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Falcons - Cowboys snap counts and notes

Can the snap counts help to explain this one? Probably not.

Atlanta Falcons v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

What a terrible game, huh?

There’s only so much you can squeeze out of snap counts after a day like that, where backups came in because the Falcons basically had conceded the game and injuries further complicated the picture. We’ll still do this because there are notes worth teasing out, but losing by 40 points and wholesale rolling things over to the backups by the beginning of the fourth quarter is the kind of aberration you can overreact to, so let’s not do that.

Offense

Jalen Mayfield: 54

Kaleb McGary: 54

Chris Lindstrom: 42

Matt Hennessy: 42

Jake Matthews: 38

Matt Ryan: 38

Russell Gage: 35

Kyle Pitts: 33

Tajae Sharpe: 31

Wayne Gallman: 23

Olamide Zaccheaus: 23

Hayden Hurst: 23

Mike Davis: 20

Keith Smith: 19

Parker Hesse: 19

Christian Blake: 17

Jason Spriggs: 16

Cordarrelle Patterson: 15

Josh Rosen: 15

Frank Darby: 12

Drew Dalman: 12

Colby Gossett: 12

Feleipe Franks: 1


Decisions were made. The Falcons pulled starters in this one and definitely let off the gas once they went down by an absurd number of points at the half, and the fourth quarter was basically an extended Wayne Gallman special. It would be easy to draw conclusions from playing time that aren’t justified, frankly, so we’re going to be careful not to do that here.

Let’s dwell on Gallman for a moment, though. He dominated the touches in garbage time, which is something you’d expect with the team trying to have Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson healthy and effective on Thursday night. After being inactive for what seemed like forever, Gallman did mix in a bit in the early going and popped a little bit late, albeit when Dallas was probably just bored with the game. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s at least a factor going forward given that he’s been solid in his chances thus far in 2021.

The Falcons have a massive wide receiver problem right now, one they’ve only been able to work around in fits and starts. Olamide Zaccheaus is the team’s leading wide receiver over the past three weeks with six grabs for 92 yards and two touchdowns, with Russell Gage putting up 7 grabs and 64 against New Orleans and otherwise putting up zeroes over that span even if he did make a heroic effort at a catch in the first quarter that he couldn’t quite hold onto after a huge hit. The Falcons have at least three guys who are nice complementary pieces at receiver (and Hayden Hurst at tight end), but when defenses take away Pitts and Patterson nobody has been able to step up and take over a game, and that’s going to mean more days like this going forward. Hopefully not this bad, but you know what I mean.

The Falcons got some Dalman and Gossett run, and alongside Jalen Mayfield, they blocked well for Gallman late in the game even if things were way out of reach. Mayfield continues to scuffle in pass protection, but the Falcons are going to get him a full season of work in the hopes he’ll be ready to deliver consistently quality guard play in 2022 and beyond, and at least his run blocking appears to be improving.

Defense

Duron Harmon: 70

Erik Harris: 66

Deion Jones: 63

Foye Oluokun: 60

Fabian Moreau: 59

AJ. Terrell: 56

James Vaughters: 50

Grady Jarrett: 45

Brandon Copeland: 44

Ade Ogundeji: 42

Mike Pennel: 38

Anthony Rush: 34

Richie Grant: 33

Avery Williams: 31

Dante Fowler: 31

Tyeler Davison: 31

Marlon Davidson: 28

Mykal Walker: 23

Darren Hall: 21

Chris Williamson: 14

Daren Bates: 8


Grady Jarrett was still Grady Jarrett! Let’s start on a positive note because I don’t have a lot of them here.

One more: Atlanta had impressive run stops in this one and held the Cowboys to 114 yards on 37 carries, an average of just over 3 yards per carry. Dallas did enough damage on the ground to keep the offense going, but the run defense is making little strides over the past two weeks with Mike Pennel, Anthony Rush and James Vaughters taking on larger roles.

This defense was atrocious yesterday, and combined with the offense being atrocious, it’s easy to explain a 40 point loss. The Cowboys continually avoided A.J. Terrell and got the matchups they wanted against Fabian Moreau and Avery Williams, with Williams in particular (unsurprisingly) struggling as a rookie against some dynamic receivers. Erik Harris continues to make plays on the ball—he has a team-high eight pass deflections in 2021—but has been unable to reel in what feels like at least five-or-six shots at interceptions. Against a high-flying Dallas passing attack, the Cowboys’ ability to get favorable matchups and Atlanta’s inability to take advantage of a few opportunities on errant Dak Prescott passes helped this one get out of hand fast.

The other thing that helped, of course, was the lack of a pass rush. The return of Dante Fowler did not prove to be a significant lift and he played under half the defensive snaps in this one, but hopefully he’ll at least have knocked some rust off and can contribute in a tough matchup against New England. The Falcons once again got little pressure in this one—you’re shocked, I know—but it was interesting to see James Vaughters get more playing time than any other outside linebacker against Dallas. The team’s faith in him is evident, and even if he only delivers on that trust fitfully, at least he’s doing something.

The other positive was seeing more Richie Grant, who forced a fumble in this one. The Falcons have been driving me crazy with their unwillingness to play Grant except in garbage time and in times of dire need, and I’ll hope for yet another week that we’re going to see more with him even if this safety group is fully healthy.

Otherwise, what’s to say? It’s good to get time for the likes of Hall, Williamson and Grant when you can because they may well be significant pieces of the defense in 2022, and with the game well out of reach at least that was one positive. There just isn’t much to feel good about on defense right now outside of a couple of young players, Terrell and Jarrett, and that doesn’t seem likely to change no matter how this team shuffles their playing time.

Special Teams

Richie Grant: 24

Mykal Walker: 24

Avery Williams: 20

Keith Smith: 18

Brandon Copeland: 18

Frank Darby: 18

Ade Ogundeji: 15

Christian Blake: 14

Wayne Gallman: 13

Daren Bates: 12

Duron Harmon: 11

Parker Hesse: 9

James Vaughters: 8

A.J. Terrell: 6

Mike Pennel: 6

Anthony Rush: 6

Marlon Davidson: 6

Darren Hall: 6

Dustin Colquitt: 6

Josh Harris: 6

Olamide Zaccheaus: 5

Cordarrelle Patterson: 5

Feleipe Franks: 4

Chris Williamson: 4

Younghoe Koo: 3

Erik Harris: 2

Jalen Mayfield: 1

Kaleb McGary: 1

Chris Lindstrom: 1

Jake Matthews: 1

Jason Spriggs: 1

Drew Dalman: 1

Colby Gossett: 1


Quietly, Olamide Zaccheaus has made a case for himself to be a key reserve on this team for a while yet, as he added another special teams tackle on just five snaps and has, terrifying ball rolling through his legs moment aside, been a helpful piece of the puzzle for Marquice Williams in addition to a useful receiver.

This was easily the most extended look we’ve gotten at Frank Darby, not just on offense but on special teams, where he played more snaps than he had combined the rest of the season. It’s hard to read too much into that given injuries and the state of this game, but it may be a sign that we’re actually going to get a longer look at the rookie. Given the state of the receiving corps, why not?

Otherwise, very few surprises here, as last week’s penalty snafu did nothing to dent the team’s enthusiasm for Richie Grant on special teams and the usual suspects minus Jaylinn Hawkins dominated snaps. I’m sure the Falcons also won’t make any drastic changes at punter just because Dustin Colquitt had a punt blocked, but that’s something to keep an eye on if it (god forbid) happens again.