The Falcons find themselves at 1-1 after getting a tough road win against the Oakland Raiders. It was a game virtually no one thought the Falcons could win (except for maybe the Falcoholic himself) and the team nearly gave it away a few times. You’ll find the full recap of the game on the site, but I wanted to draw focus to these three things in particular as they could be indicators of things to come.
Ball distribution means good things
Last year, Falcons fans were clamoring for Matt Ryan to throw the ball to someone not named Julio Jones. This year, fans are now clamoring for Ryan to throw the ball to Julio once in a while. Fans will never be happy - Julio did end up with over 100 yards on the day - but this development is a very good thing for the team.
On Sunday, Ryan distributed the ball to 9 different receivers, 8 of which had 2 or more catches. Julio had the most yards (106), but rookie Austin Hooper pitched in 84 of his own, while veteran Jacob Tamme netted a cool 75. Aldrick Robinson and Taylor Gabriel contributed 2/30 and 3/28 respectively.
This level of distribution indicates several things, all of them good. First, Ryan is getting more and more comfortable with this offense. He’s going through his progressions quickly and was often getting to his third or fourth read. Second, this is also an indication that the offensive line is holding up and that Ryan has confidence in them. Finally, it’s also indicative of the fact that Ryan feels good tossing the ball to any of these guys.
This offense can be incredibly dangerous, but is doubly-so when Ryan feels confident distributing it to a wide variety of players. If this keeps up, the Falcons offense may finally turn the corner this year.
Defense is still concerning
On the flip side of the ball, though, the defense still leaves us with a sour taste in our mouth. The pass rush was non-existent yet again, save for a garbage sack on a Derek Carr scramble out of bounds. Granted, the Raiders have one of the better offensive lines in the league, but Carr was able to fix a five course meal complete with creme brulee in the pocket he had on Sunday.
Additionally, the number of missed tackles was highly concerning, as several offensive drives for the Raiders would have been stopped if the first/second/third/fourth defender had managed to bring the ball carrier down.
We were missing some guys - such as De’Vondre Campbell and Keanu Neal - but neither of them promises to dramatically impact the tackling of other players on this D.
This is a young defense, and they undoubtedly need time to mature and develop, but it’s looking increasingly like the Falcons will need 28+ from the offense every game in order to win. Dan Quinn needs to figure out why this team has suddenly forgotten fundamentals and get it fixed, or we could be in for shoot-outs every single week.
Offensive line is settling in
Jake Matthews had an ugly first game and teased that he was going to give us more of the same on Sunday. Considering that he and Ryan Schraeder were facing a very good pass rushing duo in Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, it was highly concerning. However, both Matthews and Schraeder settled in nicely along with the rest of the OL, allowing only one sack for the rest of the game. Ryan had mostly clean pockets to pass out of, and it’s clear that this line seems more cohesive than it did last year. The presence of Alex Mack in the middle does appear to be helping overall, even if the play of veteran Chris Chester has been less than ideal.
In fact, the unit performed well in run blocking as well, giving big lanes to Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman all day. It was a hopeful step forward and one that will need to continue if the Falcons are going to continue to have offensive success.
What are your takeaways from Sunday’s game against the Raiders?