After Matt Ryan tossed a red zone interception, he went into a zone and carried the Falcons to a 35-38 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
The Falcons needed a couple of tipped balls to land in the right hands, a heads-up play by Desmond Trufant and every tight end on the active roster to pull out the victory.
The offense amassed 528 yards of total offense, which is the fifth-highest total in franchise history.
The last time the Falcons had more than 500 total yards was against the Saints in Week 1 of 2014 with 568 yards.
In the process, quarterback Matt Ryan extended his streak of games with 200-plus yards passing to 41 consecutive games.
Here are the grades:
Game ball: The tight ends – Jacob Tamme, Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper – all played a key role blocking and catching passes. They combined to catch 10 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown.
Quarterbacks, B-plus. Matt Ryan completed 26 of 34 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns and his first interception of the season. He finished with a passer rating of 131.5. After the David Amerson interception, Ryan completed 12 of 12 passes for 196 yards and one interception. The interception, which was thrown behind Tamme and a few other passes that were behind the receivers kept Ryan from earning an A.
Running backs, A. Devonta Freeman rushed 17 times for 93 yards (5.5 per carry) and Tevin Coleman rushed 12 times for 46 yards and had a powerful 13-yard touchdown run. The backs combined to average a strong 4.8 yards per carry. Coleman added two catches for 25 yards.
Wide receivers/tight ends, A. All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones finished with five catches for 106 yards. Justin Hardy made a nice catch on a pass that bounced off Tevin Coleman to put the Falcons ahead for good. Also, Toilolo caught a pass that was tipped by Oakland defensive lineman Stacy McGee on third down-and-3 from Oakland’s 43. The snag kept the drive alive and the Falcons went on to open a 35-21 lead. “It was good to see Hooper have a couple nice catches, Levine had one off a tipped pass that resulted in the first down, so when a number of different guys can get in on the action, it really makes it the most challenging on third downs when there are different guys who get targeted,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter tells Simon Rose why the tight ends were the key to the Falcons’ 35-28 win over the Raiders on Sunday.
Offensive line, B-minus. Tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder knew they’d have a big task in blocking Oakland’s heralded third-year defensive end Khalil Mack. He lined up in front of both of them and also rushed over guard Chris Chester at least once on third down. Mack finished with four tackles and two quarterback hits. McGee walked Chester back to Ryan for the Raiders lone sack. The Raiders also had three quarterback hits.
Defensive line, D. The Raiders rushed for 167 yards in their season-opening win over the Saints. The Raiders rushed for 155 yards on 25 carries (6.2 yards carry) against the Falcons, who recorded their first sack of the season when defensive end Vic Beasley chased Raiders quarterback Derek Carr out of bounds for a loss. Tyson Jackson had the lone quarterback hit for the Falcons. Grady Jarrett led the linemen with three tackles. In addition to the sack, Beasley also had two tackles.
Linebackers, C-plus: Sean Weatherspoon, who was in the starting lineup for the injured De’Vondre Campbell (ankle), made his first NFL start since the 2013 season. Weatherspoon, a former first-round pick, started seven games in 2013, including the one against Washington on Dec. 15, 2013. He suffered an Achilles injury and missed the 2014 season. He signed with Arizona in 2015, but was a reserve after being slowed by a hamstring pull. He re-signed with the Falcons and made the team as a reserve weakside linebacker and special-teamer. Weatherspoon finished with nine tackles. “It was fun to start,” Weatherspoon said. “It was fun to go out there and be counted on. Fun to do your job.” Deion Jones, who finished with 10 tackles, had a few missed tackles and Philip Wheeler gave up a 31-yard touchdown pass to Clive Walford.
Defensive backs, C. The Falcons gave up 299 yards passing to the Raiders and three touchdowns. The secondary was asked to hold up in coverage with very little pressure getting to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Strong safety Kemal Ishmael led the team with 15 tackles and cornerback Desmond Trufant made a heads-up play to help secure the victory. The rowdy fans in the black hole thought Amari Cooper had scored on a 49-yard touchdown. The extra point would have tied the game at 28 with 8:10 to play. But the Falcons pass rush has flushed Carr from the pocket and he was scrambling about the field. “He got pushed out of bounds,” Trufant said. “Once a quarterback scrambles out of the pocket there is no illegal contact. There’s pass interference and there’s holding. But I can have my hands on him and I pushed him out.” Robert Alford had a bad defensive pass interference in the second quarter that led to the Raiders scoring a touchdown and taking a 14-13 lead. Nickel back Brian Poole threw his hands in the air after Michael Crabtree broke free for a late Raiders touchdown catch.
Special teams, B. Eric Weems had a career-high 73-yard punt return in the third quarter. Justin Hardy sprung him with a good block to open an outside lane. Kicker Matt Bryant make both of his field goal attempts. Bosher averaged 44 yards gross on three punts. His net average was down at 37.3. Boshser also placed one punt down inside the 20-yard line. C.J. Goodwin had two special teams tackles. The 12-man on the field — the Justin Hardy/Dashon Goldson miscommunication — penalty keep the special teams from getting an A.
Coaching, B-minus. The Falcons continued to make costly penalties. A defensive pass interference led to a touchdown. Also, a 12-man on the field penalty led to a Oakland touchdown. The Falcons offense got in gear after using the no-huddle early in the game. The Falcons scored on six of their final seven drives. It was far from a “clean” game with seven penalties for 73 yards. The Falcons’ coaching staff still has a lot to work on, but progress was made in Oakland.
NEXT UP: The Falcons (1-1) travel to face the New Orleans Saints (0-2) at 8:25 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24