Matt Schaub didn’t look like a 38-year-old backup who hasn’t started in years, and the Falcons defense didn’t look as abysmal as it has in the past. The team is still 1-7 and is basically playing for pride at this point, but we can still find things in this game to take away and chew over.
1. Matt Schaub goes on a tear
If you had money on Schaub throwing for 460 yards in his start, I’d have laughed at you. But he did, and it was a pretty incredible performance for a guy who hasn’t played a starting snap since 2015.
Credit goes to Dirk Koetter for figuring things out with Schaub when Ryan went down and for calling the kind of game that made this possible. Though it’s certain the real brains of the organization came from Schaub himself, who we know is quite the football mind.
It didn’t equate to a win, but the Falcons should feel happy they got legend on the field and managed to get a capable backup for Ryan.
2. The running game does not
The Falcons running game this year has been horrible, to be blunt.
Devonta Freeman only rushed for 39 yards, another dismal stat book log for a still-talented player who looks to have mostly regained his form coming off injury.
Brian Hill had 29 and his first career touchdown in stead of Ito Smith. Koetter’s run game scheming has been inexcusable, and though the offensive line doesn’t help right now, he’s got to carry the lion’s share of the blame.
Freeman’s contract and a year of his prime is going to waste, and Koetter’s continued inability to mount a consistent running attack continues to haunt him.
3. Wasted Julio excellence
You want another wasted year of prime and money?
Look at Julio Jones, who had 152 yards on 10 catches. He’s had a really nice year and is showing that he will continue to live up to his contract. Jones is, of course, a generational talent, and it’s just brutal to see him playing this well for basically nothing but his weekly paycheck.
The Falcons should be Super Bowl contenders with Jones playing at such a high level, as they were in the recent past. Instead, they’re going to be watching all the playoffs at home.
Another reminder why change is coming in all likelihood. They can’t keep wasting this type of play. Jones won’t be able to do it forever.
4. Kendall Sheffield is coming into his own
A guy we don’t talk about a ton is fourth-round cornerback Kendall Sheffield, who’s had to step up to a larger role than expected and is responding accordingly.
To Dan Quinn’s credit, Sheffield has looked the part, tying the game-lead in tackles with five and playing some incredibly tight coverage on Tyler Lockett.
The secondary, of course, hasn’t been great this year, and they’re still prone to boneheaded mistakes. But Sheffield isn’t making as many as you might think, and he’s racking up the positive moments at a rate you wouldn’t have thought possible before the season.
For the future, Sheffield seems to be a guy the team will be happy to have around and could earn more responsibility down the road.
5. What to do with Matt Bryant?
The Falcons did a lot of things wrong Sunday to put themselves in a difficult position to win, so you can’t completely blame Matt Bryant’s tough day at the office.
He went 2/4 Sunday, one of his worst performances in years. The team was working out kickers Monday in wake of the missed kicks.
It’d be different if Bryant were struggling in a winning year and the Falcons hadn’t completely botched his situation this spring. They have made amends with the person, and making a change at kicker would just be ugly in a season that’s already lost.
Bryant is an all-time talent for this team and deserves to ends things on his own terms.
Making a change now would be pointless and further insult a player who has done so much for the team. If you make a change in 2020, it’s perfectly understandable with Bryant a free agent. But leave him be for now.