The Atlanta Falcons pulled off another close victory on Sunday, this time against the Oakland Raiders in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons entered the game as the favorites, but struggled to put the Raiders away before winning 23-20 on a last-second 55-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
We’ll grade each section below.
Offense (Grade-C): The offense on Sunday was arguably the most stagnant and conservative it has been all season. That could be because of Matt Ryan’s three early interceptions, Michael Turner’s 33 yards on 11 carry performance or the offensive line’s inability to pass or run block.
Outside of their only drive that yielded a touchdown (Atlanta’s 10-play 80 yard drive to begin the second quarter) and the game-winning drive, the offense looked out of sync for the third week in a row. Ryan had his worst outing of the season, completing 24 of his 37 passes for 249 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Two of his interceptions were bad reads and one was because of the poor blocking. Also, credit the Raiders for effectively taking Tony Gonzalez away from Ryan, keeping him to four catches for 42 yards.
The running game and even some of the play calling was suspect nearly the entire game. Most notably was the offense after a fumble recovery that was returned to the Oakland 2-yard line in the third quarter. After an incomplete pass on first down, and a neutral-zone infraction called on Oakland, the ball was moved to the 1-yard line. The Falcons ran the ball twice and failed to get the ball into the end zone.
Their failure to get that one yard summed up the day pretty well for the offense. The fact of the matter is, the defense scored as many touchdowns as the offense did and that’s a surprising statement considering the explosiveness this offense showed early in the season.
Defense (Grade B-): The defense was shaky most of the day as well. Carson Palmer threw for 353 yards with one touchdown and one interception, though the interception was costly as it was returned for a touchdown by Asante Samuel late in the game. Even with the interception, Palmer still marched the ball down the field for a touchdown the next drive to tie the game.
The interception was a thing of beauty by Samuel and the pass rush John Abraham consistently put on Palmer was too. Abraham disrupted throws from Palmer time and time again on his way to three sacks and a forced fumble. Not to mention the seven holding calls that resulted from his pass rush.
The defense showed both flashes of greatness and flashes of old. On one hand, they came up with costly turnovers just like they have all season. On the other hand, they missed open field tackles and struggled to contain Darren McFadden coming out of the back field all game. McFadden had five receptions for 104 yards.
The defense gave up the explosive plays the offense failed to make. Oakland notched big plays from receivers Denarius Moore and Derek Hagan, who caught long passes of 49 and 38 yards, respectively. Running back Mike Goodson caught a 37-yard pass.
To be fair to the defense, its struggles may have been because it was on the field for 36 minutes.
Special Teams(Grade- B+): Special teams saved the Falcons for the second time in three weeks as Bryant helped the Falcons escape once again. The performance would have been an “A” had Bryant not missed his first field goal of the season early in the game. If he makes that 43-yard field goal, there would be no need for the game-winner.
Outside of that one blemish, the special teams performed great. Matt Bosher averaged almost 53 yards per punt, constantly flipping the field and helping the defense.
Coaching (Grade- B-): The coaching staff gets a “B-” because of the team’s performance as a whole. Offensively, there were questionable play calls in what seemed to be simple situations. An example being the goal-line drive where they couldn’t move the ball a yard.
Why not let Ryan quarterback sneak that for a yard instead of having him turn all the way around to hand the ball off. The time between the snap and Ryan giving the ball to a runner is more than enough time for a defender to get penetration, especially with the way the offensive line played. Its been well documented how much stronger Ryan got in the offseason. Let him get that yard.
Whether it’s a new rotation of linemen or added plays to get the ball out of Ryan’s hands faster, something has to be done. Ryan had a defender in his face repeatedly on Sunday. This offense goes as Ryan goes and Ryan, just like any other quarterback, goes as his offensive line goes.
Week 6 was more about the Falcons’ offense looking like it had regressed more than anything else. They have the bye week and then a huge showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8. How Atlanta comes out and performs in the next few games will speak volumes about where this team really stands.