Penalties, Missed Tackles Hurt Defense
Discipline (or lack thereof) proved to be Atlanta's downfall in Week 1. The Falcons gave up 74 yards on seven penalties, some of which occurred on vital third down situations; Atlanta also missed a high number of tackles, which, ultimately, was a big reason why the Bucs were able to hang 31 points on the board. Charles Sims' 23-yard touchdown was the most glaring example of poor execution: Tampa's running back could have been taken down around the 13-yard line, but he was able to shake of a slew of defenders and rumble into the end zone.
"We planned on it being a physical game and it was," head coach Dan Quinn said. "But us not finishing and having some of the fouls that we did was certainly disappointing."
Ryan Turns in Efficient Game
Matt Ryan continued his trend of excelling on opening day. The veteran QB completed 27 of 39 passes for 334 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers — good for a 112.6 passer rating. As the Falcons struggled to move the ball on the ground, Ryan stepped up and put Tampa's defense on its heels.
The running game was not the offense's only issue, however. Atlanta converted on just three of 13 third downs; while they marched into the red zone four times, they only came away with one touchdown from inside the 20.
"I think the No. 1 thing is, for me, we have to do better on third down," Ryan said. "You've got to do better than that offensively just to keep your drives going, continue to give yourself more chances. And then we've got to score touchdowns. When we get the ball into that red zone, we have to come away with touchdowns. So that's got to be our focus."
Sanu Shines in Debut
Mohamed Sanu wasted no time showing why the Falcons invested in him during free agency. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound wideout got Atlanta into field goal range on its second offensive drive by sprinting for a 59-yard reception, which went down as the longest play of the game. Two possessions later, Sanu hauled in a five-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone, beating ex-Falcon Brent Grimes for the ball and giving Atlanta its first red zone conversion of 2016.
He found the end zone again in the third quarter by catching a pass from Ryan on a two-point conversion, and although he dropped a few passes, Sanu did a solid job taking pressure off Julio Jones and giving Ryan a legitimate No. 2 receiver.
Turnover Ratio in the Black
Sanu's touchdown came after Desmond Trufant snagged first-quarter interception, which ended up being the only turnover of the afternoon. Winning the turnover battle was a point of emphasis throughout preseason and, while the Falcons didn't get the result they wanted, it was encouraging to see them take care of the ball as well as they did.
Coleman Comes Through
One of Quinn's keys to victory was to make explosive plays on offense, and in addition to Sanu, Tevin Coleman earned his fair share of big gains. The second-year running back tallied five receptions for 95 yards — a team-high — and put together a 47-yard catch in the second quarter, setting up Atlanta for a field goal that put them ahead 13-10.
Devonta Freeman got involved in the passing game, too, hauling in four catches for 20 yards.
"I thought Tevin did a nice job for us, specifically catching the ball out of the backfield," Ryan said. "He made a great catch on a play we had going down our sideline. He showcased just how athletic he is, his skill set. I think both those guys are going to continue to do great things for us this year. Devonta and Tevin are two really talented players."