A look at all 8 sacks Falcons allowed against Saints

After rewatching the Falcons’ 24-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday, center Alex Mack offered a sobering assessment.

“The film wasn’t great,” he said.

The Falcons surrendered a whopping eight sacks in the loss, with the offensive line forced to revisit each painful play. Mack, to his credit, didn’t divvy any blame to other position groups.

A deep dive into each of the sacks showed there were a variety of problems at play for the Falcons when it came to the sack total. Although the offensive line got beat a couple of times, the Saints’ secondary did a good job of preventing the Falcons receivers from springing open down the field. This forced quarterback Matt Ryan to hold onto the football longer than he would have liked.

“First of all, eight sacks is horrendous by us,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “We just can’t do that. Most people are going to look at that and think it was all on the O-line. It really wasn’t. There were some coverage sacks in there for sure, where we just couldn’t get anybody open and Matt had nowhere to go. There were a couple of times where we did have somebody open and Matt couldn’t find them, couldn’t see them. And then we had some where they just had pressure.”

The sacks were evenly distributed throughout the course of the game - four per half and two in each quarter.

Here’s a closer look at each of the eight sacks.

Sack No. 1, 8:23 left in the first quarter: The Falcons faced third-and-11 and the protection was good at the start. Right tackle Kaleb McGary had Cameron Jordan blocked early, but the star defensive end was able to eventually spring free and bring down Ryan, who couldn’t find anyone open down the field. The sack took 3.5 seconds to complete.

Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) sacks Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) in the first half Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in New Orleans. (Butch Dill/AP)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

Sack No. 2, 2:47 left in the first quarter: On first-and-10, Ryan play-faked to running back Todd Gurley and rolled to his left. Ryan’s immediate options were covered with defensive end Trey Hendrickson sprinting toward him. Ryan tried to sidestep him and move upfield, but Hendrickson was able to sack him for a loss of a little less than a yard. From snap to sack, the play took 5.2 seconds.

Sack No. 3, 9:51 left in the second quarter: On third-and-3, Hendrickson worked against left tackle Jake Matthews and leaned to his left once he neared Ryan. With that slight lean, Hendrickson brought Ryan down in only 2.5 seconds, the quickest of the eight sacks.

Sack No. 4, 33 seconds left in the second quarter: On third-and-2, the Saints rushed four defenders, with the Falcons blocking it well for the most part. Ryan was unable to find an open target and continued to hold the ball in the pocket. McGary and right guard Chris Lindstrom double-teamed Jordan, who kept working all the way around the pocket. He eventually broke free and crashed down on Ryan from behind. This sack took 4.9 seconds to complete.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is sacked by Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis in the second half Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in New Orleans. (Butch Dill/AP)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

Sack No. 5, 9:11 left in the third quarter: On second-and-17, the Falcons kept six blockers to protect Ryan with the Saints sending five defenders. The fifth defender, linebacker Demario Davis, came on a delayed blitz, with the Falcons’ double teams unable to account for him. Since it was a delayed rush, Ryan still had some time in the pocket but was unable to find an open man. Davis recorded the sack in 3.9 seconds.

Sack No. 6, 8:01 left in the third quarter: On third-and-13, the Saints ran a stunt, with defensive tackle David Onyemata actually stumbling as he engaged with left guard James Carpenter. However, Onyemata, low to the ground, scurried past Carpenter and sack Ryan. The play took 2.9 seconds to complete.

Sack No. 7, 11:54 left in the fourth quarter: On third-and-7, McGary and Jordan were engaged in a one-on-one battle, with McGary once again having good results early. But again, the common theme applied and Ryan couldn’t find anyone open. He stepped into the pocket and took off running. In doing so, Ryan inadvertently created a new path for Jordan to sack him. From snap to sack, the play took 3.9 seconds.

Sack No. 8, 7:06 left in the fourth quarter: On third-and-10, Onyemata found himself against a double team with Mack and Carpenter. But just enough space existed between the two where he dropped low and squeezed through the two linemen. From there, he was able to take down Ryan in 3.6 seconds.

Only two sacks occurred in less than three seconds. In total, the average time it took the Saints to sack Ryan on Sunday was 3.8 seconds. For the year, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Ryan has released the ball an average of 2.9 seconds per pass.

“You obviously have to make better decisions,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said. “Matt obviously had a couple of decisions he’d like back (Sunday) night. Our receivers had a couple of routes they’d like back (Sunday) night. We have a couple of situations in the pass protection that we want back (Sunday) night. The Saints have gotten after us in the last couple of years with a certain amount of sacks because they’ve got some really good football players. I’d hate to take away or diminish the credit to the Saints in what they’ve been able to do against us by simply saying it was blaming a player or two.”

Koetter said there are some corrections and adjustments the Falcons can make to avoid the situations that took place against the Saints. But for now, since the two teams will meet again soon, he’s going to keep that information close to the vest.

“I’d like not to go over those with you since we play them again in two weeks,” he said.