Rewind: Ryan’s precision passing pays off

Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards is all smiles walking on to the field after defeating his former team, the Vikings, 24-14 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards is all smiles walking on to the field after defeating his former team, the Vikings, 24-14 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

The game that was

 

The Falcons, for the second outing in a row, did not show the requisite killer-instinct of a championship level team. They built a big lead against the Vikings and then let them hang around before pulling out a harder-than-necessary 24-14 victory.

What we learned

1. The short passing game works. To combat Minnesota’s strong front seven, the Falcons worked their short passing attack and Matt Ryan was lethal. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. The Falcons sprinkled in a little of their no-huddle attack to set tempo. Ryan spread the ball around to seven different receivers and would have had his third straight 300-yard game if Julio Jones would have hauled down a long pass and not have interfered with a defender.

2. The goal-line defense is stout. The defense responded when pressed against the wall after Percy Harvin’s record-breaking 104 yard return. It was the longest non-scoring play in league history. Owens had enough energy left after chasing down Harvin to sack Christian Ponder on first down. Safety Thomas DeCoud and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton were credited with stops on second and third down before Sean Weatherspoon shot a gap and dropped Minnesota running back Toby Gerhart short of the goal line.

3. Roddy White rounding into Pro Bowl form. For the second game a row, the Falcons moved White around and ran mostly out of three wide receiver sets with one back and a tight end. He was targeted 13 times and caught 10 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. On one play that the Falcons ran a lot last season, White went in motion and came storming out of the backfield and into the flat. Ryan passed to White while he was on the move. White turned the play up field for a big gain.

Injury report

Cornerback Kelvin Hayden (dislocated toe) did not play because of injury. Cornerback Brent Grimes (knee) started the game, but left in the second quarter, while cornerback Dunta Robinson left the game, but returned to the action. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) left the game in the third quarter and did not return. Wide receiver Roddy White (shoulder) left the game, but returned. No other injuries were reported by the Falcons.

The numbers game

4

The defense came up with four sacks, one short of their season-high of five in the opener against Chicago. Weatherspoon, Owens and defensive end Lawrence Sidbury (two) provided the sack attack.

10

Weatherspoon led the defense with a team-high 10 tackles, including a potential game-saver on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the fourth quarter.

50.4

Punter Matt Bosher’s averaged on five punts.

174

Tight end Tony Gonzalez caught nine passes for 69 yards. He has caught at least one pass in 174 straight games.

79

White has caught a pass in 79 straight games.

Sound bite

“When you get up, you definitely want to keep your foot on their throats.”

–Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon on the Falcons lack of a killer’s instinct.

Loose ends

Harry Douglas’ 27-yard touchdown catch was the Falcons longest play from scrimmage. . . Running back Michael Turner was held to 60 yards on 19 carries. . . The Falcons did not create a turnover for the second time in their last three games. . . Atlanta’s defense held the Vikings to 64 yards rushing on 24 carries. The Falcons are allowing 83.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks second in the league behind San Francisco (75.5).

What’s next

The Falcons (7-4) will face the Houston Texans (8-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Reliant Stadium. This will be just the third meeting between the two teams. The series is tied at 1-1.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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185 comments Add your comment

CGD..

November 28th, 2011
7:12 pm

Tonight features two gifted QB’s going at it! Gonna be fun to watch!

Enjoy Michael! Time to fire up the Big Screen! OOOOOOOOOOOhhhhh YYYYEAH! lol

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
7:13 pm

Best not to take them too seriously in what they say because more than 3/4 of it is junk anyways

ohhhYEAH

November 28th, 2011
7:14 pm

Oh i know. Cant wait to watch the Aints go down. Should be fun

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
7:15 pm

Maybe they both will get clobbered tonight and their Coaches will be trying to call Brett Farve up to replace em like Claims are Texas thought about doing .

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
7:18 pm

Come on mannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn !

Brett isn’t coming back to save nobody’s neck for a few dollars !

