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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 “2013 Awards Extravaganza!”

January 14th, 2014 1 comment

Allen and I get together once again to discuss our choices for various awards stemming from the Atlanta Falcons 2013 season. Included are our choices for the team’s most valuable player, offensive and defensive players of the year, most improved player, biggest disappointment, and most underrated and overrated players among several other individual honors. During the course of our discussion, I explain my hatred for Harry Douglas for the umpteenth time, and also where I rank Matt Ryan among the league’s top quarterbacks following his play in 2013. After divvying out our awards, we get into a discussion about the winners and losers from the second round of the playoffs, as well as our expectations for the upcoming conference championship games.

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 55 2013 Awards Extravaganza! [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Takeaways from Divisional Playoff Round 2013

January 13th, 2014 Comments off
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

A player like Jadeveon Clowney could revitalize the entire Falcons team

If the Atlanta Falcons want to improve their chances of winning games in January, they must improve their defense.

Everyone knows the Falcons sport one of the better home-field advantages in the NFL today. The Falcons have the sixth best winning percentage of any team in the past six seasons (including postseason games) in their home stadium.

It’s then obviously to their advantage if they are able to get a top seed in the playoffs and be able to host opponents in the Georgia Dome come January. But what happens if adversity strikes as it did this past season, and the team is unable to rack up all those regular season wins to get a high seed?

And given an already tough NFC South might have gotten tougher with Lovie Smith becoming the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the chances have increased that the Falcons may have to “settle” for more wildcard playoff berths in future seasons. And thus defense becomes their best asset if the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome are no longer part of the equation.

History Shows Strong Link between Road Playoff Success and Defense

All one has to do is look over the past several years at teams that have managed to win multiple playoff games on the road and you see a commonality among them: good defense.

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 17 Review

January 2nd, 2014 Comments off

This was a hard loss for the Atlanta Falcons to review.

And that was mainly because of how poor the offensive line performed. Throughout the year, I have been adamant in the belief that the Falcons haven’t been aggressive enough in terms of their offensive game-planning to try and generate big plays. And I have consistently heard that the Falcons can’t throw down the field because their offensive line is too porous. Well, this was in fact the first game where I saw that belief was a reality. You may recall both of my reviews from Panthers games last year, where I made note of how the Falcons front got whooped. It was the same again this year, but even worse.

I had to check the notes I’ve been keeping since Week 9, but the 23-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez was only the third time since then where the Falcons attempted a deep pass on their opening drive. And the Falcons then tried to go down the field on the second play of their next series, but Roddy White was doubled on a deep in and Matt Ryan settled for a five-yard checkdown to Steven Jackson. Two designed deep plays in the first quarter? That hasn’t happened once since Week 9.

But going back to the protection issues, that latter play was an instance where the Falcons used max protect, with eight blockers to help Ryan. But pressure still got to him on that play, as Greg Hardy was able to beat Lamar Holmes and deliver a hit on Ryan from behind. That wasn’t the only instance where the Falcons used max protect and the Panthers pass rush still managed to beat it.

This game was essentially the Greg Hardy Show. Hardy was a pass deflection away from hitting for the “pass-rushing cycle,” a distinction that Cameron Jordan achieved in Week 12. Hardy finished with four sacks, two pressures, two hits, and a hurry. Almost no blocker was immune from the Wrath of the Kraken, with Justin Blalock being the only member of the starting five that did not get beat by Hardy. Lamar Holmes and Tony Gonzalez were routinely beaten with Holmes getting beat for a sack, hit, pressure, and hurry and Gonzalez giving up 1.5 sacks and half a hit. Gonzalez’s issues signaled poor protections by the Falcons in which there were too many instances where he was asked (along with a chipping running back) to try and block Hardy, and I don’t think it worked once. It was a rough way for Gonzalez to finish his career, being overused as a blocker and performing poorly at it.

I’m ready to give up on Peter Konz. It’s not the fact that Konz was exceptionally bad in this game (he fared worse a year ago). But the skills and tools simply aren’t there with Konz. He’s stiff with poor footwork and hand usage and he just appears to be moving in molasses. It was a complaint I once had for Lamar Holmes last summer when he was coming off injury and a rookie. Konz just doesn’t have an excuse to be as slow as he is. Harland Gunn is by no means a good guard, but he’s much better than Konz because he isn’t slow and makes up for his lack of size and strength with aggression.

