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Falcons vs. Steelers: Snap counts for a dismal beatdown

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What was illuminated was not pretty.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Offense

Jake Matthews: 72

Wes Schweitzer: 72

Alex Mack: 72

Brandon Fusco: 72

Ryan Schraeder: 72

Matt Ryan: 64

Mohamed Sanu: 59

Austin Hooper: 55

Julio Jones: 53

Calvin Ridley: 47

Devonta Freeman: 28

Tevin Coleman: 27

Marvin Hall: 19

Logan Paulsen: 19

Justin Hardy: 17

Ricky Ortiz: 13

Ito Smith: 12

Matt Schaub: 9

Eric Saubert: 8

Russell Gage: 3


The offense was handicapped pretty much all day by an offensive line not up to the task, if we’re being blunt. All the starters played, but aside from Jake Matthews and Wes Schweitzer, who had largely solid days, the Steelers pass rush had their way with Atlanta and stymied the run.

The Falcons didn’t do anything particularly unique with their snaps to counteract this, such as getting Logan Paulsen or Ricky Ortiz in to block more often, even though I’m not sure that would have staunched the bleeding. The result was that Ryan was under pressure and sailing throws much of the day, and the passing attack had its quietest day of the year since Week 1. It remains interesting to see the Falcons slowly edging up Marvin Hall’s playing time and giving an even split to Freeman and Coleman in Free’s first week back, but it didn’t end up meaning much.

The offensive line becomes a concern going forward, as it has mixed some very solid weeks with bad ones, and has been susceptible to blitzes all year long. Mack and Schraeder have looked a touch off this season, and if they’re aging into their decline phases, the Falcons had better hope they can find some contingency plans in 2019.

Defense

Damontae Kazee: 61

Robert Alford: 59

De’Vondre Campbell: 52

Duke Riley: 51

Jordan Richards: 47

Desmond Trufant: 47

Terrell McClain: 38

Vic Beasley: 38

Brian Poole: 37

Deadrin Senat: 36

Takkarist McKinley: 36

Brooks Reed: 34

Foye Oluokun: 33

Jack Crawford: 27

Steven Means: 23

Michael Bennett: 18

Sharrod Neasman: 14

Isaiah Oliver: 10

Bruce Carter: 5

Kemal Ishmael: 4

Keith Tandy: 1


It’s all within and whatnot, as Dan Quinn reminds us, but the way the team divvied up snaps this week on defense proved to be deeply confusing.

Start with Terrell McClain. He was an interesting addition to this team when he figured to be the fourth defensive tackle, but he’s gotten an outsized number of snaps for weeks now. Pressed into duty with Grady Jarrett out, McClain continued to contribute virtually nothing as a pass rusher, which we expect, but also did not appear on first watch to have been much of a factor against the run. On a day where James Conner went from stiff to stud, that was a problem.

The defensive line has been an off-and-on liability all year, with only Grady Jarrett and Takk really standing out, and nobody really did much of anything against the Steelers on Sunday up front.

Further back, the Falcons got Bruce Carter into the game for five whole snaps as part of a sudden, random personnel shift to put more of their run-stopping reserves into the game. It appeared to work, however temporarily, but the Falcons didn’t stick with it. Instead, the Falcons gave a ton of snaps to De’Vondre Campbell (always a good decision), Duke Riley (less of a good decision), and Foye Oluokun (a mixed bag). The team also gave Jordan Richards a considerable amount of run at safety, with largely predictable results.

At some point very soon the Falcons are going to need to make a decision about whether they’re going to make their very best effort to win games, or if they’re going to try to win while simultaneously giving young players the playing time they need to properly evaluate them. If it’s the former, I don’t think they can justify starting Richards over Keith Tandy and not giving Carter and/or Oluokun a look at middle linebacker over Riley. I don’t know if that’s going to improve things, of course, but the Falcons are accumulating a wealth of evidence that what they’re doing now is leading to truly awful results.

The Falcons just don’t have a lot of alternatives, which I understand, but their reluctance to consider the ones they do have does continue to genuinely baffle me.

Special Teams

Russell Gage: 23

Keith Tandy: 19

Kemal Ishmael: 18

Bruce Carter: 18

Marvin Hall: 18

Foye Oluokun: 17

Eric Saubert: 15

Logan Paulsen: 14

Matt Bosher: 11

Jordan Richards: 11

Robert Alford: 10

Justin Hardy: 10


The Falcons continue to have lackluster results on returns, especially with Justin Hardy back there, even if their coverage units are solid. Matt Bosher also has been quietly struggling this season, and those struggles were capped off by a blocked punt against the Steelers where the booth talked about how Pittsburgh must have noticed how many steps Bosher takes before punting. That’s ominous.