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.
Matt Ryan got off to a good start and finished the game completing 28 of 40 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Steven Jackson led rushers with 41 yards on 13 carries, and also added five receptions for 53 yards. Roddy White led receivers with eight grabs for 91 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown. Jason Snelling snagged Ryan’s other touchdown pass on a nine-yard score, and finished the game with a pair of catches for 15 yards. Gonzalez finished with four catches for 56 yards, while Harry Douglas added seven catches for 58 yards. Matt Bryant connected on both of his field goal tries from 42 and 37 yards. Matt Bosher punted five times for an average of 48.4 yards, placing two of his punts inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain had a trio of punt returns for 34 yards, while none of the Panthers kickoffs were returned thanks to four touchbacks. The Falcons was able to generate 307 total yards, but were limited by nine sacks allowed. It marked the largest sack allowance since December 2001. Ryan’s interception also gifted Carolina seven points due to an eight-yard return on a pick-six by Panthers cornerback Melvin White. The Falcons were unable to score touchdowns on two of their three red zone trips, but did manage to convert 44 percent of 16 third-down conversion tries.
Defensively, the Falcons were sharp, only allowed 283 total yards by the Panthers. However, 134 yards came on the ground as the Falcons struggled to handle the scrambling ability of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Newton led his team with 72 yards rushing. The Falcons did generate two turnovers, with William Moore intercepting a tipped pass and Desmond Trufant recovering a fumble by DeAngelo Williams. But the Panthers were able to convert both of their red zone trips into touchdowns and converted 47 percent of their 15 third-down attempts. Paul Worrilow led the team with 13 tackles and tallied the team’s lone sack and hit on the quarterback on the day. Robert Alford (three tackles, one forced fumble); Jonathan Babineaux (four tackles); Joplo Bartu (six tackles, two tackle for loss); Peria Jerry (three tackles, one tackle for loss); Jonathan Massaquoi (four tackles); Cliff Matthews (four tackles); William Moore (two tackles, one interception); Stephen Nicholas (four tackles); and Desmond Trufant (five tackles, one pass deflection, one fumble recovery) had noteworthy performances.
Ryan led the way completing 37 of 48 passes for 348 yards, two touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions. Steven Jackson led the team in rushing with 53 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Roddy White led receivers with 12 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez caught eight passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Douglas finished with five catches for 46 yards, while Drew Davis had three catches for 70 yards. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt from 35 yards out. Matt Bosher punted five times for an average of 48.8 yards with two kicks placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain averaged 16.5 yards on a pair of punt returns, while Jacquizz Rodgers had 50 yards on two kickoff returns. The Falcons offense was able to generate 402 total yards, mostly coming in the air. They also were able to convert eight of 15 third down attempts and scored touchdowns on half of their four red zone trips.
Defensively, the Falcons gave up 379 total yards, including 199 yards on the ground. The defense got off to a good start, limiting 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to just 69 yards passing in the first half. The 49ers also only had 52 rushing yards and were only able to convert one of five third downs in the first half. But that changed in the second half, as San Francisco generated 266 total yards, including 147 on the ground. They also were able to convert on three of four third down attempts and had no issues moving the ball at will against the struggling Falcons defense. Joplo Bartu led defenders with 11 tackles, including one for loss. Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (1 tackle, 1 sack); Robert McClain (2 tackles, 1 pass deflection); William Moore (5 tackles); Stephen Nicholas (10 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass deflection); Corey Peters (1 tackle, 1 sack); and Paul Worrilow (5 tackles) had noteworthy games.
Allen and I are joined by Dave Choate of the Falcoholic to recap the Atlanta Falcons’ Week 15 win over the Washington Redskins as well as preview their primetime Week 16 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. We all agree that it was an ugly win for the Falcons and search for positives that can be taken away. We discuss Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for two, lineup changes to the offensive line, Steven Jackson trucking Josh Wilson, and which San Antonio Spur that Tony Gonzalez compares most to. A lot of this episode centers on the cornerback position with Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, and Asante Samuel occupying a large chunk of the discussion. I give my thoughts on the evolution of defense and what it could mean for the value of the cornerback position in the future. And of course Allen and I close with discussing the playoff races, the epic collapse of the Dallas Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals becoming our new favorite team among other NFL topics in their ‘Around the League’ segment.
Duration: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Matt Ryan led, completing 29 of 38 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and interception. Steven Jackson led rushers with 38 yards on 15 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez led receivers with six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White and Harry Douglas each had five catches for 53 and 37 yards, respectively. Matt Bryant hit on both of his field goal tries from 20 and 51 yards out. Matt Bosher had a good day punting, booming six punts for an average of 49.3 yards with three placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned three punts for an average of 8.3 yards, while Jacquizz Rodgers had three kickoff returns for an average of 26 yards. The Falcons struggled to convert third downs for much the game, finishing with five conversions on 14 tries (36 percent). They were able to score touchdowns on three of their five red zone trips, with one of their failures coming on a failed fourth-down attempt from the one-yard line. On that play, Jackson was stuffed at the goal line. The Falcons turned the ball over two times, but that paled in comparison to the Redskins issues with retaining the football. The Falcons were able to capitalize on those Redskins mistakes, generating 20 of their points off the favorable field position presented by those miscues.
