Just some notes after going back yesterday and watching the video of the first quarter:
We knew ahead of time that Harry Douglas, Vance Walker and Corey Peters would be out. The other Falcons that didn't play were Chris Owens, Jason Snelling, Michael Calvin, Lamar Holmes, and kicker Erik Folk.
Atlanta's first unit defense played together for the entire first quarter, which comprised three defensive series. In nine plays, they gave up a total of nine yards. Mike Nolan, welcome to Atlanta!
Many fans are upset that Akeem Dent and Bradie Ewing (a sure starter and a potential starter) were exposed to special teams play in the first exhibition (the first time the team has had full-contact special teams exposure this season) and lost to injury.
Well, brace yourself for this: that first team punt return group also included Thomas Decoud and Jacquizz Rodgers. The rest of the group that was on the field for Dominique Franks' return (and Ewing's injury): Darrin Walls, Robert McClain, Shann Schillinger, Kevin Cone, Cliff Matthews, Robert James and Antone Smith.
How bad is the loss of Ewing? Go back and take another look at Atlanta's first drive. They played the entire series out of a single-back formation. (Kerry Meier was the slot receiver with Harry Douglas out.)
Ewing was still available for the second series, but Mike Cox got both of the first team FB snaps instead. On the first down play, Cox lined up in an H-back position (like a tight end lining up in the backfield) and went out on a pass route. He played the traditional lead blocker role on second down, and left the field for the third down play.
Ewing's injury came after that. The one play of the third possession had no fullback, and the fourth possession (aka The Quizz Show) had two receiver, two TE sets. Again, no fullback.
Quick conclusions: Ewing would spend most of the season wasting away on the bench anyway, sort of like Mughelli did during The Bobby Petrino Experience. And if our FBs are going to line up as H-backs for a significant portion of their snaps, then a tight end could also do the job if necessary.
Akeem Dent's sack came in the second quarter. Why was he still out there, when the rest of the defense was the second unit? Because he didn't get to play in the first quarter. Baltimore played out of a three receiver set, putting Atlanta in the nickel package for the entire quarter. The depth situation at MLB may not be that important.
The first unit offensive line played together for the first quarter, except for Todd McClure. He came out after the first drive, with Joe Hawley taking his place. Tony Gonzalez left after the second possession, with Michael Palmer taking the #1 TE role and Tommy Gallarda as the #2 in those two TE sets. Michael Turner also called it a night, with Quizz taking over on the fourth possession.
Two specific plays that haven't had much attention: Matt Ryan's two scrambles.
On that pass to D.J. Davis where Davis caught the ball but the side of his foot was out of bounds, Matt Ryan really didn't need to flee the pocket.. The protection was there, and he ran himself INTO pressure by running away to the right.
The other one looked almost like a designed roll-out pass, though the roll-out was a delayed one. It was the third down pass to Roddy on that fourth possession (the one ending with the TD run by Rodgers). The noteworthy item on that play was that Sam Baker got torched. Fortunately, Ryan was already off and running in the other direction. If he had stayed in the pocket, that one could have been a disaster.
The TD run by Quizz came on the very first play of the second quarter. At that point, the first units gave way to the backups on both sides of the ball. Joe Flacco then led the Ravens to their first touchdown by passing against Atlanta's backup DBs to bring the score to 14-7. But first unit vs first unit, it was Atlanta 14, Baltimore 0.
Ravens fans have commented on the AJC blogs and occasionally here that Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata supposedly didn't play. Lewis did have the night off, but Reed and Ngata were both out there for Baltimore's first unit defense.
Ryan went 5 for 5 on that first drive and finished his night 9 of 13 for 155 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, a QB rating of 103.0, also leading a second touchdown scoring drive. He telegraphed a slant route to Roddy and had the LB jump the route for the pick. He needed to do a better job looking the defenders off. His other incomplete attempts were a ball batted at the line, a deep attempt to Julio where Julio was boxed out, and the scramble pass to D.J. Davis where Davis caught it with part of his foot over the sideline.
After the game, Ryan commented about the pass protection saying that he was never even touched.