An overwhelming performance by the Atlanta Falcons, although the tale of the tape indicates that the team wasn’t nearly as dominant as the scoreboard suggested. However the Falcons made the plays they needed to make to get points on the board and the hat has to go off to them.
Matt Ryan was solid in this game as he really didn’t have to carry that heavy of a load. Yet he still managed to make a couple of solid throws, showing some good anticipation.There were probably one or two throws/plays that Ryan would want back, as is usually the case. He did take a sack in this game on a play where he had a clean pocket and seemingly tripped or fell down. But for the most part, Ryan did an excellent job handling the pressure, as he made quick, decisive throws to counter what was at times limited protection.
Devonta Freeman had another solid day, impacting both as a runner and receiver and was certainly the top skill position player for the Falcons on offense. Terron Ward did some nice things as well. Ward’s vision and decisiveness was not exactly crisp on his initial carries, but he started to get into a groove by the time we reached the fourth quarter and started making better cuts and doing a better job finding daylight. Both Freeman and Ward missed chips on J.J. Watt in this game, leaving right tackle Ryan Schraeder out to dry. Both times occurred on plays where Ryan was sacked.
Speaking of Watt, he really worked over Schraeder in this game, which was to be expected. The Falcons left Schraeder on an island against him
too many multiple times throughout the first half and the Falcon right tackle did not fare well. All but one of his pressures and a missed block came when going against Watt. Also the reality was that several of his hurries allowed to Watt (four) could have easily been pressures if not for decisive action by Ryan.
The overall amount of pressure is one of the reasons why I don’t think the Falcons were as dominant in this game as the scoreboard suggested. The team’s offensive line was for a large chunk of the game outmatched by the Texans defensive linemen when they could pin their ears back. The line’s nine missed blocks and 11 hurries allowed matched or exceeded the combined amount they gave up the past two weeks.
Jake Matthews probably had the strongest performance, especially on the ground. That was partially due to the fact that he was facing the Texans’ most underwhelming defensive lineman in Jared Crick for most of the game. But Matthews did a good job getting on the second level and sealing runs, and showed a lot more mean streak and finished blocks better than I’ve seen at any point in his career, even dating back to Texas A&M.
Both guards: Andy Levitre and Chris Chester were mostly solid, although the latter definitely missed a few more assignments. Most his missed blocks came when he couldn’t block a linebacker on the second level. Center Mike Person was often overwhelmed when he faced the powerful Vince Wilfork one-on-one. It’ll be something to watch in the future to see how Person fares against 3-4 nose tackles, as Bennie Logan of the Philadelphia Eagles also gave him trouble in Week One. Wilfork’s backup Christian Covington also gave him some trouble late in the game as well.
James Stone and Bryce Harris were both underwhelming in their limited action. Levine Toilolo really struggled in this game and it’s not a surprise that the Falcons went out and signed Tony Moeaki this week to supplement their depth at tight end. That could be a big upgrade in the run game even if you assume Moeaki is just average there.
The rest of the Falcons receivers were unspectacular. I’d wager Julio Jones was a lot more limited by injury in this game than the Falcons let on as they seemed to be using him much more as a decoy than normal. There was at least one catch that he had where he was very slow to get up off the turf after the catch and Ryan didn’t seem to be looking his way much of the afternoon. There seemed to be a lot more plays designed to go to Leonard Hankerson or Freeman than past weeks, suggesting to me that the Falcons were purposefully avoiding Jones. The only reason I can fathom that is the toe/hamstring injury that has been bothering him this first month.
Hankerson was very productive, although three of his six receptions came on plays where he was helped out by a pick by another receiver. A fourth came on a scramble drill. I point those out to indicate that Hankerson didn’t really do a ton to separate from coverage. The concern there is that if Jones is limited or out moving forward, can receivers like Hankerson and others be effective at getting open for Ryan without needing use of designed picks?
White was quiet, although at least he had two catches to get back in the box score. I’ll also give Patrick DiMarco some love for a very solid game as a run-blocker.
Overall I can’t say this was a stellar offensive performance by the Falcons. The Texans didn’t make enough plays and the Falcons took advantage of that. But on their own, some of the team’s deficiencies got exposed ever so slightly. Fortunately for the Falcons, I’m not sure they’re going to face a front like the Texans field for several more weeks until they play the Minnesota Vikings, and thus whatever weaknesses peeked through the curtain this week might disappear for a while.
Defensively the Falcons certainly benefited from very subpar quarterback play on both the parts of Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer. A lot of throws were missed. However what’s a little disappointing is how the Falcons pass rush didn’t really terrorize either quarterback as much as I suspected going into the game. The Texans dropped back to throw 58 times and the fact that the Falcons were only able to negatively affect four throws is underwhelming.
Although to be fair, about half those dropbacks came when Hoyer was in the game and the Falcons were deploying their reserves mostly with Kroy Biermann, Malliciah Goodman, Paul Soliai, Ra’Shede Hageman, Tyson Jackson and Grady Jarrett getting the bulk of those reps. None of those players are particularly gifted pass rushers with Soliai being the only one to register a hit on Hoyer.
The positive is that the Falcons got their hands on a lot of passes on the back end. Many of them came on throws that were off the mark, allowing a Falcons defender that was out of position to break up a pass. But in the cases of both Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, the majority of them were just good plays on their part. Trufant’s earnings were the best since Jonathan Babineaux’s $8 performance against the Tennessee Titans in 2011.
