Here it is once again. I just finished my review of the coaches film from the Falcons game. It just got uploaded this morning. When I watched the game live, I think I was like most of us, a little frustrated with the team's performance. I felt going in to this game that it shouldn't have been as close as it was. Also, I was frustrated by the lack of offensive production in the 1st half as well as the defense giving up so many points.
However, emotion can cloud the situation a lot. After a review of the game, I'm feeling MUCH better about where we are as a team.
First, I really have to hand it to Atlanta, they played one of their best, if not their best, game of the season. They played like a team with a lot of pride and passion. Their offensive line probably played the best game I saw them play this season(I reviewed their last 4 games). They also played like a team with absolutely nothing to lose. They put it all on the line to beat us and still came up short.
From the offensive side of the ball:
I saw a LOT of growth in CK this week. I'll be posting some examples, but, he made some incredible reads and throws, and on one play in particular(which I'll show) he got to his 5th read on the play. Something I haven't seen much from him so far. Will Tukuafu was a monster in run blocking and a major liability in pass protection. It was great to see Iupati back in the lineup, he made some outstanding blocks in the run game.
Also, I know many will probably disagree with me, but, Roman's gameplan was really good. When you step back and look at how the game evolved and played out, it was really impressive. I know we only got 3 points in the first half, but, Atlanta blitzed on almost every down in the first half, something that we took advantage of in the 2nd. And, not only did they blitz on almost every play, they threw some crazy blitzes at us, it not only made it harder on CK but the O-line had a really hard time picking it up. Also, we only had 4 possessions in the 1st half: One one possession we kicked a FG, another we had back to back penalties that created a 2nd and 18, another we a 3 and out with a drop on the first play, and a free blitzer on the next that lead to an incomplete pass. On another drive we had a dropped pass and some other protection breakdowns.
The 3rd and 1 Play action pass that got snuffed - yeah, it probably wasn't the best of calls, but they did get Davis 1-1 with a safety, but Tukuafu absolutely whiffed on his pass pro which is what blew up the play. That was really the only play I saw that I said, "I definitely wouldn't have called that play.
In the 2nd half, our offense was unstoppable, we scored on every possession in the 2nd half, we just only had 3 possession in the 2nd half.
As much as some of you want us to run a much more wide open passing offense, it was actually the 2&3 TE sets with 1 or at most 2 receivers that got us the biggest plays out of the passing game. The TD to Boldin - boldin was the only WR on the field. On 2 of Crab's biggest gains, he was the only WR on the field. As much as many of us hate to see either Boldin or Crab's go out of the game, it's what gave us the best return from the offense. It also set up the late game all-run drive. We were so successful in the first half running the ball, when we got into the 2nd half we started utilizing much more 22 &13 personnel. because ATL had their safeties deep on a lot of those plays it allowed the run game to really pop, then ATL started running much more single safety looks with an 8 man box, then we started picking up chunk yardage out of the passing game. Then, on our all running drive, we ran 22(2 backs 2 TE) because we had thrown the ball so effectively, ATL only had a 7 man front with 2 deep safeties. This meant we had 8 blockers on 7 defenders, which is why we ran the ball so effectively on that drive.
ATL also went almost exclusively 2 deep safeties in the first half running a variety of zone-man blitzes - something no other team(other than GB) has done this year.
From the defensive side of the ball:
Number one, penalties killed us - both called and uncalled.
Whitner's penalty - ridiculous. If not for that penalty ATL probably wouldn't have scored a TD in the 1st half, ATL would've faced 3rd and goal from the 9 yard line instead of 1st and goal from the 1 1/2. We were dominating in coverage and swarming Ryan with the rush. The only real play they got was, really, kind of a lucky play and Reid missed an open field tackle to get them down near the goal line.
The TD to Gonazales, I don't know how he didn't get called for offensive PI, he absolutely mauled Whitner, basically throwing him down to the ground to get open.
ATL, for one, brought their "A" game to this one. Matt Ryan played a really good game(I, personally have though Matt Ryan was overrated before I saw this game) Ryan made some outstanding throws into tiny windows with pinpoint anticipation - because, for the majority of their successful plays, he had to. Which is also why the majority of his completed passes were to Gonzales or White, 2 guys who he has played with for years to develop that kind of timing and anticipation.
I know a lot of us saw the game and thought, "where is the pass rush?" You couldn't see it too well on the broadcast, but on film, it was there big time. ATL ended up having to keep Gonzales in to block on probably 20% or more of their pass plays. If they didn't have someone chip or keep 1-2 extra guys in to block, Ryan was under intense pressure on probably 80% or more of his dropbacks. Even when they kept a RB in to block, he was still getting pressure. There were a lot of plays where they were chipping with Gonzales and then keeping 2 backs in to block to try and contain our pass rush.
From a coverage standpoint, our DB's actually played a pretty good game. One, ATL got away with at last 3 big offensive pass interference plays.
And everyone who complains about all of our off-coverage. When we played press coverage on 4th and 2 ATL converted. When we played off coverage on 1st and goal, we got an INT return for a TD.....
Overall, the team really overcame a lot of weird things to win this game. ATL threw absolutely everything they had at us in this game, gambling a LOT. They played probably their best game of the year against us, had some lucky bounces and terrible calls(and no calls) go in their favor, and they still came up short.
This game actually has me with a lot of hope and positivity going forward into the playoffs. We're a hot team that is truly getting better every week at the most important time.