Matthew Tabeek, Digital Managing EditorAtlantaFalcons.com
Fans sound off about Matt Ryan’s play, the officiating and second-guess the play calling
Welcome to Straight from the ’Beek! The Falcons are in the middle of their bye week – and you’ve got plenty of questions this morning. Just remember that all opinions you see in this space are mine, unless otherwise noted.
Let’s tackle these questions.
Chris from Flowery Branch, GA
OK, Matt, since I haven’t seen anyone else touch on this I’ll ask the question. Can you please explain to me how that forward pass was not overturned after review from the officials? It seemed clear after the replay that the ball was slightly loose, but Matt Ryanregained his grip and made enough forward motion to throw the ball 10 yards down the field! Even the commentators were confident that it would be overturned, yet I haven’t heard a clear explanation as to why yet, and that touchdown ended up costing the Falcons the game!
Matt: Hey, Chris. That turnover was just one play that contributed to the Falcons losing to the Bills. Ryan also threw two second-half interceptions, and both led to points for the Bills as well. Once I saw the replay, I was fairly confident they were going to stick to the call and rule it a fumble. His arm was hit and that ball was coming out just as Ryan started to move it forward. Now we can debate it all we want – if he was far enough into his throwing motion or not – but it doesn’t matter. That was the call and they did not see enough to overrule it. The Falcons are turning the ball over way too much and they’re not creating any on the other end – and that, outside of the injuries, is their biggest problem, Chris.
Wesley from Greensboro, NC
What do you think of the play calling of the new offensive coordinator? I think it is getting better, but I am a little concerned.
Matt: Hi, Wesley. I don’t think the play calling has been an issue at all for the Falcons this season. The Falcons need to establish the running game to have offensive success and Steve Sarkisian appears to be committed to the ground game. If there’s been an issue, it’s been on the execution end of those plays being called. The Falcons have had to deal with injuries, just like 31 other teams. It makes a difference when certain guys aren’t on the field, especially receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu – both were out in the second half against the Bills. The biggest issue for the Falcons on offense has been the turnovers, which I just explained to Chris from Flowery Branch (above).
Jules from Quebec City, Canada
Hey, Beek. Just love reading you. Falcons fan from north of the border since ’95. Despite some analysts — or even fans — not taking the Brotherhood mindset too seriously (too college naive football for some), I personally believe it made a huge difference in the team’s performance since DQ’s arrival. Why? Simply because in such a competitive league there is a point where athleticism or the best, highest-paid free agent is simply not enough. That positive, winner mentality and resilience is maybe what, combined with their skills, gave the Falcons the edge last year. Now my question is: Has it faded? Are the newcomers “buying” it? Because really it looks like that confidence and will to give everything for the team, for one another for the fans, is just not as strong or needs a “reboot.” Thank you in advance for the answer.
Matt: Hi, Jules. I’m really glad you’re enjoying Straight from the ’Beek. You know, that’s an interesting take – and I think there’s something to that. There is so much parity in this league, especially now in the salary cap era. The coaches all know one another for the most – and it is a copycat league. So how do you separate yourselves and get the most out of the talent in the room? How do you give yourselves a competitive edge? While I think the Brotherhood is much more, I understand your question. The Falcons’ three pillars – Dan Quinn’s foundation, if you will – are Ball, Battle and Brotherhood. You may have seen him wear T-shirts during press conferences from time to time with those symbols on the front. Right now, Jules, I don’t think it’s an issue of younger players not buying in. I don’t think they’d be here very long if they truly did not. Outside of the injuries (which can change the course of any team’s season), it’s been the turnovers, or “Ball,” if you will. They’re giving and not taking – and while that’s a terrific way to live your life, it’ll get you beaten in the NFL. The turnovers are hurting them. The escaped in Detroit, but couldn’t at home against the run-happy, clock-eating Bills. Hope that makes sense.
Gene from Farmersville, CA
Why do you think that expectations cause fans to jump ship when times are down? I, as a fan, was utterly upset about the loss. But it’s one game. It’s not the Super Bowl. And adjustments are still coming. Last year we went through it and towards the end of the season and then caught fire. This team is by far the best I’ve ever seen. Why can’t we just be patient and not tend to stray into such ideas as replacing star players and firing everybody. I remember when Matt Ryan was drafted we were expected to win one game. ONE! We have become successful and competitive again. Why must me succumb to throwing in the towel at first sign of doubt?
Matt: I think it’s only natural for fans to expect more – to raise the bar – once they’ve watched their team experience some success. The Falcons were oh-so-close to winning it all last February – and with Matt Ryan and the core of the returning, it’s only natural to want to win them all. Now, that said. I totally agree with you when it comes to the knee-jerk reactions, hot takes, and so-called fans jumping ship. Sadly, there’s always going to be those types – not just in sports, but everywhere. They yell the loudest and tend to ignore things like logic and facts. But once things are good, or the team is winning, they’re right back on the train. That’s never going to change, Gene. All we can do is sit back and try to ignore ’em. Or change the channel. Or close the screen browser. You get it, and thanks for reading.
James from Decatur, GA
Every team needs a wake-up call now and again. I see fans jumping off the bandwagon after one loss. Man, all is not lost but when you set the bar high, you get what you get. Flying high till the day I die. RISE UP!
Matt: James, meet Gene (above). Gene, say hi to James. I think you’re both on the same page. Thanks for writing.
