Atlanta Falcons

Falcons vs. Buccaneers: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Atlanta

Al BruceContributor IJanuary 14, 2017

Falcons vs. Buccaneers: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Atlanta

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Coming into Sunday, most observers felt that the 2-7 Atlanta Falcons had three "winnable" games remaining on their schedule: Sunday at Tampa Bay (1-8), a Week 13 contest at Buffalo (3-7) and a Week 15 game in Atlanta against Washington (3-6).

    Now that the Falcons are 2-8 after a 41-28 loss to the Buccaneers that sounds a lot closer than it really was, it's going to be interesting to see what prognosticators forecast for the Falcons over the last six weeks of the season.

    The Falcons simply didn't have an answer for the Buccaneers on Sunday. The team's Week 7 victory over Tampa seemed like a distant memory for most of the afternoon as the Bucs throttled the Falcons in every area.

    In light of Atlanta's performance, we adopted a "the good, the bad and the ugly" format for our Week 11 full roster report card grades for the Falcons. Let's start this painful postgame evaluation process at quarterback.

     

     

    All stats are via ESPN.com

Quarterbacks

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Grade: D

    The Good:

    Matt Ryan managed to connect with Harry Douglas and Roddy White for a couple of garbage-time touchdowns after he was ineffective for most of the game. Backup quarterback Dominique Davis looked very comfortable when he was running the offense in mop-up duty, but a knee injury forced Matt Ryan back into the game.

    Davis' play in limited action should at least offer Falcons fans some encouragement regarding the team's backup quarterback position.

     

    The Bad:

    Matt Ryan threw a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. His second pick to Buccaneers' safety Dashon Goldson was most troubling because it appeared to come as the result of Ryan staring down Harry Douglas.

     

    The Ugly:

    Ryan now has 11 interceptions in five road games this season. The Falcons are 0-5 in those contests. While Ryan's overall numbers are still respectable (2,868 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions), he hasn't looked confident or comfortable in the pocket all year long.

Running Backs

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Grade: C-

    The Good:

    The Falcons had some success running the ball with Steven Jackson early on before they fell behind in the game and had to abandon the run. Special teams ace Antone Smith's 50-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run helps to boost the overall grade for this group. It was nice to see a hardworking guy like Smith take advantage of his opportunity.

     

    The Bad:

    If you take away the 88 yards that Smith gained on two carries and two long gains by Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta running backs gained just 35 yards on 16 carries.

     

    The Ugly:

    Jason Snelling missed Sunday's contest after his arrest last week.  The Falcons already had enough problems on the field.

Wide Receivers

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Grade: D

    The Good:

    Harry Douglas continued to shine to the tune of six receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown, but 80 of his yards came on a third-quarter touchdown catch that was too little, too late.

     

    The Bad:

    Roddy White still doesn't look like himself, and you have to wonder if he's ever going to return to form before this season ends. He only managed three catches on nine targets, and he had a costly fumble that led to a Bucs touchdown.

     

    The Ugly:

    Before Harry Douglas' touchdown, Atlanta's longest play to a wide receiver only went for 16 yards.

Tight Ends

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Grade: D

    The Good:

    Tony Gonzalez's toe injury didn't keep him from playing in the game. Both he and Harry Douglas missed practice with injuries last week, as Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk reported. It's tough to imagine how ugly this loss would have been if either one of them had sat out. Gonzalez finished with six catches for 51 yards.

     

    The Bad:

    The Falcons still haven't figured out a way to create mismatches for rookie tight end Levine Toilolo in the passing game. They need to give him more playing time so they can get a better idea of what he's got to offer. It's time for Atlanta to start thinking about life after Tony Gonzalez.

     

    The Ugly:

    When you're starting four inexperienced players along your offensive line, you don't expect a veteran like Tony Gonzalez to be flagged for a false start penalty like he was in the second quarter.

Offensive Line

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Grade: D-

    The Good:

    Joe Hawley was a pleasant surprise starting in place of Peter Konz at center. He didn't get pushed around as much as Konz has in recent weeks, and Atlanta's runners actually had a fighting chance going up the middle of the defense. Undrafted rookie tackle Ryan Schraeder finally got some playing time at right tackle and looked like he deserves some more over the last six weeks of the season.

     

    The Bad:

    Tampa Bay linebacker Mason Foster's pick-six was the direct result of Matt Ryan getting hit in the arm after right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was beaten in pass protection. Also, although the circumstances of the game took away Atlanta's running game as much as anything else, the line still isn't getting the consistent push that the Falcons' rushing attack needs.

     

    The Ugly:

    Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy dominated Peter Konz in the first half when Konz was playing right guard. If Konz continues to be this ineffective at center and right guard, critics of Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff may be able to throw the "bust" label on Konz and have it stick.

    Former Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler laid the blame squarely at Konz's feet on Sunday.

Defensive Line

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Grade: F

    The Good:

    Defensive end Osi Umenyiora notched two sacks, bringing his season total to 6.5. Umenyiora's last two-sack game came back in Week 5 against the Jets.

