If there's one word to use for this game, it would be "injuries." By the time the Falcons went to the locker room after the first half, they had numerous starters on both sides of the ball injured. The list included Kroy Biermann, Asante Samuel, Sean Weatherspoon, Steven Jackson and Brady Ewing. This was on top of guys like Baker, Roddy and Babs all at less than 100%.
And ultimately, those injuries piled up.
The final score doesn't tell the full story here. The Falcons - yet again - had a big lead going into the half, at 24-3. But an extended dry spell in the third quarter made the game far closer than it had to be. Should we be worried at the meltdown happening yet again?
It's concerning, to be sure, but part of the reason we brought Jackson in was so we could use him to help burn the clock in situations just like on Sunday. Losing both him and Ewing for the game put our offense in a tough position, and again - we had to rely on Matt Ryan to get it done. For the Falcons, there is still a good bit to work on, but I'll take the win given the number of injuries that had to be overcome.
But even with the injuries, the Falcons can still walk away with some positives to build on.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons proved they can somewhat combat a stout pass rush by using quick outs, slants and screens to get the job done. Be sure, the Rams have a very good front four with some amazing depth. They were going to get pressures and sacks, but the Falcons did fairly well of combatting that. Additionally, there was some improvement out of our offensive line, though they definitely still had some rough moments. And in what is a recurring theme, Matt Ryan was incredible - registering yet another 300 yard game and sealing the game with yet another clutch drive in the fourth quarter.
On the defensive side of the ball, there's one name to hone in on: Joplo Bartu. The UDFA rookie got quite a few snaps on Sunday and he made it count big. He finished the game with 6 tackles, with 2 of those for loss - and some good coverage to go with it. He made a strong case for getting even more playing time and looks to be a clear upgrade over both Dent AND Nicholas. Our young corners had another decent showing, though Trufant was called for PI call that looked somewhat questionable. And our defensive front - though they registered no sacks - got 6 QB hits in against a very good offensive line. In particular, Corey Peters looked powerful and Johnathan Massaqoui looked really good coming off the edge.
In a game like this, when you lose several starters on both sides of the ball, you walk away thankful you could pull out the win - you lick your wounds - and you get your guys as healthy as possible for the next game. And while there were plenty of good things to build upon, it's critical that the Falcons learn from the mistakes made during the game and show improvement when we go against the Dolphins next week. They need to take these big leads and put teams away. I'm willing to overlook it due to the excessive injuries, but this is a trend that needs to die this year.