These Atlanta Falcons must love winning tight games…
Seven out of the eleven games they’ve played this season have been decided by 7 points or less, with the last two being decided by under 5 points. You would think all the close games would wear down on the players’ mental stamina (If you believe there’s a such thing), but I guess it will take a lot more to rattle these Birds’ nerves. The Falcons defeated the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay this past Sunday 24-23, now having won five out of their last six against them. In the process, Matt Ryan accumulated his sixth 4th quarter comeback and is now leading the league in that category. Even though the score may suggest otherwise, the Falcons just about played a complete football game. If Matt Bryant doesn’t miss his two FG attempts, the score would’ve looked a little different, but when one player falls short, the rest of the players make sure to step their game up.
In this case, it was Mike Nolan and the defense.
This team knows how to step up in the areas it needs to, when they need to. While Doug Martin did add two more TD’s to his stat sheet, he was held to only 63 total yards. Hardly the day his fantasy owners were expecting. I didn’t see the defense missing tackles, and they were sound in defending both phases (Pass, Run) of the game. Could it be attributed to the return of Sean Weatherspoon? My guess is yes. The skill-set he brings along with his leadership skills on the field can’t be replaced. He inspires not only the defense, but the entire team with the intensity he brings on each play. In my preview of this game, I stated that if the Bucs found their way in the red-zone that the Falcons would struggle to keep them out the end-zone.
The defense responded by keeping them outside the 20-yard line.
The Bucs could only muster 3 red-zone attempts, with Martin scoring on two of them. Other than that, they were held to field goals on most of their drives. The Bucs struggled to convert on third-down, succeeding on only 40% of their attempts. Not that they were ever good in that area of the game (They only convert 35% for the season), but when a team is stagnant on third-down, it could keep the offense from gaining any momentum. Josh Freeman, who’s having a career-season, couldn’t get going thru the air. He threw for 256 yards, but couldn’t find the end-zone, and only averaged 8.5 yards per completion. Vincent Jackson, who I thought would have a huge day with Asante being nicked-up, was held under 100 yards receiving. Looks like Samuel at 50% is still better than most CB’s in the league. The Bucs offense as a whole could only average six yards per play. Mike Nolan and everyone on defense should be proud of the way they performed in Tampa.
Not saying the offense doesn’t deserve a pat on the back also.
Matt Ryan was pretty much flawless against the Bucs, throwing for 353 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 11 yards per attempt, showing off his touch accuracy on a 80-yard bomb to Julio the Giant. Speaking of giant, Julio turned in a monster day also. He totaled six receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown. Julio doesn’t need many catches to make a impact in games, and he’s been a key player on the road. All six of his receiving touchdowns have come away from the Georgia Dome. Playing against a defense that ranked last in stopping the pass, seeing Ryan and Julio put up those type numbers doesn’t surprise me. What caught me off guard was Jacquizz Rodgers and the plays he made against the #1 rush defense. Its seems as if Dirk has found a way to get him involved running the ball.
By pitching it to him outside.
During the game, Fox sports decided to do a call-in interview with Brian Billick who was out with a bad back (Get well soon!). He mentioned how one way to attack the Bucs defense was to run the ball outside. I guess great offensive minds think alike. Moments later, Dirk called a pitch to Quizz, and he beat the defenders to the outside, running for a first down in the process. Quizz finished the game with 49-yards on ten carries. He also got involved in the passing game with two receptions for 30-yards, with the bulk of the yardage coming from a big play he made by eluding defenders and powering his way up the sideline. It was really satisfying to see him get hot, especially on the ground. The offense seemed to move with more efficiency when he was on the field making plays. He was the better back by far on Sunday, as Turner finished with 13 carries for 17 yards. Outside of the touchdown he got in the red-zone, Turner had little impact on the offense. Hopefully Jacquizz will be compensated for his performance with more carries against the Saints on Thursday Night.
Stay tuned for the preview along with a new article format.