     

    The Bad:

    The Buccaneers' offensive line pushed the Falcons' defensive line around all afternoon on Sunday. Tampa averaged nearly five yards a carry on 38 rushes for the game. Atlanta's defensive line just didn't make any impact plays up front.

     

    The Ugly:

    Don't expect the pleas for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney coming from the Falcons' fanbase to go away anytime soon.

    If there was ever a time when Atlanta looked like it needed a difference-maker along its defensive front, Sunday was it. Even defensive tackle Corey Peters, who's normally pretty reliable, took a beating from a Bucs offensive line that paved the way for running back Bobby Rainey.

Linebackers

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Grade: F

    The Good:

    Paul Worrilow continues to pile up tackles, but sadly his play hasn't translated into success for Atlanta's defense. Falcons fans can only hope that Worrilow can take his game to the point where he's making impact tackles that force turnovers or put the opposing offense behind the sticks in down and distance as he continues to develop.

     

    The Bad:

    Sean Weatherspoon's return didn't make much of a difference for this unit. The Bucs offense took the torch from Seattle and became the next offense in a long line to make everything look easy against Atlanta's defense. Weatherspoon is the vocal leader of this defense, but he's got to get his own position unit to play knockout football if he wants the rest of the defense to follow suit.

     

    The Ugly:

    Atlanta's linebackers did a lot of "catching" and very little hitting on Sunday. How is a team supposed to play physical defense when its linebackers are diving at the opposition's ankles or falling backwards all day?

Defensive Backs

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Grade: F

    The Good:

    Atlanta's secondary only allowed two catches to Tampa Bay wide receivers not named Vincent Jackson.

     

    The Bad:

    The Falcons secondary didn't get the memo that Vincent Jackson dominated them in Atlanta's Week 7 victory over the Bucs, and they didn't appear to make any adjustments in their coverage against Jackson on Sunday.

    Jackson finished the game with 10 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. Along the way, he beat Asante Samuel, Thomas DeCoud and Desmond Trufant for big plays. Jackson is a talented receiver, but most teams react when a guy like Jackson makes a few plays early on.

    The Falcons secondary never seemed to challenge the status quo on Sunday. It was as if the Falcons were content with Jackson making play after play.

     

    The Ugly:

    Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon had three incompletions on 23 pass attempts against Atlanta.   This group has given up way too many big plays this season, as noted by ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure.

    How is it that every opposing quarterback that faces this Falcons secondary is able to have success throwing the football downfield?

Special Teams

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    David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    Grade: F

    The Good:

    Falcons kicker Matt Bryant connected on both of his field-goal attempts. He's only missed one field-goal attempt this season.

     

    The Bad:

    The Falcons still haven't been able to get much of a spark from their return game. Robert McClain has proven to be reliable fielding the ball, but this team is long overdue for an impact play from its punt return unit.

     

    The Ugly:

    The Buccaneers blocked Matt Bosher's only punt attempt of the third quarter and gave their offense good field position at the Atlanta 20-yard line to start their next drive. Seven plays and one fourth-down conversion later, Mike Glennon found Vincent Jackson in the end zone to stretch Tampa's lead to 38-6 in the third quarter.

Coaching

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Grade: F

    The Good:

    The coaching staff's decision to shake up the offensive line by trying Joe Hawley at center and giving Ryan Schraeder some playing time shows that they're at least acknowledging that they may have been wrong about some of the evaluations they made up front before the season.

    Also, for whatever it's worth, after falling behind 38-6, the Falcons outscored the Bucs 22-3 to make the final score appear closer than the game actually was. At least some of Atlanta's backups looked like they haven't given up.

     

    The Bad:

    If you're this far into this slideshow, you can probably fill this section in yourself.

    In addition to everything we've discussed, the most alarming aspect of Sunday's defeat may have been that the Falcons looked like they weren't giving any effort for the first three quarters of the game.

    Falcons fans came to expect performances like the one they saw Sunday back in 2007 during Bobby Petrino's brief stint in Atlanta, but not since Mike Smith took over in 2008.

     

    The Ugly:

    As D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave Mike Smith a vote of confidence after the game.

    But Smith's own statements about his performance on Sunday were a bit more damning.“The way that we played was unacceptable. The way that we coached is unacceptable,” Mike Smith said, via Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com. “We’ve got to continue to work. We’ve got to continue to try to find answers and mix and match with the people in place that will help us win football games.” 

    The fact that Smith is talking about how poorly he coached against Bucs coach Greg Schiano, whose own job could be in jeopardy after this season, says a lot about how far the Falcons have fallen.

    You can't blame a performance like the one the Falcons had on Sunday on injuries. Look at how competitive Green Bay has been in its last two games with an undrafted rookie taking most of the snaps at quarterback. If a team has a system that works, the system will create opportunities for less talented players to compete at their highest levels.

    That hasn't happened in Atlanta this year because it hasn't looked like much of a system is in place other than to come out and try to react to whatever the other team is doing.

    Smith isn't hiding from his share of the blame, but unfortunately for him, Sunday's loss is only going to raise more questions about whether he's the right man to turn this team around.

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