The Tennessee Titans exit Week 4 with the worst allowed sack rate in football, per Football Outsiders. They would be even worse, of course, but the Falcons managed to not bring down Marcus Mariota a single time last Sunday. Despite some productive pressures from Takk McKinley, the Falcons pass rush once again didn’t deliver the goods.
This week, that’s not really an option. We saw what a very mediocre Marcus Mariota can do with no pressure, and a very good Deshaun Watson is going to disintegrate the Falcons in front of our eyes if they can’t get after him and bring him down. It’ll take more than just the customary good game from Grady Jarrett—who has a ton of pressures this year, at the very least—and uneven efforts from Vic Beasley and McKinley to get the job done.
The good news, if you can call it that, is that the team right behind Tennessee in terms of sack rate and overall pass protection effectiveness is none other than the Houston Texans. The better news is that the Falcons are truly overdue for a big game, because they’ve been getting pressure and getting close without actually getting sacks or forcing fumbles they subsequently recover, which is frustrating.
Per ESPN, Takk has the sixth-best win rate among all defensive ends and outside linebackers in football, something that makes sense if you’ve seen him blow by his man en route to the quarterback. Grady Jarret has the best win rate in the entire NFL at the moment among defensive tackles. The team has the second best pass rush win rate overall, and yet they’re tied for 25th in the NFL with just five sacks. They’re tied for the fifth-highest number of forced fumbles with five, but have recovered just one of them (the teams they’re tied with, the Packers and Cowboys, have recovered three and five, respectively). This team’s problems in coverage have been nightmarish and costly, but the truth is that their pass rush has not been a massive liability this year. It just has been a little bit unlucky and a second too slow to make big, game-changing plays.
Might Houston be the week? It’s one of the few reasons for real optimism coming into the week, because outside of Laremy Tunsil this offensive line has not been very good and Jarrett and McKinley in particular are very capable of applying pressure in this one. A week where the Falcons close out a few sacks and get a much-needed turnover or two is a week this team might actually be able to win, warts and all.