Editor's note: Archer's Take is a weekly series in which Falcons analyst Dave Archer provides insight and analysis of each Falcons game.
Calvin Ridley has a special feel for the game
It was something we've seen all year so far. Calvin's ability to understand the game and the feel for the game. It's one thing to run pass routes and catch the ball and all that kind of stuff. It's another thing to understand situations, understand what teams are trying to do to you. I think he has a tremendous feel for that stuff. It obviously came to bear today, they tried to cover him a number of different ways. They played off, they played press coverage, they even tried to roll some guys over to him to help on him some. I mean this game started with them trying to double Julio Jones and next thing you know they're trying to get Marshon Lattimore on Calvin Ridley and off of Julio Jones, which hurt them because Julio hit them deep as well. And that's what can happen. But just Calvin's ability to understand the game.
You know the impromptu play on his third touchdown? People just kind of throw that up as a scramble play, but Calvin's running a crossing route on Ryan, and Ryan escapes left and Calvin is running the other direction tracing the end line and he puts his foot in the ground and drives back to give Ryan a place to throw the ball. His feel to immediately to react to the situation. That's fun, just as a former quarterback, I mean you love to play with guys like that.
Ridley showcased route running skill, and speed on 75-yard touchdown
It was press coverage. P.J. Williams the corner tried to press him, he didn't get a good jam, and give Calvin credit again for understanding how they're trying to play him. He gets a great release, he takes time on his release. If you go back and look at it, he stutter steps to the inside to get the corner to bite to the inside and then gets around him and then stems him straight up the field. He stacks the route. By that I mean he didn't continue to get pushed to the sideline, he gets vertical right now. So now the corner is in a trail technique as opposed to running side-by-side with him. And yeah, I'm sure there was an underestimation of what Ridley can do from a speed standpoint. I don't think he'll make that mistake again.
Matt Ryan showcased MVP form
I'm pretty sure that's a distinction he's not really going to care about, but I think Matt was really good for a couple of reasons. Number one, you had no running game. And the running game is the best friend of a quarterback. It slows the pass rush down, gives you some options, and play-action becomes more viable. But Matt had no running game in this game and the protection was not very good in the game. The Saints were able to rush four and get to him, so he knew that he had limited time, yet he still carved them up and made some unbelievable plays and did a good job of buying time and escaping. I thought he played like an MVP. The Falcons needed their quarterback to play like the most valuable player in the league and he played that way today.
Drew Brees was brilliant too
The Falcons played some good man coverage and played some tight coverage with contested catches, but then they played some loose zone, and when you play Brees in a loose zone he's going to wear you out. He's going to throw the check downs, backs to the flats, tight ends over the ball, and he took advantage of everything he got. I thought he did a good job of recognizing when the Falcons wanted to come with pressure too. There were a number of times where he holds the snap count. This is a veteran guy, one of the best that's ever played the game and he would hold the snap count and all of a sudden Atlanta would get a little antsy and show that they were coming off the slot, and Brees would redirect the protection, or he would get a quick route out the other way to get the ball out. As good as Ryan was, I thought Brees was brilliant as well.
Falcons will miss Ricardo Allen's presence on the field
If Deion Jones was Atlanta's most important player on defense, Ricardo Allen was 1B, Debo being 1A. No one understands what Atlanta is doing defensively more than Ricardo does. He is essentially an extension of Marquand Manuel and Dan Quinn. He's the guy lining people up, and when you've got as many guys banged up as the Falcons do on defense, he's shuffling people back and forth, he's telling guys to slide here and there. That's huge not to mention the fact of how much it means to him I think it's one thing to get people lined up and make plays which he does but then it means a lot to him. So the want-to when you're dragging a little bit and you haven't played well, you just gave up a long drive. There's a myriad of things he brings to the table that, should he not be able to go, then you've lost a real solid player, a really a big part of what you are defensively.
Saints used constant motion and shifts to cause confusion
It was a good game plan by Sean Payton. As much as I hate to admit that, they had a really good game plan. They had a lot of different personnel groups, they had a lot of pre-snap movement. Shifts, motions, guys changing strengths of formations. Atlanta was trying to match up defensively. They were trying to match not only against their offensive line with the defensive front flipping guys around, linebackers were trying get on the right side, now you've got guys in the secondary that are trying to flip-flop and get in to places, and if the offense is changing strengths and you're showing shifts and motions, it makes it difficult. Give New Orleans the credit but then also from a Falcons standpoint, I thought the recognition defensively wasn't good enough in this game. I thought that Atlanta didn't recognize things soon enough and quick enough. You knew they were going to do some of that, but there was a little bit more of it than I anticipated. That's something they're going to really have to clean up, and that's something Marquand Manuel and Dan Quinn will get together and say 'okay we can't put ourselves in that situation.'
The blocked punt was the last piece of a bad series for the Falcons
Certainly the blocked punt was the culmination of a sequence. I thought that it really started prior to that. Obviously, the punt block makes it worse, but you have the lead and now you stop New Orleans to get the ball back and you get a face mask on the punt so you take over at your own 47-yard line. It's a short-field opportunity for Atlanta. In these games against the Saints, you have to maximize your possessions, and if you get a short-field opportunity you have to put points on the board because you know you're only going to hold Brees a few times. So Ryan skates out of the pocket on first down for 6 or 7 yards, so now it's second-and-3 or 4 and Ryan Schraeder gets called for holding. Now it's second-and-14, and then it's third-and-long and Ryan is forced out of the pocket and has to throw the ball away or get sacked, which is what it was. Now, you're punting. And so you went from a short-field opportunity to punting the ball, and Atlanta didn't handle that very well either. Foye Oluokun got beat inside, and the guy blocks the kick. So that was the culmination of what I thought the worst series of the game for Atlanta on offense. They went from a short-field opportunity and potentially putting them under the gun, being down two scores, to the Saints scoring to take the lead after a blocked punt.