Yo

November 28th, 2011
7:20 pm

As to the Houston game, I think the Texans are running low on QB’s, so we should take this one.
Got to give Owens credit for his super speed, and he has now got his name in the NFL record book.
But Spoon’s td saving stop was just as important. Since last season’s Packer game I have tried to figure Owens’ problem in defensing passes. After watching him on replays I think he can’t decide whether to follow the ball or the receiver, or which to do at the right time. Where is the DB coach?

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
7:25 pm

It will be a close one next week with the Texans I think if Atlanta does beat em. Texans are a pretty solid Team but they do need a good game out of that 3rd stringer QB if they expect to do anything on offense…. but we will see soon enough.

hiramsaint

November 28th, 2011
7:50 pm

a good texans team with a 3rd string qb should be an even match for the failclowns!

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
7:54 pm

Just keep thinking like that hiram cause you are hilarious !

hiramsaint

November 28th, 2011
7:59 pm

the vikes were -were they not? harvin scored at the goal line -should have been challenged but it’s water under the bridge till next week

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
8:07 pm

Still would have won man, not much time left in the game and Atlanta coulda scored again anyways

Looking at that game Stats for tonight’s game your Team has em out matched in all categories so if your Team gets whup Guess what I will be doing the rest of this week ?

Be in shock cause your Team lost and laughing at you because you seem to think they can’t be beaten………… and that is all and a wrap as someone else says on here !

Later Taters ! ! ! !

woodie

November 28th, 2011
8:12 pm

Lets get real. When you barely hold on to beat Seahawks, Titans, Vikings you ain’t going real far even if you make the playoffs.

The_Falconer

November 28th, 2011
8:39 pm

Let’s get real. At least we beat the Seahawks; twice in fact over the past year. Too bad the saints cannot say the same…

JoFo

November 28th, 2011
8:48 pm

It still CRACKS ME UP thinking about how the sAINTS were MANHANDLED by the St. Louis Rams! :)

Ted

November 28th, 2011
9:04 pm

What you learned is that you can beat a really lame, 2-9 team. Nothing more, nothing less. Just wait until the Falcants lose in the playoffs in the first round….

The_Falconer

November 28th, 2011
9:12 pm

Yep, we can beat the lame teams. Maybe you’ll get lucky and draw the Seahawks in the first round again this year and you’ll have another shot at beating one!

ninobrown

November 28th, 2011
9:17 pm

The Falcons lost to the same team that were manhandled by the St. Louis Rams………at Home!!!!!! (Now That’s Funny JoFo)

JoFo

November 28th, 2011
9:19 pm

I KNOW but, it is also funny how I can still smell the sAINTS even when they are on tv!!! LOL!!! :)

Tommyb

November 28th, 2011
9:28 pm

Samantha obviously your knowledge of football is limited. No hurry before you miss the housewives of Atlanta

Tommyb

November 28th, 2011
9:34 pm

Falcons will win the south

JoFo

November 28th, 2011
9:37 pm

sAINTS will lose (at HOME!!!) to the same team (FALCONS) that beat the Seahawks last year!!! LOL!! :)

D. Orlando Ledbetter

November 28th, 2011
9:42 pm

Houston quarterbacks coach — Mr. Greg Knapp.

phil

November 28th, 2011
10:04 pm

Fire FG…

Fire Tom Coughlin!

phil

November 28th, 2011
10:06 pm

Elect Drew Brees to the HOF! Now!

ninobrown

November 28th, 2011
10:09 pm

If it wasn’t for the Saints, the Falcons would never be on Monday Night Football!!! The Return to the Superdome (W), Bobby Petrino’s Last Game before he quit (W), 2009 (W), 2010(W), 2011 (???). LOL. Oh JoFo, too bad that win vs the Seahwks was not during your defense of your Superbowl Title!! Lol

hiramsaint

November 28th, 2011
10:20 pm

brees has better #’s than ryan and it’s only half time and against a far superior team than the 2 win vikings.

hiramsaint

November 28th, 2011
10:22 pm

it still cracks me up thinking how the saints manhandled the failclowns twice in a row at the ga. tent

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
10:34 pm

Yeah saw Superman warming up before the second half got started. Aint that Aint sumthin ! lmao

JoFo

November 28th, 2011
10:37 pm

What’d hiramsAINT say? The sAINTS masterba…something!!! :) LOL!!! OMG!!!