The Redskins turned the ball over seven times on the day, including five lost fumbles. The Falcons were able to pick off the Redskins twice as well. Otherwise, they didn’t have much success slowing down the Redskins offense, who put up 476 total yards. That marked the second-highest yardage total allowed by the Falcons defense this season. That included 103 yards on the ground, marking the eleventh-consecutive game in which the Falcons have allowed over 100 yards rushing to the opposing team. The Falcons defense got stops on four of the five red zone trips by the Redskins, forcing a pair of field goals and a pair of turnovers. Robert Alford and Paul Worrilow shared in the team lead in terms of tackles, each tallying nine stops. Jonathan Babineaux (one tackle, two fumble recoveries); Joplo Bartu (six tackles); Malliciah Goodman (one fumble recovery); Jonathan Massaquoi (five tackles); Robert McClain (five tackles, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries); William Moore (five tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery); Zeke Motta (five tackles); Stephen Nicholas (five tackles, one forced fumble); Corey Peters (four tackles, one pass deflection); Desmond Trufant (seven tackles, one interception, two pass deflections); and Osi Umenyiora (two tackles, one sack, one forced fumble) had notable games.
Allen and I discuss the Atlanta Falcons Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers, as well as preview their Week 15 matchup against the Washington Redskins. Some of the topics hit this week include: my newfound hatred for Harry Douglas, Mike Smith’s fourth down decision making, Corey Peters’ sack dance, debut of Zeke Motta, Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon’s play at linebacker, Jonathan Massaquoi’s improvement, Steven Jackson’s expendability, and Dirk Koetter’s potential departure. As usual, we discuss the rest of the league as well, including the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Rob Gronkowski’s injury.
Duration: 1 hour, 16 minutes
Sorry for the delay in posting this, I was traveling last week for my day job and procrastinated over the weekend which prevented me from watching the All-22 of the Bills game until this morning. It shouldn’t happen again.
The big takeaway from this game was how aggressive the Falcons were offensively. They took multiple shots down the field, with 11 passes thrown beyond 15 yards and four passes thrown beyond 20 yards. That included four deep throws in the first half, which is a significant increase from previous weeks where the Falcons typically only started to throw down the field after they got behind in games in the second half.
Matt Ryan was able to hit those deep shots to Roddy White, who was able to make contested catches in traffic. I noticed quite a bit how little separation all of the Falcons receivers were able to get against the Bills defensive backs. But White and Tony Gonzalez, to a lesser extent, were able to make those grabs while Harry Douglas was not. This was a very frustrating watch in regards to Douglas, who just seems unable to make any grabs in traffic or whenever he is asked to extend away from his body. The notion that he and Ryan have a strong rapport, judging from this game alone, sounds ridiculous. For a pair of players that have been playing together for five years, Ryan doesn’t seem to ever be able to put the ball in the “sweet spot” where Douglas may be able to catch it like he seemingly does with his other targets. It’s like the conversation they have walking back to the huddle after another incomplete pass is this:
Ryan: “I thought you were going to dive/jump/extend for that one.”
Douglas: “Oh sorry, I didn’t know.”
Although the argument I’d probably make is that there isn’t a sweet spot for Douglas.
It’s going to be so laughable a year from now when the Falcons are overpaying Douglas when Darius Johnson is perfectly capable of filling his role for one-seventh the cost. If you’re going to pay someone to struggle to make contested catches in traffic, might as well pay 14 cents as opposed to a dollar.
Douglas really botched up that late scoring drive in the fourth quarter with his penalty for removing the helmet of Aaron Williams on a block, but got gifted a pass interference call on Nickell Robey on the next play. Yes, Robey was grabbing him, but it was incidental contact (tangling of the feet) that prevented Douglas from coming back to the ball rather than the “hand checking” that Robey was doing. It was a gift of a call, so you can’t always say that the refs are out to get the Falcons.
About the only positive I can say about Douglas is that he could have scored on that screen in overtime had Justin Blalock made the block against Leodis McKelvin.
The pass protection wasn’t great, but they gave Ryan enough time to make several of the throws he needed. Jeremy Trueblood and Peter Konz really struggled in the second half, giving up multiple hurries. I penalized Ryan on the sack where he tripped, although it was Konz that stepped on his foot. Lamar Holmes had early struggles, with Jerry Hughes and the other Bills ends giving him particularly problems with their speed. Holmes just appeared to be stuck in molasses as there was just neither explosiveness to his movements nor power in his punches. Joe Hawley also did not have a good game, although most of his struggles came when he was matched up against a Bills nose tackle (either Marcell Dareus or Alan Branch), similar to Todd McClure over the years. But there were also a couple of breakdowns in the protections, as a couple of times Bills defenders were able to come unblocked because someone missed an assignment (the first sack by Manny Lawson, and later sack by Corbin Bryant) were two good examples of that. That wasn’t reminiscent of McClure from yesteryear, as the Falcons rarely had such breakdowns due to missed assignments. Breakdowns in the past were simply because guys got beat.
