Improved Falcons Fall Away Late to Giants, Lose 30-20


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The Atlanta Falcons limped into week 5 on the heels of a disappointing week 4 performance and one of the worst injury runs in years. A banged up offensive line, combined with facing the newly aggressive Giants on the road, made the equation tough for the 2-2 Falcons. Having been porous on defense in week 4, the biggest story of the game was what adjustments were to be made. Having not won a non-dome game since 2012, Atlanta kicked off and looked to face a big test right away, and came out with a visibly better attitude than in week’s prior. Some solid tackling, a tipped pass and a strong Devin Hester return gave the Falcons the ball with a chance to take an early lead. There was life in this defensive unit yet.

If defense was the biggest story of the day, the new offensive line was a close second, and some middling blocking saw the Falcons offense go three and out following a tipped pass and some strong pressure up the middle. With the Giants on the ball, the Falcons showed some usual tendencies. On 3rd and 1, Paul Soliai jumped offside, and a later third down saw Mike Nolan drop linebacker Paul Worrilow into free safety to give up a deep bomb to Preston Parker. The Giants moved the ball relatively easily on their second drive, a drive which highlighted the over reliance on scheme rather than talent in Mike Nolan’s defense. Fortunately for Falcons fans, Johnathan Massaquoi entered the game in a pass rushing situation, and again batted the ball – the defense at least had more fight in it this week. Some strong tackling from Trufant wasn’t enough to keep the Giants out of the endzone, and New York took a 7-0 lead against an up and down Falcons defines.

One particular third down saw Mike Nolan dropping linebacker Paul Worrilow into the free safety position, allowing the Giants to complete a deep bomb to Preston Parker. The play highlighted the over reliance on scheme rather than talent in Mike Nolan’s defense.

The O-line play was much improved on the second Falcons drive, and a good mix of run and pass saw the Falcons move towards the redzone. Julio Jones showed why he’s one of the best receivers in the league, continually moving the chains and catching anything near him. A great play call, bringing in OT Ryan Schraeder in the jumbo package, saw Steven Jackson break free for a 10 yard TD. 7-7, following a terrific showing from the offensive line and some creativity from Koetter, and the Falcons had responded. The momentum continued in a huge way, as Eric Weems forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Falcons first and 10 from the 21. A long rush by Jacquizz Rodgers ended with a fumble, but Levine Toilolo continued his strong quarter and was there to recover it as the Falcons kept possession. A shovel pass to Antone Smith couldn’t go the distance, and the Falcons settled for a Matt Bryant field goal and a 10-7 lead.

Oct 5, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson (39) rushes against New York Giants defenders during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Much maligned DE Kroy Biermann came up with his best play of the season, wrapping Andre Williams up behind the line of scrimmage for a loss, and when Dezmond Southward kept Parker short of the first down marker, the Falcons took possession of the ball again. A three and out was just what the defense needed, as the unit was quietly putting together a strong response to the criticism of the past week. As the Falcons drove to midfield, Julio Jones pulled off one of the catches of the season, but the Falcons were forced to punt and give the ball back to New York. On a bend-but-don’t-break drive, Osi Umenyiora snapped the Falcons sack drought, bringing down his former QB in his old home stadium. The sack allowed the Falcons to force a field goal from Josh Brown, tying the game at 10-10.

Receiving the ball with just over 2 minutes to go, the Falcons drove cleanly and efficiently to the goalline, before taking their final timeout on 2nd and goal with 15 seconds left in the half. Unfortunately, the Giants D again held in the redzone and, as Matt Bryant gave the Falcons a 13-10 half time lead, Atlanta were ruing their 2 field goals from the goalline. Despite the falters, the Falcons looked sharp in the first half – the offensive line had played excellently  in the face of adversity and the defense, whilst still featuring some poor plays, was aggressive and much improved. Receiving the ball in the second half, the Falcons had it all to play for in the second half.

