Editor's note: Archer's Take is a weekly series in which Falcons analyst Dave Archer provides insight and analysis of each Falcons game.
Falcons focus on the Colts run game opened the short passing game
In the first part of the game, Atlanta wanted eyes on the Colts run game. They knew the number one thing they needed to stop was Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins from running the football. In order to do that, you have to have eleven eyes on the ball – so the Falcons ran zone coverage. In zone coverage, you can fit against the run and eliminate some of those explosive run plays. There were still creases in the run the game for the Colts, but for the most part the Falcons controlled it.
But that meant Atlanta's secondary was playing at depth, which gave the Colts receivers room to maneuver on the underneath routes. That's why Brissett was so hot to start the game. The adjustment at halftime was to come up and hug on the receivers and play more man coverage. This can make a defense vulnerable if the quarterback is able to find a crease in the pocket during a pass rush – but this also can cause the quarterback to hold the ball longer and that's why the pass rush began to get home for Atlanta. Suddenly, the Falcons rush began to affect Brissett in the second half. Unfortunately, there weren't enough possessions in the second half to have a bigger impact.
Lack of attention to detail led to penalties which hurt Atlanta on both sides of the ball
Penalties are always a big deal when it comes to a close game. Sixteen penalties total were called on the Falcons and this all falls back on attention to detail. Hand placement on blocking and holding your water along the line of scrimmage. Atlanta can't give teams extra five or extra 10 yard penalties and grant them first downs to keep drives alive. They have to make them earn it.
Atlanta has to trust their training, but the overall focus is on the technique. If your technique is not good, you are going to do what you are not supposed to do, which can cost the team penalties.
In the second half, Atlanta overcame three 3rd and long penalties and still were able to score a touchdown on the final drive. That said a lot about Matt Ryan's grit and the determination from Falcons offense to score. The Falcons execution level stepped up coming out of the break and the offense was able to get the Falcons back in the game.
For Ryan, he was sharp against the Colts defense, for the most part. He made one truly bad play and it ended up being a big play for Indianapolis. Ryan's interception in the first half came on an ill-advised throw down the middle in the redzone, the ball looked like it got away from him a little bit and was picked off. Other than that play, 29 of 34 passing is a clean game, but that one play cost them as they were unable to put points on the board.
Injuries impacted the game, but don't forget the human impact
For Keanu Neal, I'm just truly heartbroken. Nobody worked harder or was more excited to get back on the field than he was. After getting hurt in Week 1 a year ago, and here he is in Week 3 going down, it's just tough to see. As far as the rest of the team, I believe guys will be able to overcome some of the other injuries, but overall I'm heartbroken for Keanu Neal.
Injuries have a major impact on the game, especially when starters go down. The Colts also had a few guys banged up with T.Y. Hilton out of the game in the second half after catching a touchdown in the first half and you could see how it impacted their receiving corps to not have their main target on the field. For the Falcons, losing Grady Jarrett out of the middle while the Colts were trying to run out the clock was a real factor. This allowed them to pick up a couple of four- or five-yard runs and stay in good down and distance situations.
Offensive line showing improvements in pass protection and run blocking
I believe the offensive line did a great job of pass protecting Matt in the game. The Colts didn't run a lot of pressure looks, as they mostly ran a 4-man front. The front line handled the looks that Indianapolis gave them well, and the Falcons are getting to where all aspects are showing improvement. The run blocking was better for the offensive line as there were a lot of creases opening for Devonta Freeman.
If the Falcons can move the ball well and execute at a high-level Atlanta should be able to come out on top against Tennessee. There may be some soul searching on the defensive side of the ball this week. The Falcons have to tackle better and that is all about pursuit angles and technique.