Blalock was the only lineman that I would say played well, although he was credited with 1.5 sacks. One of which was due to a stunt by Hughes, that I split between him and Holmes, mainly because Holmes whiffed and when Blalock tried to clean up his mess, he also missed the block. If I was being technical, I’d probably say that play was 75 percent Holmes’ fault. His other sack came when Bryant came unblocked between him and Holmes, and I think it was a blown assignment as Blalock blocked the inside man. It’s just a guess, but I think that was probably more on Hawley for confusion on what the protection was than Blalock messing up.
I’ve grown numb to it over the course of this season, as the Falcons dropping another game to a very mediocre Green Bay Packers team on Sunday barely affected me.
After feeling some small elation a week ago following Atlanta’s win over the Buffalo Bills, it’s back to the same old bitterness of defeat this week. It’s a feeling and situation very reminiscent of past Falcon teams, especially the Mora Era teams that never could ever really seem to build sustaining momentum.
I could sit here and sound like a broken record, but I’ll continue to stress that we saw another week where the Falcons were conservative offensively with their willingness to take shots downfield, and we saw another week where the Falcons offense struggled to move the ball and score points.
It just can’t be a coincidence that the Falcons put forth one of their best offensive games of the season a week ago against the Bills in a game where Matt Ryan took more deep shots than he did in the previous three outings combined.
And this week, they revert back to that dink and dunk offense with Ryan only taking one deep shot in the first 52 minutes of the game. The Falcons offense subsequently generated just seven points up to then if you don’t count the pick-six and the gift touchdown off a turnover that required them to move only 13 yards before they reached pay dirt.
Someone might retort that the wintry conditions prevented the Falcons from being more aggressive, which I don’t quite buy. In the game between the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers, with similar conditions, both teams threw the deep four times in the first 52 minutes of that game.
I just think that maybe if the Falcons had taken two or three more shots downfield, they could have completed at least one of them, and that could have helped put at least three more points on the board, making the outcome potentially different.
But enough about the timidity of the offense, let’s move onto something a bit more interesting, which is the 2014 season.
The Atlanta Falcons blew a halftime lead to lose to the Green Bay Packers 22-21. The Falcons were up 21-10 at the midway point, but were unable to generate any offense in the second half to prevent the Packers comeback. The Falcons have three possessions in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter to retake the lead and win the game, but failed to capitalize on any of them. Atlanta’s record falls to 3-10 for the 2013 season.
Matt Ryan led the team, completing 20 of 35 passes for 206 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. His interception came on the final offensive play of the game, but had mostly been solid up to that point. Steven Jackson led rushers with 71 yards on 15 carries. Roddy White led receivers with eight catches for 74 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers and Tony Gonzalez each had three receptions for 33 and 25 yards respectively. Gonzalez had a touchdown grab for two yards. Drew Davis caught Ryan’s other touchdown on his lone reception for 36 yards. Matt Bryant missed on his only field goal attempt, a 52-yarder that fell short. Matt Bosher punted four times for an average of 44.5 yards, with two kicks being placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned one punt return for eight yards, while Rodgers averaged 21 yards on six kickoff returns. The Falcons started strong on third down conversions, converting four of six in the first half, but finished only converting two of seven in the second half. Atlanta netted only 285 total yards on offense, their second-lowest output of the season.
Defensively, the Falcons gave up 334 total yards, including 112 yards on the ground, marking their tenth consecutive game in which they have given up 100 or more rushing yards to an opponent. The Falcons forced two Packer turnovers, an interception and forced fumble on a sack. The interception resulted in a 71-yard touchdown return for Sean Weatherspoon. Paul Worrilow led the defense with 12 tackles, including one for a loss, 1.5 sacks, and 1 pass deflection. Robert Alford (5 tackles); Malliciah Goodman (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery); Jonathan Massaquoi (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1.5 sacks); Robert McClain (5 tackles); William Moore (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble); Zeke Motta (6 tackles); Corey Peters (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack); Desmond Trufant (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); and Weatherspoon (7 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass deflection) had noteworthy performances.
Allen and I are back to discuss the Atlanta Falcons win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 13; discussing some of the positives/negatives we saw in the game, including: Antone Smith, deep passing, Roddy White, Osi Umenyiora and the pass rush, Paul Worrilow and the run defense, as well as the futures of Robert McClain, Thomas DeCoud, and Steven Jackson for the umpteenth time. We then kick over to previewing the Falcons upcoming matchup in Week 13 against the Green Bay Packers, with how each team matches up against one another. We close out with our usual “Around the League” segment discussing some of the more interesting games from Week 13 as well as some of the more promising games coming in Week 14. This episode does contain some minor NSFW language.
Duration: 1 hour, 4 minutes