Editor's note: Archer's Take is a weekly series in which Falcons analyst Dave Archer provides insight and analysis of each Falcons game.
Baltimore’s consistency in the run game allowed Lamar Jackson to flourish
You knew it was going to be a limited game plan for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, because they didn’t want him standing in the pocket and throwing it. And Atlanta’s challenge was to try to force third down and seven-plus. Make him beat you by standing in the pocket throwing the football. I thought for the most part that the Falcons did a good job of rushing him in passing situations without allowing him to skate out of the pocket. In fact, they were able to get the ball out a couple of times, including the Vic Beasley touchdown.
But it was the inability to consistently stop Baltimore’s running game and put them in uncomfortable third down situations that was the issue for the Falcons. Baltimore’s offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg wasn’t forced to make a lot of play calls that didn’t rely on Jackson’s athleticism. The zone read plays or the bootlegs usually go out the window when you get into third and seven-plus, and the Falcons couldn’t force enough of those situations.
On that long drive in the third quarter, you could feel the wave coming. Atlanta had three or four opportunities to get off the field earlier and couldn’t do it.
Deion Jones did all anyone could ask for in his return
Deion Jones played as well as you possibly could have hoped he would play coming back, after not playing since Week 1. I thought the Falcons would play him sparingly, possibly 35 snaps or something like that. But he played far more than that. And you could see it coming back to him as the game went on and he began diagnosing what was happening. He would step into holes, he would be there a step faster.
It was all that instinctual stuff you knew he had, and you could see it starting to surface as the game played out. In fact, it came back far quicker than I thought it would for him. He had 15 tackles and a sack in this game. What else do you want Deion Jones to do? He’s got to have other guys play at that level around him. It was really cool to see. He played at an extremely high level.
It has to start at the point of attack
As I watch the game, the Falcons aren’t winning at the point of attack. And there’s not much you can do schematically with that. You can try some perimeter throws, or get the ball the ball out on screens to try to slow things down, but at some point you have to be able to come off the ball and block people in the run game. And the Falcons aren’t doing that right now. At some point in third down situations you’ve got to be able to pick people up that are coming after your quarterback. That hasn’t been happening recently. Matt Ryan was under consistent pressure in this game. He threw for 131 yards, and that was only because he scrambled and made a couple of throws.
You’re not changing your roster or anything like that right now. These guys were good enough to play well earlier in the season. As a player, you’ve got to go back and take stock in what you were doing earlier. You’ve got to go back and look at what you were doing and ask "what am I not doing now that I was doing then?" That’s really all you can do as a player, is go back and do some self-evaluation and dig deep.
Manageable third downs kept Ravens offense on the field too long
One of the keys to this game for Atlanta was to get Baltimore into some uncomfortable third down situations and make Lamar Jackson be a pocket passer. But there just weren’t a lot of third-and-longs. So it felt like Atlanta was dying a slow death. And what was happening was the defense was getting worn down physically, too, because they weren’t getting off the field.
But I thought it was a credit to the Falcons defense that they didn’t break. They ultimately forced field goals. They did allow Baltimore to eat a lot of clock, and that’s not acceptable, but as much strain and stress as the Falcons defense was put under, and as fatigued as I’m sure they were, they never broke. They never gave up the touchdown in the second half. I thought that was a silver lining in this game.
Beasley’s athleticism showed on the touchdown return
It was a play where Jackson was in a passing situation and the Falcons were able to mush-rush him, meaning they didn’t give him a lane to escape. So, when he tried to skate through, Grady Jarrett and Takk McKinley crushed him. The ball popped out, and it seemed like it took forever for someone to get on the ball, but Vic tracked it down, scooped it up and then got a couple of good blocks. Deion Jones found a way to get downfield and get in front one guy, and Brian Poole came over and blocked a guy.
But ultimately, Vic Beasley’s athleticism was on display. Here’s a guy that’s 250 pounds outrunning everyone down the sideline, weaving in and out of traffic. Even Lamar Jackson had a couple of chances to tackle him, and never could get him to the ground.
It was a good play, but it was a team play because you had a couple of guys help get the ball out, several guys making blocks, and then an athletic return by Vic Beasley. It was a good team moment on a day where they could have used a few more good team moments.
Baltimore’s pass rush allowed them to play tighter coverage
Baltimore was never asked to extend their coverage, something that Atlanta did have to do when they were on defense. Jackson got outside the pocket and a couple of times made Atlanta’s secondary stick with their coverage for a longer period of time. Matt Ryan wasn’t going to be able to extend those plays often against Baltimore’s defense. So the Ravens defenders were able to hug up, they were asked to come up and play tight coverage.
Atlanta got a couple of quick gains through the air early in the game, and Baltimore quickly decided they weren’t going to allow that. They weren’t willing to give up the quick gain because they thought they could get to Matt Ryan, and they wanted to make him hold the ball. And that’s what they did, they made him hold the ball and wait for his receivers to break clean, and the Falcons had a tough time separating. And when Matt tried to put the ball on people, Atlanta wasn’t great at making contested catches. The Falcons had a number of chances to make contested catches in this game that fell to the ground. When you get into tight games like this where the game is going to be in doubt in the fourth quarter, all of those plays are going to be magnified.