The_Falconer

November 28th, 2011
10:37 pm

Brandon Jacobs is about to put the team on his back! Did you see that guy get CRUSHED on that touchdown?

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
10:39 pm

keep your fingers crossed fellas, still a lot of time left for Eli to work with if the Giants can do something on defense….but I could care less which one wins

Tommy

November 28th, 2011
10:47 pm

The Saints are one bad hit on Drew Brees from being the Miami Dolphins. . .talk about a one-man team

Tommy

November 28th, 2011
10:51 pm

If Chris Owens can chase down Percy Harvin after an 85-yard run, he has the speed to be a good NFL corner. His problem is he plays too close to the wideout. He either A) gets tangled up and hit with an interference penalty, B) doesn’t give himself room to react to the throw and get vertical to knock it down, or C) is too close after the catch to react and make the tackle (like the play against Washington in the Titans game last week). If they can coach him up like Grimes, we could suddenly have a pretty nasty secondary.

ninobrown

November 28th, 2011
10:52 pm

Uncross your fingers!!! TD Saints. Too Bad Jacobs doesn’t play defense. It’s past your bedtime Falcon fans. You’re not used to watching Monday Night Football? Continue to brag on Matty Ryan Leaf and his 300yds. Drew got that already (321) in the 3rd!!! Lol. Dec 26th!!!

ninobrown

November 28th, 2011
10:53 pm

The Falcons are one good QB from having a good team!!!!!

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
10:55 pm

Yeah Superman Breeze is the offense, just saw a Giant let him go right by him and run for a score !
I thought the giants was in first place in the East because they were good but watching this is pitiful…like they have no fire in them tonight.

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
10:57 pm

Yeah I am getting out of here cause you Saints Fans are starting to stink up the place ! Just remember , you not playing the Falcons out there tonight…….yah Saints Turds ! lmao

ninobrown

November 28th, 2011
10:58 pm

Give the Saints some credit Micheal M……….Come on man!!! Lol

Michael M.

November 28th, 2011
10:59 pm

Enjoy the Show boys !

Later Taters !

ninobrown

November 28th, 2011
10:59 pm

Just remember you were playing the Titans and the Vikings AFTER you lost to the SAINTS!!!!! Goodnight

hiramsaint

November 28th, 2011
11:17 pm

who’s in 1st?- you know it!!!GEAUX SAINTS

Ronald Millsaps

November 28th, 2011
11:37 pm

First of all, why are the Falcons using “Oprah” in their play-calling? I thought the announcers might’ve been wrong and that Matt Ryan was saying “okra”, but later it indeed sounded like the former. Guys, let’s keep her out of the mix. She’s one of the most propagated, misleading, deceptive, credibility-lacking, etc. individuals of all time, and the ideologies she supports are poisonous, so why in the WORLD mention her in any kind of prominent light? No wonder that she supports Obama——–and what kind of society do we have that we a) vote that man into the White House and b) give ear to her endorsement of him?

Let’s get rid of the irreverent “Rise Up” phrase, too.

The play-calling was terrible, and Ryan was accurate on paper, but a lot of his throws need to be sharper. As for the former, let’s start with the game’s first series: Everyone expects a handoff to Turner, which occurs, to little gain (if any). Ryan follows with a short pass to Tony Gonzalez, which would’ve been what I would’ve done (or thereabouts) on first down, and then, with third and three on the horizon, they again pass. I would’ve handed off to Turner, as Minnesota would’ve expected a pass and as three yards is not that difficult to attain.

The league needs to drop this babbling, deranged, Oprah-like definition of “reception” that it so-adamantly adheres to. If a player catches a ball, is down by contact, tumbles, and loses possession of the football, guess what? The final “point” there is irrelevant. Please note the “is down by contact” part of the equation. Bam! The play’s indeed over. A subsquent loss of the football is no more a drop than a toss to the referee is a fumble, so let’s kindly remove dumbed-down officiating from an otherwise-great sport, and let’s get officiating crews that don’t spend two full minutes numerous times deciding whether to pick up a flag or not or trying to figure out if the game clock’s correct. If and when need be, fine, but the crew yesterday was unprofessional.

