Houston was rolling this season, then an injury to Matt Schaub threatened to derail their year completely. Matt Leinart didn’t make it through his first game in Schaub’s stead, meaning the Texans were down to T.J. Yates.
This game was going to go a long way towards telling Houston how much of a problem they have at quarterback going forward, and if this game means anything, they may just be ok.
The Falcons continue to underwhelm this season, appearing to have taken steps backwards from last season, rather than stepping closer to Green Bay. They now sit at 7-5 and find themselves in the thick of the NFC Wild Card race.
Atlanta: Three Performances of Note
Will Svitek comes down to earth
Up until this game Will Svitek had been a marked upgrade over Sam Baker at left tackle for the Falcons, but this game was a serious come down for the lineman. Svitek ended the contest with a -5.7 grade, surrendering two hits and a pressure, but also a sack and another pressure on plays that ended up nullified by penalties. As if his pass-protection wasn’t bad enough, he also found himself losing out in the run game to multiple Texan defenders. Connor Barwin in particular got the better of the Falcon on several plays over the game, but it was Antonio Smith that beat him for a near immediate hit on the quarterback on first down late in the first half (1.34).
Abraham shows why he continues to be a matchup problem for an offense
John Abraham is one of the tougher guys to block in the NFL. He has days where he will terrorize an offense all game long and force them to re-adjust their game plan. On his 22 pass-rushes Abraham may have only earned a single sack, but he added a further five pressures and a batted pass to net himself a +7.0 grade. Abraham accounted for exactly half of the Falcons’ total pressure in the game, one of the two batted passes they had, and did it from only 22 attempts at rushing the passer. He got the better of Duane Brown a couple of times, but he beat Eric Winston badly on several occasions, with the worst of them coming on inside moves after he had scared the Texans right tackle into opening up too quickly to the outside.
Julio not the savior yet
If there was ever a game for the Falcons to be proved right in aggressively chasing Julio Jones (-2.6) in the draft, this was the game, but unfortunately for them, Jones came down on the wrong side of every important ball sent his way. Matt Ryan threw an interception early in the game on a miscommunication between him and Jones that resulted in the ball going right to Jason Allen. Ryan expected Jones to break off his route and cross the face of Allen on a deep-in route, but Jones kept running deep. Of the 10 passes thrown at Jones he came down with just four of them, for a healthy 68 yards, but he dropped a pair of passes, including the last throw of the game in the end zone on a pass that would have tied the game and sent it to over-time with a successful extra point. These were the plays that Jones was supposed to make to improve the Falcons in 2011.
Houston: Three Performances of Note
Houston, we have….no problem
The numbers may not look fantastic. 12-of-25 for 188 yards and a touchdown don’t exactly scream awesome play, but T.J. Yates (+3.0) showed poise and some impressive play all game long. He did get lucky with an interception that was returned for a touchdown nullified by penalties, but on that play he did have two of his three receiving options taken away by illegal holding by the defense. He was able to escape pressure at times, and showed some nice looking accuracy on a deep pass to Andre Johnson in the second quarter. Johnson had run a sloppy looking double move and failed to separate from his corner at all, but Yates dropped the ball in perfectly and Johnson was able to beat the defensive back physically to haul it in and hold onto the ball.
Mixed bag on the O-line
Houston’s offensive line has been one of the better lines in the NFL this season, and makes the job of a new quarterback much easier. Duane Brown (+2.7), Wade Smith (+3.3), and Chris Myers (+1.2) continued that trend with pretty good days at the office. Mike Brisiel (-0.2) would have had a pretty good game if he hadn’t been flagged for three penalties, but Eric Winston at right tackle struggled to match his teammates. Winston’s -3.8 grade came almost entirely as a result of trying to deal with Abraham in the pass game. Abraham beat the big right tackle for three pressures and a sack, but the bigger problem was how quickly the pressure came when he did beat him, with all of those plays coming on near instant pressure where Winston was barely able to slow the speed-rusher down. Winston has been having a fine season so far, but this is a day he’ll want to move on from.
Barwin making noise
Connor Barwin rushed the passer 53 times in this game, a huge amount and seven times more than any other Texan defender. It shows how impressive he was to be able to score a +4.2 grade overall and a +3.7 grade for his pass rush. He notched three hits on the quarterback, another pressure and a pair of batted passes as he proved to be a major disruptive force for the Atlanta passing attack. The Texans needed somebody to step up when they lost Mario Williams, and while they have seen production from several players, nobody has stood out more than Barwin.
– Jonathan Joseph was thrown at eight times, but allowed just a pair of receptions for 31 yards, both of them to Roddy White.
– The Falcons obviously felt that passing was the game plan for the Texans. Slot receiver Harry Douglas saw 50 snaps on offense.
– When blitzed Matt Ryan had a QB rating of just 26.7 in this game
PFF Game Ball
This came down to the battle of the two pass-rushers, one from each team, and Connor Barwin just edges it.