After coming so close to beating their rival, the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons returned to the Georgia Dome for their 2013 home opener vs the St. Louis Rams. One of the biggest stories coming into the game was the story of Steven Jackson, Atlanta's big offseason acquisition, facing his former team. Jackson is the franchise leader in rushing for the Rams and also the best active running back in the NFL, statistically. Yes, better than Adrian Peterson; don't waste your time researching it. Another big story heading into the game was how Atlanta would improve upon their performance against the Saints. Atlanta's offensive line played abysmal in the 2nd half of last week's game and I think that was a big reason the Falcons lost the game.
Atlanta bounced back this week and defeated the Rams 31-24. I will break down what I saw on offense, defense, and special teams.
The Falcons offense came out with a purpose to start the game. Matt Ryan led the team down the field on a nice 80-yard drive that, quickly, put Atlanta up 7-0. Although, Atlanta should thank Ram's defensive end, Chris Long, for being offsides on the first 3rd down of the game. That penalty changed a 3rd and 12 into a 3rd and 7 and made it way easier for Matt Ryan and the offense to convert. After getting inside the Ram's 10 yard-line, Atlanta had to make sure Steven Jackson got a chance to score against his former team. He did so on an 8-yard swing pass. Unfortunately, Jackson suffered a thigh injury on that play and never returned to the game.
Julio Jones played very well! He recorded his longest career touchdown on an 81-yard catch and run. He also set a career high for receiving with 182 yards. All those people who called Falcons general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, crazy for giving away many draft picks to get Julio Jones in 2011 are either quiet or praising Dimitroff for his move.
The first half offense and the second half offense were two totally different offenses. The Falcons must learn to keep their foot on the gas pedal throughout the entire game. This was Atlanta's problem in the playoffs last year. They got away from Seattle, but couldn't finish the job against San Francisco. No disrespect, but St. Louis is not that good of a football team. If Atlanta had kept their foot on the gas pedal though the entire game, this would have been a blowout victory.
The offensive line also showed fatigue in the second half as they did last week in New Orleans. This is what I think coach Mike Smith should do; have Lamar Holmes play 2 1/2 to 3 quarters and then put in Jeremy Trueblood to relieve Holmes for the rest of the game similar to a relief pitcher in baseball.
Just like the offense, the defense in the first half and the defense in the second half were two different defenses. The Falcons defense only allowed 3 points in the first half, but then went on to allow 21 points in the second half. I understand that Asante Samuel, Sean Weatherspoon, and Kroy Biermann did not finish the game; but injuries are a part of football, and the next guy has to step up.
Joplo Bartu stepped up! He had 6 tackles and a couple of those were tackles for loss. It's hard to believe that this guy was not drafted!
The Defensive line also did a good job putting pressure on Sam Bradford. They were in his face most of the game and they got their hands up to deflect some passes. One of those deflections went straight into Osi Umenyiora's hands for an interception that Osi took 68 yards for a touchdown.
However, I am disappointed in the tackling during the game. Thomas Decoud missed a few tackles, including one on a slow runner in Sam Bradford. Rookie cornerback, Robert Alford, continuously tried to shoulder tackle and go for the ball in attempt to force fumbles. In the NFL, you need to wrap-up and bring the ball carrier to the ground. Arm and shoulder tackles should not be used because they rarely work. Akeem Dent also missed some tackles that, normally, he would have.
Speaking of tackling, William Moore's spine-busting tackle of Mike Mcniell in the 3rd quarter was crazy! This is why he's called the Missouri Hammer. I usually won't give a link to a highlight; but this play must be seen by everyone. http://www.nfl.com/videos/atlanta-falcons/0ap2000000244315/WK-2-Can-t-Miss-Play-Moore-power-slams-McNeill
Matt Bosher did an excellent job punting in the game. He punted 6 times for an average of 53 yards per punt and no touchbacks. He also had a career best 63 yard punt.
The Falcons punt coverage team also did a good job containing Tavon Austin. Austin is arguably the fastest player in the NFL and he is very dangerous in open space.
Here's one thing I didn't like; guys were getting very close to blocking some of Bosher's punts. The same thing happened in New Orleans. The guys have got to block better or ,one of these games, Bosher's punt(s) will get blocked.
Wrap-up: It was an ugly win. By no means am I satisfied by it and I know head coach Mike Smith is not satisfied either. The Falcons have way too much talent and depth to be in close games against teams like the Rams.
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