Here are the five things we learned from the Falcons’ 23-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills:
1. Power outage. The Falcons need a short-yardage package. They elected to throw passes and play finesse football on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 and loss. They need to be able to run the ball when the other team knows it’s coming. Quarterback Matt Ryan had a run-pass option and with eight or nine players in the box he called the pass – play-action fake – option and lost. On the TV replay, the Bills are in a four-three with just seven in the box. The Falcons need an old-school jumbo package with Dontari Poe and/or Grady Jarrett in the backfield. Give the ball to Devonta Freeman and pound out that one yard that you need. Kyle Shanahan was universally ripped for not running the ball on third-and-1 and the Super Bowl and the Falcons haven’t learned that lesson. Columnist Mark Bradley wrote about this after the game.
2. Throw-away the Throwback jersey. What you have here is the marketing people running the football operation. There is no reason for the Falcons, who didn’t have consecutive winning seasons until 2008 and 2009, to ever wear their throwback jerseys. They only wear them to sell jerseys. The football operation must stand up and ban the throwback jerseys before the inexplicable losses start to mount.
3. Ice, Ice baby. On his two picks against the Bills, quarterback Matt Ryan was trying to make a play. The deep ball to Taylor Gabriel shouldn’t have been thrown. Buffalo safety Micah Hyde was running with Gabriel. The pass to Nick Williams was behind him and tipped up. With Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu out I wonder if the Falcons wished they’ve put Marvin Hall on the roster. After watching Seattle dismantle the Colts, I wonder if they wished they’d kept wide receiver/running back J.D. McKissic who had two spectacular touchdowns for the Seahawks in the 46-18 rout of the Colts. Ryan struggled under pressure against the Bills as both tackles struggled in pass protection. Ryan completed 7 of 15 passes for just 69 yards and one interception (32.4 passer rating) when pressured. Ty Sambrailo and Jake Matthews combined for 11 pressures (nine hurries, one hit and one sack).
4. Riley experiment, a work in progress. Rookie Duke Riley is not off to a good start. Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich has to get his star pupil ready to play like he did Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell last season. Riley missed four of his six attempted tackles and now has eight missed tackles. His 2.1 tackle efficiency (attempted tackles per missed tackle) ranks last among 33 4-3 outside linebackers this season, according to profootbabllfocus.com.
5. Kazee is a keeper. Rookie Damontae Kazee played well. He probably could have broken on a pass to Bills tight end Charles Clay, who had beaten strong safety Keanu Neal. He was late getting over the top to blow up the play. However, he had three tackles, allowed just one catch for a year and earned a game grade of 82.7, which was 10th among safeties to play before the Sunday night game.
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