Joe Hawley is the goat for this game for his botched snap at the end, although he didn’t have too bad a performance relative to the other blockers. But that probably is because he was the only one not to give up a sack. Ultimately for this game it’s degrees of crappiness, with Hawley and Blalock’s crap doesn’t smell as bad as the other starters.

Offensively, I thought the Falcons did a good job using screen passes to supplement their running game. None of the plays went for more than seven yards, but they were often utilized on first downs instead of running it into the teeth of a good Panthers defensive line. And given our blocking issues, I think that was a smart call on Dirk Koetter’s part.

Roddy White got credited with three drops, which matched his season total up until now. The critical one came in the fourth quarter with the Falcons driving. It happened on a 3rd-and-10, forcing the Falcons to settle for a 37-yard field goal that put them down 21-20. White was running a slant, and the safety was in position to make the tackle before he reached the first down. It was possible he could have broken the tackle and gotten the first, but my bet is that he would have been stopped a yard or two shy. But it begs the question, would Mike Smith had gone for it on 4th-and-1 down four points with 7:14 on the clock? The outcome of that potential decision changes the narrative for this game somewhat, especially if Smitty had opted to kick. The right decision in that situation (at Carolina’s 19-yard line) would have been to go for it. But given all the questionable decisions Smith has made this year, I’m not confident at all that he would have made the right call.

As for the pick-six, I’ll blame both Ryan and Harry Douglas. But that play really signaled exactly what I was referring to a few weeks ago when I discussed the poor rapport of Ryan and Douglas. Ryan stared down the throw from the jump, allowing Melvin White to read it easily. But Douglas clearly was not expecting the ball to come out quickly with White in off-coverage. By the time he turned around to wait for the pass, the ball was already behind him and White made an easy play. I’m sure we’ll continue to hear a lot of things out of Flowery Branch about how Matt Ryan is really comfortable with Harry Douglas but the proof is in the pudding. After two months of him being a primary target and six years of working together, their rapport is worth no more than the pile of crap that the offensive line was. Tom Brady had a great rapport with Wes Welker, but then Julian Edelman emerged this year. That is something that the Falcons should consider when they are making the decision about whether Douglas is worth keeping in 2014.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$11$0$0$0$0$0$11.00
Steven Jackson$0$5$5-$0.5$0$0$9.50
Jason Snelling$0$5$2$0$0$0$7.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Roddy White$0$0$2$1$0-$1$2.00
Patrick DiMarco$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Harland Gunn$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$1$0-$2-$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
TEAM$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1-$2.5$0$0-$1.50
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 53 “Harry Douglas Ruins Dreams”

December 31st, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by another Falcoholic contributor, the ever-optimistic Jeanna Thomas, to discuss the Atlanta Falcons last two games of the year against the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers in Weeks 16 and 17. Topics we hit include the battle between Steven Jackson and Donte Whitner, the problems that plague the offensive line, the refusal to play Antone Smith, and the outlook of some young players: Peter Konz, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford. We also discuss how injury will affect the future of Corey Peters, as well as the possibility that the team’s good intentions sabotaged Tony Gonzalez’s final game. We end the show discussing some of the things we saw around the league in Week 17, as I gloat over Allen about the Eagles win over the Cowboys. We each give our predictions about which teams could emerge in the first round of the playoffs to make a legit run at the Super Bowl in February.

Episode53-Harry Douglas Ruins Dreams [Download]
Duration: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Jeanna writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @jeannathomas.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Takeaways from Week 17

December 30th, 2013 4 comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas

The 2013 season is over for the Atlanta Falcons and what a disappointing season it was.

The Falcons finish the year with a 4-12 record, when most (including myself) were expected a record that was closer to 12-4 after their trip to the NFC Championship Game in 2012. What is the narrative for the year that was 2013 in Atlanta?

First off, injuries were a factor, particularly the two injuries to wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. White suffered a high-ankle sprain at the end of the preseason, and rather than rest him for the start of the season the Falcons and White himself pushed to play. Hindsight tells us that was a mistake. Because after the fifth game of the year, Jones went down with a season-ending foot injury. Had White been rested, it’s likely he would have been able to suit up and pick up the slack by then. Instead, White would miss the next three games with a hamstring injury and would be largely ineffective for three more following that.

