Here are grades for the Falcons in their 16-point win over the Saints.
Matt Ryan had a very good day. He led the impressive drive late in the first half that resulted in the shovel pass to Eric Weems from three yards out. Ryan did not have a ‘brain-freeze’ throw, as he did last week against Pittsburgh and the previous week against the Packers. He was obviously more comfortable with Julio Jones back in the game. Ryan was 30-for-40. He was not sacked once and did not throw an interception. – GRADE: A-
Steven Jackson was not effective again. He rushed the ball four times for only nine yards before leaving the game with an injury. Devonta Freeman was the leading rusher for Atlanta with 36 yards on five carries, with the longest being a 31-yard touchdown run. The running game produced 81 yards on 22 carries, for a 3.7 yards per carry average. It’s been mediocre all season and was again on Sunday. – GRADE: C
Julio Jones is a stud receiver. He proved that again Sunday with seven catches for 107 yards. Devonta Freeman had a big 36-yard catch to compliment the receivers. Even Steven Jackson caught a 14-yard pass. Atlanta got good production from Roddy White (six catches, 55 yards) and a big play late in the game from Harry Douglas, who finished with four catches for 47 yards. Jones had a great block on the big 27-yard gain for Douglas. – GRADE: A
Jon Asamoah did not start due to injury, so Gabe Carimi was out there at guard. But the offensive line played well, with Ryan rarely under much pressure. The Falcons continue to get better on the line of scrimmage, with James Stone seeming to play pretty well once again. Jake Matthews had a holding call but also played well. Anytime the line does not allow a sack, it’s a great day. – GRADE: B+
DEFENSIVE PASS RUSH
What can you say? It was tremendous. Drew Brees had an awful day, as he was sacked five times. The Falcons had 16 sacks coming into the game through 14 games, which was last in the NFL. Two players had more sacks than the entire team coming into the game. But the Falcons got Drew Brees five times. He was also under pressure all day. Rookie Ra’Shede Hageman did well. Jonathan Babineaux had a nice game. Corey Peters continues to show he’s recovered from his Achilles’ Heel injury with another solid performance. – GRADE: A+
Desmond Trufant is getting better by the week. He made an interception, as did Robert McClain late in the game when the Saints were trying to take the lead. The Falcons made Jimmy Graham a non-factor, as he had only six catches for 53 yards. The longest pass play of the day for Brees was for 10 yards. He did that twice, once to Graham and once to Marques Colston. William Moore got hurt again, but Kemal Ishmael came in and made the crucial play on Graham to stop a touchdown. Safety Dwight Lowery made a sack on Brees. – GRADE: A
The long run on the opening play of the game was pretty pathetic. It led to a quick New Orleans touchdown. But the three field goals from Matt Bryant negate the bad play to some extent. Atlanta cannot afford a bad special teams performance next week against Carolina. – GRADE: D
The Falcons had their backs up against the wall. Everyone had heard the reports about Smith maybe not being back if the Falcons don’t make it, so for them to go into New Orleans and win like that was tremendous. These players certainly seem like they don’t think this is all Mike Smith’s fault. They played hard for him again, and even in the disappointing losses, the Falcons have not given up at the end. Smith deserves tremendous credit, but his future will still likely be settled next Sunday. If the Falcons win, Smith will be kept. If the Falcons lose, off bets are off. – GRADE: A
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at email@example.com.
Falcons grades for Sunday's win over Saints
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