Each week for my post game analysis, I will give one offensive and defensive Falcon player a little “sugar” for his “sweet” playing on the field. I will also give one player on the Falcons a little ”salt” for his salty, lackluster play for the week. Please feel free to leave comments and provide your own “Sugar and Salt” for the week. You can also tweet me at @ianborders7 or all of us at @bloggingdirty to provide input for your picks each week.
Sugar (offense)- The “New Triplets”- Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Michael Turner- These three skill players were the entire offense for the Falcons in this the first divisional game of the season (well…for the most part). It seems to me every dynasty team of late has had at least three hall of fame players at the skill positions on offense (just look at the 90s Cowboys with Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith). I’m not saying these three guys are hall of famers (yet), but with the performances that they put on this week, they are well on their way to earning the golden head statues. Its not just catching balls or pounding the rock either. It is about doing their role to the best of their ability. One play summed everything up for me, and it was the screen pass that Turner busted out for a touchdown. Ryan had a very tight window to fling the ball to Turner, and he nailed it. Turner followed his blocks, and if you look toward the end of the play, Roddy White is flying down the field providing the final block needed for the fire hydrant to squirt the rest of the way to the end zone. It has been a long time since I’ve seen Turner bust one for longer than 50 yards, and that block opened up the way for just that. Ryan ended the day with 369 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one interception, while White finished with 8 catches for 169 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a crucial catch of the bomb to keep the Falcons alive and well. Turner finished with 103 yards rushing on just 13 carries, then added the three receptions for 68 yards. Can you imagine when teams stop double and triple covering Julio Jones? Yikes…
Sugar (defense)- John Abraham - Even with the black cloud that was hanging over his head due to the arrest earlier in the week, John Abraham played like a youngster with a chip on his shoulder rather than the old veteran with nothing to prove. Abraham seems to always get up for these divisional games, and with the young Killa Cam coming to town, you have to love that as a fan. It drives me insane every time I see Newton peel away his jersey to show his fake “superman” logo, and Abraham shut him up by not only sacking him, but forcing a fumble in the process. If Abraham can provide pressure like that (especially late in games), it will change the dynamic of the defense, because not only will the other line members like Ray Edwards benefit, the linebackers will have free lanes to unload havoc on quarterbacks. The first quarter of the season is in the books, so we will see if our defense (specifically the line) can keep it up through the season and hopefully the play-offs.
Salt- Red Zone Efficiency/3rd down Efficiency- Throughout the game, the Falcons were struggling to convert the crucial third down plays that are needed to extend long drives. That is not to say the Falcons didn’t have nice long drives, but most of which were extended either on 1st or 2nd down. The third down conversions are must haves, and it puts extra pressure on a team knowing that they must move the chains to keep the ball rolling. Atlanta was 5/13 (38%) on third downs against the Panthers, a number that must improve when we play them again at their home. The other part of that were the points left in the open with our Red Zone efficiency. The Dirty Birds were only 1/4 (25%) on Red Zone efficiency, with one of the mishaps being an interception just outside the goal line. This game wouldn’t have been close had the Falcons finished their four chances. In close games (esp. playoff games), the Red Zone becomes a pivotal part of the field that points must be converted on to keep progressing to the ultimate game (Super Bowl baby!!!). Look for the Falcons to really focus on that in the coming weeks, and I look for that percentage to increase significantly.