Essentially, the Falcons got only five games worth of solid production from each wideout this year: Jones for the first five, and White for the final five. In the first five games, the Falcons averaged 24.4 points per game, while they averaged 25.2 in the final five. During the six in between, they averaged 17.5 points per game. It’s not a coincidence that the Falcons offensive production dropped by a touchdown when they lacked a comparable playmaker at wide receiver.

And while he had led the team with a career-high 85 catches and 1,067 yards, Harry Douglas proved he was not that playmaker. The stat that is most-telling about Douglas’ 2013 season is his two touchdowns despite playing the entire season. Prior to this year, there were only five receivers that exceeded 80 catches, 1,000 yards, and did not exceed a pair of touchdowns in a season.

Wide Receiver an Underrated Need for Falcons

The lack of a reliable wideout is one those subjects I’ve harped on throughout this season, mainly because most will focus on the play of the Falcons in the trenches as the root cause of their woes this year. And while those people aren’t necessarily wrong in thinking that upgrading those areas should be the top priorities for the Falcons this offseason, I believe it was really the diminishing returns from the passing game that doomed the Falcons season.

Read more…

Weatherspoon, Rodgers Out vs. Panthers

December 27th, 2013 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced their injury report earlier today with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and running back Jacquizz Rodgers being listed as out with knee and concussion injuries, respectively. Neither player will suit up this weekend to face the Carolina Panthers in the team’s 2013 regular season finale. Weatherspoon missed his second week of practice with the same knee injury, having missed last week’s loss against the San Francisco 49ers despite being listed as questionable then. Rodgers suffered his concussion in the 49ers game, and was also held out of practice this week.

Likely replacing Weatherspoon will be Stephen Nicholas, who got his most extensive playing time of the year last week against the 49ers. Rodgers serves as the team’s primary kickoff returner and top backup at running back. In both duties he is expected to be replaced by fellow running back Jason Snelling. Snelling did return one kick for 23 yards following Rodgers’ exit from the 49ers game.

Also listed on the team’s injury report is wide receiver Darius Johnson (ankle) as questionable.  Johnson was limited all three days of practice this week after missing every practice last week and the 49ers game. He will likely be replaced by Drew Davis if he is unable to go on Sunday.

Like Johnson, tight end Tony Gonzalez was limited all week with a toe injury but he is listed as probable. Gonzalez has been nursing his toe injury since Week 10, the last time he fully participated in one of the team’s practice. But he has yet to miss a game this year, and Sunday will mark his final game after a 17-year NFL career since he is expected to retire this offseason.

Cornerback Robert Alford (ankle) and offensive lineman Peter Konz (neck) were also listed as probable. Alford was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but returned to fully participate in Friday’s practice. Konz was able to go fully in all three days of practice this week.

Notable injuries for the Carolina Panthers include wide receiver Steve Smith (knee), running back Jonathan Stewart (knee), and defensive tackle Colin Cole (calf). All three are listed as out this week. Quarterback Cam Newton (ankle) is listed as probable, as he was able to fully participate in practice this week.

Moneyball 2013 – Week 15 Review

December 17th, 2013 Comments off

After reviewing the All-22, no doubt this was an ugly win for the Atlanta Falcons over the Washington Redskins.

As I noted yesterday, the offense was fairly conservative in terms of taking deep shots down the field. It appeared that the Falcons only drew up three plays in which Matt Ryan was looking to throw the ball beyond 15 yards. I noticed how often the Falcons run plays that require the receivers to run to the sticks or a yard shy, and that’s it. There was a play-call on a 3rd-and-21 in the second quarter where it was supposed to be a clear-out for Darius Johnson. I get that with the Falcons backed up inside their 10-yard line, that Dirk Koetter didn’t want to risk Ryan taking a deep drop and increase the potential for a safety. But Johnson got no separation from David Amerson on that play and it was just a three-yard gain. That play sort of epitomizes the sort of conservative approach of the offense.

I thought Ryan did some good things, particularly in terms of his movement within the pocket to avoid pressure. There were about three times where he was able to step up in the pocket to avoid pressure and deliver a completion down the field. So much of this season I’ve watched Ryan check it down in the face of pressure, and it was nice to see him using his legs to create space and extend plays.

