There is almost no doubt that the inclement weather affected this Falcons offense which had a difficult time gaining traction on the slick, grass turf in Miami last night. That being said, the offensive play calling was more realistic for what to expect in the regular season than what was on display against Baltimore and Cincinnati.
Dirk Koetter didn’t run the ball at all in the first two preseason games. In 50 snaps for the first team, only 14 of them were runs. That is a tremendously high percentage of passing plays, something that fans loved, but is unrealistic to expect against opponents in games that count.
The run, however, was a mixed bag. Michael Turner had 10 carries for 35-yards, and Jacquizz Rodgers had 4 carries for 4 yards. Both were very productive in the passing game however, notching 3 receptions for 36 yards, and 1 for 18 yards respectively.
Matt Ryan continued to look sharp and in-sync with his receivers. He was unafraid to take shots down the field, and hit on an appropriate percentage of them, including a 49-yard gain on a post route to Julio Jones, and a 20-yard strike to Roddy White down the right sideline for a touchdown in the corner of the endzone. Ryan was 18-of-26 for 220 yards; that is good for 8.5 yards per attempt, which is outstanding for a quarterback to be able to lead his team to victory. This preseason, Ryan has completed 75% of his passes for 549 yards, 3 TDs, and one INT, for a 112 passer rating. He is playing very efficiently.
Peter Konz was not to be seen with the first team offensive line, but Garrett Reynolds did a good job up the middle. The same can not be said for the Atlanta offensive tackles who gave up a good amount of pressure against the Dolphins line. At least Tyson Clabo was giving up pressure (and the two sacks that go with it) to Cameron Wake, a very good pass-rushing DE. The same cannot be said for Sam Baker who was giving up lots of pressure and a half of a sack to Olivier Vernon, a third round pick by the Dolphins in this year’s draft. Vernon may be a diamond in the rough, and become a future pro-bowler, but there is probably a very good reason he only went in the third round and I haven’t heard anything about him during the preseason aside from today. Sam Baker wasn’t outstanding by any means.
The offensive line wasn’t outstanding, but that doesn’t mean that Ryan wasn’t able to move around in the pocket to find the calm in the storm and deliver the pass. A couple times Ryan felt major pressure off the edge, was able to keep his eyes downfield and step up in the pocket, and deliver good passes down the field. The tackles may have given up some edge pressure, but they never lacked effort last night, something that is a very good sign.
Nobody who watched the game would say the Falcons defense was stifling last night, but I think the word ‘opportunistic’ would come to mind for anyone who watched the game. There was significant gains surrendered in the run game early, which allowed Ryan Tannehill to use the play-action and complete short to intermediate range throws. The rush/backside coverage was good enough where no really deep passes were attempted or completed, which is a good sign.
Keeping an opponent into long drives increases the likelihood that a mistake is made, and exactly that happened when Tannehill threw a pass to a crossing receiver, it was tipped by Sean Weatherspoon, and the tip was caught by FS Thomas DeCoud for an interception. It doesn’t really matter how turnovers are produced, as long as the defense does a little of that.
That wasn’t the only pass-breakups of the game for the defense. Sean Weatherspoon defended at least one other pass that was intended for a receiver, and the corners were nearly always in good position to play the ball, or make the tackle right after the reception. I can’t really complain too much about the pass coverage.
The defensive line didn’t get much pressure on Tannehill. John Abraham was able to generate a sack, but for the most part the Falcons were perpetually getting almost to the quarterback. The Dolphins have a very good left tackle, and surprisingly good talent at other spots on the offensive line, so I’m really not too surprised the rush didn’t always get to the passer.
The things that I think have to be improved from this game are things that have been needing improvement for a long time. First, improving the percentage on third downs on both sides of the ball. The Falcons allowed the Dolphins to convert 37% of their third downs, which is better than last year’s percentage, but still isn’t very good for a team that could be really rough. The Falcons only converted 20% on offense, which is absolutely atrocious. For a team seeking to do big things this season and bigger things in the postseason, 20% conversion rate isn’t going to get it done. A major reason this number was so low was the inability to convert short yardage situations by running the ball. It’s been a major issue since way back into last year, and I don’t think the problem is going anywhere anytime soon. The Falcons absolutely have to get tougher up front if they are going to win ballgames.
One last note: Lamar Holmes did very well at left tackle in relief of Sam Baker. He prevented the speed rush, the power rush, inside, and outside. Granted he was lined up against the 2nd team, but he still did a very good job. He won’t contribute much this season, but maybe he could be a replacement at left tackle of right tackle in the future.