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Posts Tagged ‘Ryan’

Takeaways from Week 4

September 30th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

‘Sad Arthur Blank’ should be a meme somewhere

Last week, I tried to make the compelling case for why the Falcons 1-2 start wasn’t as dire as many believed.

I’ll have a much harder time trying to make the same argument now that the Falcons are 1-3.

Honestly, losing to the Miami Dolphins on the road wasn’t that shocking to me. Losing to the Patriots at home, however was. I just expected the Falcons to play much better than they did on Sunday night.

Their looking out of sync against the Dolphins, I chalked up to the injuries and being on the road. I can still partially blame injuries for their looking out of sync against the Patriots, but they typically look much sharper at home.

My immediate reaction won’t be to write off the Falcons this season. From the research I did (called Pro Football Reference), 109 teams in the “Parity Era” (1995-2012) have started the season 1-3, and only 17 of them went on to make the playoffs, giving the Falcons about a 15.5-percent chance. Given that you have a 37.5-percent chance to begin win that is not promising.

One of those teams that did manage to make the playoffs despite a 1-3 start was the 2002 Falcons. After their 1-3 start, they didn’t lose their next eight games (seven wins, one tie) to get into the playoffs on a wildcard. Two of their three opening losses came against playoff teams.

Currently, all three of the Falcons losses come against teams that I suspect will make the playoffs, as the chances a team that starts the year 4-0 makes the playoffs is 82.6-percent over the Parity Era. And we know at least two of our opponents, depending on the result of the Miami Dolphins-New Orleans Saints game tonight will be 4-0. And it’s loser will still be in the driver’s seat to finish the year strong and be playing in January.

The Falcons definitely have some work to do. And the honest to goodness truth is that this team is not nearly as good as we thought they would be. They still have the capacity to be a good team, but time is running short.

Their offense needs to get in sync, and their defense got exposed thoroughly for the first time against what had been a struggling Patriots offense.

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Falcons Fall Short in Comeback Against Patriots

September 30th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Aqib Talib breaks up the potential game-tying pass to Roddy White in the final minute

The Atlanta Falcons mounted a late comeback, but ultimately fell short in a 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots. The Falcons were down 17 points with six minutes left in the fourth quarter and were in a position to tie the game with under a minute on the clock. But wide receiver Roddy White could not extend for Matt Ryan’s pass on fourth down with 41 seconds in the game, and the Patriots prevailed.

Matt Ryan looked a bit off on the night, but finished with a career-high 421 yards while completing 34 of 54 pass attempts. He also threw a pair of touchdowns with one interception. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers had a team-leading 32 yards on 7 carries (4.6 avg) while Jason Snelling added 26 yards on 8 carries (3.3 avg). Tony Gonzalez had an excellent night, catching 12 passes for 149 yards (12.4 avg) and both of Ryan’s touchdown passes. Julio Jones (6 catches, 108 yards), Rodgers (6 catches, 56 yards), and Harry Douglas (5 catches, 68 yards) also made notable contributions in the passing game. Matt Bryant connected on all three of his field goal attempts from 23, 45, and 25 yards. Matt Bosher had a trio of punts for an average of 45.7 yards, with a pair placed inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas returned one punt for six yards, while Rodgers had a single kickoff return for 29 yards. The Falcons continue to struggle to convert in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on only one of six trips there. While they managed to convert 5 of 8 third down attempts in the first half, that fell to only 1 of 6 in the second half.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a season-high 448 total yards, including 288 in the second half. The Patriots were able to convert 7 of 13 third downs and scored touchdowns on 2 of 3 red zone trips. They also gave up a season-high 132 yards on the ground, largely thanks to a 47-yard scoring run by LeGarrette Blount. Akeem Dent led defenders with 8 tackles on the night, including one for loss, although an injury forced him to exit from the game late. Robert Alford (4 tackles); Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles, 2 QB hits); Joplo Bartu (6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Robert McClain (4 tackles); William Moore (4 tackles);Corey Peters (5 tackles); Desmond Trufant (6 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 40 “A Sense of Urgency”

