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Falcons Week 15 snap counts: Weird decisions abound in the win

The Falcons beat the Buccaneers, but some of Atlanta’s worst habits reared their ugly heads again.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images


Matt Ryan: 71

Jake Matthews: 71

Ben Garland: 71

Alex Mack: 71

Wes Schweitzer: 71

Ryan Schraeder: 71

Julio Jones: 54

Austin Hooper: 54

Mohamed Sanu: 52

Devonta Freeman: 51

Levine Toilolo: 40

Taylor Gabriel: 32

Justin Hardy: 21

Terron Ward: 19

Derrick Coleman: 16

Marvin Hall: 9

Eric Saubert: 5

Dontari Poe: 2

It is sort of remarkable to me that the Falcons were on the field for 71 plays and managed 410 yards, their third-highest output of the season, and were still held to just 24 points. You can once again point the finger at an offense that put itself in difficult positions on a regular basis, between questionable play calling, dropped passes, and penalties on the likes of Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer.

The larger issue, though, is how inefficient this passing attack continues to be. Matt Ryan targeted Julio eight times, but thanks to drops and missed connections, #11 only finished with three receptions for 54 yards. Mohamed Sanu got two grabs for 23 yards on five targets, Taylor Gabriel caught both of his targets for 16 yards, and Austin Hooper caught both of his for 12 yards. Devonta Freeman was far-and-away the team’s most effective receiver, catching five of his seven targets for 68 yards, including a 29 yard grab. Considering Ryan threw 31 balls, that’s pretty sad output from the team’s dynamic array of pass catchers, especially against a weak, depleted Tampa Bay secondary.

I don’t know what the solution is, at this point. The offense has struggled to get weapons like Gabriel and Tevin Coleman (when healthy) open and involved, and some of that is definitely on Steve Sarkisian. At the same time, when you have top-flight receivers dropping passes, or your franchise quarterback electing to scramble when he has a wide open man down the sideline, that’s sort of out of Sark’s control. The combination of execution errors and iffy play calling is that this offense continues to look solid enough but frustratingly incapable of playing up to the level of their talent, and that’s still the hardest cap on this team’s 2017 outlook if they make the postseason.

I was encouraged to see Eric Saubert getting a little involved, and that the team was able to find work for Terron Ward, who continues to run the ball extremely well and should be the team’s long-term third back.


Robert Alford: 61

Desmond Trufant: 61

Keanu Neal: 61

Ricardo Allen: 61

Deion Jones: 61

Grady Jarrett: 51

De’Vondre Campbell: 49

Dontari Poe: 44

Brian Poole: 39

Adrian Clayborn: 34

Vic Beasley: 30

Brooks Reed: 26

Derrick Shelby: 23

Kemal Ishmael: 22

Takk McKinley: 15

Courtney Upshaw: 13

Duke Riley: 10

Ahtyba Rubin: 10

The defense only allowed 21 points, which has become pretty customary for them. That number masks how ineffective they were for long stretches of the game, however, as they allowed 373 yards, tied for the second-highest output by an opposing offense in 2017. That’s exactly how many yards they allowed to Tampa Bay last game, too.

Unfortunately, some slips and coverage errors marred the effort on Monday night, and that plus a largely ineffective pass rush will kill you against a strong-armed quarterback like Jameis Winston, especially if he’s throwing to Mike Evans. The Falcons simply could not stop or slow down Winston throughout much of the night, which led to another fine day through the air for the young quarterback. That’s more or less a team-wide failure, and a frustrating one after the Falcons were pretty stingy against Drew Brees just a week earlier.

I continue to have some questions about how the Falcons are divvying up their snaps at defensive end and, this week, linebacker. De’Vondre Campbell needs to be on the field as much as is humanly possible, as Duke Riley really is not ready to bring a lot to the table just yet. And at end, Takk continues to get the smallest share of snaps despite being arguably the team’s most productive pass rusher on a per snap basis. It’s legitimately confusing, especially since Dan Quinn and company make a habit of talking up the rookie on a weekly basis.

Special Teams

Duke Riley: 20

Kemal Ishmael: 20

Derrick Coleman: 16

LaRoy Reynolds: 16

Damontae Kazee: 16

Sharrod Neasman: 16

Matt Bosher: 14

Levine Toilolo: 13

Eric Saubert: 12

Marvin Hall: 12

Robert Alford: 10

A lot of familiar faces here, plus Duke Riley stepping into a major role on special teams. The Falcons continue to struggle to create openings for Andre Roberts—with the exception of his first two returns last night, to be fair—and allow way too many decent returns. It doesn’t seem to matter what configuration Keith Armstrong rolls out, and it has been largely a year to forget for teams.