THE score was closer than the game was. Even with a few self-inflicted wounds (LB Najee Goode, I’m looking at YOU!) we managed to hold the NFL’s top scoring team, to less than half of the 34 (33.9) points that they came into the game averaging. We punked, bullied, and pushed Atlanta around at will.
This is exactly the team I was predicting they’d be prior to this preseason. The stifling team concept Defense, our Offense being based on a power run game, Special Teams that set the table for the other two units. It was great to finally see it all come together.
That 24 – 15 victory was a thing of beauty. It was in no way a finished product, as you could still see we have some growing to do. However, when you hold a team that averages 315 passing yards, to just 303 total yards, it’s something to be proud of. We took a team averaging 114 rushing yards per game and capped them at 48. This was also the worst showing of the year by the Falcons QB, who escaped the game with a passer rating of just 78.7.
But what about the stuff that the stats don’t reveal? That’s the reason for these “Four Things” articles. To have an idea of what needs addressing BEFORE the game, so that we’re forced to honestly answer questions AFTER the game.
So, of the Four Things we were looking for in this last game, what exactly did we see?
1) Get away from things we don’t do well. We didn’t lean on RB Darren Sproles as our bell-cow; only attempted a couple Screen passes; ran ZERO QB options; and didn’t try to force long balls to TE Zach Ertz or WR Nelson Agholor. Instead we leaned on RB Ryan Mathews, threw the ball down the field to WR Jordan Matthews, threw Ertz more underneath stuff, and QB Carson Wentz had the longest run of his career (so far), on a 13 yard scramble right up the middle. We handled business here. DONE
2) Put Matty on ice. We sacked him twice, but we only hit him six times. I expected more hits on him, but then again he was constantly unable to get comfy, and his lack of accuracy (54%, his second worst of this season), and his lowest QB rating (78.7) of the season showed as much. DONE
3) Be aggressive on Offense. You can’t get more aggressive on Offense than five straight runs with Mathews from the 28 yard line, all the way to the end zone. We ran the ball down Atlanta’s throat in that game, and dominated the point of attack. DONE
4) Run behind the rookie. This one has me on edge. Technically we did this, though we waited until the second half to run behind RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, 4 or 5 times total. TOTAL. As in the whole game. Out of 38 rushing attempts, only about 5 went his way. If Wentz was a left-handed QB I would understand it as strategy. This however, comes across as protecting Vaitai. Long-term that can’t have a happy ending. NOT DONE
This week’s score is 3 out of 4 things done. I could get technical and say we went 4 for 4 (and it would be nice to), but that last one wasn’t truly earned. It also raises questions about whether or not he’ll be the weak link in our next game vs the Seattle Seahawks. (Now see, THAT was a segue.)