I apologize in advance for how long it’s taken me to post this. My excuse is that I was pretty busy at the day job back in November when I should have originally posted this, which caused it to be pushed back. But in reality, a bigger reason for the delay is that I just got burned out with watching the Falcons on tape this year and procrastinated as much as possible when it came to completing the review of this and other games. My hope is that I’ll get caught up by Christmas, but I won’t make any promises.
Also, I’ll try to not use much of any hindsight in this review. So I’ll do my best not to have what occurred in this game to be colored by what I’ve seen from the Falcons in the past month and thus you should read this review as if it was freshly written in November.
Obviously, Mike Smith’s bone-headed timeout “fiasco” stands out in this game. I made note of that in my takeaways column following this game, as well as discussing Dirk Koetter’s decision to throw on 3rd-and-2 rather than run. I won’t re-hash either point too much here, besides discussing what actually happened on that third down.
Matt Ryan opted to throw a fade pass to Devin Hester, but actually missed a wide open Roddy White over the middle. Ryan wound up underthrowing Hester on the lob, in large part because James Stone got pushed back by Desmond Bryant which prevented him from stepping into that throw.
That play sort of illustrated two major takeaways I had from watching the tape of the game which were that Ryan missed on several throws and the pass protection was poor throughout the game.
Paul Kruger had a big day, finishing the game with two sacks, a pressure, and three hurries. And that doesn’t include a pressure that was wiped out by a penalty. Jake Matthews bore the brunt of those troubles, giving up the pressure that counted and all three hurries. Ryan was hit a lot, and I think that probably contributed to many of the missed throws. He had seven poor throws in the first half of the game, with only one in the second half. The eight poor throws were the most Ryan has had in his past 16 games dating back to Week 11 in 2013.
The Falcons dialed up several deep shots to Julio Jones in this game, with my count having five passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air. Unfortunately, only two were completed. One of the misses came due to a drop by Jones, as the ball went through his hands. But the other two were because Ryan was off the mark. It was nice to see Ryan be a bit more aggressive and give Jones some shots at some “50-50” balls to allow his wideout to go up and make a play. But there was a time or two where Ryan nearly threw a pick in those situations.
Devin Hester made some nice contributions in the passing game and was more involved than we’ve seen him for much of the year. White had his typical decent, but unspectacular game. He made some nice catches at times but continues to be inconsistent when it comes to separating from coverage, particularly when asked to run intermediate and deep routes.
Besides Matthews, Stone seemed to have the most troubles in pass protection. There were several times throughout the game where he gave a lot of ground to power-rushing nose tackles. Most of Jon Asamoah’s struggles came in the run game, as he was mostly solid in pass protection. Both the sack and pressure that Justin Blalock allowed came in the first quarter, but he was pretty clean after that point. Relative to Matthews, Ryan Schraeder fared much better at right tackle but was by no means great.
One concern was that on the penultimate Falcons possession, the Browns dialed up the exact same blitz on consecutive plays and both times cornerback K’Waun Williams was unblocked and laid a lick on Ryan. I’d have to say that is probably on Ryan to have to deal with the free defender coming out of the slot. The first time it happened, Ryan was able to throw up a desperation pass to his hot read which was White. White made a nice diving five-yard grab to set up the 3rd-and-5. But then Williams lined up on the other side of the field and ran the exact same corner blitz. The second time, Ryan’s “prayer” was nearly picked off by Skrine. It was only due to the intervention of Jones to prevent the pick. The Falcons wound up punting.
That wasn’t the only instance of blown assignments in pass protection. On the play where Ryan was sack-stripped, it looked like the called protection was just a horrible decision on somebody’s part. Both Kruger and Barkevious Mingo lined up in the “wide-9” technique, but for whatever reason both Matthews and Schraeder chose to ignore them. Asamoah tried to pick up Kruger, but couldn’t get in front of him which led to him being credited with allowing the sack.
There were a couple of nice blocks by Levine Toilolo when the Falcons utilized him as a fullback, lead-blocking up the middle. He hit his assignments there, but not so much when he was asked to block inline on the edge or other times when he was asked to make blocks in space.
The ground game was effective at times, but was marginalized in the second half when the Falcons fell behind. But I’m sure the Falcons didn’t feel like they had as much success against a weak Browns run defense as they hoped.
I believe the Falcons defense got quite a bit of help from Hoyer early in the game. He was off the mark and made several poor decisions and throws. He had three interceptions, all of which were either poor throws or poor decisions. However, Hoyer looked very sharp on the final game-winning drive. The Falcons defensive collapse for once wasn’t due to a lack of pressure. The team did get pressure on that series, but Hoyer did a nice job moving away from it and delivering in the face of it.
