After two weeks looking like a fine oiled machine the Atlanta Falcons’ offense sputtered and stalled and quarterback Matt Ryan was batted around like a piñata before first year head coach Dan Quinn called off the assault and let T.J. Yates take over as the Falcons fell to the Miami Dolphins 13-9.
Granted, Ryan had none of his targets as Julio Jones and Roddy White sat out, but a still makeshift offensive line made for a long night for the Falcons. Add to that no running game and 2015 has the potential to be a long season.
The defense has continued to show improvement as they only allowed RyanTannenhill and the Dolphins one touchdown.
Tannehill did complete a lot of passes (15) they were a bunch of short, “safe” passes as the Dolphins’ franchise quarterback was unable to stretch the field.
Neither team was efficient on third down or on the ground as the two teams combined for a total of 124 yards on the ground. The big difference being the Dolphins managed almost an yard more per rush.
Atlanta spend the entire offseason revamping their defense that hasn’t put pressure on the quarterback since John Abraham’s departure. The pick of Vic Beasley looks promising for Atlanta and Paul Worrilow who came out of nowhere last season resembling the closest thing to a tackling machine that Atlanta has continues to pound the leather and is finally winning over those who weren’t impressed with him last season (He was a late draft pick).
Four things needed to be addressed by the Falcons in the off-season was the defensive line, the offensive line, the running game and team depth.
While Beasley is a nice pick it will take Kroy Biermann to finally step up his game as a team that barely sniffed out the quarterback last season will have to show improvement.
The offensive line remains a dumpster fire as Matt Ryan was sacked three times in his four offensive series he took part in. Most likely Quinn pulled Ryan out early to avoid any more damage. The line has been a work in progress for two years and they’ve got two weeks to figure something out or Ryan can look forward to a long season – one of picking himself off the turf.
The running game still really hasn’t been completely addressed. Sure, they drafted speed back Tevin Coleman, but he’s pretty much the same back as Devonta Freeman who was inconsistent at best last season. Traditionally with the exception of the Warrick Dunn and Dave Hampton era (remember that far back?) the Falcons running game has always excelled with a power back like Michael Turner, Jamal Anderson, William Andrews, Gerald Riggs and if you go way back Jim “Cannonball” Butler and Art Malone.
Despite offensive line issues and the inability of the offense to find the end zone for the first time this preseason the Falcons found themselves with a 9-7 lead in the fourth quarter. But two late Dolphin drives that ended with field goals spelled doom for the Falcons.
So what was the big takeaway from the Dolphins game? Not much can really be determined about the offense that looked unstoppable the first two games. Ryan had none of his targets (Julio or Roddy) at his disposal and the offensive line was makeshift at best. Miami totally overhauled their defense with the acquisition of Ndamukong Suh. The Falcons’ line had no chance against him Saturday. Not many people do.
The much-maligned defense appears to have started to bear its teeth. They were aggressive off the line put plenty of pressure on Tannenhill forcing a short passing game. And while they didn’t sack him they took their frustration out on backup Matt Moore. They did allow 4.8 yards per rush but held the Dolphins to only 274 yards of total offense. And one other takeaway from the game was that Atlanta’s special teams are still one of the NFL’s best. Punter Matt Bosher averaged over 46 yards kick and there are few things in this league that are automatic, but kicker Matt Bryant is one. He was three-of-three including one from 50 yards
The Falcons conclude their preseason schedule Thursday night as they host the Baltimore Ravens. You probably won’t recognize many of the players out there because well – this is a last attempt for many to either make the roster or at least a spot on the practice squad. Coach Quinn will be keeping all his key players under wrap until September 14 when they host the Philadelphia Eagles on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
– Dave Weinthal
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