Back to the offense, Smith needs to be more aggressive. Right now he’s parallel to one of Dan Reeves’ outnumbered-by-strengths weaknesses, which is the overuse of his runningback, or at least the misuse of. (I don’t think Turner is approaching Jamal’s ‘98 carries total.) This offense has weapons, serious weapons, and this offense with a Dick Vermeil or Mike Martz easily could put 500 points on the board in a season; Smith seems to prefer to idea of running minutes off the clock than putting points on the board. He doesn’t attack as much as he needs to, and did the Falcons take Minnesota lightly yesterday? I think so. Did they do so even more lightly when Adrian Peterson was said to be out? Almost definitely. Even more so with the halftime lead of 17, which should’ve been 27? Again, almost definitely.

Let’s make the most of the weapons this team has. If you think Turner gets yardage now, wait until defenses get stretched, knowing Douglas, Rodgers, Snelling are getting more attention. I’d love to see at least 2 reverses per game, both to Douglas, some 4-WR sets, some 2-TE sets (saw one yesterday, loved it), some 3-WR-on-one-side sets, and some comprehensive backfield sets. Let’s have Rodgers on the field in 2-RB sets and have him run behind Turner/Snelling.

This team has more weapons than does Green Bay, and the running game is better also. If this team would reach its God-given potential on offense, it’d be better than Green Bay, a lot better, actually.

Ronald Millsaps

November 28th, 2011
11:38 pm

By the way, Dr. Oz is nothing but a witch doctor and a friend of Oprah; she got him on the air.

P B Orr

November 28th, 2011
11:44 pm

Well the negative nellies got me to looking for *really* bad performances in Falcons history – so return with me boys and girls to the days of yesteryear, and consider this game:

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/197309230ram.htm

We almost made the playoffs that year. We won the first game 62-7 and racked up nearly 500 yards of offense. The next week, we had *70* – count’em, 70 entire yards of offense. *2* first downs. *4* yards passing.

Now, all you whiners, STFU and be happy with Team Smitty and his Boring Warriors.

hiramsaint

November 28th, 2011
11:57 pm

wow -49 pts. – y’all in real trouble come dec. 26

P B Orr

November 28th, 2011
11:58 pm

But, dear fans, that’s not the worst of it – here’s a game where our beloved feathered ones had all of *44* yards of offense;

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/197610230sfo.htm

*8* sacks. *Negative 39* yards passing (is that even possible?). *10* penalties. 4 fumbles and 2 interceptions. The first score for the ‘Niners was a ball hiked out of the end zone. Et tu, Van Note-ay? Yes, friends, this we Falcons fans from ye olden days have experienced. It was god awful.

CGD..

November 29th, 2011
12:42 am

Drew Brees is a BEAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I will never compare him to Melt again..Cause there is no comparison..

It would be like comparing a Mercedes S Class to a Toyota Corolla.. lol

265 yds at halftime? Hugh? This is the freaking Giants not the Vikings!!

A Clinic it was tonight. Eli put up 395 yards and still got his butt kicked! WOW……

CGD..

November 29th, 2011
12:47 am

Hey Ronald are you related to Ken Strickland by any chance?

Man you two are long winded!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Btw, the Falcons do not want to see the Packers anymore this year cause they have no shot to beat these dudes..Not this year……

JSS

November 29th, 2011
12:51 am

Nothing was “god awful” as October 10, 1976 when they laid an egg in the Super Dome… The box score looks better than that SF travesty, but they were the just plain awful… Saints 30 Falcons 0!
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/197610100nor.htm

whodat70816

November 29th, 2011
1:03 am

The Saints halos shine bright on Monday Nights!

Prepare yourselves Falcon Fans…..Dec 26th can’t get here fast enough!

WHO DAT!