If you were hoping for a bounce back performance after the Bears game last week, you were likely extremely disappointed by what you saw on Sunday versus the Ravens. If you have already resigned yourself to a disappointing season and the firing of the coaching staff and possibly front office, well, then you probably found more evidence for your conclusion. No matter how you slice it, the game was a massive disappointment. Here are the three key takeaways from the game:
1. The offensive line is in dire shape
The Ravens have a pretty good defensive front. On Sunday, they looked unstoppable. Elvis Dumervil made mincemeat of Carimi repeatedly, while the interior of the Falcons OL collapsed. And just to add injury to insult, Peter Konz - our backup Center - went down with what looked like a serious injury. UDFA rookie James Stone had to take over at Center.
When you look at the Falcons current OL, this is how it looks: Banged up rookie LT, Banged up LG, 3rd string UDFA rookie Center, pretty good RG, Career Disappointment RT.
It's looking more and more like the loss of Hawley and Holmes were huge. That's not even giving weight to the preseason losses of Sam Baker and Mike Johnson. And it's looking like Matthews is playing with a bum ankle. The guys on our bench are both UDFAs in Gunn and Schraeder.
Things on the offensive line are grim. If it gets much worse, Matt Ryan may not survive the season.
2. The coaching staff doesn't know how to use our running backs
Every week it's the same old tune. Antone should get more touches. The game comes, and he proceeds to get about 10 or so snaps, despite showing consistent production. But now, it looks like our coaches can't even properly decipher what backs should be used in what roles.
For instance, on one series, Steven Jackson was used on 1st and 2nd down. When the team was in 3rd and short, he was pulled for Antone - who is not known for his pass blocking. So, instead of using a dynamic weapon on 1st and 2nd, we use a power back. When we need a pass blocking power back, we put in a dynamic weapon. That wasn't the only instance either.
Later in the game, as the team was going for a fourth down conversion, instead of bringing in a full back and Jackson to power through to a one yard gain, we bring in Devonta Freeman and run a play action pass that fails to convert.
Not only does this team not know how to use Antone, I'm not sure they even know how to use any of the running backs on this roster. While this alone is not the reason for the struggles of the offense, it is a sign that the coaches are struggling with offensive basics. It almost appears the coordinators are either sticking to a pre-canned script, or are trying to be too cute with the play calling.
3. There are some bright spots on the defense
Rather than focus on only the negative, there were some bright spots during the otherwise dreary day. For starters, Jonathan Massaqoui absolutely went off. Though he didn't notch a sack, he was constantly in the backfield making life difficult for Flacco. He registered several hits and a TFL. On a miserable day, Mass showed that he deserves more snaps every week. I'd argue that he deserves to be a named starter.
Additionally, though he also had some terrible plays, Robert Alford notched two interceptions that kept the game from being worse than it was. Alford already has 3 INTs on the season, and while he still has terrible moments in coverage, he's showing that he's more of a ball-hawk than Trufant. The combination of these two corners - who, may I remind you are still only in their second years - should be a good one in the future.
So, what did you see out of the game on Sunday - other than rage and tears?