According to Las Vegas, the Atlanta Falcons were three point underdogs on the road against the San Diego Chargers. Like their week 2 matchup, this was supposed to be yet another shootout between two very prolific offenses. It was anything but, ended extremely one-sided, and San Diego didn’t even score a touchdown the entire game.
The Falcons started quickly, exactly the same way they did the past two weeks. The Falcons decided to take the ball after the coin flip, and Matt Ryan methodically moved the Falcons down the field in a very effective and efficient manner. The first play of the drive was a 19-yard pass from Ryan to Julio Jones, who was injured on the play. It didn’t affect the drive, as Ryan executed a great, five minute drive completing 7 of 8 passes for 75 yards and culminated in a touchdown pass on an inside screen pass to Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers also caught another swing pass, where he broke a tackle and turned the play into a first down. Good drive to get the game started.
The Falcons did a good job defensively the first couple drives by not sacrificing much in the deep passing game, and playing the underneath routes. On the first Chargers drive, only one first down was given up. The second time the Chargers got the ball, the Falcons forced a three and out. The Falcons found moving the ball to be difficult themselves for a time.
Remember how Julio Jones was injured on the first play from scrimmage? He suffered a hand injury of some sort, and the Falcons had a difficult time moving the ball after he went out. He didn’t out out for long, and was back fairly early in the second quarter. While he was out, however, the defense had a lot easier time containing the Falcons offense. All of the attention that Jones drew allowed the defense to focus on Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez while Julio was on the sideline. It said a lot about how much Jones brings to this team by simply being on the field. Luckily, he didn’t miss much time.
The key turning point in the game was early in the second quarter, when the Chargers were driving on offense. Rivers was completing big passes, moving well in the pocket, and Ryan Mathews was running well. Atlanta was having a difficult time stopping them. But then Mathews ran the ball to about the Atlanta four yard line. He was met by Thomas DeCoud who held him up, and the ball was jarred loose by Sean Weatherspoon. The Falcons recovered the ball, completed the turnover, and took away all of the momentum that San Diego had built.
Off of that turnover, the Falcons drove 96-yards down the field, throwing down the field, running effectively, competing lots of passes on the 13 play nearly 8 minute touchdown drive that ended in the touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez. It was a beautiful drive, one that completely demoralized the Chargers, and took the slight edge the Falcons had, and turned it into a huge advantage.
San Diego then proceeded to not help themselves. Philip Rivers threw an interception that gave the Falcons a short field. Four plays later, Matt Ryan threw his third touchdown pass of the game on a goal-line fade to Julio Jones. Did I mention that Thomas DeCoud was once again in the middle of things with the interception? Outstanding defensive play from him today as well.
From that point on, the game was over, even though there was still a half of football that remained. Charger receivers failed to make critical catches, the Falcons only allowed short, underneath routes, Rivers was under a lot of pressure and threw the ball errant many times. He even threw another interception, and the Chargers punter had about a twenty yard punt. The Falcons defense really just teed off on the Chargers offense, and while they did generate enough to get on the board, they were totally and completely out played by they Falcons on the day.
Matt Ryan was outstanding and continued to look like an MVP candidate. Jones proved to be crucial offensively. But the real story of the game, in my mind, was the continued great play by the defense. Everyone was very solid. The defensive line created a push and made the pocket cluttered for Rivers. The linebackers flowed to the ball well, and made plays in open space. The cornerbacks continued to play the deep routes very well, and also continued their very physical style of play. But the play of Thomas DeCoud and William Moore continues to be the story of the defense. DeCoud had a big day today with three pass breakups including a huge one in the end-zone that would have put the Chargers squarely back in the game, in addition to his two interceptions. He also had three tackles. William Moore forced a fumble, had four tackles including one for a loss, and was outstanding. I wrote the other day about the importance of the safety position and how great William Moore had been, but today was Thomas DeCoud’s day. And it was one heck of one.
Tremendous win for the Falcons. Not only did they work off a short week after playing the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, but they had to travel across the country to take on one of the other 2-0 teams in the NFL, a San Diego Chargers team that is very good both offensively and defensively, and absolutely pummel them into submission. Statement win for the Falcons.
One little note: Ryan threw his first interception of the season, but it was one of the worst designed plays I’ve ever seen. Ryan had little to no option but to just throw the ball up to Tony Gonzalez, and since it was a foot too high, it turned into an easy interception. Here’s what ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas had to say about the play:
Whatever that play was where you had rookie offensive lineman Peter Konz line up at fullback with 12:21 left in the fourth quarter, rip it out of your playbook. The Falcons also had two tight ends in on that formation and Ryan ended up throwing his first interception of the season on a red-zone pass intended for Tony Gonzalez. If you’re going to use that formation, run the ball because you don’t have enough receivers to spread out the defense.
Ridiculous play call. Really wish Ryan had a nearly perfect day, because that play was a stinker. Nevertheless, Ryan still posted a passer rating greater than 100 (107.8), and his TD to INT ratio on the season is still 8:1. And as a I told a friend of mine, I’ll take this number of touchdowns and this low INT ratio all season long.