The Atlanta Falcons continue to struggle along the offensive line, and not just in run blocking, but also in pass protection and blocking. Every week I take a look at the previous games play by that line. Here’s my review of the Falcons o-line play against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11:
The first play I’m going to look at is in the Falcons second offensive possession of the game. Michael Turner goes for a run to the right side of the line. RG Peter Konz and C Todd McClure are performing a double team, but after the initial double team on DT Darnell Dockett, Konz is going to peel off and find another defender in the second level. Konz gets that chip, but Dockett blows right through the attempted block by McClure, and is able to make an easy play on Michael Turner. The play went, shockingly, for no gain.
On that same offensive possession, Matt Ryan got crushed when dropping back to pass. The Falcons have six men in protection (5 linemen and Jacquizz Rodgers) and the Cardinals show that they are going to bring 6 men to rush Ryan. Everyone is set up, and once the play begins to unfold, things look like they could easily go the Falcons way. Jacquizz Rodgers does a great job picking up a blitzer, and Peter Konz is overwhelmed but just holds on against his man. The key, however, is that Justin Blalock and Todd McClure attempt to execute a double team on DT Darnell Dockett. They do so to great effect, but they also leave a free blitzer right up the middle to drill Ryan. If McClure is able to at least chip the blitzer, the Falcons have an opportunity to make something happen. Instead, they allowed a defender to get to Ryan completely untouched. Worst of all, Matt Ryan was nearly picked off.
The biggest thing that I’ve noticed is that in the run game, the Falcons linemen are able to get to the spot they need to get to initially, and are in excellent position to make a successful block. However, they are unable to hold that block, and defenders shed those blocks way too easily. It’s the majority of the reason that Michael Turner has been so unsuccessful, because no matter how well or poorly he runs, he can’t do much if he is getting swarmed.
One thing must be said about the play of the offensive line on passes tipped at the line of scrimmage. When the defenses tip those passes, there isn’t much the offensive line can do. They can’t push them back up field, so they need to be very careful about how they block. On most of Ryan’s passes that were tipped and intercepted, the line blocked very well. But Ryan was forced to stare down a receiver running a short route, and the linemen did all they could: throw their hands up and try to deflect the pass. For whatever reason, against the Cardinals the ball always bounced their way.
However, there are situations where the poor performance of the line turns into errant throws that then turn into interceptions. The best example of this was an interception. Matt Ryan was looking to throw to the right, but was pressured from the inside by Dockett. He was matched one-on-one with Peter Konz (a horrible mismatch), showed him an outside rush, and then jumped across his face to the inside and essentially had a free shot on Ryan. The throw came at the same moment he was getting hit, and that cause the ball to become a pop fly that turned into an interception.
One of the line highlights is the run behind tackle Sam Baker and eligible tackle Mike Johnson off the left side. Great block through the entirety of the play, opening a big hole for Turner, and allowing him to score. Good play on short yardage for once.
Ryan’s final interception, good protection from line, he simply threw the pass into the back of the heads of his linemen. It would have been tipped by Cardinals d-line. However, good job by o-line.
In the grand scheme of things, the offensive line has done some really good things and looked fantastic, but they have also looked absolutely miserable at times. Much of Matt Ryan and this offense’s struggles have stemmed from inconsistent o-line play. We know that they can compete and win, but it has to be far more consistent. The Falcons can ill afford to not open holes for Michael Turner, or let Matt Ryan get destroyed in the pocket. Consistency is the key.