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.