CineSport’s Brian Clark asks The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter why the Falcons were sloppy in Thursday’s 31-21 loss to the Saints, and what the first loss will tell us about the Falcons.
NEW ORLEANS – The Falcons offense treated the ball like a hot potato and the defense couldn’t guard former Georgia standout tight end Ben Watson in a sloppy 31-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It was the first loss of the Dan Quinn era and just a rudimentary display of “professional” football by the Falcons.
Let’s get on to the grades:
Game ball: None awarded. When you lose to a 1-4 team and make them a 2-4 team there are no game balls awarded.
Quarterbacks, F. Ryan needed that late garbage drive to keep his streak of games with 250 yards passing or more alive. He was credited with three fumbles. He’s been a turnover machine over the past two weeks. He completed 30 of 44 passes for 295 yards and finished with a passer rating of 102. Somebody go find the real Matt Ryan.
Running backs, C. Freeman shined again with 100 yards on 13 carries. He also caught eight pass for 56 yards. The grade is so low because Tevin Coleman’s red zone fumble in the second quarter was reprehensible. He could have gone out of bounds, but he took on the safety. He should have wrapped the ball up and ran him over the safety if he was going to take him on. He’s a rookie, he’ll learn that the safeties in the NFL can bring the heat. The Falcons could have tied up the game, captured the momentum and shut up the vociferous Saints fans. Freeman played 63 of 73 snaps. Coleman had seven snaps and Terron Ward played five snaps. The quickest way to get in running backs coach Bobby Turner’s doghouse is to the put the ball on the ground. Our Michael Cunningham’s Mike Check blog wanted to know why the Falcons didn’t feed Freeman.
Wide receivers/tight ends, C. Overall, the group caught 19 of 29 targets. Julio Jones needs to get that hamstring right so that he add some pop back in the passing attack. He stumbled after hauling down a big 30-yard gain in the first quarter. He would have aggressively taken that ball at the safety if healthy. Roddy White caught three of four targets, including a 7-yard touchdown grab. Hankerson had a bad drop late. Solid effort. Nothing special.
Offensive line, D. Saints defensive line coach Bill Johnson, a former coach with the Falcons, clearly understands the importance of this rivalry. He always has his defensive linemen ready for the Falcons. They showed up and showed out. The Falcons were able to move the ball in the run game, but the pass protection was shaky as they gave up five sacks. That’s eight over the past two games. Left guard Andy Levitre (false start), right guard Chris Chester (holding) and right tackle Ryan Schraeder (holding) also had costly penalties. Is the patchwork line starting to show some cracks?
Defensive line, C-plus. The run defense line was stout as Kroy Biermann, Ra’Shede Hageman, Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson held the point of attack well. The Saints averaged 2.5 yards on 32 carries. The Falcons gave up 81 yards, just a few over the 78.4 averaged that they entered the game with. But the pass rush line (nickel) of O’Brien Schofield, Adrian Clayborn, Jonathan Babineaux and Vic Beasley was controlled by a line that had given up 15 sacks. Clayborn had a sack and there were four hits on Saints quarterback Drew Brees. With no pass rush, Brees cut up the zone defenses as he completed 30 of 39 passes for 312 yards and a touchdown.
Linebackers, D-plus: Worrilow had a rough time in coverage when he has Watson. On Mark Ingram’s first touchdown run, Nate Stupar was over-powered. Worrilow led the way with nine tackles. Joplo Bartu started at weakside linebacker as the Falcons opened in their base defense. He had five tackles and a pass deflection. Brooks Reed, who’s yet to make an impact, had two tackles.
Defensive backs, C-plus. Robenson Therezie started at free safety for Ricardo Allen. He finished with seven tackles and came up strong in run support. Trufant and Alford played well. Brees just found the voids in the zones that the Falcons were playing. Safety William Moore, who finished with six tackles, suffered a hand injury.
Special teams, D-plus. The Falcons didn’t handle a simple twist and Saints linebacker Michael Mauti came free up the middle of the punt protection to block Matt Bosher’s punt in the first quarter. He recovered the block for an energizing touchdown. Mauti, a New Orleans native who was in the stands for Steve Gleason’s historic blocked punt against the Falcons in 2006, came between snapper Josh Harris and the right guard. Also, up-back Eric Weems appeared to miss the block. Bosher had an off day as he averaged 41.3 yards on three punts and net of 28 yards.
Coaching, F. Sean Payton continued his dominance over the Falcons. The Saints are 14-5 against the Falcons since he took over in 2006. Quinn preaches about taking care of the ball, but the Falcons didn’t do that. The Saints came out with an opening touchdown drive off their script and then got a special teams touchdown to give them life. The quick start and Falcons’ turnovers was all they needed. The Falcons didn’t adjust on defense and allowed Watson to catch 10 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons have to consider some man-to-man coverage and some well-timed blitzes to help fabricate a pass rush. The Falcons have just seven sacks after six games.
How did the Falcons get to 5-1?
Here’s a look back at the game stories, news and notes from their loss to the Saints (31-21) and their victories over the Redskins (25-19 in OT), Texans (48-21), Cowboys (39-28), Giants (24-20) and Eagles (26-24).
NEW ORLEANS GAME COVERAGE — Saints 31, Falcons 21
WASHINGTON GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 25, Redskins 19 in OT
TEXANS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 48, Texans 21
COWBOYS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 39, Cowboys 28
GIANTS GAME COVERAGE — Falcons 24, Giants 20
EAGLES GAME COVERAGE — FALCONS 26, EAGLES 24