Report card: Falcons grades for win over the Saints

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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92 comments Add your comment


November 30th, 2012
10:25 am


November 30th, 2012
10:30 am

Eventhough the grades for our offense is point on, I’m not concerned. We will get the offense back on track. But I am very encouraged by the play of the Defense! This is what we need for the playoffs…..WE DAT!!!


November 30th, 2012
10:32 am

If you’re gonna give Matt Ryan an ‘F’ you better give the Offensive Line a ‘D’ because he was under pressure ALL NIGHT LONG.


November 30th, 2012
10:33 am

Where are all the trolls this morning……?


November 30th, 2012
10:44 am

Matt was not sharp at all.. I can put some of the blame on the oline but not entirely. Matter of fact Matt hasn’t looked all that good since the first N.O. game.


November 30th, 2012
10:46 am

DOL – you need some serious help with how your content is distributed. It’s a terrible user experience. It’s not your fault – AJC should give you the proper tools. But the different links you post that poorly format your tweets and make us go through various portals is embarrassing. You cover the best team in the NFL for the local media outlet – this isn’t some kid posting to bleacher report.

Nice win.

Honk if you intercepted Drew Brees,



November 30th, 2012
10:50 am

It was a win we needed. Offense needed to put this away earlier, when the chance was there. But, they did battle all the way through, so way to go.

I loved that Brees had the most interceptions of his career and his 54 game TD streak broken against us. Plus, we won and have made their playoff hopes very slim.

aint hater

November 30th, 2012
10:55 am

where are the aints trolls????? anyone???? They are none and done in the playoffs.

Season Ticket Holder

November 30th, 2012
10:56 am

While the Falcons continue the win, I am concern with the lack of production from the Falcons offense. The game last night had a playoff atmosphere. Matt Ryan appeared nervous the whole game. The Falcons success in the first quarter was due to the run game on the first drive. After that, the Falcons struggled to move the ball. If the Falcons are to win in the playoffs, Matt Ryan is going to have to step up his game.

North FLA Falcon

November 30th, 2012
11:04 am

It’s tough for Ryan to make plays or convert 3rd downs when your receivers keep dropping passes. Also when a run is stuffed on 1st down, then an incomplete pass on 2nd down, you face 3rd and too long and that is why Ryan truly does deserve an “F” … mabye a “D-” Playcalling would also be an “D”


November 30th, 2012
11:27 am

Saint Trolls said if we didn’t like the their winning streak then stop it…WE DID….They said if we don’t like Brees setting Records against us then stop him (No more Consecutive TD Games)…WE did…I guess We answered all their Questions….Crickets…….

Jerky Boys

November 30th, 2012
11:36 am

Check out the post game photo of “Breesus”


November 30th, 2012
11:37 am

What tha? You gave our QB a F? He wasn’t the one who thru 5 picks! He didn’t have the leisure time in the pocket that Brees had, and sometimes the receivers didn’t complete the catch. I gotta disagree with that grade. He thru a GREAT pass to Tony for the TD.


November 30th, 2012
11:41 am

Ryan didn’t look comfortable behind the O line but if you grade Ryan with an F what grade do you give Brees? Maybe a Z- for being lucky to only have five interceptions. I liked that the Falcons gave Brees chance after chance after chance and he seemed intent on destroying his team. What a player!


November 30th, 2012
11:43 am

yeah, I should have spelled threw, not thru. doh!


November 30th, 2012
11:53 am

it’s time to retire McClure…he was getting beat all night, allowing defenders to come up the middle, letting defenders overpower him. It was a tough night for the O-line all around, but the play of McClure made Ryan a little skittish in the pocket.

I think Roddy let Greer rent free space inside his head. He was either droppin or not makin easy catches, lettin Greer get all over him…

I still think they were givin Jimmy Graham TOO MUCH cushion. At least they were tryin to keep Sproles bottled up, but Graham kept gettin open.

Despite some of those concerns, great win!!! If they can keep up the intensity at defense, they may be able to run the table, and do things in the playoffs.


November 30th, 2012
11:58 am

Great game by Falcons Defense…..Offense did enough to hash out a important win……….

It is good to see Turner running hard again……..

Panthers next divisional game…….Falcons on three, Dominate.

The Real Falcon

November 30th, 2012
12:01 pm

Glad to finaly see a real score on Ryan.

kent kingsley

November 30th, 2012
12:06 pm

why do we fix things when they are working?? like the quick count and running game in the first quarter. is roddy white afraid of new orleans?? great tweets;but gametime where was he?? where the matt ryan we use to call matty ice?? the last few weeks i don’t know this kid is. has the coaches and players forgot that even the worst teams are playing their best football now, it’s the end of the season; i’am just saying. if this is our best we’d better get back to some basics or once again another no win in playoffs. i’am just saying….

