Tale Of The Tape: Breaking Down The Falcons Loss To The Giants


Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons fell to the New York Giants Sunday in another display that leaves fans scratching their heads and searching for answers to questions that they thought they had left behind. The All 22 game tape reveals a lot of familiar mistakes and down fallings from a Falcons team that now looks scarily lost and adrift.

Offense Runs Aground:

After losing a multitude of starters along the offensive line it was really no surprise that the high flying Falcons offense hit a rough patch vs the Giants. The offensive line held its own for the majority of the first half and as a result the Falcons offense ran pretty smoothly and they ended the first half on top. However, in the second half the wheels fell off, particularly rookie left tackle Jake Matthews who was unceremoniously thrown around by Jason Pierre Paul. Matthews couldn’t handle JPP’s power or length off the edge and the results were pretty ugly by the games end as JPP almost single handedly stopped the Falcons offense.

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Matthews had looked solid up until Sunday’s game but then again he hadn’t gone up against a player of JPP’s physique and ability. Matthews appears to have a pretty level head and so it will be important for him to learn from this game but to also put it behind him as quickly as possible.

Harland Gunn and Peter Konz replaced Justin Blalock and Joe Hawley in the lineup this week and the results were immediately noticeable. While neither Hawley nor Blalock is an elite talent both are extremely steady and dependable players. Joe Hawley is also the heart and soul of this offensive line, he was the live wire, the tone setter that the unit is now going to miss. Hawley is also particularly good at blocking in space and getting downfield unlike his successor Peter Konz who looks very uncomfortable any time he is asked to make a block in space. Konz has struggled pretty much ever since he walked through the doors of flowery branch but vs the Giants he was acceptably bad and right now Falcons fans are going to have to begrudgingly accept that.

Harland Gunn is a player with a promising future but right now he is not ready to start in the NFL. Much like the offensive line Gunn was ok in the first half but in the second half he started to struggle, particularly in pass protection where he was beaten numerous times, most notably on the 4th and 1 late in the game where his missed block led to Matt Ryan being sacked and the game lost. There is no doubt that the future is bright for Gunn but right now the Falcons desperately need Justin Blalock back.

Jon Asamoah has been the steadfast of this offensive line so far this year and he carried on his solid play vs the Giants. Asamoah isn’t an all pro guard he is just a very solid player who even when he gets beaten, gets beaten in ways that most times don’t totally destroy the play. Asamoah’s biggest weakness is his ability to handle power bull rushes as he fails to anchor and often times gets driven back, this happened a few times in the Giants game as he was pushed back into Matt Ryan but apart from that he had another solid game.

Gabe Carimi is effectively the third string right tackle so when you take this into consideration his play vs the Giants was pretty good. While Carimi has probably surpassed expectations so far this year Falcons fans should still be nervous about the right tackle spot moving forwards as there are no guarantees Carimi will continue to hold up.

Playing behind a makeshift offensive line Matt Ryan never really looked comfortable as his footwork and timing was a little off which resulted in more wayward passes then were used to seeing. It was clear that the Falcons gameplan early was very much working around the offensive line, for the most part Ryan was getting the ball out quickly on a lot of short to intermediate routes. As the game moved on and the Falcons fell behind the offense had to turn to the passing game and this allowed the Giants pass rushers to tee off and the offensive line was never able to match the intensity the Giants brought in the second half. Overall it was a frustrating game for Ryan who really only had one viable receiving threat in Julio Jones and it was clear by the games end that even Ryan had become frustrated by the offensive lines inability to hold up when he needed them most.

The play of the running backs is one of few bright spots on this team at present and it’s nice to see the unit on the whole playing so well. Steven Jackson is still the unquestionable leader of this group and he had another good day as he continued to run hard with the ball in hand. While Jackson’s stats aren’t overly impressive he made a couple of very impressive runs where he showed not only good patience and vision but also some of that old Steven Jackson burst that we haven’t seen since his days in St Louis.

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Elsewhere at the running back position Antone Smith continued on his insane yards per catches campaign. Smith is undoubtedly a player that needs the ball in his hands but the calls for him to simply get more carries is missing the point. Despite being listed as a running back Smith really isn’t a running back and just giving him carries isn’t going to do the trick. Smith’s a weapon who can and needs to be moved all over the offense in an effort to give him mismatch opportunities. While the team does need to get him more touches they need to get him more touches in places that he can win and this means more set plays with Smith in mind. The coaching staff have acknowledged they need to get Smith more involved, whether this comes to light remains to be seen, remember it took the coaches 4 years before they even gave Smith a look on offense.

This week Devonta Freeman saw some extended playing time albeit a lot of it in garbage time at the end of the game. However, Freeman still flashed the burst and elusiveness that make him such an exciting player for the future.

Julio Jones was the only real receiving option for Ryan all game as none of the other receivers could consistently get open like Jones is able to. There is little question of just how good and important Jones is to this team, without him this offense would ground to a halt. Opposite Julio the good news is Roddy White looks fully healthy, the bad news, he couldn’t get open. It’s no secret that the last 12 months haven’t been easy for Roddy and it looks like father time has finally caught up with him. This doesn’t mean to say Roddy can’t still be a useful player, he can, but the team needs to change his role. We saw and heard in the offseason how with Tony now gone the slot would be open for Roddy to exploit. Perhaps with Douglas out the team had to limit Roddy’s snaps inside but whatever reason it is, Roddy needs to be moved around a whole lot more, because right now he isn’t winning and neither are the Falcons. Devin Hester has been hot and cold so far as a receiver this season and on Sunday he was cold. Hester as a 4th WR is able to exploit certain matchups, as a number 3 WR Hester is going to struggle and until Douglas comes back don’t expect Hester to be having too big an impact on offense.

