Here are the Falcons’ grades for the 31-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
B — Quarterbacks: Matt Ryan passed for a career-high 411 yards and had a passer rating of 100.7. It marked the first time that the Falcons have loss when he’s had a passer rating of more than 100. They are now 29-1 in such games. Ryan had the team poised to win despite the running game being closed for business. He completed passes to eight different receivers including lineman Mike Johnson, who caught a 1-yard touchdown pass as a tight end eligible. Ryan completed 34 of 52 passes, had three touchdowns and one interception. The inability to get 1 yard wasted this fine effort.
D — Running backs: The Falcons were held to 46 yards rushing. Outside of an 18-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers, they were stuffed. Michael Turner was held to 15 yards on 13 carries. Rodgers had four catches for 33 yards receiving. Jason Snelling caught two passes for 12 yards. There didn’t appear to be much available as the backs were hit in the backfield often.
B — Receivers: Tight end Tony Gonzalez and wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones stepped up to help Ryan carry the one dimensional offense. Gonzalez had 11 catches for 122 yards and touchdowns. White backed up all of his talk with seven catches for 114 yards. Jones, who missed 28 plays with a leg injury, had four catches for 75 yards. Gonzalez became the eighth player – and the first tight end — in league history to catch 100 touchdown passes on a 2-yard touchdown grab with 6:27 left in the second quarter. The Falcons knew scoring in close would be a problem early as they may have used their tackle-eligible pass play to Mike Johnson too early in the game.
D-minus — Offensive line: The coaching staff clearly doesn’t have any confidence that the unit can knock back the line of scrimmage. Repeatedly, in short-yardage situations, the Falcons elected to pass the ball. The unit couldn’t open any holes in the running game. However, the unit was near flawless on 52 pass drops. Ryan was sacked once and the Saints had just on quarterback hit.
C-minus — Defensive line: The defensive ends couldn’t take advantage of Saints backup right tackle Charles Brown, a former second-round pick who has struggled in the past. He was starting for the injured Zach Strief. John Abraham played a season-low 32 snaps and was on the field for just 52 percent of the defensive snaps. He was a non-factor. Ray Edwards played 20 of the 62 snaps (32 percent) and Kroy Biermann played 46 snaps (74 percent).
C — Linebackers: Akeem Dent led the defense with nine tackles, but the unit didn’t have a good day against the run or in coverage. The Saints ran for 148 yards and tight end Jimmy Graham was on the loose all day. Veteran Mike Peterson had a strong five-tackle day while playing on 30 of 62 snaps (48 percent). Stephen Nicholas had the team’s only sack and had a tackle for a loss.
F — Defensive backs: Asante Samuel had come up strong in run support all season, but he lost containment on Chris Ivory’s 56-yard touchdown run and made a feeble attempt to push him out of bounds. He also cost the Falcons field position with an unsportsmanlike penalty after his interception. The normally sure-tackling group didn’t seem to want any parts of Ivory, who they made look like Eric Dickerson in his No. 29 jersey.
A — Special teams: Matt Bryant bounced back from his two misses last week against Dallas to make a 37-yarder and a 20-yarder. Punter Matt Bosher had a strong day. He averaged 46.7 yards on three punts and placed one down inside the 20.
D — Coaching: The Falcons rush to turn into a passing team caught up with them. As they were adjusting, they needed to take the power rushing game with them. (Who’s got Ovie Mughelli’s phone number?) On the key plays at the end they went with a 21 personnel (two tight ends and one running back) with Julio Jones and Roddy White flanked. That’s a passing formation. They have been creative in the past and put a lineman in the backfield for some power. They also used their tackle eligible play too early and couldn’t use it late in the game. The decision not to go for two points after cutting the score to 28-23 was dubious. What’s the difference in being down four or five points because you still need a touchdown? If they would have converted the two-point conversion they would have only needed a field goal. They haven’t fixed the missed tackling on defense and need to get the ground game going to balance out the offense.
NEXT UP: The Falcons (8-1) host the Arizona Cardinals (4-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
OTHER RECENT STORIES
Mike Smith says no major injury for Peria Jerry