Analyzing How the Atlanta Falcons Lost to the Bears

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Oct 12, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson (39) runs against Chicago Bears inside linebacker Christian Jones (59) during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta’s Offense Continues To Struggle:

Matt Ryan’s stats (19/37, 271 yards, 1TD, 1INT) aren’t overly impressive but Ryan actually had a very good game vs the Bears. Ryan received little help all game as his offensive line was continually overwhelmed while his receivers looked intent on dropping perfect pass after perfect pass. Ryan also received almost no help from the ground game as the Falcons only ran the ball 13 times. Unlike last week in New York where he looked a bit anxious, Ryan was a lot calmer vs the Bears and he delivered a lot of passes right on the money, the problem being not many of them were caught.

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Overall, another very solid game from Ryan. It’s been more obvious this season than ever before the frustration Matt is having with this team, most notably the offensive line who continue to let him down. While he will never come out and throw his teammates under the bus it will be interesting to watch the dynamic between Ryan and his teammates if they continue to let him down at the most crucial times.

One of the few bright spots this season has been the ground game as the Falcons have been able to fairly consistently run the ball with all 4 of their running backs. Unfortunately, vs the Bears we weren’t able to see much of the running backs as Dirk Koetter abandoned the run very early on as Atlanta fell behind on the scoreboard.

Steven Jackson saw the most carries of anyone as he carried the ball 6 times for 25 yards (4.2 YPC). Jackson is in good form at present and against a depleted Chicago linebacker group it’s a shame the Falcons seemingly had no interest in exploiting that matchup.

Jacquizz Rodgers had a fairly quiet game, 1 carry for 7 yards, 1 catch for2 yards. While the team may not value his playmaking ability very much it’s clear that Quizz is still considered the best back in pass pro and that, if nothing else is what is keeping Quizz on the field at this point.

Devonta Freeman like Quizz was only used sparingly vs the Bears although he did have a couple of catches in garbage time which look good on the stat sheet if nothing else. Overall really not much to say about Freeman, a quiet game for a player who continues to flash despite the team’s sporadic approach to his usage.

Antone Smith’s stock continues to rise. The little speedster is finally making a name for himself league wide and rightfully so. Outside of Julio Jones, Smith is the only player on the Falcons roster who is able to consistently create for himself.

On the 41 yard touchdown Eric Weems and Gabe Carimi deserve credit for two big blocks. Carimi made a great hustle play to get dive in front of his blocker while Weems successfully blocked a linebacker to give Smith a hole.

The Atlanta Falcons used Antone Smith differently as they lined him up out wide on a couple of occasions

This week we saw the team use Smith a little differently as they lined him up out wide on a couple of occasions. While Smith definitely isn’t a long term solution at receiver it’s nice to see the team use him in a different role as keeping him as solely a RB isn’t ever going to get the most out of him. The team needs to continue to work on expanding the Antone Smith playbook as at present he’s the only player keeping the Falcons close on the scoreboard.

None of the WR’s really had a good game. Roddy White and Julio Jones looked half asleep in the first half as they were plagued with drops. Roddy is definitely moving a lot better than he was early in the season and he did seem to be getting separation a little more than last week. To stop teams fixating so heavily on Julio the team definitely needs to make a conscious effort to get Roddy more involved in the passing game. He’s finally healthy and the team just have him a big contract so make him work for it. Roddy took a couple of rough hits vs the Bears, one being a blatant miss from the referees. Roddy’s always been a tough egg so it was no surprise to see him bounce up from every hit. Moving forwards this team really needs Roddy. He showed at the end of last season he’s still one of the league’s better receivers when healthy, it’s time Roddy made us believe again.

Julio really is the heart and soul of this offense, without him the offense would grind to a halt. In the first half vs the Bears we got to witness the bad Julio, the Julio who shies away from contact, the Julio who drops easy completions. On the physicality issue, Julio isn’t a ‘soft’ player, get the ball in his hands and he seems to relish contact. The issue with Julio is when the ball is in the air, he has a tendency to hear footsteps and for whatever reason he sometimes struggles to make the contested catch when he knows he’s going to get hit. This isn’t the end of the world but it’s definitely something he can work on as teams are quickly going to label him as simply another soft Falcons player, which isn’t fair at all.

