Throughout the 2019 season, a different issue has seemingly plagued the Atlanta Falcons each week. Against the Minnesota Vikings it was turnovers and run defense; against the Indianapolis Colts it was penalties.
On Sunday, during their 53-32 loss against the Houston Texans, it was explosive plays, none more glaring than the 44-yard touchdown catch by Will Fuller that gave Houston a 15-point lead with 1:51 remaining.
Defensively, the Falcons had trouble preventing chunk plays by the Texans’ offense, which gained 592 yards and averaged 8.8 yards per play. Whether due to a lapse in coverage or a series of missed tackles, Atlanta allowed Houston’s offense to pick up yards in bunches.
The Texans had 10 pass plays of at least 14 yards, including eight of 20 yards or more on Sunday. Each of Houston’s offensive touchdowns against Atlanta came on a drive that included a completion of at least 20 yards.
Fuller was the main spark for many of those explosive plays. The fourth-year receiver led all players on Sunday with 14 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including a 33-yarder that gave the Texans their first lead of the game in the second half. Deshaun Watson was also terrific against the Falcons, completing 28 of his 33 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran four times for 47 yards, including a 30-yard run in the third quarter.
Dan Quinn’s defense in Atlanta is built to take away those explosive plays and force opposing offenses to sustain long drives. It was unable to do that against a Texans offense that scored on eight of its 10 drives, one of which ended when the clock ran out in the first half. Five of the Texans' six touchdown drives spanned less than 10 plays; three of the touchdown drives took seven plays or less.
Atlanta’s offense got things going early, scoring 17 points before halftime, but the Falcons were only able to build just a 1-point lead after two quarters.
The Falcons have been fairly stingy against explosive plays in 2019, ranking 10th in explosive runs allowed and 13th in explosive passes allowed, according to Sharp Football Stats. Houston entered Sunday’s game with the 12th most explosive offense in the NFL, although that largely been due to the ground game. The Texans entered Sunday ranked third in explosive run rate, per Sharp Football Stats, and just 21st in explosive passes.
On Sunday, however, the Falcons couldn’t limit the big plays against the Texans’ offense. Atlanta got out to the start on offense it had been looking for all season and scored a season-high 32 points. But, as has been the case this season, another issue crept up out of nowhere.
Get an inside look at Atlanta Falcons vs. Houston Texans with top photos from the field at NRG Stadium