September 27th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back to discuss the Falcons disappointing loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3 as well as preview what we hope to be a rebound win against the New England Patriots in primetime in Week 4 … Questions we try to answer in this episode: 1. Are the Falcons playing with a sense of urgency? 2. Will their schedule in the coming weeks help them get out of this rut? 3. Do the Falcons need to add more pass rush help? 4. Is Stephen Nicholas headed to the bench or the unemployment line? 5. How will Steven Jackson’s injury impact the next few weeks? 6. What is wrong with Thomas DeCoud? We also discuss the play of some of the young players in the secondary, whether veteran players on the defensive line are up to snuff, and whether Matt Ryan deserves criticism for the mistakes made against the Dolphins. We also look around the league at the recent Browns trade rumors, Josh Freeman, and I may be abandoning the Eagles bandwagon.

Ep. 40: A Sense of Urgency [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. 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

Moneyball 2013 – Week 3 Review

September 24th, 2013 Comments off

It was another game where the Falcons took their foot off the pedal in the second half because they did not execute.

And particularly in the second half, that lack of execution lies in the hands of Matt Ryan. Ryan played well for the most part, but he missed some reads and throws on critical downs late in the game. On the second series of the third quarter with the Falcons trying to drive to take a two-score lead on 3rd-and-13, Ryan threw too low to White. That was the play that was ruled a catch, but later overturned on the replay. He made the right call to throw low so that he wouldn’t get Roddy crushed by Reshad Jones, but it was just a bit too low for Roddy to make the catch. It got credited with a drop by White because he should have caught it, but maybe if it was a foot higher, it would have been an easier catch and potential conversion.

Then on the next series following the William Moore interception, Ryan made the wrong read by throwing to Harry Douglas over the top when he should have gone to Gonzalez over the middle on the slant. It was just an easier read and throw.

At the start of the fourth quarter with the Falcons in the red zone, pressure from Dion Jordan (against Lamar Holmes) rushed a 1st down throw that Ryan threw out of the back of the endzone. On the next down, Ryan went for Douglas in the end zone on a fake screen to Julio Jones. Brent Grimes cheated up initially on the screen, and I think Ryan thought he could sneak one over him for a touchdown. But Grimes quickly recovered and Ryan threw an uncatchable pass on the wheel route to Douglas. Meanwhile, Jones was open in the flat for what could have been at least a 5-yard gain if Ryan had thrown it initially, and if Jones had broken a tackle or two (certainly plausible) it’s a first down if not touchdown. Then on the very next play, Ryan doesn’t pull the trigger on the slant to Jones. I think he was a bit worried about Grimes breaking it up (although on tape, it is clear that Grimes wouldn’t have gotten there in time), and with a little bit of heat up the middle, Ryan instead rolls out of the pocket and nobody is able to get open in the endzone. So the Falcons have to settle for three.

On the next series in the red zone on 3rd-and-4, the Falcons are attempting a throwback pass to Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez is supposed to chip a blitzing Phillip Wheeler and then drag across the middle. Jimmy Wilson comes free on a corner blitz from the slot. Gonzo was open, but with Wheeler and Wilson in his face, Ryan pumps rather than throws. He spins out of the sack, but then is forced to throw it away before Dannell Ellerbe gets the sack on the delayed rush.

