After reviewing the coaches’ film, it’s grading time for the Falcons’ play in their 34-29 win over of the Buccaneers on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
After the offense couldn’t run out the clock, the Bucs made it interesting until the final rugby-style lateral play failed at the buzzer.
Here’s what happened on the failed third-and-2 from Tampa Bay’s 39-yard line: The Falcons tried to run behind an unbalanced line to the right. Tight ends Logan Paulsen and Eric Saubert were next to right tackle Ryan Schraeder and right guard Brandon Fusco. Tight end Austin Hooper was off the line next to Saubert.
Tampa Bay’s Vinny Curry drove Paulsen into the backfield. Saubert either missed or didn’t see Kwon Alexander, who had a free run to running back Tevin Coleman, who ran into the back of Paulsen for no gain. Curry was credited with the stop, but if he didn’t get him, Alexander would have blown up Coleman.
The Falcons tried a power formation, but couldn’t get a push against the Bucs at clutch time.
D. LED’S MISSED TACKLE COUNT: 16
FIRST HALF – 9
Jack Crawford (2)
Vic Beasley (sack)
Takk McKinley (sack)
SECOND HALF -- 6
Here are the grades:
Run offense: The running attack failed when the team needed it the most. If the Falcons pick up the above-mentioned first down, the game was over and Bryant would not have been summoned to kick a 57-yard field goal and thereby straining his hamstring in the process. Coleman rushed 10 times for 35 yards. Rookie Ito Smith rushed 11 times for 22 yards, but had a nifty 14-yard touchdown run. Paulsen blocked Jason Pierre-Paul and them climbed to block safety Jordan Whitehead to clear the path for Smith. The running backs combined to average a very mediocre 2.7 yards per carry. Improving the run blocking is key area for the coaching staff. “We know we've got the right scheme and the right guys to fit into it,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “But we've got work to do.” This best run of the game was the 13-yard scramble by quarterback Matt Ryan, who was smacked by Alexander. Grade: F
Pass offense: After wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu left the game with injuries, reserves Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall and Russell Gage all contributed in small ways to the victory. Julio Jones did the heavy lifting with 10 catches for 143 yards. Hooper turned in another solid performance with nine catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Hardy had three catches for 33 yards. Gage had a big 9-yard catch in the fourth quarter. Hall gave him a good block. Before leaving, Sanu had a dynamic 35-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The line only gave up one sack when left guard Wes Schweitzer couldn’t handle Pierre-Paul on a stunt with Gerald McCoy. Left tackle Jake Matthews passed off Pierre-Paul and picked up McCoy. Schweitzer was late to switch and was beaten to his left shoulder. Grade: B
Run defense: At times, the run defense made Bucs running back Peyton Barber look like Walter Payton. The Milton High grad, who played at Auburn, averaged 6.3 yards per carry. The Bucs averaged 6.2 yards on 20 rushes. Rookie Foye Oluokun, reserves Bruce Carter and Kemal Ishmael played more. Duke Riley’s snaps were reduced in the process and the Falcons are looking for improved play from the linebackers. “We were encouraged by what we saw from (Oluokun),” Quinn said. Carter played 12 defensive snaps (19 percent) and Ishmael played six snaps (nine percent) against the Bucs. Riley’s snaps were cut in half. The Falcons missed 16 tackles including two on Barber’s run of 28 and 24 yards. Jordan Richards, the box safety, was plowed over by Barber in the fourth quarter for another missed tackle. Grade: F
Pass defense: You can see free safety Damontae Kazee getting better with each game. He had an interception for the third consecutive game, but missed three tackles. While Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson were contained, the Bucs did catch four touchdown catches from Chris Godwin, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard and Barber. Rookie Isaiah Oliver, who gave up touchdown catches against the Bengals and the Steelers, did not play on defense. The Bucs had 30 catches for 395 yards. The Falcons had two sacks and four quarterback hits. They had three missed sacks. Grade D
Special teams: Justin Bethel returned from a knee injury and had two tackles on special teams and nearly blocked a punt. Punter Matt Bosher averaged 41.2 yards on four punts and placed one inside the 20-yard line. Bryant made a key 57-yard field goal, but injured his right hamstring in the process. Grade C
Coaching: Give the coaches credit for making some personnel moves on defense, especially at the linebacker level. The defense did get four stops against the Bucs, but are still giving up too much yardage (512 yards). They just need to slow folks down and get some turnovers. The Falcons were stymied coming out in the third quarter for the second game in a row. Give Quinn credit for kicking the field goal. If Bryant didn’t make it, the narrative would be different as they’d certainly be 1-5. Grade C
Next up: The Falcons (2-4) are set to host the New York Giants (1-5) at 8:15 p.m. Monday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It will be the 24th regular-season meeting in the series. The Falcons lead the series, 12-11 and have won two of the last three games.
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