The Atlanta Falcons offensive line has been really high, and really low throughout this season. Three great games, one miserable game, two average games, and then a great performance by that line against the Philadelphia Eagles.
I have been critical of the offensive line for months now. Even when they’ve played very well, I’ve continuously analyzed the play of this line. They were really bad in 2011, and they struggled in the season and in the playoffs because they got poor line play from their offensive line.
Look at this Falcons line play against the Eagles. Philadelphia has Trent Cole and Jason Babin at defensive end, ready to wreak havoc on opponents passing attacks. Heck, they have Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox lining up at defensive tackle. This is a defensive line that has all the potential in the world and led the NFL in sacks in 2011. The addition of Cox this year should only make their line stronger, right?
Wrong. They’ve struggled to get after the quarterback in 2012, and against the Falcons things were no different. Philly unleashed their worst, and the Falcons effectively repelled their onslaught. They barely broke a sweat in giving up two sacks and four total hits.
Those two sacks are misleading. One was on a play where Ryan was forced to hold onto the ball way too long. No receivers were open, he held onto the ball, and a full five seconds after the snap, he was brought down. There isn’t an o-lineman who can block for more than five seconds unless he registers a pancake block. Unfortunately, Clabo gave up the sack, but the Falcons were leading, and it was a result of great coverage more than anything else.
The second sack came in garbage time at the very end of the game. Atlanta’s offense was in a situation where everyone in the world knew a pass play was coming. Ryan rolled out and just couldn’t avoid the pass rusher. It wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened, as he held onto it rather than try to force a throw. Its a sack that doesn’t really matter if it’s given up.
Trent Cole, the Eagles beast defensive end? Successfully blocked by Sam Baker. Only 2 tackles. Jason Babin? 1 solitary tackle.
Perhaps the biggest change for the Falcons offensive line was the replacement of Garrett Reynolds with rookie Peter Konz at right guard. Konz played center at Wisconsin last year, and many expect him to be the center of the future for this team. But my goodness, Konz played outstandingly. Reynolds had been dealing with a back injury and hadn’t been very successful. Konz looked great, didn’t give up any sacks and very few pressures, and can do more than just hold his own at guard. I would expect Konz to start at guard for the rest of the season. That’s how good he looked against Philadelphia.
I’m very impressed and proud of this line. Philly hadn’t been pressuring the opponents passer lately, but they do have a bunch of talent, and they could breakout with great pressure at any point. But the Falcons offensive line stepped up and didn’t let them do much of anything. They provided a solid pocket for Ryan, blocked well in the run game, and looked extremely good blocking on screen plays. (Tyson Clabo and Sam Baker consistently got the kickout block against defensive players to facilitate positive yardage on screen passes. Really good performance.) Through and through, this was the best performance by the line, and we can really take pride in the play by this unit.