Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly list of nine things that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.
1. Falcons failures: With the season on the line, NBC analyst Rodney Harrison was disappointed with the play of the Falcons in general and quarterback Matt Ryan in particular.
With the Falcons down 24-3 with 4:19 left in the third quarter, Harrison went in on the Falcons.
“I’m just really disappointed with the Falcons,” Harrison said. “Your season is on the line. This is when you need your best players to come out and play well. Julio (Jones) had the fumble. Matt Ryan looks lost. Calvin Ridley only has two catches for 13 yards.”
NBC analyst Tony Dungy tried to give the Saints defense some credit before Harrison pointed out it was the same defense the Falcons scored 37 points on earlier in the season.
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The Saints made one major adjustment. They double-teamed Jones with newly-aquired Eli Apple and a safety and put top cornerback Marshon Lattimore on Ridley. The moved seemed to catch the Falcons off guard.
The announcers felt the Falcons should have attack Saints cornerback P.J. Williams, who was trying to defend Mohamed Sanu.
“I’m looking at the Falcons and all of these weapons,” Harrison said. “Julio talked about all of the money that he wanted, this is the time for you to step up and make plays.”
The Falcons were down 24-3 and still running play-action off a weak running game.
When the Falcons were down 31-10 and needing three scores, Dungy was calling for a higher tempo.
Also, Harrison thought that Ryan was starring at receivers and pre-determining where he wanted to throw the football.
Later in the game, Harrison put this defeat at the feet of Ryan.
“I’m surprised Matt Ryan didn’t play his best football,” Harrison said. “Your season is on the line. This is when you expect your best players to deliver.”
The announcers assessed the Falcons’ playoff hopes.
“I think they’re done,” Dungy said.
2. Viva Las Vegas. Las Vegas has installed the Ravens (6-5) as 3-point favorites over the Falcons (4-7) for their meeting at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The spread has dropped to 1.5, as the betting public was gobbling up the Ravens plus-three on the road.
3. Series history: This will be the sixth overall meeting of the two teams. The Ravens lead the series 3-2.
4. Unique run challenge: The Falcons run defense has fallen off. They’ve given up 221, 132 and 150 yards over this three-game losing streak. The Ravens like to run the ball and have running quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Falcons unit facing another unique run-stuffing challenge.
In addition to Jackson, who ran 26 times for 118 yards in a win over the Bengals and 11 times for 77 yards in a win over the Raiders, the Ravens have rookie running back Gus Edwards.
An undrafted rookie out of Rutgers and Miami, rushed 23 times for 118 yards against the Raiders to become the first Ravens back since Jamal Lewis in 2000 to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.
Cleveland’s Nick Chubb ran for 176 yards against the Falcons. Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 122 and the Saints combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined to rush for 141 yards.
5. Ravens have top defense. The Ravens, led by the legendary Terrell Suggs, are ranked No. 1 in points allowed at 18 per game and in yards allowed with 295.4. per game.
They are second in passing yards allowed at 203.3 and third in rushing yards allowed with 92.1 yards per game.
6. Ridley likes the end zone. Falcons rookie wide receiver caught his eighth touchdown pass of the season against the Saints, which tied him with Julio Jones for most receiving touchdowns by a rookie in franchise history.
The team record of nine is held by tight end Junior Miller, who was the seventh player taken overall in the 1980 draft.
7. Jones keeps rolling. Jones had 11 catches for 147 yards against the Saints to post his sixth consecutive 100-yard game. It was his eighth overall 100-yard receiving game this season.
8. Kazee lurking. Falcons free safety Damontae Kazee leads the NFL with six interceptions.
Jackson, who doesn’t have a reputation for being an accurate passer, has a 2-to-3 touchdown to interception ratio over 56 pass attempts this season.
Kazee is the first Falcon to have at least six interceptions since free safety Thomas DeCoud during his Pro Bowl season of 2012.
9. Depth chart: The Falcons, who are contemplating changes along the offensive line, released their official depth chart on Tuesday.
The team did not list any backups behind guards Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer perhaps in a vote of confidence for Garland.
Zane Beadles, a veteran with 115 starts in the NFL, was listed as the backup right tackle. He’s practiced at both guard and tackle, but has made most of his NFL starts at left guard. He started at left guard for five straight seasons, 96 consecutive games, from 2011 to 2015.
Ty Sambrailo is listed at the backup left tackle and has been the team’s top swing tackle.
WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 Ty Sambrailo
LG 71 Wes Schweitzer
C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer
RG 63 Ben Garland
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 69 Zane Beadles, 77 Matt Gono
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 26 Tevin Coleman, 25 Ito Smith, 32 Brian Hill
FB 30 Ricky Ortiz
DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 90 Derrick Shelby, 56 Steven Means
DT 99 Terrell McClain, 94 Deadrin Senat
DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford
DE 98 Takk McKinley, 50 Brooks Reed, 52 Bruce Irvin
WLB 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael
MLB 54 Foyesade Oluokun 45 Deion Jones, 55 Bruce Carter
SLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell
CB 23 Robert Alford, 20 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 28 Justin Bethel
FS 27 Damontae Kazee, 35 Keith Tandy
SS 29 Jordan Richards, 41 Sharrod Neasman SPECIALISTS
K 3 Matt Bryant, 4 Giorgio Tavecchio
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 17 Marvin Hall, 14 Justin Hardy
PR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher