Here are the Falcons’ grades for the 23-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.
GAME BALL: Safety William Moore, who finished with 11 tackles, two interceptions, two passes defensed and two tackles for losses gets the AJC “Game Ball.” He was a big-time enforcer from his strong safety position and that allowed free safety Thomas DeCoud to go down inside and play some rugged man-to-man coverage on Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.
F — Quarterbacks: Matt Ryan’s pinpoint accuracy was off. He had season lows for completions (18), yards (165) and completion percentage (54.5). For the first time this season, the offense disappeared for a major portion of the game and converted just 1 of 11 third downs (nine percent).
B — Running backs: Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers came out strong on the first drive before the running game disappeared. They combined for 126 rushing yards on 20 carries and one touchdown. Turner, Rodgers, Jason Snelling and Mike Cox combined for eight catches for 38 yards. Cox, who is getting up to speed, had some nice lead blocks in the run game. Turner had a potentially key fumble late.
C — Receivers: Tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Julio Jones were solid. Roddy White had an off night. Gonzalez had four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. Jones had five catches for 48 yards. White was targeted seven times, but made just one catch. He had one bad drop on a third down. Harry Douglas had two targets, but no catches. He did a great job of breaking up an interception on a deep pass.
C — Offensive line: The line opened the game kicking some behind and taking some names, but then tailed off. Ryan said they quick-counted the Saints early to jumpstart the running game. Guard Peter Konz and left tackle Sam Baker struggled in protection. Ryan was sacked once, but was hit six times. The line couldn’t open any holes when they needed to run out the clock.
B-minus – Defensive line: Defensive end John Abraham had the only sack and it was a big one that knocked the Saints out of field goal range. The Falcons did affect Drew Brees and got him off his mark several times. They registered six hits on Brees. Kroy Biermann was buzzing around the quarterback for most of the game. Jonathan Babineaux and Cory Peters had interceptions, although Peters’ was nullified by a penalty. The normally disruptive Vance Walker was kind of quiet.
A — Linebackers: Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon played all 77 of the defensive snaps. Nicholas had five tackles and Weatherspoon had four. Both had a pass breakup and Weatherspoon had an interception that led to a field goal. Akeem Dent played 18 percent of the snaps (14 of 77) and Mike Peterson played one snap.
A — Defensive backs: The group had an F after the first game against the Saints mostly because of their missed tackles in the run game and for their failure to cover Graham. But they showed up big in the second game with Moore and DeDoud leading the way. Cornerbacks Dunta Robinson, Robert McClain and Christopher Owens also turned in strong games. Asante Samuel tried to give it a go with his shoulder, but came out after the first series.
B — Special teams: Matt Bryant was booming kicks in warm-ups. He made one from 58. He missed one from 61. So, when he went out for the 55-yarder, he just had to duplicate his pre-game warm-ups and was on the money. It tied his longest field goal kick of the season. Punter Matt Bosher was a busy man. He had a 42.8 net average on six punts and placed one down inside the 20. He also had six punts against Denver and Washington earlier this season. The coverage units gave up too much ground to punt returner Darren Sproles, who averaged 15.5 yards on four returns, and kickoff returner Travis Cadet, who averaged 23.5 yards on four returns.
A-minus — Coaching: Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan took away Jimmy Graham and made Drew Brees look like Derek Anderson. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is hot-fire coming out the gate on his script, but the 1 for 11 on third downs is why this grade is not a solid A or A-plus. Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong must get the coverage units back on point.
NEXT UP: The Falcons (11-1) travel to play the Carolina Panthers (3-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 at Bank of America Stadium.
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