Raiders vs. Falcons: Final Game Grades and Player Analysis for Atlanta
The Falcons overcame three Matt Ryan interceptions to lead the Raiders 20-13 with just under three minutes left to play. A Darren McFadden touchdown run with 44 seconds remaining seemed to have this game destined for overtime, but Ryan led the Falcons down the field to set up a game-winning 55-yard Matt Bryant field goal.
Here's a look at the Falcons' final postgame grades and evaluations.
Overall Game Grade: C+
Matt Ryan got off to his worst start of the season as he threw three first-half interceptions, and easily could have thrown more.
It wasn't all his fault, as Ryan faced immense pressure all game long.
The veteran quarterback fought through it all, however, coming back strong in the fourth quarter to lead the Falcons to victory on what would be the 19th game-winning drive of his career.
Nonetheless, the fact remains this isn't the same dominating quarterback we saw at the start of the year.
Ryan continued to get little time in the pocket. He did everything he could, including threading the needle on a pass to Jones in double coverage on a 3rd-down pass that was unfortunately not completed by Jones on the opening drive.
Nothing changed on the second drive, with Ryan having to run for a first down before the drive stalled on a great play by Michael Huff to break up a jump ball to Gonzalez.
But on what would be his final possession of the quarter Ryan stepped up big, orchestrating it to near perfection as he went five-for-six for 43 yards to set up Bryant's 55-yard game-winning field goal.
It could've been a lot worse for Ryan this quarter. He was lucky on the second drive when one of his pass hit a defender's back and fell right into Douglas' hands for a long gain. Ryan almost threw his fourth interception of the game on this drive, though he's still facing a lot of heat.
Ryan's third drive started at the Raiders' two-yard line, but again more pressure made it difficult for him to do much of anything through the air.
Ryan settled down in the beginning of the second quarter, going six-for-six with crisp, precise passes before throwing a perfect touchdown strike in the back of the endzone to Roddy White to make it 7-3 Falcons.
All that momentum disappeared on the second drive of the quarter, when Ryan threw a floater as he was being hit for his third interception of the first half.
He bounced back on his third drive, standing tall in the pocket, making his checks and adjustments, and throwing tight spirals. Now if only he could settle down for an entire quarter.
Matt Ryan has looked far from the elite quarterback he's played like these past five weeks. While he completed four well-thrown passes for 69 yards, he also threw two ugly interceptions to a Raiders team that had zero on the season coming into this game.
Overall Game Grade: C-
The Falcons won despite their offensive line, not because of it. Poor blocking for most of the afternoon gave Michael Turner no room to run and Matt Ryan little time to pass the ball.
But Julio Jones, Roddy White, Jacquizz Rodgers and the rest of Atlanta's offensive weapons were able to make up for that poor play, fighting hard against a surprisingly tough Raiders defense.
It all starts with the offensive line though, and up until that final drive it wasn't anything to be proud of.
Run plays were still repeatedly getting swallowed up at the line of scrimmage, and pass protection continued to be an issue on the team's only two offensive drives of the quarter.
The line finally held up on the offense's third possession of the quarter, and they couldn't have decided a better time to do so as they gave Ryan all the time he needed to find his receivers on the team's game-winning drive.
Atlanta went three-and-out on its first drive of the quarter before capping off their second with a field goal. It's gone from bad to worse for the offensive line, with both the run blocking and pass blocking has been poor. The line provided Turner with little room on the ground while allowing Ryan to continue taking nasty hits play after play.
It went from bad, to worse, to downright awful for the Falcons' offensive line on the team's third offensive drive. Facing third-down at the Raiders' one-inch line Ryan handed the ball off to Jason Snelling who was completely stuffed.
Great protection from the offensive line was key to the Falcons' scoring drive at the start of the quarter, giving him Ryan all the time he needs to throw the ball and providing open lanes for Turner. Jones and White are putting on a clinic, making catches left and right. Harry Douglas has been in on the action as well with a few nice catches of his own.
That all changed on the team's second offensive drive, with Ryan facing heavy pressure on his every drop back.
A holding penalty on Tyson Clabo brought back a long pass to Roddy White on the offense's third drive before a breakdown in protection allowed a defender clean into the pocket, resulting in a bit hit on Ryan and another interception.
Atlanta needs the offensive line to be more consistent.
Ryan's play pulls this grade down a bit, but the rest of the offense played well. Roddy White and Julio Jones have each made good catches, while Michael Turner has benefited from excellent blocking up front to gain 12 yards on two carries thus far.
Overall Game Grade: B+
The defense came up big for the Falcons on Sunday, sacking Carson Palmer three times, containing Darren McFadden for most of the game and forcing three turnovers.
