This was a better performance by the Falcons offense as they looked much more comfortable and were more effective moving the ball.
The offense was still fairly vanilla, but there were instances where it did some things that they haven’t done a lot of in over the past four games. There were a couple of deeper pass attempts early in the game with two downfield throws in the second quarter, which isn’t much, but is two more than we’ve seen in recent weeks. But the Falcons game plan still centered largely on short and intermediate throws and trying to stem together longer drives, rather than seeking big plays down the field. This gameplan was helped by a more productive rushing attack headed by Steven Jackson.
Matt Ryan was better in this game, but still had a couple of missed opportunities. The most glaring one was at the end of the game with 2:34 left, where he took a sack with a congested pocket rather than trying to throw a deep pass to Drew Davis. Due to the muddied pocket, it was likely going to be an incomplete pass. But it would have been better than the sack, given that backed up the Falcons to 3rd-and-15 and forced Mike Smith to opt for the field goal two plays later, instead of possibly going for it on 4th-and-10.
The Saints were able to dial up the pressure in the second half of the game. In the first half, the Falcons gave up a sack, a pressure, and 3 hurries on 20 drop backs. Then in the second half on 24 drop backs, they gave up 3 sacks, 3 pressures, and 3 hurries. The right side of the line had the most troubles with Garrett Reynolds and Jeremy Trueblood looking overmatched. And it’s going to be interesting to see if the team makes changes there over the final month of the season. Peter Konz was better than Reynolds, but still struggled somewhat in his half of playing time.
Cameron Jordan hit the pass-rushing “cycle,” tallying a sack, pressure, hit, 1.5 hurries, and a pass deflection. Akiem Hicks also gave the group a lot of trouble. But there were also plenty of instances where John Jenkins, Junior Galette, and Tom Johnson were able to get pressure on Ryan. And that second-half pressure was one of the primary causes why the Falcons were shut out in the second half. Joe Hawley got some key blocks early in the game blocking downfield, an area where is a clear upgrade over Konz.
Roddy White was non-existent in this game, and he seems less effective than he was a decoy earlier in the season with a high-ankle sprain. Harry Douglas and Darius Johnson had good starts, making plays on those shorter throws. But Johnson obviously had two huge mistakes with a wide open drop on third down and his fumble at the end of the game.