The only real complaint I have with Ryan in this game was his overthrow on his interception, on one of his few shots downfield at the end of the first half. I like that he was being aggressive, he just needed to make a better throw. This week will go down as one of his lower earnings of the season, but I think that had more to do with play-calling than him playing poorly.

There were problems (as usual) with the pass protection with too many breakdowns. Lamar Holmes struggled to handle Brian Orakpo, with both of his sacks allowed coming against him. Ryan Kerrigan also did good work against Ryan Schraeder on the other side with a sack and a hurry, but also was very effective when matched against our tight ends when they were blocking. I was surprised to see such a big game from defensive end Chris Baker, who got credited with a hurry (against Justin Blalock), hit (against Holmes), and pressure (against Peter Konz). He also mauled Holmes on one of the goal line runs in the second quarter where Steven Jackson got stuffed in the backfield (that was Holmes’ credited missed block). He’s a free agent after this season, so I definitely made a mental note for March.

On the bright side up front, I thought Joe Hawley had another solid game at center, and I was very impressed with Harland Gunn in his limited action on two or three series. He looked much better than Konz did at right guard. I’d say Konz probably had one of his best games of the season, but still struggled too many times. He spent a lot of time on the ground on the opening drive, and for those that don’t know, that’s not a good sign for an offensive linemen. But I’ll give Konz some credit, I think Sunday’s game was the first time he ever hit an assignment on the second level with a nice cut block on a screen pass that Jacquizz Rodgers gained 15 yards on in the third quarter.

But Gunn looked much more violent and physical, playing with better balance and footwork, and doing a better job using his hands. I really liked how quick Gunn was coming off the snap and getting to the second level. He and Hawley are two peas in the same pod, in that what they lack in power and pure strength they make up for with aggressiveness and knowing how to get position against bigger defenders. Despite not having ideal size or strength, Gunn seemed to be the only blocker that was effective at times one-on-one against Baker. That includes Blalock, who probably had his worst game of the season. He wasn’t bad by any means, but got pushed around too much in pass protection, more so than he has to date in 2013.

There isn’t much else that needs to be said about the offense. I thought Steven Jackson ran hard, and his trucking of Josh Wilson will certainly be one of the highlights of the year.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Steven Jackson$0$9-$1$0$0-$2$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$5$1$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$2$0$1$0$5.00
Matt Ryan$6$0$0$0$0-$2$4.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$2$1$0-$1$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$1$0$1$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Harland Gunn$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$0.5$0-$1-$1.50
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$2$0-$3-$5.00

Read more…

Moneyball 2013 – Week 14 Review

December 10th, 2013 Comments off

A very disappointing finish to a game with a promising start for the Atlanta Falcons.

The offense never really looked comfortable in the cold of Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. The Falcons offense reverted back to the conservative, dinking and dunking of previous weeks (as opposed to last week’s win), and there was only one instance where the Falcons took a shot downfield before the fourth quarter. Sure, you can partially blame the cold and wind (although it wasn’t that windy) that limited how much the Falcons could let things fly, but I’ve long said that the link between this offense scoring and generating big plays is significant. And they simply didn’t have many in this game (just two before the final minute), which is why the offense really only had one successful drive. And it’s not a coincidence that both of their big plays came on that drive. It boils down to the fact that the team did not try hard enough to get those big plays.

I don’t think Matt Ryan had a great game. I saw too many throws that were off the mark, but I’ll partially blame the weather for some of that. I also didn’t like that Ryan seemed to be staring down his initial read quite a bit in this game, which was often Roddy White. White had a good game, so for the most part it didn’t hurt Ryan too much. But it did on the final play where he forced a throw to Harry Douglas, when he potentially had Darius Johnson open on the other side. Johnson was singled up in coverage, and had Ryan made a good throw on that play, it potentially could have set up a very long field goal (likely 53-55 yards) that could have won it rather than the pick.

I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming Ryan for the loss, but it was a rather nondescript performance from him. I thought he had fairly good protection. The Packers started to use more stunts at the end of the game once they realized that Peter Konz and Ryan Schraeder couldn’t handle them. It was one such stunt that disrupted the throw with 21 seconds left on the play preceding the infamous Douglas drop. I thought Schraeder handled himself relatively well since it was his most extensive playing time. The sack he gave up to Mike Neal was a result of just bad technique and footwork. I don’t see any reason why Trueblood should get his job back at this point.