While they did give up a few big plays, a ton of yards, and took great advantage of a dozen offensive penalties by the Raiders, that doesn't take away from the Falcons' great effort on defense.
The defense forced punts on their two opening series, but on the third drive of the quarter the Falcons gave Darren McFadden a huge hole to run through which resulted in a 43-yard gain. Atlanta had difficulty shedding blocks, especially on a throwback screen to Brandon Myers for 14 yards.
Perhaps the play of the day on defense was made shortly after: Facing third-and-six from the Falcons' 28-yard line, Samuel jumped an out pattern by Moore and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown. It was his first interception of the year, and couldn't have come at a better time for Atlanta.
They allowed a game-tying touchdown on the ensuing drive, but it didn't matter in the end.
The defense stonewalled McFadden and the Raiders on their first two drives of the second half, forcing punts both times.
On the third drive John Abraham made his presence felt yet again, sacking Palmer for a second time and forcing a fumble recovered by Ray Edwards, who took the ball 26 yards to the Raiders' two-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, Akeem Dent's defensive holding wasn't enough to keep McFadden from getting big yardage on a third-down play. Embarrassing, considering his tackling hasn't been all that great either.
Robinson is still struggling, missing an open-field tackle on his receiver on an early pass. His and the defense's woes continued this opening drive, as Atlanta was burned on a well-timed screen pass to Mike Goodson that went for 37 yards on a drive that got all the way to the Falcons' one-yard line. A great goal line stand by the Falcons kept the Raiders to just a field goal, but they shouldn't have allowed them to get there in the first place. The front four needs to play better.
The defense' second drive started on their own 25-yard line, but again a missed tackle, this time by Mike Peterson, allowed Denarius Moore to get into the endzone for a touchdown.
The third drive lasted just one play, with the defense benefiting from a McFadden slip to allow just a one-yard gain.
Aside from a few good early runs from McFadden the Falcons have kept him in check, allowing just 11 yards on his eight total carries. Jonathan Babineaux made a great play when he forced a McFadden fumble that would be recovered by the Falcons, while Abraham made his presence felt with a sack. Cornerback play needs to improve though, with Asante Samuel giving up a big 49-yard pass that would eventually lead to a Raiders field goal and Dunta Robinson missing tackles.
Overall Game Grade: A-
Where would the Falcons be without their special teams?
It was another strong showing by Matt Bosher, who averaged 53 yards on his four punts, two of which fell inside Oakland's 20-yard line.
As for Matt Bryant, the Falcons wouldn't have needed his late-game heroics if he had just made his opening kick in the first place.
But the fact he came back to win it--on a 55-yarder, no less-- is just proof that this team's 6-0 record is no fluke.
Bosher's first punt of the quarter was another bomb, this time for 57 yards. His second went for 45.
But it's Bryant's 55-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the game that makes this grade a perfect one.
Bosher is still punting like the best of them, with his first of the quarter going 54 yards. Meanwhile, Bryant converted a 41-yard field goal to narrow Oakland's lead to three before adding another short one to tie the game at 13 apiece.
Bryant made his extra point, and Matt Bosher did his job kicking the ball past the endzone on the ensuing kickoff and booting his two punts deep.
The Falcons only had one special teams play in the first quarter, and it was a bad one: a missed 43-yard field goal attempt by Matt Bryant. He had been perfect on the season prior to that.
Overall Game Grade: B+
Take away a few untimely blitzes or a few puzzling offensive calls and the coaching was as amazing as it has been all year long for the Falcons.
For a team that has clawed its way to a 6-0 record to start the season, it couldn't be anything else.
Still, imperfections remain, and the bye week will come in handy as the Falcons try to fix them.
Tied at 20 and with 40 seconds left in the game, the Falcons did what they did best: win in the fourth quarter. Mike Smith put his faith in his defense to make plays when they needed, trusted his quarterback to drive the team down the field with seconds left to play, and believed in his field goal kicker to make the game-winning kick.
Koetter decided to take some pressure off Ryan, giving him more hand-offs to Turner while having him throw more short passes and let his receivers do the rest. Again, the calls have been there: the Falcons have been aggressive on defense and didn't try to get cute on offense in this quarter.
It was much of the same for the Falcons, with the coaches calling the right plays but the players not helping with very sloppy play. However, Koetter made one terrible decision calling a screen pass on 2nd-and-long with just over a minute left in the half.
Down 13-7, the Falcons need to play to win. That's not happening right now.
Aside from a questionable toss play called on third-and-short, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has been calling excellent plays, mixing it up with deep play-action passes, short drop-back passes, and various runs. The same can be said for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. The players have been the ones failing to execute.
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