Sorry for this being over a week late as I just got busy with the day job and an epidemic of procrastination. To be honest, much of this game has faded from my memory at least in terms of specific instances and plays that I would normally point out. And rightly so, considering this was probably the most disappointing loss of the season for the Falcons.
In their second “must-win” game the Falcons failed to pull out the victory. And this game was worse because the Falcons had been thoroughly outplayed for much of the game, but turned it on at the end to seemingly steal the win. That is your typical Mike Smith-led Falcons team, that manage to win these types of ball games even when they aren’t the better team on that particularly Sunday. But then the defense had a major letdown (more on that later) and the Falcons had another loss on their hands.
Offensively, I don’t think the Falcons were bad by any means. They were able to convert in the red zone, a stark change from previous games. But it is concerning how many plays the Falcons had to run in several of those instances to get points. Their first red zone trip had a total of six plays inside the 20, their second had nine, and the final one had eight. An offense that is clicking should be able to score within three or four plays inside the red zone, as the Falcons did on two of their red zone trips. But the Falcons seemed to inch along inside the red zone, and got help with penalties on the Jets that helped keep them rolling. While the end result may look positive as far as the Falcons red zone woes, what you actually saw on the field is by no means promising.
At least as far as the red zone goes, I really wanted to see the Falcons try some fade patterns. I know the Jets were bracketing Julio Jones with safety help, and doubling Tony Gonzalez at times, but I still believe if Koetter had been more creative with how he lined guys up, there were plenty of instances where he could have gotten either player one on one in a favorable matchup. I did like the fact that the Falcons now seem to be regularly employing Levine Toilolo in the red zone, with three straight games where he has seen a target in the end zone. Obviously now, the Falcons don’t have Jones anymore. But I’m thinking in terms of trying to avoid these long, drawn out red zone trips, the Falcons should just go for the fade to Gonzalez (and now Toilolo instead of Jones) on first down. Gonzalez is money in traffic, and Toilolo with his size and athleticism is going to out-jump any defender in the league. And you should be confident that Matt Ryan has the touch to throw a catchable pass in the end zone, so I would like to see the Falcons going straight for the throat in these instances rather than plodding along in the red zone.
I thought the Falcons did a nice job trying to stay balanced, even though their running game wasn’t overly effective. That was mainly because the interior of the Falcons offensive line got pushed around by the likes of players like Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Kenrick Ellis, and Damon Harrison in the middle. Joe Hawley, serving as the extra tackle was credited with the missed block on the goal line run by Rodgers at the end of the first half. A positive is that the Falcons pass rush held up okay relative to some recent performances with two sacks, 1 pressure, and 5 hurries allowed on 47 dropbacks.
While the Falcons got no contribution from Harry Douglas in the passing game, Kevin Cone made a key catch to extend a drive. And both he and Davis also contributed as blockers on Rodgers’ 19-yard touchdown run.
Defensively, the Falcons struggled in this game. Obviously they gave up the scoring drive at the very end that lost the game for the team. The Jets really had no issues moving the ball the 55 yards necessarily to get into field goal range for the game-winning kick. Massaquoi had his lone pressure on Geno Smith on that drive, but didn’t have what it takes to finish the play. That has been a problem with Massaquoi all year. He has a decent first step, but doesn’t play with great balance to keep his feet and finish plays, constantly stumbling when he gets off the block. The pass rush in general was very lackluster. While they were able to dial up a bit more pressure in the second half, thanks to blitzing, the lack of pressure in the first half was key to the Jets getting out to their early lead. Smith had all time to throw, and the Falcons back-seven paid for it. Joplo Bartu had a tough day, looking overmatched by Jeff Cumberland in coverage too many times and missed a few too many tackles. He also got credited with blowing the coverage on the Kellen Winslow touchdown catch, as I think he was sucked up by the run action (Smith scrambling) and blew his assignment, which allowed Winslow to sneak to the back of the end zone.
The run defense started strong, as the Jets were successful on only 1 of their 8 running back runs in the first half. But they managed to be successful on 6 of 11 in the second half. The Falcons missed a bunch of tackles in this game as well.
It’s hard to point out players that played well, although I would point to Babineaux, Worrilow, and Trufant probably being the best. But none had strong performances, which is often the case when the Falcons lose.
On special teams, Shann Schillinger missed the block that led to the blocked punt. Thomas DeCoud missed the tackle on the 36-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
Advanced Stats from Week 5:
Poor Throws (4): Ryan
Drops (1): Jones
Key Blocks (5): Blalock, Cone, Davis, Gonzalez, Reynolds
Sacks Allowed (2): Reynolds, Trueblood
Pressures Allowed (1): Konz (0.5), Rodgers (0.5)
Hurries Allowed (5): Holmes (2), Konz (1), Snelling (1), Trueblood (1)
Missed Blocks (8): Reynolds (3), Blalock (2), Konz (2), Hawley (1)
Tackles for Loss (1): Bartu
QB Sacks (3): Umenyiora (2), Peters (1)
QB Pressures (2): Babineaux, Massaquoi
QB Hits (1): DeCoud
QB Hurries (0)
Passes Defended (2): Peters, Trufant
Blown Coverages (5): Bartu (3), DeCoud (1), Trufant (1)
Missed Tackles (8): Bartu (2), Babineaux (1), DeCoud (1), McClain (1), Moore (1), Worrilow (1), Umenyiora (1)
Key Blocked (2): Gaither, Worrilow
Stops (6): Worrilow (2), Babineaux (1), McClain (1), Trufant (1), Nicholas (0.5), Umenyiora (0.5)