Peter Konz is simply a liability at right guard. When you’re getting beat by a speed rush from B.J. Raji, it tells me you have no business playing guard. I think it’s time the Falcons gave Harland Gunn a look over these last three games.

Lamar Holmes had his share of struggles against Clay Matthews with all of his hurries coming against him. Joe Hawley had a nice block downfield on the 22-yard run by Steven Jackson, and Justin Blalock was his usual solid, but unspectacular self.

I could say some negative things about Douglas and his drop at the end of the game, but I’d just be repeating myself.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$12$0$0$0$0$0$12.00
Steven Jackson$0$7-$1$0$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$4$0$0$0$6.00
Roddy White$0$0$5$1$0$0$5.00
Drew Davis$0$0$4$0$0$0$4.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$1$1$0$0$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Harry Douglas$0$0-$1$0$0$0-$1.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

Read more…

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 48 “Soft Spot for the Jaguars”

November 20th, 2013 1 comment

On this week’s episode, Allen and I are joined by Matt Chambers, a writer for the Falcoholic. We express our condolences over the death of Thomas Howard before getting into the discussion about our favorite team: the Atlanta Falcons. We discuss whether defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is to blame for the defensive troubles seen stemming from Bobby Rainey’s breakout performance in Week 11. We break new ground by mentioning the name Jadeveon Clowney for the first time on the podcast, and begin to look ahead to next spring’s draft, as well as discuss many of the misses from past years’ drafts. We discuss whether Steven Jackson is expendable, and just how much Antone Smith’s performance against the Buccaneers means to his future role with the team. That brings us to a discussion of what the Falcons future plans should be at the running back position. We discuss the “mass benching” that occurred vs. Tampa Bay, and how it could affect things particularly on the offensive line. We close with Matt by discussing the upcoming matchup against the New Orleans Saints in Week 12, and whether or not a blowout is inevitable. Allen and I then have a long discussion about other teams around the league because it’s more interesting than anything going on with the Falcons.

Episode 48: Soft Spot for the Jaguars [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Matt Chambers can be found on twitter: @FalconsM5, and also writes for The Falcoholic.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Moneyball 2013 – Week 11 Review

November 19th, 2013 1 comment

This game reminded me some of the classic sorts of games the Atlanta Falcons would typically lose in past years, particularly in matchups against the Saints. The Falcons would have a number of opportunities, but due to a few too many breakdowns, they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of them.

The key difference is that this game wasn’t against a Super Bowl-contending Saints team, but against a cellar-dwelling Tampa Bay Bucs team. And the other difference is that after the twenty-minute mark, the Falcons took a notable dive. Bobby Rainey ran for a 43-yard touchdown, which was followed by an onside kick recovery, and things snowballed from there. And that’s when the bad Falcons team that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the past month showed up. Before the Falcons could blink, things quickly went from a competitive 3-3 tie three minutes into the second quarter to a 24-3 score in a nine-minute span.

I honestly thought that the Falcons offensive game plan and execution through the first quarter was pretty solid. The only real mistakes were the pair of sacks given up by Peter Konz. Konz just couldn’t handle Gerald McCoy’s quickness and speed, his lack of footwork and punching power showed.

Then at the outset of the second quarter, the Falcons were moving the ball but then things ground to a halt once they got into the red zone. On 1st-and-5 at the Buccaneer 18, Lamar Holmes whiffed on a block that allowed Adrian Clayborn to chase down Jacquizz Rodgers for a 3-yard loss. Then Ryan looked for Rodgers over the middle on a check down but McCoy read it perfectly, sitting back to try and knock down the throw. Ryan tried to throw it over him, and it was off the mark to Rodgers. And then McCoy beat Konz for a third time on the next play, using power this time, and forcing the Falcons to settle for a field goal.

If I’m desperately looking for a positive, it would to say that at least up until this point in the game, the Falcons looked similar to the team they were at the outset of this season, which was a team that could move the ball before things stalled in the red zone. So perhaps that could be considered improvement from some of their recent performances.

