The Atlanta Falcons had a lot to prove last night. The team played hard, played with energy and emotion and were aggressive. Their performance was the complete opposite of week one when they were embarrassed, outcoached and came out flat. Even though they narrowly escaped with a 24-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, a win is just what this team badly needed.
Falcons Victory Over Philadelphia: The Good and Bad
Good – The Rebuilt Defensive Line
After two games, the new additions to the defensive line are already paying dividends. The Falcons recorded three sacks last night. They should have had plenty more. They had Carson Wentz in the grasp numerous times. They should have had 2-3 additional sacks, but Wentz was too elusive and was able to escape somehow. The defensive line was very fast, physical and aggressive last night.
New additions such as defensive end Allen Bailey and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison add both power and physicality. You can see the difference they both made last night in the run defense. It all starts upfront and the Falcons held the Eagles to 49 rushing yards total. These two new additions add beef to the defensive line. This is something the Falcons lacked last season.
Grady Jarrett is a stud already. Now that he has the pieces around him, it elevates his game to the next level. He was stout against the run last night as usual. Overall last night he recorded one sack (second of the season), one tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.
Takkarist McKinley and Vic Beasley both played very well. Both had their motors going all night, created pressure and collapsed the pocket. McKinley had a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. Beasley recorded his first sack of the season, a tackle for loss and three quarterback hits.
The Rebuilt Offensive Line
The Eagles brought a ton of pressure all night long at Matt Ryan and he faced an intense pass rush all night long. He was only sacked once all night and that was on a safety blitz that went untouched. Overall, the offensive line held up well in pass protection.
New additions such as left guard James Carpenter and right guard Jamon Brown seemed to have made a significant difference last night in pass protection. Brown has replaced rookie right guard Chris Lindstrom, who is out with a broken foot. Rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary was solid in pass protection as well. He plays with toughness and nastiness.
The Bad – Run Game
The Falcons run game was pretty much non-existent last night again for the second straight week. They were able to must only 57 total yards on the ground, which is not good. Just like week one, there was hardly any push.
Ito Smith led the way with only 32 yards rushing. Devonta Freeman had 22 yards rushing. Freeman is coming back from injury all last season and seems to be pressing too hard. Smith averaged 8.0 yards per rush last night. He seems to have earned the right for more touches.
Freeman must turn things around and get his game going if they are going to remain committed to and establish the run game. This will open up opportunities for the passing game. It is imperative that the team finds a balance on offense.
It is somewhat puzzling that rookie running back Qadree Ollison and third-year Brian Hill have been inactive the first two games. Perhaps we will see one or both if the Falcons are unable to establish the run game in any capacity.
Last season, quarterback Matt Ryan threw seven interceptions all season. He has already thrown five after two games this season. This is somewhat troubling.
He finished the game with three touchdowns passes, 320 passing yards, and a not so great 79.6 passing rating. This was mostly due to his three ugly interceptions. It is imperative that he improves his decision making and judgment. A veteran quarterback with Ryan’s pedigree should not be throwing into the endzone into double coverage. He tends to panic and forces poor throws, which is what we have seen far too often so far in the first two games. He needs to go through his progressions and not stare down his receiver.
Aside from the three interceptions, he made some nice plays and deserves credit, as always. Specifically, the game-winning 54-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones was a brilliant read by Ryan. He was able to read the defense and called an audible at the line of scrimmage, which led to the screen pass to Jones who took it to the house.
We witnessed more than just a hard-fought, gritty, tough victory last night. The team came out from the opening kickoff and displayed a different attitude. They were nasty and physical on both sides of the ball.
The Falcons won a dogfight in trenches. They will develop chemistry as the season progresses and continue to improve and grow. Last night should be a starting point and something to build on.
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