Robenson Therezie was competent at free safety. I noticed he didn’t do a great job breaking on the throw until after the ball left the quarterback’s hand. That lack of ideal awareness and anticipation wasn’t exposed thanks to the outstanding play of both outside corners. He seemingly injured his shoulder trying to tackle Chris Polk on the final play of the third quarter and that likely is a reason that pushed the Falcons to bring in Charles Godfrey as depth this week.
The Falcons’ backup corners however struggled mightily at the end of the game against DeAndre Hopkins. It took a bit, but once Hoyer figured out nobody could cover Hopkins, he just chucked it up him nearly every play.
Phillip Adams gave up a 42-yard play to Cecil Shorts and was flagged for a defensive pass interference, but that was not fully his fault. Kemal Ishmael was working centerfield in the Falcons’ Cover-1 and broke very, very late on the deep throw down the seam. Once Adams realized he didn’t have deep help, he just tripped up Shorts to try and save the touchdown. Adams got beat other times, including biting hard on a double move that resulted in a 26-yard play by Hopkins on the final drive. But he mostly didn’t look completely out of place when facing Hopkins in the fourth quarter.
The same cannot be said of Jalen Collins and Dezmen Southward. I have to give Southward some credit, he did not look as lost as Collins in this game. While I was pretty forgiving of Collins’ struggles during the preseason, he showed an utter lack of instincts and poor technique in this game. I’m not writing him off for his career, but based off this lone performance my expectations on his potential to contribute this season are about as low as they can get. They were already that for Southward. My expectations on both players are so low that I hope we don’t have to see either until 2016.
Adams is a fairly limited player, but he’s at least shown so far this year that he’s not totally overmatched in the starting lineup. Should either Alford or Trufant get hurt this year and the team is forced to play either Collins or Southward for extended reps, Falcons fans should be very concerned based off this Texans game.
At linebacker, Paul Worrilow was solid. Joplo Bartu replaced Justin Durant early in the game and while blessed with good speed, his awareness and instincts aren’t up to par. That’s understandable given how good Durant is in that area, but the dropoff is significant. The Falcons might be smarter to play Nate Stupar at weak-side linebacker over Bartu moving forward if Brooks Reed is back to full health. Allen Bradford made a couple of nice hits in the game, but he too is reacting a bit too slow.
Overall I can’t really knock the defense. They did a good job defending the run and most of the starting secondary’s play was strong. But the underwhelming pass rush and the limitations of several backups being exposed were probably my biggest defensive takeaways from this game. This is another reason why I can’t say the Falcons overall were that dominant against the Texans. While I’d like to focus solely on the positives, watching Hoyer and Hopkins carve up the backups for the final 18 minutes of the game is burned into my retinas. Also the hope is that this may be one of the few times that we’ll get to see some of these backups play this year, so that also explains why I’m putting extra focus on them in this week’s review since I may not get another chance to write about many of them again this season.
On special teams, Southward did a good job downing that one punt at the two-yard line. Other than that, he and Collins were also middling while working as gunners on the punt team. Adams continues to disappoint on kickoff coverage as he consistently gets out of his lane, opening up big alleys up the middle. Thankfully others around him closed them down and most of Matt Bosher’s kickoffs are touchbacks.
Mickey Shuler worked on kickoff coverage in DiMarco’s usual spot, while O’Brien Schofield subbed in for Toilolo’s usual spot on punt coverage. The latter change seemed pretty beneficial as Schofield is a historically more accomplished special teams player and did a much better job getting downfield. The Falcons did swap out Trufant at one of the wing on kickoff coverage for Southward in the second half.
I’d also like to point out that I think this game was pretty poorly officiated as I think the Falcons got away with a number of penalties. Holds, offensive pass interferences on the pick plays and maybe a couple of illegal contact or defensive pass interferences in the Falcons secondary weren’t called. None were so blatant to leave you incredulous, but enough where I’ve seen them called on the Falcons or other teams this year. Although one flag that was thrown that probably shouldn’t have been was the offsides call on Vic Beasley, who I think got back in time before the ball was snapped.
Advanced Stats from Week 4:
Poor Throws (0)
Key Blocks (11): Matthews (3), Chester (2), DiMarco (2), Levitre (1), Person (1), Toilolo (1), Weems (1)
Missed Blocks (10): Chester (3), Schraeder (3), Levitre (1), Matthews (1), Person (1), Toilolo (1)
Sacks Allowed (2): Ryan, Schraeder
Pressures Allowed (3): DiMarco, Schraeder, Toilolo
Hurries Allowed (11): Schraeder (4), Matthews (3), Chester (2), Levitre (1), Person (1)
Tackles For Loss (2): Babineaux, Reed
QB Sacks (0)
QB Pressures (0)
QB Hits (4): Beasley (2), Biermann (1), Soliai (1)
QB Hurries (7): Clayborn (2), Goodman (2), Beasley (1), Soliai (1), Stupar (1)
Passes Defended (12): Trufant (4), Alford (4), Adams (1), Ishmael (1), Moore (1), Therezie (1)
Blown Coverages (11): Collins (3), Adams (2), Southward (2), Beasley (1), Bradford (1), Therezie (1), Trufant (1)
Missed Tackles (2): Bartu, Stupar
Key Blocked (4): Bartu, Bradford, Durant, Jarrett
Stops (10): Worrilow (2.5), Biermann (2), Bartu (1), Bradford (1), Jarrett (1), Reed (1), Schofield (1), Hageman (0.5)