Greg from Kennesaw, GA
Hey Beek! I enjoy your column. Let’s start keeping a stat on Matt Ryan. Number of passes thrown behind receivers. If he is completing 70 percent of his passes, 25 percent must be passes thrown behind receivers, and 5 percent being dropped balls. This not only leads to incomplete passes (or interceptions on tipped balls) on a lot of occasions but can also result in injuries from the receivers having to twist and reach back to try and catch these inaccurately thrown balls. And what’s up with all the muscle strain injuries? (Hamstrings and biceps) Is the strength and conditioning guy not getting these guys stretched out enough or are they getting dehydrated or what? Seems like a very fundamental problem we shouldn’t be having at this level.
Matt: Hey, Greg. Glad you’re enjoying it. Thanks for reading. I must say, those are extremely convenient percentage break downs – and they’re obviously incorrect. Have you charted every single pass – and how do you define a catchable ball? Even if 5 percent of all his passes were dropped or deflected, think about that. Then again, I’m not going down this rabbit hole. Just curious, though. What did you think of Matt Ryan’s accuracy last season? Were you OK with it? As far as the hamstring strains and other injuries, they unfortunately happen and it’s part of the game. That’s why they have 53-man rosters and practice squads. These guys aren’t robots and bodies – when starting, stopping, twisting, straining and colliding at high speeds – break down and muscles tear.
Karl from Greenville, SC
Our MVP QB, as you call him, couldn’t figure out the defense for the Bills only had 10 people on the field for the fourth-and-1 play to end the game last week and still couldn’t make a decent pass or pick a play to run to take advantage of the missing defender. Any chance we see the backup QB to start next game to send a message? I can’t perform like that at my job and expect not be replaced. Let’s go Beek, the birds need a QB who doesn’t choke under pressure. Thoughts?
Matt: First, I refer to Matt Ryan as the MVP because he was named it following the season. And if you were named MVP at your job, I’m sure your boss would stick with you – as well as your coworkers. Second, how do you know Matt Ryan didn’t know they had 10 players on the field? And finally, no, there’s no chance the backup quarterback plays next game. The Falcons are 3-1, Karl, and their quarterback is a big reason why.
Kenneth from Dallas, TX
These are very interesting reads! Lol, especially when people ask questions I have. OK, my question comes just from curiosity. About how many questions/comments would you say you have received on this blog regarding Devonta Freeman running it on third-and-1 against the Bills at the end of the game? And what are your thoughts on the play call?
Matt: Hi, Kenneth. As far as number of questions go, too many to count. But I try not to answer the same question over and over. That would be a boring read. As far as the play call goes, you have to respect and trust the coaches there. The Falcons were without Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu – two key pieces of their offense. Because of that, the Bills adjusted and played differently. They’re very aggressive against the run and call a lot of run blitzes. I don’t know what the Falcons saw, but Falcons coach Dan Quinn said that they had an option to call a running play if they had the right look, but it turns out that they did not. So they went with the pass – in fact, they ran 12 pass plays during that final drive (operating out of the shotgun formation). Would I have liked to have seen them run Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman? Absolutely, but that might’ve been a bad idea against the Bills defense. With no timeouts left, a negative play would have hurt their chances even more. It’s so easy to play Monday morning quarterback, Kenneth.
Timothy from Valdosta, GA
Hey Matt, great column. I have one question and a few comments. How significant is Jack Crawford‘s injury to the defense? Negative fan reaction to the Falcons 3-1 start, game attendance and Duke Riley‘s play. In 2016 the Falcons got off to a 3-1 start beating one playoff/SB team in that span. This year they started 3-1 beat 2 playoff teams. Last year Atlanta ranked 14 in home attendance. This year they are currently ranked 11th. So far attendance is 142,099 compared to 139,890 for the first two 2016 home games against divisional foes. Finally, DQ stated that Duke Riley is on the same missed tackle rate that Deion Jones had starting last year. He came in third in tackles for rookies in 2016. I believe that Duke Riley will improve as the season progresses.
Matt: Thanks, Tim. I think Jack Crawford’s injury is significant. Losing him, someone who worked all offseason long to learn the defense, hurts the depth (the Falcons now have eight defensive linemen on their roster) and his versatility will be tough to replace. Crawford is 6-foot-5 and 274 pounds and can play inside and on the edge. And you are correct regarding Dan Quinn’s comments about Duke Riley and Deion Jones. Thanks for your comments and perspective, Timothy. Sometimes it’s all about how you choose to look at things — and which numbers you want to to focus on. As I mentioned the other day, Riley is in his first year and getting a lot of on-the-job training right now. I agree; he’ll be fine in time.
Hugh from Charlotte, NC
Love the Q&A and appreciate you answering the questions posted, it always makes for interesting dialogue. Is it true that on the fourth-and-1 play at the end of the game the Bills only had 10 players? Matt Ryan has six turnovers in two games. Passer rating states he’s in the bottom tier of QBs this year.
Matt: Hello, Hugh. Glad you enjoy it. Yes, the Bills only had 10 players on the field. All I can say is that the Falcons have played four games so far, which is not a huge sample size. And give their opponents some credit – the Bills have the No. 1 scoring defense in the entire league. As far as Matt Ryan goes, he’s completed 88 of 135 passes for 1,109 yards. He’s thrown five touchdown passes and five interceptions (and we won’t get into all the tipped and deflected balls here). His passer rating at the moment is 87.5. Sam Bradford currently has a league-best 143.0 passer rating, but he’s also missed a lot of action (he’s only 27 of 32 for 346 yards with three touchdowns and zero picks).