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Falcons snap counts for a thrilling, tough loss to the Chiefs

A tale of offensive adjustments and a defensive butt kicking.

Atlanta Falcons v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The loss to the Chiefs was one of the better games the Falcons have played this year. They nearly won thanks to a straightforward, no-frills defensive effort that was delightfully dominant, especially considering the opponent. They hung in partly because the Falcons offense started to get eaten alive and the coaching staff compensated to give Matt Ryan and company a chance to deliver this on.

Let’s talk those items and more notes below.

Offense

Matt Ryan: 68

Jake Matthews: 68

Matt Gono: 68

Matt Hennessy: 68

Chris Lindstrom: 68

Kaleb McGary: 68

Russell Gage: 62

Calvin Ridley: 54

Hayden Hurst: 44

Luke Stocker: 40

Todd Gurley: 27

Ito Smith: 22

Christian Blake: 21

Brian Hill: 19

Keith Smith: 17

Brandon Powell: 13

Laquon Treadwell: 11

Jaeden Graham: 7

Justin McCray: 3


There is a non-zero chance this was our first look at the starting 2021 Falcons offensive line. Hennessy predictably struggled to contain Chris Jones, an All-Pro caliber defensive tackle, and the line overall had trouble protecting Ryan, who was sacked four times on the day, all four of them coming in the first three quarters. That led to more snaps for the likes of Todd Gurley and Luke Stocker, two of the team’s more proficient blockers, and the offense started to pick up a bit with Dirk Koetter and company taking pains to protect their quarterback. Remember, the Falcons were at the Kansas City 20 early in the fourth quarter before their eventual touchdown-scoring drive, but Brandon Powell fumbled away a catch that would’ve put the team that much closer to a score.

On balance, then, the line scuffled a bit with Gono at left guard and Hennessy at center, but both are young players and we know Gono is a capable one already. It was good for them to get the playing time even if it wasn’t always pleasant for Ryan, but obviously the fact that they both got blown off the field for long stretches of the game isn’t promising for either one. Gono has looked better as a tackle.

The decision to shore up the blocking had impacts on snap counts across the roster. It led to more Gurley than Ito Smith on the day, though Ito still easily out-touched him, and it led to plenty of Stocker instead of other receiving options. That was probably the right decision to protect Ryan but it did mean lots of short passes on a day where the backs got more work in the passing game than they have at any other point this season, as the Smith (Ito and Keith), Gurley, and Hill accounted for 9 catches and 78 yards, or about a quarter of Ryan’s total output on the day. Hurst and Ridley accounted for over half by themselves, so that tells you guys like Powell (one nice catch a fumble) and Blake were non-factors on the day.

The upshot is that while I’m still not thrilled with Koetter’s year or even his day yesterday, he made adjustments that helped keep Ryan upright and was a Powell fumble away from winning this game handily. The team still sputtered and the offense was still kinda lousy, but at least adjustments were actually made.

Defense

Deion Jones: 67

A.J. Terrell: 67

Kendall Sheffield: 66

Foye Oluokun: 64

Keanu Neal: 63

Isaiah Oliver: 55

Ricardo Allen: 55

Grady Jarrett: 52

Dante Fowler Jr.: 44

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 40

Steven Means: 39

John Cominsky: 34

Tyeler Davison: 29

Allen Bailey: 20

Sharrod Neasman: 16

Mykal Walker: 13

Charles Harris: 10

Blidi Wreh-Wilson: 3


This a dominant defensive effort by the Falcons, who held the Chiefs under 22 points for the first time all year. The fun thing about it was that the performance didn’t require any particular trickery or drastic changes to snap counts to achieve dominance. The Falcons simply went out there and got the job done.

There was stellar coverage by A.J. Terrell, who may have played his most impressive game of the year despite that ugly dropped interception in the end zone, and by Kendall Sheffield, who struggled with Travis Kelce as the game wore on but also made some nice plays on the ball he simply hasn’t been making. You saw Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Steven Means applying a ton of pressure, Grady Jarrett destroying the interior of the Chiefs defense line, and Keanu Neal delivering hits and his first interception since 2017. You saw a complete team effort with only a small handful of lapses and the traditionally frustrating pass rushing efforts of Fowler, and all of that against a great offense.

This doesn’t mean the Falcons can be counted on to build on this in 2021, of course, because they’re losing pieces of this defense, they badly need top-shelf pass rushers from the defensive end position, and cornerback isn’t exactly solved unless Sheffield and Oliver’s strides continue and gel into genuine improvement. Seeing this defense put together an effort like this after a largely impressive 9 game run post-DQ firing does make me hopeful that the next regime isn’t going to have to start over, and man was that fun to watch.

Special Teams

Edmond Robinson: 14

LaRoy Reynolds: 14

Tyler Hall: 13

Sharrod Neasman: 12

Keith Smith: 12

Mykal Walker: 11

Luke Stocker: 11

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner: 9

Brian Hill: 9

John Cominsky: 8

Chris Rowland: 8

Sterling Hofrichter: 8

Jaylinn Hawkins: 8

Josh Harris: 8

Isaiah Oliver: 7

Kendall Sheffield: 7

Steven Means: 7

Jaeden Graham: 7

Laquon Treadwell: 6

Younghoe Koo: 6

Deion Jones: 5

A.J. Terrell: 5

Foye Oluokun: 5

Grady Jarrett: 5

Charles Harris: 5

Christian Blake: 4

Tyeler Davison: 3

Allen Bailey: 3

Jake Matthews: 3

Matt Gono: 3

Chris Lindstrom: 3

Justin McCray: 3

Kaleb McGary: 3

John Wetzel: 3

Keanu Neal: 2

Dante Fowler Jr.: 2


As is often the case, Younghoe Koo was the story of this one, though not in the way he usually is. His miss at the end of the game cost the Falcons a chance to send this one to overtime, but it was also only his second missed field goal all year. It sort of goes without saying that you don’t have to fret about his fortunes based off of that.

I thought Tyler Hall had a great tackle in this one and consistently shows up in games as one of the team’s most aggressive and capable special teamers, which is a nice role for the undrafted rookie free agent to carve out given that the team will need effective, affordable players next year, including at Hall’s native cornerback position.

Finally, Rowland was up in this one, an exciting development after he had spent the entire season on the practice squad with Brandon Powell at returner. He just didn’t actually return anything in this one, meaning we’ll have to wait a week (or longer) to see what he can do with the ball in his hands.