From the first two drives the Falcons offense had, it would be fairly easy to draw the conclusion that the offensive line needs to become more consistently good from the very beginning of the game. Once the line had two possessions under its belt, all the players had warmed up and were playing well. Unfortunately, no team can ever afford to waste its first two possessions with less than spectacular o-line play.
Obviously on the third and fourth offensive series, the Falcons were able to move the ball fairly effectively, and even get off some deep downfield passing without Matt Ryan getting killed. The line seemed to really figure out how to play together, and mesh as a unit on those drives. While Ryan didn’t get sacked or hit too much on the first two drives, he was forced out of the pocket several times. On one of those plays he was forced straight back 20 yards and miraculously completed a pass that ended up in a 7-yard loss.
The pressure seemed to be coming mostly from the right side of the line, and up the middle. The Bengals have two outstanding defensive tackles, but there isn’t really an excuse for as much pressure as the Bengals generated on their first two defensive series. The culprits, to the best of my knowledge, was right guard Garrett Reynolds. He is certainly playing better than last season or last preseason, but he still isn’t going to be an elite level guard; he will be serviceable at best.
The second thing that needs to happen is for Matt Ryan to find the pocket, and to stay there. It is not in the team’s best interest for him to prematurely leave the pocket and begin scrambling. At times it is necessary to leave the pocket, extend the play, and for the quarterback to keep his eyes downfield. However, the play last night where Ryan fell back 20 yards and completed the pass to Jacquizz Rodgers for a 7-yard loss isn’t good. Ryan needs to shift in the pocket, take a sack for a shorter loss, or throw the ball away. Losses of 7 or 20 are automatic drive killers for an NFL offense, no matter who the team is.