It was a solid win for the Atlanta Falcons over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons really needed to come out strong after their bye week to get their season back on track.
But after watching the tape, I’m not as impressed with this win as I was initially on Sunday. It’s clear that the Bucs are simply a bad team, and while the Falcons are better, I certainly won’t say that they are a good team. The Bucs really hurt themselves with a bunch of penalties and missed opportunities. While it didn’t reach as bad as their infamous performance in Week 17 of 2011 under Radio Raheem, it’s inching closer to that point. While the Falcons controlled this game from start to finish, the Bucs never took advantage of the numerous opportunities they had to get back into this game. In the end, the Falcons won a game that they should have won, but it doesn’t inspire me with a ton of confidence going forward that the team is going to play significantly better in the coming weeks as they did before the bye.
Despite excellent numbers, Matt Ryan was more solid than spectacular. He made several very good throws, but it seemed like the Falcons had a fairly conservative gameplan in the early going. The Bucs had a couple of breakdowns in the secondary that led to some big plays early such as the two to Harry Douglas in the second quarter. While Douglas gets credit for making the plays, it really was a terrible play on the ball by Leonard Johnson on the 54-yard pass and a blown assignment on Mark Barron on the 37-yard touchdown that are more responsible for those plays more than anything Douglas did in particular.
The key for Ryan was that he got good pass protection throughout the game. While the Falcons weren’t spotless up front, the fact that they allowed no sacks, one pressure, and only four hurries the entire game made all the difference. Lamar Holmes looked his best thus far this year, but then again any decent NFL starter should look fairly good going up against Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Trevor Scott, and Adrian Clayborn. The Falcons did a solid job keeping Gerald McCoy in relative check, as he only had one pressure (vs. Holmes), one hit (vs. Blalock), and one hurry (vs. Reynolds). The Bucs tried to dial up some blitzes, and the Falcons did a fairly solid job picking it up. With time to throw, Ryan was able to locate receivers, particularly Douglas. But so much of the Falcons offense seemed to be devoted to underneath throws to Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers, with five screens to the latter including the one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The running game was very ineffectual, although that was because the blocking was poor up front as nobody really got any push against the Bucs front. Lavonte David was a force against the run, and accounted for both of Peter Konz’s missed blocks in the first quarter.
I noticed the Falcons barely used Levine Toilolo throughout the game, and he got no snaps in the red zone. That was very disappointing given how effective he’s been there the past three games. I’m not sure there’s a good reason why Brian Robiskie and Drew Davis are getting snaps in the red zone, and Toilolo is not.
I know I sound negative, but truthfully the Falcons did what they needed to do, nothing more. The backup receivers in Darius Johnson and Davis, each made nice plays, but considering how many snaps they got, the fact that they really only had 2 catches isn’t very promising. Considering the low expectations however, I can’t complain too much. I’ll just say that I’m very much looking forward to the day that Roddy White is back in the lineup.
Defensively, the Falcons once again were solid but not great. The pass rush was better and the front got more pressure than in past games. Nine combined sacks, pressures, and hits on 47 dropbacks is a solid number, especially when you consider there was another three hits, and one pressure that were nullified by penalties. Every single defensive linemen that played except for Corey Peters got a hit, hurry, sack, or pressure. This was Malliciah Goodman’s best game, showcasing good ability both versus the run and pass. Stansly Maponga even showed he is trying to develop a spin move and got a hurry. Peria Jerry had a solid game and really gave Davin Joseph quite a bit of trouble. Joseph is a player that I’ve always thought was a bit overrated, and his performance in this game lends credence to that belief. He gave up two hits, a sack, a pressure, a pair of hurries, and two penalties. Mike Nolan seemed ready to dial up a blitz on nearly every third down. It was clear that the crowd noise really affected the Bucs offense with three false start penalties.
But I can’t really say that the Falcons defense had a great game. The turnover early was a key difference maker. While the Falcons didn’t get gashed against the run, I do think the injury to Martin and the early lead helped them greatly there. Martin was successful on 5 of his 11 carries before he went down early in the third quarter. On the play that he got knocked out of the game, that was Glennon’s 25th dropback for a pass, giving the Bucs a run-pass balance 34:66, out of whack for where they wanted to be especially when you consider how green Glennon is. He is still predominantly a first-read quarterback, and it led to a couple of the sacks the Falcons got because he was waiting for his first option to get open.
Locking onto his primary read is the main reason why Vincent Jackson saw 22 targets. I don’t think Desmond Trufant was great in coverage, but I think he did a solid job working out of the slot. Several times he got beat were on pick plays and speed outs, which are tough to defend. I think his ball skills made up for things and he also was active against the run. Jackson is a very touch assignment, and relatively-speaking I think Trufant held his own. The touchdown to Jackson where he beat DeCoud was a head-scratcher. Not sure why the Falcons didn’t have a cornerback on the field. Actually I know why, because the Falcons were selling out against the run in their goal line defense. But I’m not sure why there isn’t one cornerback on the field in their goal line defense to account for the possibility that the other team could actually throw to a wide receiver, especially when they have a 6-5 playmaker like Jackson, an easy target on fades.
Robert Alford made a couple of nice plays in coverage, but his low earnings were due to a pair of penalties and his fumble on the punt return. Overall, it was a good collective effort for the secondary, with William Moore having an excellent game.
But again, I think there were a lot of missed opportunities by the Bucs. They had a bunch of penalties (as did the Falcons). A penalty wiped out a touchdown to Tiquan Underwood late in the game and they wound up settling for a field goal. That was thanks to a face mask penalty on Joseph that basically took four points of the board. But five minutes earlier, Glennon missed on a throw that saw a wide open Jackson in the end zone. And that would have meant the Bucs could have cut the lead to 7 points with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, rather than milking another five minutes off the clock and winding up with only 3 points.
Again, I don’t want to be overly negative in regards to the Falcons. But the eye in the sky is more indicative of a bad Bucs offense than a good Falcons defense.
But at this point in the year, you take what you can get with the Falcons. I wouldn’t call this an ugly win for the Falcons, rather an unglamorous one. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly made strides. More akin to baby steps than any great leap forward.
As for special teams, again, Alford’s fumble is disconcerting. And when you fumble your first actual return, that’s never a good sign. I’d like to see the Falcons give Darius Johnson a look there. But knowing the Falcons and the eternity it took them to make a switch last year with Dominique Franks, I won’t hold my breath that there is a change there. Frankly, I’d much rather see Franks there. He might as well contribute something on special teams. I’m not sure why he isn’t on kickoff coverage, as Thomas DeCoud plays there. I’m not referring to DeCoud playing on the kickoff return team, where his work on the hands team was excellent with his onside recovery. Had he not made that play, I think Kevin Cone was about to get blasted and the Bucs would have recovered. I’m talking about covering kickoffs. DeCoud expends the minimal effort necessary there, and I don’t get why the Falcons don’t have Franks or Drew Davis there. Even if they aren’t good, they can’t be any worse than a lolly-gagging DeCoud. My best guess is that maybe he’s hanging back as a safety valve in case the returner breaks a long run. But does the fact that he plays safety make him particularly more skilled at that than Franks or another player?
They pulled Davis completely off special teams apparently because he was starting on offense. Which I guess was to lighten his workload, but since he isn’t exactly pulling much weight on offense, I’m not sure why that is necessary. Especially when Massaquoi is covering kicks. I know technically he doesn’t start, nor pull significant reps, but given his relative value, I don’t think it’s a great idea.
I do think that Alford is potentially a much better gunner than Davis on punts. Davis has been solid there this year, but Alford’s sueroper speed is a good match with Antone Smith on the opposite side.
Advanced Stats from Week 7:
Poor Throws (3): Ryan
Key Blocks (2): Blalock, Rodgers
Missed Blocks (5): Blalock (2), Konz (2), Holmes (1)
Sacks Allowed (0)
Pressures Allowed (1): Holmes
Hurries Allowed (5): Holmes (1), Reynolds (1), Snelling (1), Hawley (0.5), Trueblood (0.5)
Tackles for Loss (4): Babineaux (1), McClain (1), Umenyiora (1), Jerry (0.5), Moore (0.5)
QB Sacks (3): Jerry (1), Moore (1), Bartu (0.5), Massaquoi (0.5)
QB Pressures (4): Babineaux (2.5), Bartu (1), Umenyiora (0.5)
QB Hits (2): Jerry, McClain
QB Hurries (3): Goodman, Maponga, Massaquoi
Passes Defended (6): Alford (2), Moore (2), Samuel (1), Trufant (1)
Blown Coverages (6): Trufant (3), Bartu (1), DeCoud (1), Samuel (1)
Missed Tackles (4): DeCoud, Dent, Gaither, Moore
Key Blocked (3): Dent, Peters, Worrilow
Stops (9): Goodman (2), DeCoud (1.5), Matthews (1), Peters (1), Samuel (1), Trufant (1), Umenyiora (1), Dent (0.5)