This past Thursday, the Atlanta Falcons (2-9) nearly beat the rival New Orleans Saints with the help of a good running game. The offensive line is blocking better and an overall new found team effort almost willed the team to a win.
Still, the pass protection truly exposed itself. Franchise QB Matt Ryan was sacked a season high five times against their arch nemesis. Hopefully, the Falcons will keep this momentum going if they want to have one more win and plan on doing so against the (4-7) Buffalo Bills.
The offensive line has had one of their worst seasons yet and it started with the loss of RT Mike Johnson and LT Sam Baker. The coaches have had to struggle offensively by starting Jeremy Trueblood, Peter Konz, and Garrett Reynolds. This struggle has led to poor run blocks (31st in the league in rushing yards) and an iffy pass performance that has ultimately killed the Falcons’ offense. Their passing yards per game is averaging 273 yards, good for the league’s sixth best total, but it hasn’t been a true statement of how bad they have been.
First off, the Falcons are a pass happy team because they don’t have any options of making progress by running the ball. GM Thomas Dimitroff’s plan was to have an equally balanced team, but that didn’t work out.
The Falcons weren’t going to the Super Bowl with their healthy starters out, but maybe if the Falcons had a decent offensive line maybe they’d be a .500 team. A bad running game and a predictable pass offense is in no way a recipe for that. This has been happening all season, and watching Falcons football, it is expected that the offensive line would give up at least three sacks every game.
This Sunday, the Falcons are facing the Buffalo Bills who lead the NFL in sacks and interceptions. The Bills defensive front is led by DE Mario Williams who has 11 sacks so far on the season and another seven players have at least two sacks this year. MLB Kiko Alonso was a hidden jewel and is having a great year. He has 112 tackles, four picks, and two sacks.
This is bad news for Matt Ryan. His offensive line barely allows for him to make a smart throw and they can’t hold up in the red zone and allow the team to score a touchdown. Five out of the nine losses were when the Falcons only had to manage to get a touchdown against mediocre or less than mediocre teams. The Falcons best bet is to rely on this new found momentum in the running game. It allowed for Steven Jackson to run for the most yards since his return and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter should add Antone Smith in more at running back.
This week, the Falcons clearly can’t rely on the passing game against a team that leads in sacks and interceptions in other words, the best at putting pressure on the quarterback. Mike Smith has to ensure there is a balanced offense and not a pass relying one that travels to Toronto this Sunday at 4:05 PM ET on FOX. Obviously, the play calling must be changed because most likely the offensive line will fail the passing game test. The best thing to do is for Koetter to turn the Falcons into a rush happy team first because it’s the easiest thing to do.
Read more Falcons rumors, news and opinion on our Atlanta Falcons page