Those latter two instances are plays that were there, but Ryan didn’t pull the trigger. I think one of the criticisms of Ryan, and I personally feel a major reason why he’ll never be a truly elite quarterback in the class of passers like Drew Brees and Tom Brady is because of that inability/unwillingness to pull the trigger on those tighter-window throws. And I think those last two third down plays are just more examples of that. In those situations, the Falcons are in the red zone, and I understand not wanting to make a throw that winds up costing the team points. You don’t want a pick in those situations, where you get zero. At least if you throw it away and live to play another down, you can get three points out of it. So it’s hard to be too upset over it because it’s a smart play on one hand, but sometimes you wish for a little bit more bravado when it comes to Ryan in those situations. That’s just the sort of give and take that we’ll always have to live with Matt Ryan for the next five to seven years. And that deficiency is what makes him maybe the sixth best quarterback in the league as opposed to the third best quarterback in the league. And at the end of the day with all things considered, it feels like you’re nitpicking.

As for the rest of the offense, it was nice to see the running game get back on track. There was spacing up front, with several of the Falcons key blocks coming on the second level. Justin Blalock did a nice job pulling and had one of the more impactful run blocking performances I can recall seeing. Jeremy Trueblood wasn’t great in terms of his run blocking, but did a fairly solid job in pass protection with no real issues there. In the second quarter, on a screen pass to Douglas (his only catch of the game) the Falcons ran in the red zone, if Trueblood had hit his assignment down the field, it would have probably been a touchdown. Instead the Falcons were stopped at the 2-yard line and ultimately settled for a field goal after Jason Snelling was bottled up on the next play. That was their multiple first red zone failures. Holmes did a solid job run blocking at left tackle as well. Holmes needs to continue to get better in pass protection, although I guess he was improved at left tackle since he really can’t get much worse. He still continues to struggle with his punch, as he was struggling both with speed and bull rush from Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan. Holmes is still very much a work in progress, but he’s making small strides.

Jacquizz Rodgers and Snelling looked excellent on the ground. Rodgers really enhanced the blocking up front with several instances where he was able to avoid a missed block in the backfield and turn a few yards lost into a few yards gained. Snelling did a good job as a pass catcher, although he did give up a pressure on a blitz where he blew his assignment.

The Falcons need to get Gonzalez more involved in the passing game, with only a single target after the first series. As I noted before there were instances where they either tried or missed opportunities to throw to him. But he was able to beat a couple of double teams on the opening series and I noticed a couple of other plays later where they were still doubling or bracketing him, so that somewhat explains his lack of production. But against New England, Dirk Koetter and Ryan need to make a more concerted effort to get him involved.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$13$0$1$0$0$14.00
Matt Ryan$12$0$0$0$0$0$12.00
Jason Snelling$0$6$6$0$0$0$12.00
Julio Jones$0$1$9$0$0$0$10.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$3.5$0$0$3.50
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$1$0-$1$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$2-$1$0$0$1.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Patrick DiMarco$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$1$0-$1$0.00
Josh Vaughan$0$0$0$0$0-$1-$1.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$0$0$0-$2-$2.00

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Takeaways from Week 3

September 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan and the running game give Atlanta hope

I have become increasingly aware of the fact that over the years part of my duties as a Falcons blogger is being able to talk my fellow fans down from the ledge.

Under Mike Smith, losses by the Falcons are relatively rare and thus it seems that the negativity is magnified during the weeks following a loss. People have to get all the negativity that they are used to getting out over a 12-loss Falcon season in less than half as many games. Also it seems like after every single loss that Falcon fans want to take a referendum on the season and use that individual game to determine whether the Falcons are going to or capable of winning a Super Bowl.

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But the only game that determines whether a team is able to win a Super Bowl is the Super Bowl itself. And that game is a long ways off. Thus nobody should be trying to figure out February in September.

Look, I’ll admit the stats aren’t that promising since teams that start the season 1-2 aren’t exactly known for making deep playoff runs. But here’s something that should provide you a bit of solace. Five of the twelve playoff teams last year did start the season 1-2. That might be the most ever, although I only checked back to about 1990 or so before my eyes glazed over. In 2010, none of the playoffs teams got off to worse than a 2-1 start. What does that mean? I don’t know. It could be a one-year aberration or a sign that parity is rising in the NFL. But more importantly, it’s supposed to illustrate to you that a 1-2 start doesn’t end your season just as it did not for Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England, and Washington a year ago.

