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Falcons vs. Titans recap: Sometimes you win 10-7 and you celebrate

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The 6-1 Atlanta Falcons won a game where the defense dominated, the passing game was ineffective, and nothing made much sense.

Your Atlanta Falcons won Sunday in ugly, offensively-challenged fashion, and throughout a good three-quarters of this game, everyone was on the edge of their seat and gnawing on fingernails. It was not, in other words, one of those pretty wins where everyone celebrates and feels good for the rest of the week.

So what, though?

This is a game the Falcons won, and it's a game that leaves them with a 6-1 record. That outcome seemed very much in doubt throughout this football game, but a consistently strong defensive effort and a clutch Robenson Therezie interception ensured this one ended in much the same fashion as that insane win over the Washington Redskins a couple of weeks ago. The Falcons couldn't get much going on offense, but they got two nice drives, and that was enough to pull off the victory. This team was a little lucky to win, of course, but their ability to limit the (admittedly weak) Titans offense was not luck, but skill. This team has come a very long way from a year ago on that side of the ball, and it's made the difference in multiple games this season.

I think we all got our hopes up for a butt kicking, considering the Titans' fortunes thus far in 2015, and the Falcons just didn't oblige us. That was particularly true on offense, where Matt Ryan's ongoing issues with accuracy in timing, the receiving corps' disappearance, and some costly turnovers hurt the team. Even Matt Bryant missed a field goal, adding to a scoring effort that can charitably be described as weak. Leonard Hankerson exiting the game hurt the offense, I believe, but we're on our third straight week of the passing game sputtering along, and the time to fix that was after the Washington game. If you're going to take away a negative from this game, that's where it lies, because the ground game and defense remain very good.

The bottom line is that those of us who thought the Falcons would probably come down to earth a little bit after their hot start were right, but thankfully they still have a good record and clear indications where the problems lie. They can't keep playing like this and win football games, but I'm optimistic that a smart coaching staff and quality players on this roster can get the offense figured out and keep the defense trucking, and at 6-1 they still have a major leg up in a muddled NFC playoff picture. Godspeed, those at Flowery Branch, and let's smile a bit today.

On to the full recap.

The Good

  • Despite the team's reluctance to go to him early in the game, Devonta Freeman had himself a day for the fifth consecutive week. He averaged well over six yards a carry, ran decisively and showed great moves, and just generally looks like one of the best running backs in the NFL. I don't know if he's infused with magic or this greatness was always here, but either way, may he roll on.
  • Julio Jones looked much sharper with the rest, making an immediate impact on the Falcons' first drive by reeling in a pair of catches for 26 yards. He continued to be the only legitimate target in the passing game all day, even if Ryan missed him and Julio couldn't quite reel in a couple of passes through the day. I remain unworried about his prospects in 2015, even if he's slowed down from his sky-high start.
  • The pass rush was pretty weak in the first half again, but O'Brien Schofield got things going in the second half by blowing through the line effectively unblocked and nailing Mettenberger. That play was followed up by pressure getting home and forcing a dumpoff throw by the Titans' quarterback, and it seemed like the Falcons legitimately made some adjustments at halftime. That was enough to force some lousy Mettenberger throws.
  • Paul Worrilow's pick was a huge play. He read Mettenberger perfectly, went up for it, and returned it a long way. A costly blindside block call on O'Brien Schofield lessened the impact of the return, but a huge, points-savnig play for Worrilow at the half.
  • Robenson Therezie's pick was equally huge. With the Titans driving in the fourth quarter and a chance to win or at least tie the game up, Therezie made a leaping pick in the middle of the field to seal the victory for the Falcons. This team is so, so lucky to have athletic defenders who have consistently bailed the team out in close games.
  • Not only did Jalen Collins get the start in the nickel, bumping Robert Alford inside in those packages, but he also acquitted himself quite well against Tennessee. I need to go back and watch, but it appeared Alford was struggling a little more in this one.
  • The defense got knocked for a couple of bad coverage calls against deep passes (see below), but generally they held their own against Tennessee, especially once the pass rush got rolling in the second half. This is a lousy offense and the nice runs by Antonio Andrews were a little troubling, but that side of the ball did its job this time out, particularly on those turnovers.


The Ugly

  • This last week, The DW asked what was wrong with Matt Ryan, and unfortunately we don't have any reason to stop asking that question after this week.

    Ryan continues to look off with his timing and his location, overthrowing and underthrowing in equal measure as he tried to find Julio Jones. His second quarter pick was not solely his fault, but he simply didn't loft the ball enough to get over the defender and paid the price. The overthrow to Julio Jones in the end zone in the second quarter was another example of him just missing his spot, but he's done this enough times that we can't simply chalk it up to learning the scheme any longer. He has to improve, or this team's offense is going to sputter and it's going to cost them wins. It's incumbent on Ryan to improve, and for Kyle Shanahan to figure out why Ryan is struggling. Those flashes of quality play in the second half were welcome and led to the Falcons' win, so it wasn't all bad, but I think Ryan would agree things have to change.

    For the Falcons to be a truly successful football team in 2015, they'll need Ryan to play at his usual pretty high level. He rallied nicely in the second half of this game, but he'll need to  build off that performance to get this Falcons offense humming.
  • The offensive line was hot and cold in pass protection, but between some so-so blocking and some costly holding calls, Andy Levitre had his worst game in a Falcons uniform. Sadly, it came against his former team, and the penalty that backed the Falcons up practically to their own goal
  • Another team would have made some of the open looks Zach Mettenberger was getting count. The first quarter bomb to Justin Hunter was especially deadly, because Hunter was wide open, but thankfully he straight up dropped the ball. You'll have a handful of those per game, but the Falcons still need to try to clean it up before it kills them.
  • Vic Beasley being the 12th man on the field could have cost the Falcons the game, but thankfully Tennessee went for it on 4th and 4 and missed. Still, inexcusable penalty, and he got a deserved earful from Dan Quinn on the sideline.
  • Matt Bryant missed a 47 yarder, and we are now officially a little concerned that he's not the same kicker he was during the last few legendary years of his career. It could be a long-overdue cold streak, of course, but Bryant's going to be worth watching closely in the weeks ahead.
  • You don't want to play games like this against anyone else in the league, but we're fortunate this happened against the Titans.


The Wrapup

Game MVP: It's still Devonta Freeman. He's the best player on this offense right now, and one of the major reasons they stayed in this game, but Therezie and Worrilow get a share of the ball for their picks.

Theme Song: A man shrugging loudly, his face lit up with a confused smile.

One Takeaway: The Falcons aren't out of the woods yet with their shaky offensive performances, but the defense can bail them out if things go sideways. I'm not overly comfortable with Atlanta coming to rely on that blueprint, however.

Next Week: You'll see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week, and they're suddenly playing better football, so that's unfortunate. Check in with Bucs Nation for more.

Final Word: Heyit'sawinatleast.