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Falcons’ second straight win: Breaking down the good and the not-so-good - The Athletic


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by Tori McElhaney for The Athletic

 

When Falcons games go down to the wire, as they usually have this season, it’s really easy to pick apart this team and highlight where things went wrong. Most times, because those games have ended up as losses, any good the Falcons did throughout a game is wiped away because of how monumental the endings are. But even though the Falcons didn’t exactly finish strong Sunday against Denver, the 34-27 win means that we can take a look at the good and not-so-good moments.

And maybe that’s just what covering the Falcons will have to be in 2020: understanding that with the good comes the moments of improvement because while this team has a two-game win streak going, it still has a lot of work to do.

So, let’s dissect some of those themes in the win:

The Good

Seeing production from different spots: The Falcons knew they were going to be down a few key players Sunday. Dante Fowler was ruled out with a hamstring injury on Friday. So was Takk McKinley with an ongoing groin injury (and ongoing Twitter escapades). Interim coach Raheem Morris said Friday that he really wished the Falcons could have practiced that day to allow for the staff to get a full evaluation of Calvin Ridley, who hurt his foot against Carolina on Oct. 29. But even though Morris said Ridley was in his ear during the pregame trying to play, Ridley was ruled out before Sunday’s game. Defensive linemen Marlon Davidson and Deadrin Senat also were inactive.

So the Falcons had some spots to fill, mainly at wide receiver and on the defensive line. And by the end of the game, it seemed they were able to do just that.

Olamide Zaccheaus finished the day with four catches for 103 yards, including a 51-yarder, for the best day of his career. Fellow receiver Brandon Powell also had a career day, hauling in the first touchdown catch of his career, and don’t overlook Christian Blake’s three catches for 31 yards. These three made the most of their opportunities. Even with Ridley out, their collective performances beg the question: Do the Falcons have one of the deepest wide receiver rooms in the league?

“I love our group,” Matt Ryan said of the wide receivers. “I think it’s a group of guys that works extremely hard, and they’re all talented. They’re all tough. They’re involved in the run game. They’re not scared to go over the middle and catch footballs and play physical. It’s a really good group. I’ve been lucky throughout my career to play with some great players. This group is right up there with any of them.”

On the other side of the ball, things had started to look up for the defensive line when Davidson and John Cominsky were activated from the COVID-19/reserve list. The defensive line had been through a lot in recent weeks in regards to COVID-19 protocols with players and a staff member going on the list. The linemen had to play without their coaches for a time, with Jess Simpson and Tosh Lupoi unable to travel to Minnesota and Simpson unable to coach when the Falcons played Detroit a week later. Only just recently has the defensive line been able to work with the whole team, seeing as the Falcons made the decision when all of this was happening to try to keep the defensive line as separated as possible, practicing on different fields at times.

But then McKinley made the comments he did on Twitter after the trade deadline, and Fowler’s hamstring kept him from practicing all week. It was a chance for some other players on the defensive line to step up. Those players did that Sunday: Cominsky led the group in tackles, and Jacob Tuiti-Mariner put some key pressure on Drew Lock a few times. And even though they didn’t show up in the stat sheet much, Charles Harris and Steven Means broke down the pocket a few times to rush Lock.

“They went out there, and they played hard,” Morris said. “They played tough. They stopped the run. Obviously, you don’t get the sack numbers when you go with the heavier guys, with the bigger, thick guys rushing for us, but it is what it is when you get the win.”

No complaints in the first half: The Falcons played a pretty solid first half. They didn’t have many miscues. The offense moved the ball and scored touchdowns (something this unit knew it needed to improve upon), outscoring the Broncos 20-3 at the half. Ryan was 18-for-23, averaging 9 yards per pass. And the offense was 6-for-8 on third down.

It was a start the Falcons needed.

“Credit to Matt staying in there and slinging it and those (backup receivers) coming in and stepping up and playing big,” Todd Gurley said. “Shoutout to those guys. They did their thing, and they did what they were supposed to do. You have to give credit because those guys have been working hard every day in practice.”

On defense, the narrative was much of the same: The unit had the start it needed in previous games. Looking at the same stat lines for the Broncos, the Falcons’ defensive story holds as much success as its offense. Denver couldn’t move the ball downfield the way it wanted to, earning only five first downs in the first half. The Broncos couldn’t get into the end zone, as their lone field goal can attest. Lock was just 7-for-14 through the air, with fewer than 100 passing yards. The Falcons’ defense was able to get off the field, too, as the Broncos converted just one of their five third-down tries.

“We could have just said, ‘Forget it, this season ain’t really worth it,’” Ricardo Allen said about the fight the defense gave after a lackluster first half of the season. “But we haven’t done that.”

And there were other good plays sprinkled throughout the second half. Like Allen’s interception and Julio Jones’ wide-open touchdown catch. But in order for the Falcons to pull away in the second half in the same way they were able to in the first half, they needed more moments where, as Morris would say, they were “forcing their will on their opponent.”

This leads us to the final quarter where we will discuss …

The Not-So-Good

Defense is forced to come up with another two-minute stop: As good as the Falcons were in the first half, they had their work cut out for them holding off the Broncos in the second half.

The Falcons’ fourth quarter Sunday afternoon looked a lot like many other fourth quarters the team has played this year as the Falcons give up way too many points to stay comfortable in late-game scenarios.

The Broncos outscored the Falcons 21-7 in the fourth quarter. The Falcons were 0-for-4 on third downs in the quarter, while the Broncos were 3-for-5. Denver had 196 total yards in the fourth quarter. It also averaged just more than 7 yards per play.

All of this amounted to Denver getting the ball back, down by seven points with 44 seconds left.

“It was a good thing I had that mask on,” Morris said when the offense gave the Broncos the ball back with time on the clock.

Fortunately for the Falcons, the defense stepped up, forcing Lock into three incompletions before a snap miscue forced a turnover on downs. Grady Jarrett said the defense is “tired of not being able to finish the games on defense.” So, the Falcons wanted to prove they can do it on a regular basis.

“We know the omen that followed us through the first half of the season, and we just wanted to step up again,” Jarrett said, recalling the two-minute stop the Falcons came up with against Carolina. “The fact that we did feels good, and we just want to continue to carry that momentum the rest of the season.”

It really shouldn’t have gotten to that point against Denver: As was probably already evident by knowing the Broncos’ production in the fourth quarter, the Falcons’ offense stalled out late. The offense had three consecutive three-and-outs to end the game, and that is what ultimately set up the Denver comeback it attempted to mount. All the Falcons really needed was to come away with points somewhere in order to add a little cushion when it saw the defense struggling a bit late.

Morris gave Denver’s defense credit and said the late troubles by his offense had less to do with offensive miscues and more to do with the Broncos just showing up.

“Why are you guys so negative? We scored on five of the first six possessions. Stop being so greedy, guys,” he laughed, paused and added: “They played better defense.”

Ryan agreed but also said there were definitely moments the offense should have capitalized.

“There are definitely things to clean up,” Ryan said. “I think everybody needs to look in the mirror and figure out what it is that they can do better in those situations so that we can close these games out a little bit quicker.”

When asked about the late-game offensive stall, Gurley laughed.

“We were just being us: making everybody nervous,” he said. “Gotta stop doing that.”

At least the players are in on the joke these days.

 

 

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 It was a chance for some other players on the defensive line to step up. Those players did that Sunday: Cominsky led the group in tackles, and Jacob Tuiti-Mariner put some key pressure on Drew Lock a few times. And even though they didn’t show up in the stat sheet much, Charles Harris and Steven Means broke down the pocket a few times to rush Lock.

And lets not forget... Oluokun is EVERYWHERE

Edited by RetroRoq
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I was really happy to see our younger WR's step up and make some plays.  Matt was moving around in the pocket and bombing them deep.  Kind of reminded me of the good ol days when we had T Gabriel and M Hall running the deep routes.

The defense held their own as well. It wasn't pretty and have some things to work on but our LBs were FLYING all over the field. Oliver surprisingly had a excellent game in run support and even got his head turned around on some tight coverages. On the flip side, I cant remember Sheffield ever playing so bad.  He clearly has the speed to be out there but his awareness just wasn't where it needed to be.

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20 minutes ago, irrevelantfalconsfan said:

We came close to blowing that

 

Which would beg the question... What about this team causes us to blow leads? Ever since that fateful Febuary night, something's off. Even after basically coming up with an entirely new team.

