The Falcons narrowly beat a Bills team that tried to give the game to them and succeeded. It's not a recipe for inspiration, but a win's a win.
The question is, what can we learn from this? We're so late in the season and our favorite team is so far out of real contention that it may seem like there are no useful takeaways, but that's horse hockey and we're not the Hartford Neighs, people.
Unfortunately, there's not a ton of positives to take away here, but there are a couple. Let's mix up a batch of lessons learned.
This offensive line. Geez. Joe Hawley fared well in pass protection and Lamar Holmes was not absolutely terrible, but otherwise the line was a train wreck. Multiple sacks and huge pressure, coupled with inconsistent run-blocking, made for one of the rougher days this line has had all season.
So how the hell did this offense score 34 points? The run blocking improved enough to give the Falcons an actual ground game, and they managed two turnovers and got some nice penalties. It's not luck, per se, but you could play the game in these same circumstances 100 times and probably only get 30+ points in 10 of them. Don't let that score fool you: The line is still a mess. Biggest off-season priority as a unit, no question.
A healthy(ish) Roddy White transforms the offense. This still wasn't the most efficient unit ever put together by the Falcons, but an effective Roddy transforms the face of the offense. If you have to actually account for Roddy, you're not able to devote as much attention to Harry Douglas, which means guys like Darius Johnson and Levine Toilolo have more opportunities, and suddenly you can't stack up against the ground game. The net result is a noticeably improved passing offense, even during a game where Matt Ryan was getting crushed.
This is why the Falcons are working on an extension with Roddy. They're hoping to save some cash and keep a key cog in the offense going for a few more years. I support that.
The Falcons couldn't possibly be more set with their top two corners. With Asante Samuel possibly moving on and Robert McClain's future with the team uncertain, the Falcons will have to re-tool down the depth chart. They're set at #1 and #2, though.
Desmond Trufant turned in another solid day in coverage, while Robert Alford was lights out. That fumble recovery is a little bit luck, but it's a little bit a heads-up play, and the lateral was nuts. Alford's genuinely exciting and should be a fixture as the team's second corner, while Trufant's steadiness and ability to get in front of the ball makes him the team's top choice for the forseeable future. As grim as we've all been about the FO of late, these two picks look like home runs already.
Levine Toilolo remains an enigma. Few things would make fans happier than Toilolo suddenly blossoming into a legitimate receiving threat. He's quietly improved his blocking throughout the season, enough that the Falcons feel comfortable leaving him in the game when they need additional help at the line, which is always.
Yet as a receiver, Toilolo's not there. He had that beautiful 12 yard grab where he simply went up higher than any mere mortal can go and came down with it, yes. But that was his only catch, and he hasn't shown me that he understands how to get open consistently at the NFL level. The Falcons should work to get him more involved, yes, but he'll need to earn it by showing his comfort level with the offense. If he ever gets there, coupled with his blocking, he's the clear-cut choice for #1 tight end a year from now. If he doesn't, he's a useful backup.
- The Falcons should play more games in Canada. They've never lost a game abroad, somehow, in the 40+ year history of the franchise. They came awfully close to making this the first one, but instead they hung in.
I'm sure it's just a product of random luck, but if it's not, maybe the Falcons should have no home stadium and wander the globe finding wins on every continent.
What did you learn?
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