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Falcons’ offense a no-show against Saints: ‘We expect a lot more from ourselves’ - The Athletic


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by Tori McElhaney

 

Fans have become accustomed to blaming the Falcons’ defense for many of the losses the team has racked up through Week 11. Make no mistake about it, however, the 24-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday was not the fault of the defense.

Could the defense have played better? Absolutely. Darqueze Dennard said the unit left a lot of plays on the field, and it did, but Dennard and Raheem Morris weren’t displeased with the defense’s overall performance, especially not knowing until Friday that it would face Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston for an injured Drew Brees. Hill did end up having a good day with 284 total yards and two rushing touchdowns but holding the Saints to 4 of 11 on third downs was a plus for this defense. Sacking Hill three times was a season-best for the group.

The problem was that whenever the Saints’ offense wasn’t good, the Falcons’ offense was even worse.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” offensive lineman Jake Matthews said.

And they do.

• The Falcons were just 2 of 14 on third downs (14 percent), even worse than the 36 percent third-down conversion rate by the Saints.

• Atlanta had 14 first downs, and three of them were from Saints penalties. The Falcons didn’t even have a first down in the second half until 7:44 remained in the fourth quarter.

• The Falcons had minus-6 net yards in the third quarter (you read that right) while New Orleans had 114.

• The Saints outran the Falcons by 116 yards.

• Matt Ryan was 19-of-37 (51 percent) through the air. He threw two interceptions and was sacked eight times.

Take away the defensive situation the Falcons faced with Brees’ injury and the Saints being forced to find a subsequent replacement for a second, the Falcons’ offense had two weeks to prepare for the Saints’ defense. The Falcons knew going in that running the ball would be tough with the Saints having a strong run defense. But the Falcons had time to account for that, to maybe throw in a few surprises. They didn’t. In fact, what ended up happening was the Saints’ defense took away the one leg the Falcons could stand on: the pass. And the Saints did so on multiple fronts.

With the receivers struggling to get open, the offensive line failing to hold the line of scrimmage at times and Ryan seemingly holding on to the ball for too long, the Falcons didn’t even give themselves a chance in the air and couldn’t make up for it elsewhere.

“(The Saints) did a really good job in coverage,” Morris said. “I know the sack numbers will probably get out of whack because of how well they played in their coverage, but really it was not a lack of protection or a lack of discipline or busted assignments. It was more of (the Saints) doing a good job in coverage and absolutely covering our wideouts and making Matt have to hold on to the ball.”

According to Morris, the Saints’ secondary had a nice mixture of two-man and quarters and did a good job playing underneath coverage and really sitting on routes. He gave them credit for how well-versed the Saints were in knowing what the Falcons wanted to do offensively because they took that away.

While Morris tried to take some of the pressure off the offensive line, Matthews said it shouldn’t matter what is happening in coverage. The linemen have a job to do, and it’s to protect Ryan, “no matter what.”

“We were a little all over the place,” Matthews said.

Matthews noted the number of rush packages the Saints used. It was something Ryan pointed out, too, saying the Saints were “stressing” the pass protection. In a game that earlier in the week looked to be shaping up as a matchup of the offensive minds of Sean Payton and Pete Carmichael versus Morris and Jeff Ulbrich’s defensive minds, it actually turned into Dirk Koetter versus Dennis Allen and Aaron Glenn. And Allen and Glenn had to be pleased.

“Those guys came out and had a great game plan for us,” Morris said. “They did a nice job of keeping Matt under control. They did a really nice job of keeping our receivers under control. You have to give those guys credit for what they were able to do.”

What you can’t do is credit the Falcons, and they had an extra week to prepare. While the Saints were trying to figure out how to play without playmakers like Brees and Marshon Lattimore, the Falcons had time to plan and heal. Outside of Dante Fowler being placed on the COVID-19/reserve list coming out of the bye week, the Falcons were well-rested and relatively healthy.

