ReFo: Cowboys @ Falcons, Week 9
Even two missed field goals couldn't stop the Falcons from improving to 8-0. Khaled Elsayed breaks down how Atlanta's defensive line helped keep the streak alive.
ReFo: Cowboys @ Falcons, Week 9
It wasn’t always pretty, and a lot will rightly be made of the Cowboys’ failure to press home an early advantage when marching down the field, but this was another example of why Atlanta is such a dangerous team. The Falcons are hard to get away from and always capable of putting up points whether it be the result of an explosive play or a sustained drive, moving to 3-0 against the NFC East.
For them the postseason is becoming an inevitability. For Dallas a dream. Good teams don’t keep losing close games, and when you consider the defeats to the Giants and Ravens, this is more than just one of those games. Let’s examine some of the key performances.
Dallas — Three Performances of Note
After some fine performances in recent weeks, this was a bit of a comedown for Morris Claiborne (-1.0). It wasn’t that he played particularly poorly, but more than the dynamic duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones had the better of him. Early in the first quarter Jones beat Claiborne (with 9:51 to go) on a go route where Claiborne was called for defensive pass interference. Then for much of the game it was White who had his number. Even when the rookie was in position (3:23 in the fourth quarter) to make a game-changing play, White prevented a pass defensed from becoming an interception by showing some nifty coverage skills of his own. Certainly not embarrassed, but perhaps humbled a little.
Another good day for the Cowboys premier defensive player, DeMarcus Ware (+2.2), and yet it could have been so much better. He finished the day with some very healthy pressure numbers, picking up two sacks, a hit and four hurries (with one sack leading to a forced fumble) as he proved too much for a much improved Sam Baker. That said Ware will still probably be thinking about how differently the game could have turned out if, with 9:49 to go in the fourth quarter, he’d have been not missed a tackle on Jones that would lead to a first down. Given how Matt Bryant had been kicking, the difference between a 36-yarder and a 52-yarder (as well as the time saved) may have made a huge difference.
The Tease that is Tony
There were times in this games where the argument of Tony Romo (+1.5) being an elite quarterback made perfect sense. The way he bought time with 5:35 to go in the first quarter before connecting on a deep bomb to Kevin Ogletree was something truly special, much like some similar work for his touchdown with 5:31 to go in the game. But as can be the case there were some overthrows, some underthrows and a whole lot of short passes to tight end Jason Witten that really didn’t cause the Falcons any problems. He was a big part of them being so competitive, but a factor in why they were unable to do more.
Atlanta — Three Performances of Note
Spending most of his day (38 out of 51 snaps) on a three-man line, and another 11 snaps as a defensive end in a four-man line, Jonathan Babineaux (+4.2) is certainly being moved around a bit. He was at his best here and it wasn’t just because he batted a pass, picked up a sack, and added three hurries. His work in the run game was impressive as well, picking up two tackles for a short gain, a tackle for a loss and a tackle for no gain. Most impressive of which was at 14:08 in Q2 where he got across the face of Doug Free and stopped Felix Jones from getting past the line of scrimmage.
Not the defensive end you’d expect
You’d be forgiven for not knowing John Abraham (-2.2) rushed the passer 27 times such was his limited impact. He was very much overshadowed by Kroy Biermann (+3.5), who is starting to rediscover some of the form he showed as a starter in 2010 before the Falcons’ investment in Ray Edwards (who managed just 10 snaps in this one compared to 29 for Biermann). Free was the chief victim, giving up three pressures, but drawing a flag on Tyron Smith and adding two defensive stops in the run game by getting on the inside shoulder of tight ends, Biermann showed how deserving he is of his expanded role.
Ryan keeps on rolling
We’ve seen Matt Ryan (+3.5) play better, but then we’ve also seen him play a lot worse recently. Indeed he almost undid his good work in this one with a horror back-shoulder throw to White that was never on and nearly intercepted. But he didn’t and he racked up the first downs while facing some pressure (41.1 percent of dropbacks). He’ll be grateful for his receivers, who dropped only two passes (both by backs) and picked up 152 yards after the catch, an indication the offense is far more explosive than it was a year ago.
– Matt Ryan completed 66.7 percent of passes thrown more than 10 yards in the air.
– Jason Witten averaged 7.3 yards per reception, managed only 13 yards after the catch and had a long gain of 11 yards on eight targets.
– Michael Turner was on the field for 52 percent of offensive plays, while Jacquizz Rodgers was at 39 percent. Turner was on the field for 14 passing plays, staying to block on 10 of those and dropping a pass on another.
This wasn’t a game where one individual stood out, but a number of plays by Jonathan Babineaux slowed down the Cowboys.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled