Falcons’ offensive line ‘stepped up to the task’ Sunday

At the start of the second half, it looked like the Cardinals had figured out where the cracks in the Atlanta offensive line were.

Arizona (4-6-1) had three sacks on the opening drive of the third quarter and it appeared the exotic blitzes that helped create one of the top pass rushes in the NFL were going to be too much for the Falcons.

On the next drive, Atlanta (7-4) reestablished its presence up front.

“Obviously that’s about as bad as it can get,” left tackle Jake Matthews said about the three sacks on one drive. “If we can bounce back from that and still win handedly, I think that’s something we can have our pride in.”

The Cardinals came into the Georgia Dome with the NFL’s top-ranked defense thanks to a strong front seven that made life easier for the lockdown defenders in the secondary. The Falcons — the NFL’s highest scoring offense — were able to impose their will on Arizona to prevent its aggressive defense from disrupting too many plays in their 38-19 win.

The unique looks the Cardinals show have been a key in their ability to get into opponents’ backfields. Sunday, Atlanta was prepared for the varying schemes, and the communication at the line of scrimmage helped the Falcons hold off the rush.

“We knew they had a bunch of different looks coming in,” Matthews said. “They had a couple different overload fronts and a couple jam fronts with five d-linemen on the field, but Alex (Mack), it all starts with him at center, and he did a really good job of just getting everybody on the same page and communicating where we’re going and where our responsibilities are.”

Their ability to keep the quarterback safe translated into creating room for the running backs as the game wore on. The Falcons increased the amount of rushing yards they gained each quarter from the first through the third, and in the fourth, running back Devonta Freeman sealed the game with an 11-yard touchdown run.

For a team that has scored at least 24 points in 10 games, finding a way to execute against Arizona’s stingy defense did not require too much overthinking or adjusting.

“We kind of missed some things in the first half, but we knew that with some minor, minor tweaks assignment-wise, that we would be able to have the opportunity to run the ball,” right guard Chris Chester said.

On a day the Falcons doubled up the opposition and used the final quarter to salt the game away instead of trying to forge a comeback or put together any other late-game heroics, it’s easy to look past what the guys on the line did to make it happen. But for quarterback Matt Ryan, who stayed clean in the pocket outside of that one drive, it was obvious they deserved some credit.

“Our offensive line played extremely well both in the pass game and in the run game,” Ryan said. “To me, that’s where you win football games, at the line of scrimmage. … That is a formidable bunch we went up against (Sunday) and our guys stepped up to the task.”