I should be writing about an Atlanta Falcons win in Dallas, praising a team that started off hot and saw the offense post just about 40 points against the Cowboys. Instead, I am focusing solely on takeaways from the latest of what has been a growing list of despair-filled and discouraging losses from the Falcons and their coaching staff.
Let’s get started.
The team still cannot do its job
Normally when teams score 39 points, force three turnovers, does not commit an offensive turnover, and stalls two fake punt attempts, you’re usually walking to the locker room with a smile on your face and a win in your back pocket. Those are all incredible achievements most teams struggle with on a weekly basis.
Instead, the offense failed to capitalize on prime opportunities to put the game away and when the defense needed a play to be made to halt a Cowboys comeback, fate won out. I can start from 2015 and go to the present day and name the games that had the same makeup as this one. That’s five seasons worth of games that ends in unique Falcons fashion.
Russell Gage is being trusted
Lost in the historic defeat was the growing trust that quarterback Matt Ryan has in second year receiver Russell Gage. Ryan targeted Gage on 10 occasions on Sunday, with seven of them coming on third down. Gage converted three of those third down targets into first downs, including a third-and-12 in Dallas territory halfway through the fourth quarter with the team up 12.
Ryan also connected with Gage early in the fourth quarter for a touchdown that we all felt gave the Falcons some much needed breathing room. The team also trusted him enough to run Wildcat on two plays including a high arcing pass to Julio Jones that might have sealed the deal. The confidence is growing for the former LSU Tiger and he is showing the knack to answer the call when needed. He’s a true success story for this personnel department and coaching staff.
Sacking the quarterback is still insanely difficult
The Cowboys started two undrafted free agents at tackle. They started a center that is average at best, by the standards of many prognosticators. It was pretty much set up for the Falcons to truly get after Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and make his day miserable.
Instead, the team registered just one sack, which so happened to come early in the first quarter thanks to a called blitz by linebacker Deion Jones. Of the 47 pass attempts by Prescott, he was pressured on just 25% of them, which was not awful but did not result in much of a problem for the quarterback.
So far, the defense has totaled four sacks in two games and if you know the game, you know that quarterback pressures and hits also runs parallel with sack numbers. However, if you paid attention to the Falcons two contests this season, when the unit needed to get to their opposing quarterback in the second half, you would know they couldn’t do it. That’s a weakness teams are likely to exploit.
Calvin Ridley is a stud
The expectations mounted heading into 2020 for the former Alabama pass catcher. So far on the season, Ridley has shown to be a legitimate weapon in this offense. Ridley has been on a tear with 16 receptions and four touchdowns in two games.
Against Dallas, Ridley hauled in seven of his 10 targets and averaged 15.5 yards per catch. His 22-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter was breathtaking not only because of the great catch by after an excellent throw by Ryan. But it was equally incredible how Ridley was able to keep his feet inbounds and tap the pylon for the score. Star receiver Julio Jones had himself a down day against Dallas but Ridley was able to gash the Cowboys on his own, and we’re seeing him blossom into something special.
Onside kicks are apparently complex
It really is not complex, to be quite honest. Given how long the game has been around, how could the Falcons make it look that difficult and confusing, especially when the average recovery rate for teams trying an onside is something like 12%?