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Falcons snap counts from a blowout win over the Colts

How did the Falcons pull this one off?

NFL: DEC 24 Colts at Falcons Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the Atlanta Falcons thumped Indianapolis Colts, it was a big surprise and an overdue win for a struggling team. But how did the team pull that off?

We’ve covered off the how—the great defensive effort, Taylor Heinicke doing a good job of piloting the offense, a dominant effort from the ground game—but perhaps the snap counts will illuminate things further. Let’s take a look.

Offense

Taylor Heinicke: 64

Drew Dalman: 64

Storm Norton: 64

Matthew Bergeron: 63

Chris Lindstrom: 61

Jake Matthews: 56

Drake London: 49

Bijan Robinson: 48

Kyle Pitts: 46

Jonnu Smith: 44

Van Jefferson: 26

MyCole Pruitt: 24

KhaDarel Hodge: 20

Mack Hollins: 15

Tucker Fisk: 14

Tyler Allgeier: 13

Cordarrelle Patterson: 13

John Leglue: 8

Scotty Miller: 7

Kyle Hinton: 4

Ryan Neuzil: 1


Obviously, Heinicke was in as the starting quarterback, and he did a good job. I’ll be looking for him to clean up some of the turnover-worthy plays we saw on Sunday, but he did manage to avoid turnovers and led a number of scoring drives. He’s locked in as the starter as long as he stays healthy.

The offensive line fared far better with Dalman back at the pivot, unsurprisingly, and with a mostly healthy game for Chris Lindstrom and Jake Matthews. The really impressive thing from my perspective is how the fill-ins fared again—Hinton did pretty well, Leglue held up for Matthews, and Norton was excellent—and how much they’ve gotten out of their depth along the line thus far considering how heavily they’ve had to rely on it. Norton should be a priority re-signing this offseason with McGary’s injury history, in particular.

At this point, Robinson is the full-time feature back, but Allgeier seems to have an impact on every snap in his limited opportunities. The team also continues to significantly shuffle the snaps for their wide receiver group on a seemingly weekly basis, as Jefferson was back to a major role and Miller had a tiny one, with Heinicke favorite Hodge mixing in and Hollins getting a little time.

The change at quarterback and the improved health of the offensive line—plus Norton’s best performance as a Falcon—certainly made a massive difference for this offense. The team’s commitment to and ability to run after weeks of shaky results there was critical to their success, and will have to be over the final two weeks, as well.

Defense

Nate Landman: 71

A.J. Terrell: 71

Jessie Bates: 71

Kaden Elliss: 71

DeMarcco Hellams: 68

Clark Phillips: 67

Mike Hughes: 63

Bud Dupree: 53

Calais Campbell: 38

David Onyemata: 37

Albert Huggins: 28

Richie Grant: 27

Zach Harrison: 25

Arnold Ebiketie: 23

LaCale London: 23

Ta’Quon Graham: 22

Lorenzo Carter: 18

Jeff Okudah: 4

DeAngelo Malone: 1


The shift to Hellams as the starting safety is a full-time one, and as one of the team’s most reliable tacklers and a promising young player who is handling his duties well, it makes sense. Richie Grant made some great plays late in the game, but he was picked on in coverage again in this one to an extent Hellams was not. If Ryan Nielsen returns in 2023—which likely means Arthur Smith is back—Hellams may well be the starter again. He’s done impressive work going from late round pick to summer star to capable starter.

What I understand less is the shift to Mike Hughes over Dee Alford as a starter at nickel. Hughes has had his moments in the past couple of weeks but is not as reliable in coverage or as a tackler as Alford, based on their respective bodies of work. Entrusting him with the starting role now, this late in a season with must-win games every week, strikes me as an odd move.

With the return of David Onyemata, the Falcons still rotated heavily up front to give their starters plenty of rest, and it went really well. London continues to be an extremely pleasant surprise as a must-bring-back depth option who is excellent against the run, and Huggins had one of his best games of the season. One of the best stories is Harrison, who isn’t playing more snaps but is fast becoming the caliber of player the Falcons hoped he could be, with some excellent plays against the run and three sacks in the past two weeks. The team deserves credit for hitting on a rotation that works for them, one where every player is a legitimate contributor.

Special Teams

DeAngelo Malone: 20

Andre Smith Jr.: 20

Micah Abernathy: 20

Bradley Pinion: 19

KhaDarel Hodge: 18

Mack Hollins: 18

Tucker Fisk: 18

Richie Grant: 17

Tre Flowers: 17

Lorenzo Carter: 11

MyCole Pruitt: 11

Calais Campbell: 10

DeMarcco Hellams: 9

Storm Norton: 8

Matthew Bergeron: 8

Kyle Hinton: 8

Ryan Neuzil: 8

Younghoe Koo: 8

Chris Lindstrom: 7

Arnold Ebiketie: 6

Jake Matthews: 6

Dee Alford: 6

Zach Harrison: 4

Cordarrelle Patterson: 3

Tyler Allgeier: 3

Scotty Miller: 3

Nate Landman: 2

Albert Huggins: 2

LaCale London: 2

Ta’Quon Graham: 2

John Leglue: 2

Drew Dalman: 1


This was a quiet, effective day for special teams. Bradley Pinion’s three punts put the Colts at their 18, the 22, and the 16 yard lines and didn’t result in returns thanks to good coverage, Younghoe Koo hit all five of his field goal tries, and there wasn’t a single return for Indianapolis. That qualifies as one of the better days of the year for this group, which has remained fairly static all year long.