But thereafter, the Falcons really did nothing offensively. Ryan did not have a good game as he saw quite a bit of pressure up the middle, particularly from McCoy (3 sacks, 3 pressures). And the Bucs were also effective with delayed blitzes and stunts from other players. But Ryan was not very accurate and was off-target on a lot of throws, matching his season-high of 7 poor throws. He also had 7 against the Cardinals, but it should be noted that Ryan threw the ball 61 times against Arizona as opposed to only 36 attempts against Tampa Bay.

And once again, the Falcons didn’t really dial up any deep shots. On the red zone play I mentioned earlier, other receivers did run deeper routes, but Ryan looked for Rodgers underneath. Although I can’t really blame him because Rodgers was the only receiver that got open thanks to bracket coverage on Tony Gonzalez. The first real designed deep play didn’t come until 1:50 left in the second quarter, where Ryan could have taken a deep shot to Roddy where he was 1-on-1 against Darrelle Revis on the outside. But in truth, Ryan really wanted no part of Revis throughout the game, content to basically look at other receivers. That reminded me of a younger Ryan, when he would generally avoid top cornerbacks (I’m reminded of games against Antoine Winfield and Charles Woodson from 2008-10) at all costs. On that particular play, Ryan locked onto Harry Douglas early, but Dashon Goldson was in position, thus forcing Ryan to flee the pocket and ultimately throw it to Antone Smith for a 4-yard gain. That again led to another field goal. It should be noted that White wasn’t open on that play, but it just illustrates the current tentative state of the offense. Whether due to the fear of Revis Island or Roddy not being 100-percent, in previous seasons (or even games this season) I could guarantee you that would have been Ryan’s first read.

In the second half, the Falcons took a few more measured shots down the field, but didn’t connect because Ryan either made a bad pass or the pass protection wasn’t there. The deepest passes Ryan threw was a 16-yard throw on the 80-yard touchdown to Douglas, which was largely thanks to Mark Barron being out of position. And then later, Ryan’s second interception was when he forced a pass to Douglas over the middle on a 17-yard throw. Goldson picked it off as Ryan did not look him off. He had Tony Gonzalez open on a corner route where he had gotten behind Lavonte David.

As for Dominique Davis, in his limited action, the play-calling centered on quick drops and throws to get the ball out quickly. With the Bucs settling for underneath stuff, Davis had little issues completing most of his throws. His best pass was one where he threw a laser to Douglas, but it went through Douglas hands probably due to timing and the ball came on him out of his break probably a lot faster than he’s used to with Ryan’s throws.

I thought the running game looked fairly solid. Steven Jackson ran hard early, broke some tackles, and seemed to out-producing his blocking. It’s funny because that was often the case with Michael Turner last year, where after games where I was highly critical of Turner in suggesting he needs to be benched (and I had similar sentiments with Jackson last week), he came out and had a strong performance. Then he’d typically fall back to Earth the following week, so we’ll see if Jackson bucks that trend against the Saints on Thursday. If Rodgers had gotten better blocking, he could have had a more productive game. Antone Smith showed good speed in garbage reps and I think the team needs to be more willing to get him involved on some screen passes in future games.

I should also note that the official box score credited Josh Vaughan with a 12-yard catch when it was clearly Gonzalez that made the catch.

As previously noted, the blocking was poor. I thought Ryan Schraeder handled himself down the stretch, although I didn’t see anything to suggest he was clearly better than Jeremy Trueblood. But I do think he needs more reps and maybe alternating series would be a good idea this week. Just like Konz, Garrett Reynolds had his hands full against McCoy, but seemed a bit better because he is stronger and has a better punch. Joe Hawley handled himself fairly well in the middle. He’s a much better second-level blocker than Konz is, and looked similar to an older Todd McClure in the sense of his ability to get position but not push as a run blocker. If that sort of competent performance continues for Hawley, there’s no reason to plug Konz back into the lineup. I’m more than willing to give Konz another shot in 2014, but at this point it’s clear that he’s not among the best five-man unit the Falcons could field.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Steven Jackson$0$6$4$0$0$0$10.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Antone Smith$0$6$0$0$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$4$0$0$0$0$4.00
Matt Ryan$4$0$0$0$0$0$4.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$1$0-$1$3.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Dominique Davis$1$0$0$0$0$0$1.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy Whtie$0$0$3$0$0-$3$0.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Darius Johnson$0$0-$2$0$0$0-$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$2$0$0-$2.00

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