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Dirty Bird Takebusters: Picks, Pass Protectors

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Time to bust your worries about the Mattural and the right side of the OL.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

When your team has won, but no one’s having fun, who you gonna call? Takebusters!

When you’re 3-0, but they say you’ve started so slow, who you gonna call? Takebusters!

*familiar 80s melodious riff* I ain’t afraid of no takes.

Well, it’s time for another edition of Dirty Bird Takebusters, our weekly “calm the heck down” series where we pop the hot take balloons you’ve so eloquently tied to your fandom mailboxes. Yeah, this one’s going to be a scorcher, considering how the Falcons won Sunday.

This week, I’ll once again strap on my hold-on pack, hop in the HECKNO-1 and bust the worries about Matt Ryan’s three-pick performance and slow your roll on demanding the heads of the offensive line’s right side.




I had previously-terrible opinions on the quality of quarterback Matt Ryan was pre-2016. I underestimated his 2016 campaign, and will overestimate what I expect of him in 2017, because I’m an uninformed goofus who thought Ryan would never throw an interception ever again. I believe his 3-pick performance against the Detroit Lions, one which was brought back for a pick-6, is indicative of a return to form (a form that has never existed fully, but is one I conjured up in my mind of him being a below-average player), and that the Falcons’ offense is going to hit the downward slope.



Hoo boy, where to start with this one. No, Ryan’s performance Sunday against Detroit won’t be in his top-five efforts in a Falcons uniform. He and the offense struggled a bit with the crowd noise as the game wore on, though his unit hung 30 points on a very respectable defense on the road in a hostile environment. According to a conversation I had with a Falcons fan at the Lions game, it may have been a playoff atmosphere at Ford Field Sunday. Ryan has been very solid in 2017 – he’s not marching to another MVP season, but he’s cemented himself as a top-five talent at the position, and he’s on his fourth offensive coordinator change. He’s nearly at 1,000 yards for the season (867 so far, fourth in the NFL), has four touchdown throws, is completing nearly 70-percent of his passes (sixth in the league), and has an average rating of 99.2 on the season (tenth of all QBs). And, his offense has averaged 29.3 points so far – with two of those performances on the road, and is fourth in the league for total offense and second for yards per play. And it’s very fair to say the offense is still getting itself together for the season, and that these numbers should expect to rise as Ryan and his teammates get more comfortable in Steve Sarkisian’s rhythm as a play caller. He was also missing his starting right tackle for about two games, and has a new right guard getting his footing under him as well.

It’s almost as if Ryan is fine, and the offense is going to be very good this season.

“But, but, but Cory…he threw…THREE INTERCEPTIONS!”

Oh man how taboo, the hairs on my neck stick up in fear and shock.

No, there is no cause for concern for the three nabs by Detroit’s defense Sunday. The first was Ryan being too over-reliant on Julio Jones’ ability to catch be ball, as he stared him down for the throw, and ball-hawking S Glover Quin read the play like a picture book and ran it in for six. It happens, and nine-times-out-of-ten, Julio makes the play. The second, Ryan threw a rocket to Tevin Coleman, who had it slip out of his hands and into the hands of sharp CB Darius Slay. They both get a little of a knock for that one. Then, in the red zone, he threw a screen pass to Mohamed Sanu, whose sure hands failed him as it popped out of his grasp to Slay once more. You can argue Sanu wasn’t the best receiver for that play, you can argue Sanu just didn’t bring it in. Ryan is absolved of that one.

So, that’s one pick Ryan could have prevented, one he could have put a softer touch on and one that was out of his hands. Welcome to the “fluky QB game.”

The team didn’t really rely on Ryan to put on his best that day – in a hostile road environment, it’s best to rely on your ground game to control the time of possession and resist become too pass-happy. RB Devonta Freeman carried the team out of Detroit with his relentless performance, which was the best way to go. Ryan still went 24/35 for 294 yards in the air and notched two touchdown tosses – doubling what he’d done in the first two weeks – and the three intercepted miscues.

It’s almost as if the Iceman is a-o.k. Losing his streak of pass attempts without picks (going back to the Kansas City loss last season) was a bummer. But he still won when he wasn’t at his best. That’s certainly good enough, and not always what happens with the Atlanta Falcons.




Reserve tackle Ty Sambralio is struggling in his starts at right tackle, and it’s certainly not helping Wes Schweitzer, who’s trying to come into his own at right guard. Their side of the offensive line is a liability to the offense, and will hold the unit back from being truly stellar this season. It’s time to bench both.



Well, you’ve got me with Sambralio – he’s a bit too inconsistent to really start all year at right tackle in pass protection and flourish, though he’s impressed enough as a run blocker (Pro Football Focus graded him out at 95.2 in the run game – no that’s not a typo, so take that Sambrali-haters). No, he’s not the world’s best starting right tackle, and might be better off at guard for the rest of his tenure. But, perhaps by Sunday, the conversation kind of becomes a moot point with Ryan Schraeder getting close to recovering from a concussion.

Oh, yeah, that’s right, Schraeder. You know, the high-caliber right tackle that normally starts and stuff, and renders your worries about the right side of the line being a liability essentially pointless.

Schweitzer has looked much better after his ill-fated first start in Chicago – he’s not a Pro Bowler, but he’s helping get the job done on the right side while Schraeder is away. He’s got to clean up the penalties, but those come with time. Really, at this point, there’s no reason in thinking he won’t be half bad by the time the season is over.

The offense is rolling okay without Schraeder in the lineup. When he gets back, the team can really start firing on all cylinders.

If something bizarre happens and Schrader’s concussion protocol draws out past the bye week (which, really, would be very unexpected) and Sambralio has to start the Miami and New England games, I’ll give you credit for having a couple of butterflies in the stomach. But it’s rather unlikely, so relax – Schraeder is coming back!

Good bustin’, everyone. See you next week.

Cory is an editor of fellow Falcons site Rise Up Reader, where you can find more Falcons coverage. He is a cohost of the new Falcoholic game-recap podcast that airs weekly.