good range, getting some early stops which is why his earnings are so high. Although about half of the plays he made were the result of him cleaning up a play that another defender forced. Peria Jerry did a better job than expected taking over for nose tackle once Peters got injured. Most times this year Jerry has struggled when asked to play the nose. Jonathan Babineaux looked like he was able to take early advantage of Mike Iupati, but struggled when he was facing Joe Staley in the run game. Desmond Trufant fared the best out of the corners, but he got beat a couple of times too.
It was a nice performance on special teams with Robert McClain having another nice return. Still not sure why Jason Snelling replaced an injured Jacquizz Rodgers to return kickoffs. I think Antone Smith would have been a better option, but what do I know? Omar Gaither finally got reps on special teams and did some nice things in punt coverage, although he nearly gave up a blocked punt to Craig Dahl on a missed block.
Advanced Stats from Week 16:
Poor Throws (4): Ryan
Drops (1): Douglas
Key Blocks (1): DiMarco
Missed Blocks (6): Konz (2), Schraeder (2), Blalock (1), Gunn (1)
Sacks Allowed (1): Blalock
Pressures Allowed (1): Holmes
Hurries Allowed (3): Blalock, Gunn, Holmes
Tackles for Loss (4): Nicholas (2), Bartu (1), Peters (1)
QB Sacks (1): Massaquoi
QB Pressures (3): Babineaux, Massaquoi, Umenyiora
QB Hits (1): Bartu (0.5), Worrilow (0.5)
QB Hurries (3): Alford, Babineaux, Jerry
Passes Defended (2): McClain, Nicholas
Blown Coverages (3): McClain (2), Alford (1)
Missed Tackles (3): Maponga, Moore, Trufant
Key Blocked (9): Worrilow (4), Bartu (2), Alford (1), DeCoud (1), Maponga (1)
Stops (6): Bartu (2), Nicholas (2), Jerry (1), Worrilow (1)