On the first play of that last series, Osi Umenyiora beat left tackle Joe Thomas by collapsing the edge and hitting Hoyer to cause the incompletion. That was followed by a corner blitz by Josh Wilson, who teamed with Paul Worrilow to hit Hoyer, but he made a nice throw under pressure to an open Miles Austin along the sideline. Then pressure by Kroy Biermann and Corey Peters forced Hoyer out of the pocket on the next play, and he found an open Josh Gordon behind the Falcons zone coverage. Then he made two nice reads and throws over the middle to Gary Barnidge and Austin to get the Browns into field-goal range. So while in my takeaways column I focused on the collapse of the Falcons defense, upon second viewing, I have to admit that Hoyer stepped up a lot more than I gave initial credit. And it certainly was a point in the game when it mattered.
The run defense was poor, as the Browns did not have much trouble creating holes for either Isaiah Crowell or Terrance West. And both running backs also did a lot to create on their own.
West had a 20-yard run on a nice cutback after the initial hole was collapsed by Corey Peters and Malliciah Goodman. West then reversed field and bounced outside where Thomas had worked Biermann several yards downfield, thus giving him no problem to turn the corner. Ishmael gave chase but couldn’t close in time. Of course the Browns failed to capitalize on the next play as Hoyer threw an interception in the back of the end zone to Desmond Trufant.
Crowell had a nice run in the third quarter on a 26-yard score. He delivered a pair of nice stiff arms to Dwight Lowery and Robert McClain and made a nice cutback on Ishmael. Initially on that play, Barnidge got enough of Paul Worrilow up the middle to prevent Worrilow from shooting the gap and making the stop in the backfield. McClain suffered an injury on that play.
Overall it was not a great day for McClain, who had his share of struggles both in coverage, but his low earnings are mostly due to struggles in run support.
Trufant had a good game, but there were a couple of instances where he gave up a bit too much cushion. But I might blame that on coaches as the Falcons were a little to keen on asking him to play off zone towards the end of the game.
Biermann was probably one of the more disruptive Falcons on the day, but seemed to have trouble several times setting the edge against Thomas. But when he was facing a tight end, he usually did a very good job. Osi also deserves credit for looking fresh and sharp on that final series even though it did not go the Falcons way.
Ra’Shede Hageman did a nice job on consecutive plays in the third quarter. On the first, he was disruptive by getting upfield by using his hands to Mitchell Schwartz on a sweep. Biermann had set the edge and was able to clean up the play for a stop. Then on the second play, he did a nice job getting leverage against John Greco at the point of attack and then getting off the block to wrap up West in the hole. I haven’t seen Hageman use his hands a ton this year as he’s been reliant on his initial first-step and power, so it was nice to see improved technique.
Peters got the blame for the 12-men on the field penalty.
Hester had a couple of opportunities to break some decent returns, but they weren’t blocked effectively by the Falcons.
Advanced Stats from Week 8:
Poor Throws (8): Ryan
Drops (2): Jones
Key Blocks (4): Asamoah (2), Matthews (2)
Missed Blocks (5): Asamoah (2), Toilolo (1), Blalock (0.5), Carimi (0.5), Matthews (0.5), Schraeder (0.5)
Sacks Allowed (3): Asamoah, Blalock, Carimi
Pressures Allowed (5): Matthews (2), Blalock (1), Schraeder (1), Stone (1)
Hurries Allowed (10): Matthews (5), Schraeder (2), Stone (2), Blalock (1)
Tackles for Loss (3): Shembo, Soliai, Wilson
QB Sacks (1): Biermann
QB Pressures (2): Biermann, Umenyiora
QB Hits (2): Jackson (1), Wilson (0.5), Worrilow (0.5)
QB Hurries (9): Biermann (2.5), Babineaux (1), Goodman (1), Jackson (1), McClain (1), Soliai (1), Trufant (1), Peters (0.5)
Passes Defended (1): Trufant
Blown Coverages (5): McClain (2), Southward (1.5), Wilson (1), Trufant (0.5)
Missed Tackles (4): Ishmael, Lowery, McClain, Trufant
Key Blocked (13): Biermann (3), McClain (2), Worrilow (2), Babineaux (1), Jackson (1), Lowery (1), Peters (1), Shembo (1), Wilson (1)
Stops (7): Hageman (2), Worrilow (1.5), Biermann (1), Goodman (1), Peters (1), Bartu (0.5)