10. 31. 13. 44. Final

The first drive of the second half embodied the Falcons offense of the first – efficient but unspectacular. The Falcons moved the chains, once with the aid of a penalty, but again stalled at midfield as the mkeshift offensive line started to feel the heat from the Giants. Matt Ryan was putting together a smart and clean game, but the offensive line needed to regain the upper hand. A running into the kicker penalty gave the Falcons a second chance at the opening drive, but a deep ball to Julio was just overthrown, and the Falcons punted yet again. The one downside for the Falcons offense, in an efficient game, was their 1/8 conversion rate on 3rd down.

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Like last week, the Falcons defense came out with a stop on their first series, an indication that halftime adjustments are helping the group. Ryan again took the field, as the Falcons looked to increase their time of possession lead even further. Matt Ryan completed to Steven Jackson, and a 2nd down carry brought up 3rd and 5. Again, almost predictably, it was Antone Smith who made the difference. For the 4th time in 5 games, Smith took a seemingly simple play and broke it for an electric touchdown. A check down on 3rd and 5 led to Smith breaking one tackle, picking up the 1st down and taking the ball 74 yards to the house, as the Falcons took a 20-10 lead. The momentum was well and truly with Atlanta now, and the Falcons were up and about following the injection of energy from our speedy RB.

Despite a strong start to the season, Robert Alford was torched several times on the ensuing Giants drive, and was penalized multiple times trying to slow down Giants rookie Odell Beckham Jr. Josh Wilson, on limited snaps as the team’s fourth corner, made a terrific stop on a deep ball to break up a Victor Cruz deep TD. The Giants were driving towards the redzone, and the Falcons had a chance to dig their heels in on a 3rd and short but failed to break up the slant pass which had killed them all day. Desmond Trufant intercepted an endzone shot, but landed out of bounds on what would have been a killer, and the Giants scored on the next play to make it 20-17.

A three and out on the following Falcons possession burned all the Falcons momentum, and the Giants were receiving the ball with a head of steam. The offensive line was starting to falter after an impressive start, and needed to be corrected going forward. The defense again gave up a few big plays, but began to pick it up as the Giants neared midfield. Josh Wilson again broke up a pass, but on 3rd and 8 from the 35 Victor Cruz easily picked up the first and moved the Giants ever closer to a lead. Robert Alford’s day only got worse, as he allowed a comfortable TD catch to Beckham Jr, and the Giants took a 24-20 lead with 10 minutes left.

The offensive line really began to struggle, as Jason Pierre Paul disrupted two consecutive plays and the Falcons again went three and out. The Falcons defense needed a huge stop, after a short Matt Bosher punt gave the Giants great field position. On a 3rd and 2, the Falcons again failed to cover Cruz, as the Giants drove towards the redzone. Things looked grim for Atlanta. A 3rd and 2 stop came at exactly the right time, as Trufant desperately dove to break up a deep pass attempt. The 50 yar field goal attempt form Josh Brown never looked like missing, and the Giants took a 7 point lead with 5 minutes to go.

The Falcons offense again struggled, and on a 3rd and 11 Devin Hester picked up 10, and the game came down to a 4th and 1. Makeshift C Peter Konz allowed interior pressure, and as Matt Ryan was sacked the Falcons conceded possession and field position with the Giants taking over at the 20. On a 3rd and 8, with the Giants playing conservatively to drain clock, the Falcons trapped Andre Williams behind the line of scrimmage. Predictably, Williams escaped, picked up the first down and sealed the game for New York. Josh Brown connected on a short field goal and blew the lead out to 10 points, and the Falcons received the ball with no timeouts and a big deficit.

As the clock ran out, we learned a few things about this team. Firstly, as admirably as they performed in the first half, this offensive line will not help our offensive efficiency at all. Secondly, the defensive does have good play in it, but the performances are too few and far between. Roddy White doesn’t look his usual self, but even without him Matt Ryan is keeping the ball clean. Other than that, the real conclusion is that a team coming off a tough year hit with fresh injuries is performing below an acceptable level. Stay tuned to Blogging Dirty for more Falcons coverage throughout the week, and please comment below with your thoughts on today’s performance.

31. 20. 44. Final. 30