In the second half Julio upped his game but even then it wasn’t enough. With the Bears playing a lot of deep zone Julio couldn’t get behind the Bears defense as a lot of the time the nearside safety would cheat over to Julio’s side of the field. Ultimately, as the Bears game showed, no matter what you do Julio is still going to get his catches and his yards. What needs to happen is when teams are fixating on Julio the other receivers on this team have to exploit the favorable matchup that Julio creates. A good example of this is the Saints game from week 1 where Julio opened up the defense for the rest of the team to exploit. Julio is still opening up defenses the difference is that the offensive line is stopping Matt getting the ball out and the receivers aren’t wining as consistently as they were in week 1.

Devin Hester is a useful piece to an offensive puzzle, he is not a vital piece. Hester is a player who is at his best when the offensive is already clicking and the team is looking for a killer blow. This isn’t a personal attack on Hester, he’s great as a 4th WR, as a slot receiver not so much and this showed vs the Bears as he simply wasn’t, and isn’t able to consistently get open. It’s a strange and depressing place when you miss Harry Douglas, but at this point this is exactly where Falcons fans are, we need HD back, as disheartening as it may be to admit.

Levine Toilolo confirmed vs the Bears that he really is useless. The blame game is never much fun but with Toilolo it’s appropriate, he is awful, the worst starting TE in the league, and at this point it’s embarrassing and ridiculous that he plays the amount of snaps that he does. The team likes Toilolo because he has a big frame that they can use as an extra blocker on run plays. This is fine in theory, except Toilolo is awful as an inline run blocker. So if he doesn’t contribute anything as a blocker he must be a good, reliable receiver?

Up until Sunday Toilolo had kept his biggest flaw fairly quiet but vs the Bears he exposed his biggest weakness for the entire fan base to see. As a draft prospect Toilolo’s biggest weakness was his hands, his technique is terrible and despite the years in the league being mentored by the greatest TE of all time, he still can’t catch. It’s common knowledge that Toilolo stays behind after practice to work on his hands with a jugs machine, stay longer Levine, much longer.

Justin Blalock returned this week and was his usual stabilizing force at LG. Jon Asamoah continued on his stellar play, there is no doubting Asamoah is the best and most consistent player on the offensive line. It would be fair to say that aside from Blalock and Asamoah everyone else on the offensive line was awful.

As a group Peter Konz, Jake Matthews and Gabe Carimi were all beaten in a variety of ways in a display that left both Matt Ryan and the fans hurting and looking up at the sky screaming WHY GOD WHY. Konz still can’t run block to save his life and watching him try and pull or make a block in space is akin to watching a fridge freezer fall down a mountain.

Jake is apparently still banged up so he gets somewhat of a free pass although if his ankle is really bothering him this much there is really no point in having him suit up at present, he’s a hindrance more than a help at this point. It makes more sense to lose Jake for a couple of games so he can fully recover rather than having him play banged up for the rest of the year.

Gabe Carimi was signed as a backup this summer and he is playing like a backup. Carimi doesn’t have the tools to consistently win vs edge rushers and in truth pass rushers are pretty much able to have their way with him. Until Jake is healthy again there isn’t much hope for this line or this line, you can just about get away with 2 subpar lineman, but 3 is impossible to hide as this line is showing.

The high flying Falcons offense from earlier in the season has well and truly vanished. It’s ironic that for the first time in a couple of seasons the Falcons have a reliable ground game and yet they aren’t able to fully utilize it because they are under pressure to put points on the board. Moving forwards the offensive line needs to seriously improve, the receivers all need to play better and Koetter needs to commit to the run regardless of the score, without a run game this offense is a sitting duck for defenses.