Also, the 2001 Patriots and 2007 Giants both started the year 1-2 and ultimately won the title. Sure, two out of twelve doesn’t exactly fill you with an abundance of confidence but it should illustrate to you that an NFL season is not defined by what happens in Week 3.

If I’m making the argument for why the Falcons are going to turn around their season then that argument is going to be based off the fact that both losses came in the final minute. A play or two here and there, and the Falcons could easily be 3-0. The fact that the Falcons’ are pretty beat up at this point in the year also could play into their favor later on. It’s getting a lot of younger players reps to the point that several of them might wind up stepping up. It is noteworthy that without contributions from rookies like Aaron Ross, Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Michael Johnson, the Giants may not have made it to the Super Bowl back in 2007.

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Dolphins drop Falcons in Comeback Win

September 22nd, 2013 Comments off
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Sims beats Stephen Nicholas for the game-winning touchdown

The Falcons’ record drops to 1-2 with a 27-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins on the road. The Falcons got off to another good start, getting an early 10-0 lead in the first half, but couldn’t finish thanks to a game-winning drive led by Ryan Tannehill in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 23 of 38 passes for 231 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Jacquizz Rodgers led the Falcons on the ground with 86 yards on 18 carries (4.8 avg). Jason Snelling added 53 yards on 11 carries (4.8 avg) as well. Julio Jones once again led Falcons’ receivers with 9 catches for 115 yards (12.8 avg). Snelling (4 catches, 58 yards), and Tony Gonzalez (4 catches, 24 yards) also made contributions. Matt Bryant hit on three of four field goal attempts from 52, 20, and 33 yards. But he missed on a 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter late in the game. Matt Bosher punted twice for an average of 33 yards, placing none inside the 20-yard line. Harry Douglas returned 3 punts for 4 yards, and fumbled once. The Falcons dominated time of possession in the first half of the game with 22:48 versus the Dolphins’ 7:12. Their rushing attack finally got going with a total of 146 yards on 30 carries, but they had their share of struggles in the red zone, only scoring touchdowns on 2 of 5 trips.

Defensively, the Falcons limited the Dolphins to 285 total yards, but could not get stops on any of Miami’s three red zone trips, and allowed them to convert 7 of 12 third downs (58-percent). They did sack Ryan Tannehill five times and force two turnovers. Robert McClain led defenders with six tackles, and he also added a tackle for loss and a sack. Joplo Bartu (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 pass defended); Akeem Dent (5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss); Peria Jerry (2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); William Moore (5 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defended); Corey Peters (4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Asante Samuel (1 tackle, 1 pass defended); Desmond Trufant (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Osi Umenyiora (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) had notable performances.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 39 “Is the Sky Falling?”

September 18th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I break down our thoughts on all of the injuries that have hit the Falcons this week, including assessing whether losing Sean Weatherspoon, Steven Jackson, or Kroy Biermann will impact the team the most … We also look at how the Falcons can potentially replace those guys, including how the team should use Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers … Questions about whether the Falcons should bring in another pass rusher or fullback from off the street … Recapping the Rams game and whether certain things like the Falcons’ pass protection is improving … Previewing the Dolphins game and whether Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez can really make the difference in a win/loss … Joplo Bartu’s emerging greatness … I rant about some of the overrated young quarterbacks in this league including Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson … And we end with talking about our two favorite subjects: Dunta Robinson and the magnificent Philadelphia Eagles.

Ep. 39: Is the Sky Falling? [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. 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

Moneyball 2013 – Week 2 Review

September 17th, 2013 Comments off

This was one of the more one-dimensional offensive efforts I can recall seeing from the Falcons. There have been plenty of times the past few years where the Falcons running game was virtually non-existent, but it never seemed this bad. One measly yard in the first half? And as I mentioned yesterday, when the Falcons (and frankly most NFL teams) are this bad at running the ball, they find it hard to win.

