Falcons 24 at Buccaneers 21
What a crazy game. The Falcons have now won 4 games on LITERALLY the last play another 1 on the next to the last play, and beat New Orleans in the last minute and a half. They like to give you your money’s worth…..as a long time Falcon fan, you know not to leave early, no matter who is up. Crazy things can happen. So, what did happen this Monday night that lead to another close win?
Well, offensively, there were several passes dropped by our normally sure handed receivers. Matt Ryan had a few ill-timed passes, but none that fell into Tampa Bay hands at least. Ryan noted his pass to Justin Hardy near the end zone was his miss, he was a little early on his timing and didn’t throw it high enough. Again, another week that not all of the incompletions were on Ryan however. Julio Jones seems to have trouble catching in space now, I guess he isn’t use to not having people hanging on him….and there were a few that may could have had a penalty called, but were not. Through the season so far, there have been 25 or so dropped, catchable passes. Ryan did look more comfortable when the Falcons went no huddle a good part of the game, and of course, our best new catch phrase since Takk was drafted, “Get F*ing Set.” Not as shocking that Ryan was yelling at his guys to get set so 2 weren’t in motion at the same time, but the fact it was so loud and clear on the broadcast. Hello live tv.
Overall, the offensive line did a good job and were credited by both Ryan and Devonta Freeman. While the line was making some good running lanes for Freeman, he also noted they had him on his two fumbles as well. The touchdown fumble was recovered by a very alert Levine Toilolo, while the other was recovered by….Ben Garland! There were only 3 offensive penalties this week, a false start on Wes Schweitzer, and 2 on Garland, but one of those was a phantom call. Mohamed Sanu was under center once Monday night, lost his shoe, but still ran for the first down. Sanu only had 2 catches for 23 yards, but was doing allot of good blocking work and helped with the Freeman touchdown. Jones had 3 receptions for 54 yards, one big 29-yarder. The other star of the day was birthday boy Justin Hardy, who turned 26 on Monday, then had a 27-yard reception and a touchdown. Taylor Gabriel had 2 catches and a single run on the night. The team overall rushed for a season high 201 yards, 19 times of which, were outside the tackles. Freeman and Terron Ward were having some good outside lanes opened. Ward had 8 carries for 40 yards, one of which went for 13 yards. Clearly this 3 back system is a great idea…especially if someone is going to be out a couple of games.
Devonta Freeman, who won the Iron Falcon this week, is fully back and a true enjoyment to watch. His 5’8” frame and run angry attitude propels him to the next level. This week alone, he ran for 126 yards on 22 carries, a long 32-yard run for a touchdown. You can see his eyes light up when he sees space, he runs so low and angry, that he will run over you or past you, and don’t let his set that pivot foot. He is happy to initiate the contact with the defenders and even knocked fellow running back Terron Ward’s brother, TJ Ward, out. You could hear the impact through the tv. Freeman also caught 5 passes for 68 yards, one of which he turned into a 29-yard gain. Freeman was responsible for converting 6 of the 9 successful 3rd down conversions. With Freeman’s rushing touchdown, he tied the great William Andrews and newest Ring of Honor member Warrick Dunn with 30 rushing touchdowns, all 5th in team history. While I love Tevin Coleman, Freeman is definitely setting the way to be the single starting running back. Will see what happens with Coleman is back.
Special teams was better again this week. Matt Bryant, 41 years young, easily makes a 57-yard field goal. Matt Bosher has 4 successful and well placed punts and touchbacks. And Andre Roberts was an aggressive and smart returner. He averaged 27 yards on kickoff returns and 8 yards on punts, but did not let anything drop on the 2-yard line, or miss a kick. I like his return style, as long as he gets to the 20, there isn’t that much difference in field position and when a returner is running, it seems to light up the team and the crowd, watching to see if he is about to break it. Coverage was good most of the day, although, darn him, Jacquizz Rodgers has a kickoff return of 45 yards, but the rest of the time, the Falcons coverage was good.
This leads to the discussion of the defense, as many of those guys play on kick coverage as well, there were too many missed tackles. Not all day, but several times, big gains were made after a Buc was touched by numerous players. As expected, Deion Jones led tackles with 7, the often maligned by refs Robert Alford still had 6, as well as the up and coming De’Vondre Campbell with 6. Campbell had the stop that really helped clinch the game. With seconds to go in the game and the Bucs driving, Campbell makes the big stop, not allowing the receiver to go out of bounds to stop the clock, and maybe took an extra second to get back up. By the time the Bucs got back to the line, the ref slipped and got back up to place the ball, they had to spike the ball and kick the ill-fated far right field goal as time expired. And when Campbell hits you, you know it. I know I saw him flip at least one player completely over. Desmond Trufant had 5 tackles, Kemal Ishmael had another big tackle and leaping near pass breakup. Keanu Neal, while only 3 tackles, had is 3rd forced fumble of the season, totaling 8 (so far) in his first two seasons, which is an NFL record for DB’s in their first 2 seasons. Speaking of Kiki, he made adjustments early in the game. To his shoes. He changed his cleats after having a slip early in the game. That is smart play, instead of gutting it out, realizing you need better leverage out there.
And then there is that rookie…..Takk McKinley. A single tackle, but always swarming, but a sack, his 6th on the season) and forced fumble. While the Falcons did not come up with this fumble, it is always good to see turnovers for our defense. Sadly, this season so far, including 1 Monday night, have had 6 interceptions turned back to the offense by defensive penalties. This week, Ricard Allen (another birthday boy) channeled my pre-game periscope vibe and made a big interception, but Rocky was called for defensive holding – which was ticky tack – and the ball was returned to the Bucs. The stats can say what it wants, I have picture proof that Clemson met up for a team sack, with Adrian Clayborn inches away. Vic Beasley, Jr. back in his normal pass rushing spot, combined with Grady Jarrett for a sack on Jameis Winston. Now, on the Grady front….he played 33 pass rush snaps, had 5 total pressures, with a 12.1 pass rush productivity. And his jersey torn, with only 1 hold call….again. Which was funny in itself, because that was called on (again) former Falcon Joe Hawley…and we all know Joe will play!
Besides winning, and the Matt Ryan mic’d up enjoyment, the other highlight of the game, being able to hear on the TV coverage “ATL ATL ATL.” At first, I was trying to figure out what they were chanting since it was not at home, then realized, that is our people down there representing well.
Injury: No New Injuries. Andy Levitre will get some work this week, but no update on Tevin Coleman and his concussion as of Tuesday morning.
Photos Courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons