Three Pivotal Plays: So Close

Jonathan Daniel

The Falcons lost last Sunday, but instead of dwelling on it, we're going to look at the plays that almost helped them win. It's so much more fun.

If you were expecting a dour analysis of breakdowns in run defense and/or pass coverage, runs stopped behind the line of scrimmage, dropped passes and sacks on Matt Ryan this week, you're going to be surprised. The Falcons came awfully close to winning, and they showed some real signs of life on both sides of the ball, so let's look at some of the plays that very nearly led to a win instead of wallowing in the ineptitude that eventually cost them the game, okay? Okay.

Our first pivotal play resulted in the Falcons putting up their first score in the game. It was a reminder of what Matt Ryan can do with adequate pass protection. Ryan takes the snap in the shotgun. It's an interesting formation; Roddy White and Harry Douglas are spread wide, and everybody else, including Drew Davis, is bunched in the middle in kind of a modified max-protect formation. Jacquizz Rodgers is in the backfield to help out with blocking. Green Bay sends a four-man rush, and it's a slow-developing play but Ryan's protection holds.

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Davis chip blocks Clay Matthews off the line, and then runs his route.

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He has single coverage over the middle, and Ryan's pocket is so clean. He throws Davis a perfect ball. Davis turns it into a 37 yard touchdown reception. The game is tied, 7-7.

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This play was a reminder of the absolute necessity of shoring up the offensive line for the 2014 season. When Matt Ryan has time, he is remarkable.

Our second play was the very next play from scrimmage for Green Bay. After Matt Bosher's kick, the Packers took over on their own 23-yard line. Matt Flynn is in the shotgun, with Eddie Lacy in the backfield. The Packers are going to try to run a play fake, and it's going to go horribly wrong.

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William Moore comes flying in with a safety blitz. Moore is going to come completely unblocked. Lacy tries to abandon the play fake to block Moore, but Willy Mo is always ready for that.

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Moore hits Flynn, and Lacy, like a freight train. Flynn instantly wishes he were back on the sidelines in Oakland, or Buffalo, or wherever.

The ball comes loose. Malliciah Goodman disengages from the offensive lineman holding him trying to block him and makes a heads-up play to recover the ball on the Green Bay 13 yard line. Four plays later, the Falcons would score a touchdown, giving Atlanta a 14-7 lead.

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Moore has remarkable speed and agility for a guy who hits so hard, which makes him ideal for blitzing. The only other time I recall the Falcons using Moore on a safety blitz was against Tampa Bay in the Georgia Dome and the result was a sack/fumble on Mike Glennon that Thomas DeCoud returned for a touchdown.

It would be nice to see more of Moore blitzing, but due to youth and inexperience in the secondary, it's not often the practical call.

Our third play was strange, and hilarious, and it resulted in a touchdown. Matt Flynn takes the snap out of the shotgun and has a quick release to fullback John Kuhn. Peria Jerry tips the ball.

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Then Paul Worrilow assists, tipping the ball to Sean Weatherspoon, FIFA-style.

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By the time Green Bay players realize that the ball may not have hit the ground, Spoon is rumbling toward the end zone. Robert Alford has a nice block on Jarrett Boykin to keep Spoon on his path to glory.

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Packers guard T.J. Lang tries to stop Spoon, but Spoon isn't having it. He jukes him. Spoon is pretty agile big guy, but Lang is an offensive lineman, so if you're talking lateral quickness, Spoon wins that battle all day every day against a guy that weighs 318 pounds. Alford blocks Boykin for a second time--you can't knock Boykin's hustle--effectively clearing Spoon's path enough to seal a touchdown. The Falcons extend their lead to 21-10.

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We all know that the second half didn't go nearly as well. That's the story of the Falcons in 2013. The interception was a fluky, once-in-a-lifetime kind of play, but the other two plays were reminders of how this team can rebound in 2014.

What were your pivotal plays of the game?

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