During the agonizing three game losing streak before the bye week the Atlanta Falcons had the steady stat of winning the first down and time of possession category but ended up with all losses.
Against Miami, the Falcons margin was 24 – 16 in first downs and fifteen minutes more in possession. Against New England possession was a draw but the birds held a 26 – 21 first down margin. In the Monday night contest with the Jets Atlanta had a 26 – 15 first down comparison and eleven minutes more in time of possession. Such stats usually will create a wave of success but it just caused more frustration along with the sinking feeling of a three game plunge.
In the victory over Tampa the birds turned the tide as those misleading stats fell on the Bay.
The Bucs held a 23-15 advantage in first downs and an entire quarter of time in the possession column.
Atlanta used a star studded safety show from Moore and DeCoud on Tampa’s first drive to record a sack, fumble, recovery and return for a touchdown to jump out with a 7 – 0 score and relied on Matt Ryan to never relinquish the lead and get back on the victory ship. With the rushing attack , even with Snelling back, sinking further into the depths of despair (18 yards on 18 attempts is unfathomable), Ryan had no choice but to set sail through the air with deadly accuracy, (20 out of 26) while moving the offense, (273 yards of the 291 total) for three touchdowns and a field goal without distributing a turnover.
It would be hard to list another Atlanta Falcon player in history that exudes more hope than Matty Ice. With the rushing game plugged and the defense focused on Tony G., Harry Douglas flowed all over the field to gain 149 yards and match last season’s touchdown total as Ryan’s top target. Hurray for Harry !
It should also be mentioned that Jaquizz with two touchdowns, eighty three all purpose yards,(rushing, receiving, kick returning) is as dangerous a weapon as the Falcons have and his elusiveness should keep him on the field even when Jackson returns as a tandem that Dirk can utilize to present problems for defenses surely through the air until the ground game can gain footing. There are two tight end sets throughout the league, so why not have two screen pass back sets ?
Ryan’s hot hand may have help tilt the first down and possession time stats because with no ground game, he aired out drives that took 4:23 and 0:08 in the second quarter and 3:48 in the fourth quarter. It showed how just a little time, (Ryan was hurried but not sacked) can make him one of the more dangerous arms in the league even without his pro bowl wideouts. Growth from this contest and the eventual return of Jackson and White could make this offense close to the one envisioned by the Falcon faithful.
On the defensive side the fumble recovery for a touchdown was a game setter and the fourth quarter bend but don’t break showing was a step in the right direction. Moore and Bartu excelled, and it was good to get Dent back. Also noticed Peria Jerry have a solid game and like Harry stepping up was perfect timing.
Around the league Atlanta received some help with Arizona, Chicago, Detroit, St Louis, and Philly all registering losses as the Falcons flew to striking distance of the middle of the NFC pack.
The Buccaneers did shoot themselves with an unbelievable amount of penalties and that will happen to a winless team not focusing, but Atlanta rode the arm of Ryan and needed to turn the tide in this game and they did just that. It will not be smooth sailing from here but there is hope that calmer waters lay ahead.