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5 Things We Learned From Falcons-Buccaneers

Lessons learned in a narrow but important win.

Scott Cunningham

The Atlanta Falcons walked away from Sunday's game with a 31-23 win over the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As we discussed yesterday, there were many reasons to feel good and many reasons to be leery of this team going forward.

I broke down some of the individual performances yesterday, but as the Falcons move forward and try to string together a few wins, it's important that they learn a few lessons from this close win. Here's the five I hope they learn.

  1. The pass rush is still broken. There's no nice way to say this. The Falcons were still giving Mike Glennon plenty of time in the pocket, which he used to have the best day of his young career thus far. Nothing the Falcons try seems to be making an impact.

    That said, it was a small upgrade over weeks past. That might have something to do with the Falcons cutting Jonathan Massaquoi's snaps in favor of Malliciah Goodman, Stansly Maponga and Cliff Matthews. Maponga had a pretty miserable game, but Goodman and Matthews were quite good. Reason for some optimism, particularly when you consider the Alford fumble and penalties kept them on the field and wore them out.
  2. Adjustments must be made in the second half. Mike Smith can dismiss adjustments as much as he wants, but the numbers speak for themselves. The Falcons outscored the Bucs 24-7 in the first half, but were outscored 16-7 in the second half. You can chalk that up to anything you like, but it's pretty clear that the Falcons settle into a rut in the second halves of games.

    I want to see the Falcons come out firing in the third quarter, playing aggressively on defense and trying to do more than just limit the damage and eke one out. Maybe the next point would help with that.
  3. Trust Matt Ryan. The quarterback did yeoman's work on Sunday, missing on only six passes and tossing three touchdowns with no turnovers. In the first half, Ryan threw the ball 18 times and picked up two touchdowns while leading three scoring drives. In the second half, he threw the ball only eight times while leading one scoring drive. Some of that was due to the Falcons not having the ball much in the second half—the defense was out there a long time—but the ground game was going nowhere.

    They've got to trust Ryan to sling the ball around all game long. He's more than capable of turning those opportunities into wins, even against a quality secondary. That's a lesson to take home with Arizona's imposing cornerbacks coming up.
  4. The Falcons need Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford on the field. At this point, there's no arguing it away: Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are the team's two best cornerbacks. Robert McClain is doing a bit better, but he's still not anywhere near the heights he reached a year ago. Asante Samuel has been downright lousy for stretches as he deals with a lingering injury and cruel ol' Father Time hanging off his back.

    So get Trufant and Alford on the field more often. They're terrific athletes, their coverage skills are extremely advanced for rookies and they tackle pretty well. Get Alford more snaps, damnit.
  5. They might have a decent enough line to hang in. For the first time this season, no one lineman stood out for putrid play. In fact, the whole line was pretty average, allowing a few pressures but avoiding any sacks. Pro Football Focus suggests that it was the best line performance of the season, which means that things are finally coming together when the Falcons sorely need it thanks to injuries to skill players. For those from the "I want to see some fire" crowd, Lamar Holmes has also become the guy who shoves dudes out of the way and picks Ryan up off the turf after he gets hit.

    The run blocking is still terrible, though. Hope for better against the Cardinals.
What did you learn from this game?

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