Not sure but I’m sure that reputation makes opposing teams play to win even if we are up because we are known as that team that will let you back in. 

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12 minutes ago, RetroRoq said:

 It was a chance for some other players on the defensive line to step up. Those players did that Sunday: Cominsky led the group in tackles, and Jacob Tuiti-Mariner put some key pressure on Drew Lock a few times. And even though they didn’t show up in the stat sheet much, Charles Harris and Steven Means broke down the pocket a few times to rush Lock.

And lets not forget... Olajuwon is EVERYWHERE

 

Hakeem702.jpg?itok=w1_hflE7

 

?

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28 minutes ago, Xero said:

Not sure but I’m sure that reputation makes opposing teams play to win even if we are up because we are known as that team that will let you back in. 

 

Yea I feel like it's two-sided; teams don't lose hope even when down by 20 on us... and we are always letting people right back in. 

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41 minutes ago, RetroRoq said:

 It was a chance for some other players on the defensive line to step up. Those players did that Sunday: Cominsky led the group in tackles, and Jacob Tuiti-Mariner put some key pressure on Drew Lock a few times. And even though they didn’t show up in the stat sheet much, Charles Harris and Steven Means broke down the pocket a few times to rush Lock.

And lets not forget... Oluokun is EVERYWHERE

If any game shows you don't need high dollar greyhounds at DE, this one does. 

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I am completely bewildered while reading this article & waiting for RM to speak to how the Defense allowed 21 pts in the 4th Qtr.  The narrative was that the O just didn't get it done late.  Where is the accountability here for the defensive side of the ball?  Why did the narrative ignore that?

So basically we get to "The Not So Good" portion of the article... and lo & behold... it starts off by saying... "Defense is forced to come up with another two minute stop."

No, we should have come up with a stop during 3 drives that ended in 21 straight points.  Or heck, maybe even hold them to a field goal perhaps?  

To date, our O hasn't really been the issue.  Sure they need to sustain some drives late, absofkglutely.  But did any of y'all finish reading this & think to yourself, hmmm, someone is ignoring the elephant in the room?  LOL.

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35 minutes ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

I am completely bewildered while reading this article & waiting for RM to speak to how the Defense allowed 21 pts in the 4th Qtr.  The narrative was that the O just didn't get it done late.  Where is the accountability here for the defensive side of the ball?  Why did the narrative ignore that?

So basically we get to "The Not So Good" portion of the article... and lo & behold... it starts off by saying... "Defense is forced to come up with another two minute stop."

No, we should have come up with a stop during 3 drives that ended in 21 straight points.  Or heck, maybe even hold them to a field goal perhaps?  

To date, our O hasn't really been the issue.  Sure they need to sustain some drives late, absofkglutely.  But did any of y'all finish reading this & think to yourself, hmmm, someone is ignoring the elephant in the room?  LOL.

I think you're really overrating the defense. They're not that good that they can overcome bad offense for long stretches of time. They stepped up when it counted though, because the offense disappeared. Couldn't even get a first down.

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The issue is coaching. There's no killer instinct on this team, both offensively and defensively. They're happy with sitting back and trying not to lose the game, instead of stepping on the opponents neck and winning the game. The sooner they clean out the coaching staff and this loser mentality the better. Dan Quinn ruined a lot of these guys.

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13 hours ago, HASHBROWN3 said:

I am completely bewildered while reading this article & waiting for RM to speak to how the Defense allowed 21 pts in the 4th Qtr.  The narrative was that the O just didn't get it done late.  Where is the accountability here for the defensive side of the ball?  Why did the narrative ignore that?

So basically we get to "The Not So Good" portion of the article... and lo & behold... it starts off by saying... "Defense is forced to come up with another two minute stop."

No, we should have come up with a stop during 3 drives that ended in 21 straight points.  Or heck, maybe even hold them to a field goal perhaps?  

To date, our O hasn't really been the issue.  Sure they need to sustain some drives late, absofkglutely.  But did any of y'all finish reading this & think to yourself, hmmm, someone is ignoring the elephant in the room?  LOL.

Sure, it was closer than we'd like; sure there are some lingering leftover problems that need to be addressed, but it's much better learning how to improve from a win than from a loss...

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