I hope everyone is having a Merry Christmas. As my gift to you, here’s my review of the All-22 game film from the Atlanta Falcons’ win over the Arizona Cardinals. As I explained in my Week 12 review, I’ve fallen a little behind. But I’m hoping that I can get caught up before the year is up.
And once again despite the delay in posting this, I will do my best not to use hindsight to analyze this game. So just pretend you’re reading this fresh from three weeks ago.
It was another subpar performance from Matt Ryan. He finished much stronger than he started due to seven poor throws in the first half, but only two in the second half. I noticed that the Falcons started to utilize more bootlegs and rollouts in the second half. I’m not sure why because it’s not as if the Cardinals were getting an excess amount of pressure. I did however notice that the number of unblocked pressures/hurries the Cardinals got increased in the second half. Part of that was better blitz designed, but a good number of them came on those rollouts and bootlegs.
Ryan didn’t play poorly, and certainly deserves some credit for showing a level of confidence in Julio Jones throughout the game. But a lot of those big plays weren’t because Ryan’s placement or accuracy were great, rather it was simply due to Jones going up and getting the football. So I can’t exactly pat Ryan too much on the back for showing trust in a receiver like Jones. That’s like calling Matt Stafford a great quarterback because he’s smart enough to feed Megatron. Don’t get me wrong, Ryan played fine. But a lot of folks will look at the box score and think he was outstanding, when in reality he was much closer to average.
The star of this game was no doubt Jones, who really went to town on Patrick Peterson. Peterson and Jones matched up twice during their college days, and both times I thought Jones got the better of the corner. One of the reasons why I was high on Jones going into the 2011 draft was how he seemed to elevate his game when he was faced with Peterson. He seemed to play harder and with greater physicality in those LSU-Alabama matchups, and that became the benchmark for what I believed was his upside at the next level. Because people may not recall, but I thought Peterson was the best player in that draft class. There’s no denying that there was some carry over from college into this week’s game. It’s a shame that injuries to Jones prevented this matchup from happening in 2012 and 2013.
Peterson didn’t get a ton of safety help, which really hurt him. But Jones was physical and explosive and really put himself on the map league-wide as one of the premier wide receivers. Of course few were sleeping on Jones prior to this game, but if one is debating on which receiver stands behind Calvin Johnson as the best guy in the game, Jones certainly may have stepped to the front of the line with this performance.
Douglas had a solid game as well, although to be frank, many of his plays didn’t come from anything special he did. But he did make a couple of nice catches. He had the benefit of facing Antonio Cromartie for a large portion of the game, who for whatever reason opted not to try and press him. On one 2nd-and-4, Cromartie was lined up five yards off the line of scrimmage. Douglas beat him on a quick slant and Cromartie didn’t do a good job closing, allowing Douglas to make a 15-yard play, which included an ugly, but effective spin move. Given that Cromartie is about 2.5 inches and 30 pounds bigger than Douglas, it was just an odd decision on the part of either Cromartie or Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to not try and press Douglas in most situations.
There was another nice play by Douglas where he got 19 yards on a shallow cross on a third down. He got a “rub” from Drew Davis on Jerald Powers, that left Douglas wide open in the flat. I ultimately credited Davis with a key block on that play, which is something I don’t normally do when it comes to rub routes. But it was several plays like that which is why I don’t think Douglas’ box score like Ryan accurately reflects that he had a magnificent game, but it was nonetheless solid. It was Jones that was really facilitating the offense, but Douglas did his part in White’s absence with most of his contributions coming in the second half after the Falcons had already established a firm lead.
The blocking up front was fine. The Falcons didn’t get owned by Calais Campbell as they did in the matchup from a year ago. Campbell still made an impact in the run game, but was by no means unblockable like he seemed a year ago.
Of the Falcons’ offensive linemen, center James Stone seemed to have the most problems. There were several plays where Cardinals nose tackle Dan Williams was able to bully him and push him deep into the backfield. I really do think Stone’s odd snapping motion isn’t quite beneficial as he can struggle at times to get initial leverage to big, physical nose tackles like Williams. It’s not a huge liability, but he’s going to have to get stronger and improve his initial punch if he wants to really make it long-term in the pros.
Ryan Schraeder had some problems with Alex Okafor in the second quarter. He gave up a sack, pressure and hurry all in that quarter, but the sack was nullified by a Cardinals penalty. Outside that quarter, he was solid.
Steven Jackson showed nice power in the game, able to have a nice couple of runs where he got yardage after contact by dragging a Cardinals defensive back or linebacker. On his 55-yard run, Schraeder got a nice seal on the outside against Deone Bucannon, but Jon Asamoah got credit for the key block, getting a seal on the inside.
