This was one of the more one-dimensional offensive efforts I can recall seeing from the Falcons. There have been plenty of times the past few years where the Falcons running game was virtually non-existent, but it never seemed this bad. One measly yard in the first half? And as I mentioned yesterday, when the Falcons (and frankly most NFL teams) are this bad at running the ball, they find it hard to win.
Yet the Falcons did, and that was mainly due to the performances of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who were outstanding in this game. The Falcons made ample use of Jones’ ability on screens, as I counted five screens to him in this game. In truth, only two of them were effective (tallying 38 combined yards), but they contributed to scoring drives. And of course, Jones’ 81-yard catch was also pivotal in this game. As it truly was the Falcons’ lone big play of the game, as they had to rely on a lot of short and intermediate throws due to the lack of the running game and poor pass protection.
On the subject of pass protection, once again another poor performance for tackles Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes. Baker really struggled in the first quarter vs. Robert Quinn, giving up three of his hurries, one of his pressures, and his only missed block in that quarter. Relatively, he played better the rest of the game giving up only a sack, pressure, and hurry over the final three quarters. Holmes’ struggles came in the second quarter, giving up three of his four hurries to Chris Long in that quarter.
It was no surprise that either struggled, since Quinn and Long are arguably one of the two or three best pairs of pass-rushing ends in the league. I’ll give Baker a bit of a pass because he was dealing with a knee injury and he seemed to adjust somewhat to Quinn’s speed after the first series. I will be a little harder on Holmes because many of his struggles came on instances where his technique was poor. Too often it was if he didn’t understand that you are allowed to punch and use your hands. Holmes also got away with a false start on the opening series that was instead called against Chris Long for an offsides. Without that missed call from the refs, the Falcons likely would have begun the game with a three-and-out rather than eventually scoring a touchdown, and it might have been a drastically different game.
As for the rest of the line, they were relatively solid. Blalock had the best game. He missed a block on the first play of the game, but after that he did a pretty good job despite giving up a sack to Eugene Sims. Reynolds gives a bit too much ground than I would like in pass protection. Ryan’s quick trigger has not made that an issue yet, but there may be a game down the road against a good defensive tackle where that will become a problem. But Reynolds is doing good things as a run blocker. Konz has not been having the sort of performances that I was expecting after a strong preseason. He had his hands full with Michael Brockers throughout the game. He hasn’t been playing poorly by any means, but he is far from dominant, which he seemed to flash during the summer.
The line gave up pressure on five of the 13 third down attempts, which is an improvement from last week. So that’s a positive I guess since they basically cut last week’s number in half.
The running game was limited mainly due to blocking, but there were a few carries by Jacquizz Rodgers where he did not hit the hole hard. In the future, the Falcons may try to avoid running him up the middle. He just was a bit too tentative, and if the team wants him to be an effective runner, they should stick to the counters and stretches that were more effective last year. But more of his runs were stopped because of poor blocking than his own poor running.
The defense played well, bottling up the Rams’ rushing attack for the most part.
The only concern is the pass rush. They pressured/hit Bradford on 7 of his 55 drop backs, which is slightly underwhelming. They hurried him on 4 others, so Bradford did feel some heat. Comparing them to the Rams’ pass rush, they only pressured Bradford on three of their 17 third downs, roughly half of the Rams’ effectiveness. But what might be concerning is that Biermann got two of those pressures, and the third came when Akeem Dent was unblocked on a blitz. Biermann is now done for the year, and I’m looking at Osi and Babs to step up. Osi had that pick six, which earned him $4 of his $5, and was pretty quiet the rest of the game. Babs also had one of his quietest games, although there were large chunks of the game where he was out of the lineup and he’s also nursing an injury. Thankfully players like Massaquoi and Jerry stepped up and filled some of their void. It’ll be interesting to see if Jerry keeps contributing. He got off to a good start in 2011, but then disappeared after the first month of the season. His run defense is still mediocre, but his pass rushing has been fairly good.
McClain struggled quite a bit in this game, as I gave him credit for giving up all three of the Rams’ touchdowns. His earnings were better than that should indicate because he had a pair of stops against the run. I think getting Asante back should help things out, which should lighten his workload.
Bartu had a nice debut on defense, making several plays against the run. He got beat a couple of times by the Rams’ tight ends, but I do think his upside in coverage is higher than Dent’s because he has better hips and speed. The Falcons did utilize both Bartu and Spoon in nickel in the second half, and I think that may become a regular thing moving forward. Editor’s Note: While writing this review, news broke that Weatherspoon would be placed on injured reserve (designated to return). So that won’t be a regular thing moving forward, although it may become an option over the final month of the season when Spoon is eligible to return.
Antone Smith had a good game on special teams, as he was able to consistently beat the Rams’ attempts to double-team him. The play where he got blocked into the returner was an excellent example. Brandon McGee did a good job knocking Smith out of bounds initially, but then Smith didn’t give up and sprinted past him and Stedman Bailey (who ultimately had to resort to blocking him in the back). I don’t know if Smith will get the recognition, but if we’re basing things purely off merit, then he has gotten to a great start to earn a Pro Bowl bid this year.
I also noticed that Dent was working on punt coverage throughout this game instead of Bartu, so I guess that’s good since Dent was great in 2011 in that role. I also noticed that the Falcons seemed to expect the Rams to go for a fake punt in the third quarter because they left many of the defensive starters in the game. Worrilow got flagged for a hold, although I think he was held by Will Witherspoon rather than the other way around.
Advanced Stats from Week 2:
Poor Throws (2): Ryan
Missed Holes (1): Rodgers
Key Blocks (4): Reynolds (2), Baker (1), Blalock (1)
Missed Blocks (8): Gonzalez (2), Holmes (2), Baker (1), Blalock (1), Konz (1), Toilolo (1)
Sacks Allowed (2): Baker, Blalock
Pressures Allowed (5): Baker (2.5), Holmes (2), Reynolds (0.5)
Hurries Allowed (10): Baker (4), Holmes (4), Konz (1), Reynolds (1)
Tackles for Loss (3): Bartu (2), Massaquoi (1)
QB Sacks (0)
QB Pressures (5): Biermann (2), Dent (1), Jerry (1), Massaquoi (1)
QB Hits (2): Jerry, Massaquoi
QB Hurries (4): Umenyiora (2), Massaquoi (1), Peters (1)
Passes Defended (5): DeCoud, Dent, McClain, Trufant, Umenyiora
Blown Coverages (10): McClain (5), Alford (2), Biermann (1), Dent (1), Trufant (1)
Missed Tackles (4): DeCoud (2), Alford (1), Dent (1)
Key Blocked (1): Biermann
Stops (8): McClain (3), Weatherspoon (2), Peters (1.5), Dent (1), Jerry (0.5)