Atlanta Falcons First Takes: Observations from Week Eight

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Matt Ryan
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Matt Ryan /

There was both good and bad from the Atlanta Falcons in their week eight game versus the New York Jets. The biggest positive, however, is that they won which is always a good thing.

It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Atlanta Falcons survived both the New York Jets and treacherous weather on Sunday to leave MetLife Stadium with a 25-20 victory. With the win, Atlanta improved to 4-3 and more importantly snapped their current three game losing streak.

The Falcons entered the week eight matchup with the Jets at a crossroads. Having dropped their last three contests with each one being more disappointing than the next, Atlanta had some serious issues to tend to if they hoped to turn the season around.

Despite the difficult playing conditions, the Falcons managed to improve upon some of those deficiencies. So, with that in mind, that’s where we’ll start this week’s Falcons First Takes.

The Ups

In a game that featured a torrential downpour throughout, the run game figured to play an important role in the final outcome. Part of Atlanta’s problem coming in to Sunday was a running attack that wasn’t being utilized enough and a run defense that was getting exposed.

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The Falcons did a complete 180 on both fronts versus the Jets.

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian leaned on the DVOA 2nd-rated rushing offense to the tune of 26 designed run plays. While not many of them went for particularly big gains, it was that persistence that opened up the rest of the playbook.

It also eventually led to Tevin Coleman‘s 52-yard run, which put the Falcons in position for the game-winning touchdown. Hopefully this type of performance becomes Atlanta’s offensive identity moving forward.

As for the defense, the defensive line stymied the Jets’ rushing attack all day long. Aside from Bilal Powell‘s 12-yard run on the first play of the game, Atlanta stonewalled New York, only surrendering 31 yards on 21 carries the rest of the way.

Defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe had arguably their best games of the entire season. Any time a defensive tackle is near the top of the box score, it often means they were a force in the run game.

In fact, Atlanta’s entire front seven was especially disruptive on Sunday as the unit notched a season-high eight tackles for loss. The aforementioned Jarrett and defensive end Takk McKinley led the team with two apiece.

But the defense’s run-stuffing prowess wasn’t the only area that deserved praise. Their work on third downs was especially impressive as the unit forced stops on 10 of their 15 third down snaps.

Atlanta never allowed New York to shrink the game on them like their previous three opponents. The defense played with an edge on Sunday and one can only hope they got their swagger back for the stretch run.

The Downs

To preface, the majority of the negatives were a byproduct of the bad weather; namely, the six dropped passes and four fumbles on the day.

Several of the dropped passes came on third down with one being a potential Austin Hooper touchdown. So before another Sark critic wants to point out that the offense continues to struggle maintaining drives, keep that in mind.

As for the fumbles, three of the four occurred during the center-quarterback exchange, directly attributable to the wet conditions. Falcons fans can rest assured knowing we don’t have another snapping issue on our hands.

However, there was one recurring issue that was on display Sunday versus the Jets. With New York entering the game having the third most giveaways, this matchup provided Atlanta the opportunity to right the ship in that department.

In the end, such was not the case. The only takeaway the Falcons had in the game was of the unforced variety on a muffed punt.

As a result, the Dirty Birds continue to rank dead last in that category. With their upcoming opponent, the Carolina Panthers, also ranking near the bottom in giveaways, the issue may be a chronic one if Atlanta can’t force any turnovers next week.

That notwithstanding, the majority of the takeaways from the week eight victory were positive in nature. On offense, Atlanta demonstrated a balanced attack with some explosive plays mixed in, while the defense carried its weight by stopping the run and getting off the field on third down.

Next: Atlanta Falcons: 3 players who saw their stock rise in Week 8

With the Falcons’ schedule only getting tougher from here, this performance was much needed. And who knows, we may look back on the Jets game as the one that helped Atlanta turn the corner in 2017.