John Moore

November 30th, 2012
12:11 pm

Are you grading the Falcons???? The grades that you gave are certainly debatable.

Mike is Back

November 30th, 2012
12:12 pm

Dled, I agree with your overall grades for the team…However, I would be hard pressed to hand out anything less than an A…after we finally got revenge on the friggin Aint’s.

I definitely like your Game Ball selection…I call Moore BRINKS the ARMORED CAR…when he hitcha it’s gon be an impact…cats be looking like they just got hit by a steal

I don’t know how much of Matt F is because of Play Calling…we had Turner running like the Burner…and just stop running and started passing…once we got into predictable down and distance plays…it was easier for the defense to key on the run game.

With that said…I think the approach by MS was correct…stay committed to establishing the running game…even if we are not lighting the score board up…it’s going to pay off come playoff time. I can see the offense struggling some…trying to make that adjustment.

AGAIN TERRIFIC WIN…RISE UP BIRDS…LET’S GO…LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


November 30th, 2012
12:13 pm

Dled doesnt care much for our QB because he constantly makes excuses for a lack luster running attack but slams Matt every chance he gets.


November 30th, 2012
12:15 pm

To be honest, Matt did look like a deer in headlights like he typically does in big games… playoffs. That’s what concerns me most about him. He seemed scared most the night. IDK…maybe I’m looking in it to far…I hope. Not hate’n at all…just concerned.


November 30th, 2012
12:20 pm

Maybe this win over the aints is the game that shakes Ryan to play big in big games. He looked at times gun shy. Go Matt and go Falcons!

Big Ray

November 30th, 2012
12:21 pm

Ryan has a rough game with a bad offensive line.

Brees has a good offensive line and gets picked off a legit six times.

Oh the irony. Love it!

Say what

November 30th, 2012
12:38 pm

Ryan played like a hall of famer MVP in the first half because he was getting the best protection of his career (and he better OC working with him). He has been struggling because the line is not holding up and pass protecting anymore. Every high level QB will struggle when getting constant pressure and will carve up defenses when given good protection.

The Falcons OLine can’t seem to do run blocking and pass blocking well in the same game, it’s either one or the other. If they can figure out how to do both, and with Mike Nolan’s awesome D, they will go all the way.


November 30th, 2012
12:40 pm

The offense had an off night, so what. They’re beast most of the time, 2 games in 5 days, eh.
The defense was amazing, against one of the best offenses in the game, missing 2 CBs. Rise Up indeed.


November 30th, 2012
12:40 pm

Our best defense on the field is when Bearman and Abraham are in the game at the same time. Bearman need more playing time, he plays with a high motor and brings the heat on every snap of the ball.

Say what

November 30th, 2012
12:41 pm

All that said, Ryan also has to learn to shake the big game jitters.


November 30th, 2012
12:52 pm

Matt Ryan gets rattled under pressure, in order for him to be effective he need to have time to throw the ball. He still do not have pocket awareness where he steps up into the pocket or move the side to avoid pressure and deliver the the ball. Other teams have picked up on this and will be putting heat on him. Where were the screen plays to counter the pressure.

Big Crimson 75

November 30th, 2012
1:03 pm

D-Led — hard to argue with those grades.
I’d give the Secondary A+.
Best game of the season for them.
Moore, Dunta,DeCoud, Owens & McClain all had great games.


November 30th, 2012
1:14 pm

Where are all those Saint Trolls? I love how they are such fair whether fans! I know it hurts for them to see there all world QB look below average but here is some more bad news…”He will only be playing another 3 years max!” Drew Brees is at tail end of his prime and Matt Ryan is coming into his prime!!!

Say what

November 30th, 2012
1:16 pm

B’Red, I was asking the same thing regarding the screen plays. Playcalling can be baffling sometimes.


November 30th, 2012
1:21 pm

Comment deleted? D_Led, you got me on a filter or something?


November 30th, 2012
1:35 pm

How can you possibly give Ryan an F at quarterbacking…….when he had 1 touchdown pass and ZERO, NATA, NO interceptions??? Have you lost your cotton pickin mind??? He managed the game very well again! He only had 160 yards passing because our receivers were struggling to get open for some reason! Ryan gets a solid B for last nights game! No interceptions and 1 touchdown pass. His quarterback rating was respectable, too! Secondary gets the game ball, though, no question about that!

Calvin G. Sims, Sr.

November 30th, 2012
1:38 pm

I love the name”Breesus.” I will never call him anthing else.

Go Falcons!!!


November 30th, 2012
1:58 pm

Man, if you’re giving Matt Ryan an “F” for winning and not turning the ball over, then what the heck to you give to Drew Brees? Too harsh!

