Matt Ryan, Falcons Beat Eli Manning, Giants Despite Big Night from Odell Beckham

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 22: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons looks to pass during the first quarter against the New York Giants during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons handed the New York Giants their fourth straight loss, winning 23-20 on Monday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Matt Ryan had 379 yards and one touchdown on 31-of-39 passing. Ryan hit Julio Jones nine times for 104 yards.

Giants running back Saquon Barkley bolstered his Rookie of the Year campaign, running for 43 yards and a touchdown while catching nine passes for 51 yards. Odell Beckham Jr. finished with 143 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions.

Beckham brought the Giants to within five points on a one-yard touchdown catch with five seconds left, and then the Giants cut the deficit to three with a Barkley two-point conversion. New York let valuable seconds drain off the clock prior to the Beckham score, so even if it had recovered the onside kick, the team likely wouldn't have had enough time to complete the comeback.

      

Julio Jones' Touchdown Drought Has Become Real Issue for Falcons

Congratulations to those fans who successfully predicted Marvin Hall would have a touchdown reception in 2018 before Julio Jones. Hall helped give Atlanta a 7-0 lead with four minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half on a 47-yard touchdown catch.

After the first few games, the Falcons could chalk up Jones' touchdown drought to happenstance. Between Weeks 2 and 4, Atlanta averaged 448 yards and 34.7 points per game. Failing to find Jones in the end zone wasn't hindering the offense too much either.

Now, the fact that Jones has gone nearly half a season without a touchdown grab is impossible to ignore.

Jones entered Monday night first in receiving yards per game (118.0) and tied for eighth in targets (69), so the Falcons aren't neglecting their five-time Pro Bowl wideout.

With that said, having Jones and not getting him a touchdown is like owning a high-end sports car and only driving it to the grocery store.

More practically, the Falcons will struggle against good teams if one of their best players isn't being used to his full potential. Torching the New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers doesn't prove Atlanta's offense can hang with the NFL's elite teams.

The Falcons have Week 8 off, which gives head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian some time to figure out why Jones is still without a touchdown reception.

     

Leaky Line Makes Progress Impossible for Eli Manning, Giants Offense

The Falcons were 29th in team sacks (10) prior to Monday night. Atlanta sacked Eli Manning four times in the first half, which is how many it finished with for the game.

According to Football Outsiders, the Giants ranked 15th in adjusted line yards and 10th in adjusted sack rate last year. In the offseason, New York selected Will Hernandez and signed Nate Solder to a four-year deal worth $62 million, and waiving Ereck Flowers in the middle of the year was a case of addition by subtraction.

In theory, the Giants offensive line should be a strength. Instead, it sat 32nd in adjusted line yards and 24th in adjusted sack rate entering Monday.

Solder was singled out against the Falcons.

Manning has received deserved criticism for his performance this season and the Giants coaching staff isn't doing enough to maximize the big-play ability of Barkley and Beckham.

In defense of Manning and the coaches, the line limits what the Giants offense can do. Settling for checkdown passes is one way to compensate for having little time to throw in the pocket. Along the same lines, poor blocking makes slower-developing downfield throws to Beckham tougher to pull off.

Drive success rate measures a team's percentage of four-down series that either end in a first down or touchdown. The Giants are 25th in that category, with 67.5 percent of its series netting a first down or score, per Football Outsiders.

That number won't improve without clear improvement at the point of attack.

     

Beckham Jr. Trapped in Star WR Hell

Beckham's touchdown catch sums up his 2018 season. He made a difficult catch in tight coverage and the play was ultimately meaningless because of mistakes that were out of his control.

Monday's game also delivered what's likely to be one of the indelible images of this campaign. Rather than throwing to Beckham on a 4th-and-goal at Atlanta's 1-yard line, Manning targeted tight end Scott Simonson, with his pass falling incomplete. The ESPN cameras caught Giants head coach Pat Shurmur speaking for fans everywhere.

Beckham is stuck in a tough spot.

He was the target of Giants co-owner John Mara, who told reporters Beckham "needs to do a little more playing and a little less talking" despite the fact that OBJ is one of the few consistent contributors on the Giants offense.

Beckham is also hindered by the Giants' aforementioned offensive line issues and a 37-year-old quarterback who's well past his best. And there's no reason to think either problem will be fully addressed this season.

His extension provided financial security, but one can't help but wonder whether Beckham is having second thoughts about signing that five-year, $90 million deal this summer to stay with the Giants.

      

What's Next?

The Falcons have Week 8 off before returning to action on the road against the Washington Redskins in Week 9. The Giants head home for a matchup with Washington in Week 8 before their bye a week later.

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