At TE Levine Toilolo was once again his usual inconsistent self. As a blocker Toilolo still struggles in run blocking, particularly when he is lined up ‘in line’. In space Toilolo is a little better as he athletic and big enough to get his hands on defenders and stop them getting past. At this point it’s fairly clear the team has little to zero intention of getting Toilolo involved in the passing game, at this point he’s a desperation dump off option at best. While not using him as a receiving option is understandable not using Toilolo as a red zone option is laughable. At 6’8 Toilolo has a massive advantage in the redzone, it would be nice if the team utilized it.

The offense started off in impressive fashion vs the Giants but as the game went on the offensive line began to struggle and with it so did the offense. The running game continues to work impressively and in the coming weeks the team is going to have to commit to running the ball more as they are going to have to find ways of slowing down opposing pass rushes. Justin Blalock being out was a big blow and if the Falcons can get him back for next week then this team and this offense will have a much better chance of succeeding.

Same Old Defense:

The Falcons run defense was improved this week but that doesn’t mean they were good, far from it. The defensive line still gets pushed around far too easily and until this unit starts playing with fire this team is going to struggle.  The Falcons spent money and draft picks on big fatties who can take on double teams and free lanes for linebackers, this was a nice narrative to believe but up to this point it’s been far from the case, the Falcons are still getting pushed around, the Falcons are still soft and the Falcons defense still sucks.

If this defense wants to start playing better two things need to happen; the players need to start playing better and the coaches need to start using players in areas and positions they can consistently win. On defense this means less Babineaux, less Biermann and more Massaquoi, Maponga. Jonathan Babineaux has been a great player for the Falcons but the team is draining the life out of him by continually playing him at the wrong position. Babs is a 280lb undertackle who wins with his quickness on the inside, he isn’t a two gap DE who can hold up against a double team and yet the team continues to use him in this role and Babs continues to lose these battles.

Kroy Biermann has become the Thomas DeCoud of the Falcons defense this year and much like with DeCoud the criticism isn’t all warranted. Biermann hasn’t played well this year but he also hasn’t been the total write off many fans would have you believe. Biermann has been good vs the run all year it’s just as a pass rusher where he is really struggling to have any impression what so ever. Why the team continues to give Biermann reps as a pass rusher when the likes of Stansly Maponga and Jonathan Massaquoi are waiting in the wings is baffling. Mike Nolan loves Biermann because of his versatility but this Falcons team needs to do the simple things well before they start getting fancy with their blitzes and coverage schemes. The Falcons have more than enough talent in their defensive front to be an acceptable unit but at the moment they look lost and it needs to change quickly.

At linebacker the biggest change this week was Prince Shembo was handed the start and it looks as though he has won the spot from Joplo Bartu. Shembo has changed positions since he was drafted and so it’s either a testament to his ability to pick up the position so quickly or it simply points out the lack of talent the Falcons have at inside linebacker that Shembo was able to win the spot so quickly. While Shembo has a nice skillset for the inside it is clear he is still learning the position as his ability to read and react is still a step slow. It’s interesting that the coaches have come out this week and said they want to get Shembo more looks on the edge as a pass rusher, wasn’t the whole reason you moved him to ILB because he didn’t have the skillset for DE? If the Falcons are turning to Shembo for pass rushing help over the likes of Maponga/Massaquoi then it really highlights the ineptness of this coaching staff. Shembo doesn’t have the body type or the skill set to win on the edge and if the coaches can’t see this then it really is time to clean house.

The secondary had a pretty rough game vs the Giants as Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford were beaten for touchdowns. While Trufant was beaten for the touchdown he really doesn’t deserve much blame as the Falcons pass rush was nonexistent that entire drive and Eli was able to sit back in the pocket with minimal disruption. As is the usual with Trufant overall he had another very solid game and he is entrenching himself as one of the leagues better corners with every week that goes by.

Robert Alford had a pretty rough second half as rookie WR Odell Beckham Jr gave him fits. However, Alford also made a couple of nice plays in the first half that shouldn’t be forgotten. What really cost Alford vs Beckham was that Alford allowed himself to get beaten deep by sitting on the route when he shouldn’t. After that Alford was terrified of being beat deep again and at that point Beckham was pretty much able to do what he wanted. It’s always talked about that corners need short term memories, Alford didn’t do this Sunday and it cost him. He needs to bounce back in a hurry because this week things don’t get any easier as the Chicago Bears and the giants they call receivers come to town.

The one bright spot from the secondary was the play of Kemal Ishmael who got the start at SS with William Moore being out. Ishmael has always been a terrific in the box safety as he is a tackling machine who isn’t afraid to put his body on the line. Ismael displayed his fearlessness in the box all game as he was constantly around the football. While he is still a work in progress in coverage Ishmael’s play style in the box is infectious and his attitude is exactly what this defense needs, a hard working grinder who puts it all on the line.

Overall the defensive display was once again uninspiring one. When Mike Nolan first arrived in Atlanta his defense was all about energy and movement, they were fun to watch. This year’s defense look the complete opposite, they look slow, lifeless and lost.


This week’s game goes down as another game the Falcons could have, probably should have won and yet once again this team walked away empty handed. Moving forwards unless the defense significantly ups its game there is little hope for this team as with the offensive line in tatters the offense can only fly at half-mast and as we’ve seen, unless the Falcons can put up 30+ points a game they don’t stand a chance of winning