Dublin Mike

November 30th, 2012
2:24 pm

Ryan gets an F and the WRs get a C? How many passes did they drop again on 3rd down?

Whadda Ya Know?

November 30th, 2012
2:24 pm

I agree that Ryan played another mediocre game–once again when pressure is in his face. If we’re ever going to get after teams in the face of adversity, Matt has to stand tall and deliver in spite of this sorry OL the Falcons have assembled. Also, it’s not all on Ryan though. The receivers were lost and the CONSTANTLY allow the Taints DBs to make them look like rookies. Ryan didn’t have anyone to throw to so he immediately when to his check down. I think the offense has a whole deserves a big fat D. Defense an A for playing as a team to pickup the slack when the offense couldn’t do jack. Why haven’t we fixed these offensive woes yet? Smitty the problem? Mularkey’s old playbook?


November 30th, 2012
2:26 pm

I give the Birds a D on 3rd down conversions. Over and over last night they couldn’t get off the field on 3rd downs…..that will not work in the playoffs, nor will the offense disappearing for long stretches at a time with 3 and outs.


November 30th, 2012
2:42 pm

Hey D-Led, it wasn’t just Baker and Konz who had problems in protection, it was McClure too. That nose tackle gave him fits all night. After the first drive, NO settled down, and our O-line couldn’t run block OR pass protect very well. “C” is too high a grade. “D” is more like it.


November 30th, 2012
2:55 pm

They seem to struggle when they try to shorten the game too much. With the Ain’ts you need them to have as little time as possible to beat you but nothing wins games better than points! This team should be much more explosive. Maybe Matt was affected by the short week. He did get shelled by Bucs late in the game – fumble off sack. Noe we have mini bye before Buc come to town. 11 and 1 ain’t chopped liver. Who cares if they are the best team in the league by ESPN and NFL network. Just win 3 games in the playoffs. Case closed.


November 30th, 2012
3:11 pm

Ryan isn’t bothered by occasional pressure – it’s the CONSTANT pressure from the lack of protection that throws him off. I thought he played a good deal better than an F. Why aren’t they letting him run no-huddle – that’s when he shines in my book. He sees a lot more than the coaches do and has proven he knows what to call. Trust me – had he been given the opportunity to call those plays on his own (and his receivers chosen to actually catch those balls) the outcome would have been 49+ points.


November 30th, 2012
3:15 pm

Swap the O-line grade with the QB’s – that is much more accurate.


November 30th, 2012
3:31 pm

Ryan gets a F last night. Played nervous. 1/11 third down. I know he had some drops but he hung quite a few high out there


November 30th, 2012
4:33 pm

maaaaan i just visited Its so sad in there, they are blaming the loss on Brees’ greed in his contract, and saying they are proud of their team for the fight they put up hahahaha wooow.They lost more than a game, their whole football community lost hope. Falcons really put that thang on them.

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

November 30th, 2012
4:37 pm

Great win for the Falcons.

For all of you commenting on Ryan looking like a deer caught in the headlights and/or playing scared, you would too if you had to play behind the Falcons’ offensive line. Did you see how much time Brees had to find open receivers compared to the amount of time Ryan had????? The Falcons O-Line is undersized when compared to the teams we’ve played so far this year.


November 30th, 2012
4:38 pm

Though Ryan didnt look good, I wouldnt give him an F. Maybe a D though, he didnt throw any interceptions and managed the game, but am concerned about his ability to come up big in big games. Secondary got a lot of turnovers, but did give up lots of yards to Brees, feel more like an A-.


November 30th, 2012
5:36 pm

Are the trolls sleeping in today? Not hardly, like I said on Monday, they would all be gone after last nights game.

Enjoy your long cold winter aint’s fans. Think about coulda, woulda, shoulda and if Sean Peyton will soon be leaving the farm for Dallas! Don’t forget to wipe the egg off your face!


November 30th, 2012
6:02 pm

The F on Ryan is way too low. I would reseve that for a QB who made lots of mistakes and lost the game for them. Ryan did an amazing job to stay in the game the whole time. The inside rush pressure was quick and consistent for 75% of the plays. The outside rush was rough too but less consistent. He never threw one interception and managed to nail a nice touchdown. I would hate to see the outcome from a real F performance at the QB postion. I would give the O-Line a D on this one. They opened up blocking with precision but tailed off quickly. The defensive pressure is typical of what they will face during the playoffs so they will have to make adjustments quickly. The O-Line play really reminded me of the second half of the Giants game last post-season. Thank you Mr. Nolan and the entire DEFENSE! I’m optimistic that the offense can make corrections. Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter will figure out how to keep this offense firing on all cylinders with that kind of defensive pressure. Nice WIN! GO FALCONS! YOU ARE RISING UP!