Yet the Falcons did, and that was mainly due to the performances of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who were outstanding in this game. The Falcons made ample use of Jones’ ability on screens, as I counted five screens to him in this game. In truth, only two of them were effective (tallying 38 combined yards), but they contributed to scoring drives. And of course, Jones’ 81-yard catch was also pivotal in this game. As it truly was the Falcons’ lone big play of the game, as they had to rely on a lot of short and intermediate throws due to the lack of the running game and poor pass protection.

On the subject of pass protection, once again another poor performance for tackles Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes. Baker really struggled in the first quarter vs. Robert Quinn, giving up three of his hurries, one of his pressures, and his only missed block in that quarter. Relatively, he played better the rest of the game giving up only a sack, pressure, and hurry over the final three quarters. Holmes’ struggles came in the second quarter, giving up three of his four hurries to Chris Long in that quarter.

It was no surprise that either struggled, since Quinn and Long are arguably one of the two or three best pairs of pass-rushing ends in the league. I’ll give Baker a bit of a pass because he was dealing with a knee injury and he seemed to adjust somewhat to Quinn’s speed after the first series. I will be a little harder on Holmes because many of his struggles came on instances where his technique was poor. Too often it was if he didn’t understand that you are allowed to punch and use your hands. Holmes also got away with a false start on the opening series that was instead called against Chris Long for an offsides. Without that missed call from the refs, the Falcons likely would have begun the game with a three-and-out rather than eventually scoring a touchdown, and it might have been a drastically different game.

As for the rest of the line, they were relatively solid. Blalock had the best game. He missed a block on the first play of the game, but after that he did a pretty good job despite giving up a sack to Eugene Sims. Reynolds gives a bit too much ground than I would like in pass protection. Ryan’s quick trigger has not made that an issue yet, but there may be a game down the road against a good defensive tackle where that will become a problem. But Reynolds is doing good things as a run blocker. Konz has not been having the sort of performances that I was expecting after a strong preseason. He had his hands full with Michael Brockers throughout the game. He hasn’t been playing poorly by any means, but he is far from dominant, which he seemed to flash during the summer.

The line gave up pressure on five of the 13 third down attempts, which is an improvement from last week. So that’s a positive I guess since they basically cut last week’s number in half.

The running game was limited mainly due to blocking, but there were a few carries by Jacquizz Rodgers where he did not hit the hole hard. In the future, the Falcons may try to avoid running him up the middle. He just was a bit too tentative, and if the team wants him to be an effective runner, they should stick to the counters and stretches that were more effective last year. But more of his runs were stopped because of poor blocking than his own poor running.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$21$0$0$0$0$0$21.00
Julio Jones$0$0$11$0$0$0$11.00
Jason Snelling$0$5$4$0$0$0$9.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$3$0$0$0$5.00
Steven Jackson$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$3$0-$1$2.00
Bradie Ewing$0$0$2$0$0$0$2.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$2$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Roddy White$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Drew Davis$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Kevin Cone$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3-$2$0-$1$0.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0-$1-$2.00

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Falcons Overcome Rams’ Comeback for First Win of 2013

September 15th, 2013 Comments off
Matt Ryan throws a pass against the St. Louis Rams