Jacquizz Rodgers did a nice job on both of his second-half runs. He could’ve looked better with better block. The same could be said of Devonta Freeman, as it seemed that after his first few carries, one of his blockers blew an assignment that prevented him from reaching the line of scrimmage before having to avoid a tackler.
The ‘TEAM” got accredited with the unsportsmanlike conduct on Devin Hester’s “should have been” punt return touchdown.
Defensively, the Falcons benefited from a very rough outing for quarterback Drew Stanton. But the Falcons also were able to take advantage of a weak Cardinals offensive line and create some pressure, particularly on the interior. Jonathan Babineaux and Cliff Matthews were very active in terms of generating pressure. Stunts and twists were very effective against the Cardinals interior offensive line. Babineaux (one pressure, one hit), Stansly Maponga (on pressure) and Jonathan Massaquoi (one hurry) each were able to get to the quarterback due to stunts or twists.
It’s a shame that Maponga went down with his injury, as he had generated pressure on back-to-back plays. The first was where he used a nice inside spin move against Bobbie Massie. The second saw him have a delayed twist up the middle against Paul Fanaika, who then pushed him into Babineaux, which caused him to land on his arm and seemingly hyperextend/dislocate his elbow.
While much of the hype this season has been for Massaquoi’s pass-rushing abilities, I think I could make a case that Maponga is a much more effective pure speed-rusher off the edge. I know Massaquoi’s first step quickness has declined a bit as he’s suffering from a foot injury, but I would say that both Maponga and Umenyiora looked considerably more explosive off the snap than the former in this game.
Matthews’ first hit came mostly due to effort. His second hit was simply beating center Lyle Sendlein with a speed move to his outside shoulder.
For the second week in a row, Hageman flashed on consecutive plays. This time in the second quarter, he was able to overpower Fanaika. He didn’t get credited with a hurry or pressure on the play, but it was nice to see him bully around his opponent. Then on the next play, he got penetration on a zone run, slipping inside Bobby Massie. He and Bartu made the tackle, splitting credit for the stop on the one-yard run by Marion Grice.
Desmond Trufant blew several coverages in this game, but none of them were grievous errors. It’s just that cornerbacks do occasionally get beat, even ones as good and consistent as Trufant has been this season.
William Moore could have potentially had a pick-six on the tipped pass by Babineaux towards the end of the first quarter as he was on the verge of jumping the throw. He had a couple of hurries when blitzing off the edge and it was a very nice “welcome back” game for him. His ability to play deep coverage also allowed Kemal Ishmael to slide up in the box and focus on run support, which is where he’s far more effective.
I think Robert McClain got a bit of a raw deal with the penalties. One of his illegal contacts at the start of the third quarter was extremely ticky-tacky call. There was contact, but it was only six yards down the field. I know the league has impressed upon the need to call those plays tighter this year, but I’m sure they have let several of those plays slide this season. His pass interference call on the two-point conversion was also debatable since it may have been an uncatchable pass.
Josh Harris’ false start was another missed call. There might have been the subtlest of head movements by Harris upon looking at the end-zone view on the All-22, but I honestly think that was just from the lens on the camera trying to focus as opposed to any real movement. That should have been an offsides penalty on Marcus Benard instead.
Hester was two yards from earning something on his 33-yard kickoff return. But Harland Gunn failed to block Jefferson on the play, which allowed him to trip up Hester.
Hester of course did have the nice return on the punt return that should have been a touchdown, but got nullified by the facemask penalty that was called on him instead of on punter Drew Butler.
Advanced Stats from Week 13:
Poor Throws (9): Ryan
Drops (1): Hester
Key Blocks (5): Asamoah (2), Davis (1), DiMarco (1), Matthews (1)
Missed Blocks (4): Blalock, Jones, J.Matthews, Toilolo
Sacks Allowed (1): J.Matthews
Pressures Allowed (2): Schraeder, Stone
Hurries Allowed (3): Jackson, Schraeder, Stone
Tackles for Loss (0)
QB Sacks (0)
QB Pressures (3): Babineaux (1.5), Lowery (1), Maponga (0.5)
QB Hits (5): C.Matthews (2), Babineaux (1), Lowery (1), Peters (1)
QB Hurries (5): Moore (2), Goodman (1), Massaquoi (1), Umenyiora (1)
Passes Defended (5): Wilson (2), Babineaux (1), McClain (1), Trufant (1)
Blown Coverages (7): Trufant (2.5), Lowery (1.5), McClain (1), Shembo (1), Worrilow (1)
Missed Tackles (0)
Key Blocked (1): Goodman
Stops (8): Worrilow (2), Biermann (1.5), Peters (1), Babineaux (0.5), Bartu (0.5), Goodman (0.5), Hageman (0.5), Maponga (0.5), Moore (0.5), Trufant (0.5)