The Atlanta Falcons play their first division game of the season against the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Here are photos from Thursday Night Football.
When the Falcons acquired Andy Levitre just before the regular season began, they knew they were getting a veteran lineman who, despite a challenging 2014, would be a great fit in Kyle Shanahan's offense. What they didn't know, however, is how quickly he'd adjust to a different organization.
Levitre, now a rock-solid presence at left guard, has done a stellar job learning Atlanta's scheme without the luxury of offseason workouts, training camp or even preseason contests. He's won over his fellow linemen, and he's certainly gained Matt Ryan's trust, too.
Needless to say, the former Titan has made quite an impression on his new head coach.
"He's been a great addition," Dan Quinn said of Levitre. "There's a number of things for him. Man, can he finish. That's one of the things we love about his game that he just brings it every time. There are certain things in this system that he's still working through on the backside of some things, but the one thing that you know you're going to get is the down-the-field blocking … It's one of the parts of his game that I respect the most."
That downfield blocking, an important element to Shanahan's outside zone method, has helped Devonta Freeman break through for a number of big gains. According to NFL Game Stats and Information, Falcons RBs are averaging six yards per carry when they rush behind Levitre's LG position. Only seven clubs have a better YPC rate when targeting that spot.
Levitre has been solid in pass protection, as well, especially in the last three weeks. Since the start of the Texans game, he's held opponents to zero sacks and zero QB hits.
By locking down the left side of the O-line with Jake Matthews (who's having a strong campaign himself), Levitre has helped the run game take off, and he's kept Ryan from sustaining lots of blindside hits. Should this continue, the trade that brought Levitre to Atlanta will go down as one of the front office's most prudent decisions in recent years.