Matt Ryan throws a pass against the Rams

The Atlanta Falcons got off to a fast start with a big early lead against the visiting St. Louis Rams. But a fourth quarter comeback made a lot of Falcon fans nervous, but the Falcons put together two good drives at the end to prevail and get their first win of 2013. The Falcons’ record moves to 1-1.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 33 of 43 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, the Falcons could not get much of anything going as they accumulated a total of 36 rushing yards. Steven Jackson started the game and gained no yards on three carries before exiting with an injury. Jason Snelling led the team with 19 yards on a pair of attempts. Julio Jones led receivers with 11 catches for 182 yards (16.5 avg) and a touchdown. Jackson added the team’s other score on his lone catch for eight yards. Harry Douglas, Snelling, Tony Gonzalez, and Jacquizz Rodgers each caught 4 passes for 43, 41, 33, and 28 yards respectively. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt from 38 yards. Matt Bosher punted six times for an average of 53 yards, with two placed inside the 20-yard line. Douglas added a pair of punt returns for four yards, while Rodgers returned a single kickoff for 17 yards. The Falcons’ offense was much more efficient this week than a week ago. They converted seven of 13 (54-percent) third down attempts, and scored touchdowns on two of three red zone trips. They accumulated 393 total yards despite their one-dimensionality on offense. But the offense did grow stagnant in the third quarter as they totaled only 7 total yards on four drives.

Defensively, the Falcons gave up a lot of yards as the Rams were in comeback mode for much of the game. Sam Bradford’s 352 yards contributed to the Rams’ 421-yard total for the game. But they bottled up the Rams’ ground attack, which only gained 69 yards on 18 carries (3.8 avg). The defense even scored a touchdown of its own on a pick six by Osi Umenyiora, the lone turnover the game. Umenyiora returned the interception 68 yards untouched for a score. Umenyiora also added a pair of batted passes and a quarterback hit in the game. Robert McClain led the defense in tackles with 9, and he also added a quarterback hit and a pass defended. Robert Alford (2 tackles, 1 QB hit); Joplo Bartu (6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit); Kroy Biermann (2 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); Akeem Dent (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 QB hit); William Moore (7 tackles); Desmond Trufant (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) had noteworthy performances. The unit got lax at the end, allowing Rams’ touchdowns on each of their three final possessions to put the game’s outcome at risk.

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Five Keys to Improve Pass Protection vs. Rams

September 14th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons pass protection played poorly in their season-opening loss to the New Orleans Saints last week. Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked three times and saw pressure on 75% of the Falcons third downs, preventing the team’s ability to mount drives and score points.

The Falcons offensive line will face even more scrutiny this week as they face the St. Louis Rams, who have one of the better pair of defensive ends in the league in Chris Long and Robert Quinn. Quinn is coming off a three-sack performance against the Arizona Cardinals last week, including stripping quarterback Carson Palmer twice on blindside hits. One positive for the Falcons may be that Long may not be 100-percent due to him nursing a hip injury. But regardless the Falcons’ line will need to step up this week to deal with that potent Rams’ pass rush.

Complicating matters is the fact that left tackle Sam Baker is questionable this week with a knee injury. It may force the Falcons to shuffle around their offensive line. Right tackle Lamar Holmes, who is coming off an abysmal game where he was readily worked over by Cameron Jordan may move to left tackle to face Quinn. Then newly signed right tackle Jeremy Trueblood may be inserted into the starting lineup. The Falcons may also have to consider starting undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder at left tackle, as he is Baker’s primary backup.

Even with a healthy Baker the Falcons would need to work extra hard to try and deal with the Rams’ pass rush. Now that he’s injured, it will have an even greater impact on the game. Here are five things the Falcons may do to try and offset these issues the best they can:

Personnel: More Max Protect

As Chad Walton indicated in his review of the Saints game, the Falcons did not make significant use of two-tight end sets (12 or 22 personnel). That should change this weekend as the Falcons will use more max protection sets to try and chip and slow down the Rams’ edge rushers. Max protect refers to protections that have at least seven blockers trying to protect the quarterback. But one of the drawbacks of max protect is that it limits how many receivers run routes, limiting the quarterback’s throwing options. This puts more emphasis on those receivers needing to separate from coverage. That could put the Falcons at a disadvantage this weekend since their two best “man beaters” on the outside in Julio Jones and Roddy White are nursing injuries, limiting their effectiveness. This will put more focus on Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas to step up their play.

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