Looking at the score, however, you would never know it.

“Honestly it just felt like an execution thing,” Matthews said. “We weren’t executing. We had looks that we wanted to go after, and we didn’t get it done. It’s frustrating. … We expect a lot more from ourselves.”

 

 

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1 minute ago, Goober Pyle said:

According to Morris, the Saints’ secondary had a nice mixture of two-man and quarters and did a good job playing underneath coverage and really sitting on routes. He gave them credit for how well-versed the Saints were in knowing what the Falcons wanted to do offensively because they took that away.

 

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3 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

Matthews noted the number of rush packages the Saints used. It was something Ryan pointed out, too, saying the Saints were “stressing” the pass protection. In a game that earlier in the week looked to be shaping up as a matchup of the offensive minds of Sean Payton and Pete Carmichael versus Morris and Jeff Ulbrich’s defensive minds, it actually turned into Dirk Koetter versus Dennis Allen and Aaron Glenn. And Allen and Glenn had to be pleased.

 

MRW I am forced into a battle of wits by the unenlightened - GIF on Imgur

 

Homer Monkey Brain GIFs | Tenor

 

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I am still convinced that Quinn/Dmitroff didn't select Koetter. After Sark didn't pan out, I bet Mckay and AB pushed for Koetter since he had some mild success here. 

The thing I still don't get is why year after year we talk about running the wide zone, but we just scrap it once the season starts. Our offensive line is very athletic... Why not play to their strengths?

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At the end of the day, this was a breakdown at multiple levels on the offensive side of the ball.  This wasn't just a "Koetter" thing, and it wasn't just a "Ryan" thing..... the game plan was unoriginal, and it is reminiscent of why so many on here dislike Koetter as a play caller.  But, on the other hand, any game plan is going to suck when the players are consistently getting beat.  With the Falcons losing up front, and the WR's not winning on their end, and Ryan having a terrible showing, that is exactly what you get.  We've seen this offense overcome bad O-line play, and we've seen our specialty players overcome double teams and make adjustments to win one on one battles, and we've seen Ryan consistently overcome bad game plans to move the ball.  NONE of that happened yesterday, it was a mixture of a good team, with a great game plan, execute it consistently.  If anything, it tells you how important Julio and Ryan are to the success of our team over the last several years, because when both of them are not playing, or playing at a high level, we look like this.

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Most of these sacks were coverage sacks. Ryan had to hold the ball because of the late developing routes and the receivers run to a spot and just stop and turn around. It's the most basic offense I have ever seen in the NFL and D Coordinators have Koetter figured out.  The O-line is still a work in progress, but what a horrible scheme to put them in.. 

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20 minutes ago, vafalconfan said:

Most of these sacks were coverage sacks. Ryan had to hold the ball because of the late developing routes and the receivers run to a spot and just stop and turn around. It's the most basic offense I have ever seen in the NFL and D Coordinators have Koetter figured out.  The O-line is still a work in progress, but what a horrible scheme to put them in.. 

Bingo! Best, most knowledgeable  post of the thread so far. I’m far from being Matt Ryan’s biggest fan, but the scheme and game plan so were so bad yesterday he didn’t stand much of a chance. 

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1 hour ago, KamiKazee27 said:

Once again Julio goes out of the game and DK's offense is complete garbage.

Julio is definitely a difference maker (If And When He's Able To Play!), and can make an OC look better than he really is.  You have to wonder what the game/this season would have been like, if, he had been healthy ---  :(

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This is a failure to make any adjustments on both sides of the ball. The ball should have been taken out of Ryan's hands because of line's inability to protect him and his inability to find or connect with receivers. Running the ball would have been an option. Throwing to backs and tight ends....but DK wouldn't make the adjustment. Shucks, Matt,with all those years of experience, fails to audible out of plays. I don't understand that .

I haven't seen enough to want to retain Raheem as Head Coach either . 

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