November 15, 2017
Dallas at Atlanta
The defense continues to run on all cylinders and getting hotter. Similar to last year, the later in the season it goes, the better the defense plays. Clearly, the standout for the game was Adrian Clayborn and his 6 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Clayborn surpassed the great Chuck Smith and legendary Claude Humphrey who both had 5 sacks in a single game. Only Derrick Thomas has more sacks in a game. Claybo was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
And the best, not only on the sideline, but in the locker room after the game, Clayborn just looked like he had an average tackling or blocking game. His team, especially the defense was out of control excited for him. Literally jumping on him after his 6th sack. In Coach Quinn’s locker room recap, he rattled off some stats, said, “Guess that is about it for the day” and the entire locker room started yelling “AC AC AC.” What a truly great brotherhood.
But what about the rest of the defense? Well, second year, fourth rounder, De’Vondre Campbell amassed 11 tackles. Talk about stepping up. Campbell has made great strides all season, covering top tight ends, defending the run, making life hard on quarterbacks.
This was truly a defensive win and Claybo would be the first to say so. This physical unit contributed to Clayborn’s sacks. Desmond Trufant and Campbell were covering and knocking receivers off their marks. Keanu Neal was a huge factor on the run this week. Everyone was sticking to their assignments, forcing Dak Prescott to run and covering so well he was holding the ball too long.
Neal had 5 tackles, while team leader in tackles, Deion Jones only had 4 tackles Sunday. Takk McKinley, Brian Poole, and Brooks Reed had 3 tackles a piece, Takk also had a fumble recovery and Brooks a sack of his own. Dontari Poe also had a sack, and as usual, he and Grady Jarrett were disruptive in the backfield, including causing a few actual called holding penalties. Sean Weatherspoon is back and contributing, while only logging a single tackle on the day, Spoon was running around, looking fast and affective.
Dallas has allowed 10 sacks all season, but they “allowed” 8 in the Benz Nest. Of the 59 defensive plays, 21 went for 0 or negative yards. They had 10 quarterback hits (besides all the sacks). Poe jumped in as the most un-stereotypical fullback.
Then, there is the offensive line. They do not get the same accolades as the defense. Alex Mack, is, well, Alex Mack. No complaints there. Jake Matthews allows, maybe even helps take down Matt Ryan as the Dallas defender rolls up on Ryan’s leg, forcing a third down. Then, after a time out, Ryan Schraeder allows a big sack. This offensive line held up Sunday, actually limited holding calls, but needs to get much better to keep Ryan on the field and healthy and create running lanes for Tevin Coleman, Devonta Freeman, and now Terron Ward. We need to replace a couple of these guys with Dontari Poe and Ben Garland. But that is none of my business.
The offensive stars played well and looked to be in a good (2016) rhythm with Ryan passing to 7 different receivers, two having receiving touchdowns. Taylor Gabriel was actually targeted this week with 3 receptions for 58 yards, and 1 impactful rush of 15 yards. Julio Jones had 6 catches for 57 yards, followed by Austin Hooper with 6 receptions, including back to back catches leading to a touchdown.
Mohamed Sanu had an awesome day blocking downfield and making other plays possible, but also caught 3 balls for 29 yards, and of course had the tip for an interception. Note, Sanu was being tackled for the no call PI, and made the tackle to stop the Dallas defender. Levine Toilolo and Coleman also had a catch a piece, while Justin Hardy had 2 catches, one for a fabulous back of the goal line touchdown. Prior to Sunday, Hardy had 10 catches the whole season.
Devonta Freeman went out after 2 plays with a concussion, which may have fired up the other running backs to compete in his stead. Coleman had 20 rushes for 83 yards and a touchdown, behind Poe and Garland. Ward had 9 rushes for 23 yards and a break out of 17 yards.
The offense was 7 of 11 on third down, most of the non-conversions were late in the game. The Falcons went 3 of 4 in the red zone and ended overall +1 in the turnover margin.
And then, there is Matt Ryan. He was 22 of 29 for 215 yards and 2 touchdown passes. He is also the fastest quarterback to pass for 40,000 yards….only his 151st start. Ryan not elite??? It took Drew Brees 152 games and Dan Marino 153 games, and Ice was over 40,000 early in the 3rd quarter. Also, Ryan moves into 19th overall in yards behind Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas…and just ahead of Aaron Rodgers. Ryan also has at least one touchdown pass in 28 straight games, a first in Falcons history.
Finally, we are convinced that the Falcons have their groove back. Hopefully, it is not too late with the 3rd best record in the NFC South. We still get to play the Saints twice and the Panthers once more, but here’s hoping that this week was the official turnaround of the season and not just a great home win.
Shout out to the crowd, as Prescott noted that the crowd noise was making it difficult to hear during parts of the game.