What hurt the most about the Dallas Cowboys losing to the Denver Broncos wasn’t just the score, it was HOW they did it. There weren’t complicated blitzes or trick plays. The Broncos were efficient on offense, blitzed plenty on defense and took away the Cowboys down-field attack.
The Falcons are coming off a against their rival New Orleans Saints, in what was almost another come from behind loss.
If you’re familiar with these team’s history then you remember 2 games: the comeback last year, and the 2017 Chaz Green game.
Once again, the Cowboys are (likely) coming in with their backup right tackle, and the Falcons are coming in off a win. Similar situations from their past.
Atlanta is only 4-4, but they’ve played in 6 straight 1-possesion games after being blown out in their first 2 games. This is a different Atlanta Falcons team. Despite no more Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley needing to take time away from the game, the offense has been consistent.
Matt Ryan is looking as good as ever, Kyle Pitts is starting to look like the player everyone expected him to be and Cordarrelle Patterson has found new life as a running back. But we know all that. The Dallas Cowboys are going to prepare for all of that.
Who are some Falcons players who could have a serious impact in how this game goes? Are there some unsung heroes or major weak links who could sway this team?
The Falcons offense has been effective this season, while the defense has been surprisingly serviceable in comparison to previous seasons. There are players on both sides who will factor in how this game goes.
As AtoZSports Dallas prime time host, Mauricio Rodriguez, mentioned on Thursday night’s show, the Falcons offensive line as a whole has been bad. All 5 starters having given up 10+ QB pressures all season. The worst culprit being the rookie third-rounder who’s allowing a 9% pressure rate so far.
This will be key for whoever the Cowboys play over the rookie. If they want to bring Matt Ryan to the ground, they’ll need to do it without Randy Gregory on the edge. Pressure up the middle from Micah Parsons or Osa Odighizuwa would be rookie on rookie violence.
The type that would keep Ryan on edge for most of the game.
Similar to what the Denver Broncos did with Shelby Harris, the Falcons best defensive lineman will shadow in-between the weak point of the Dallas Cowboys interior offensive line. I.e. lining up over Terence Steele, and attacking the gap between him and Connor Williams.
For those who remember, Jarrett was a preferred trade target of AtoZ before the trade deadline. Not only his skills, but his ties to Dan Quinn and success in his system.
Grady Jarrett has been a usual bright spot in what’s been admittedly average Falcons defense, ranking in the middle of overall defenses. If any player on this defensive line is a threat its the Pro Bowl defensive tackle.
This is more TBD at the moment. Fowler has been out for a month, dealing with a knee injury. However, he has returned to practice, despite his game status still unclear.
Falcons HC Arthur Smith said they’ll make a decision on Dante Fowler for this week tomorrow.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) November 12, 2021
He practiced all week.
What should be monitored is that despite missing 3 games, he’s tied with Deion Jones for sacks on the team (2) and leads the defense in pressures (7). This is a glimpse at how bad their pass rush has been, and how much they need him.
Without Fowler, most of their pressure has come from blitzing the interior with linebackers, and overloading team’s guards and center.
Assuming Fowler plays, go ahead and assume he plays the stand-up edge position outside the left tackle (Steele). The rush from the blindside of the offensive line is not only where the Dallas Cowboys are weakest, but where the Falcons can exploit.
You probably expected Kyle Pitts or Cordarrelle Patterson. The Dallas Cowboys, and all the NFL are well aware of what headache’s these 2 are for defenses and will prepare for a heavy dose. What the Cowboys defense has struggled against has been whoever has been playing in the slot.
Don’t believe me? Ask Chris Godwin, Keenan Allen, or Jerry Jeudy how it’s worked out.
Russell Gage was an unsung hero for the Falcons offense last season. This year he’s been limited to only 5 games, being targeted in 4. However, he catching about 70% of his passes, and the Cowboys defense ranks dead last against covering the slot.
This will be an area that seldom talk about, but will be a hurdle the defense will face. Look for this to be where Matt Ryan looks to move the offense.
While last year’s 16th overall pick (1 spot ahead of CeeDee Lamb) is having a great sophomore season, his teammate who plays opposite of him, is having opposite results.
“They picked on Fabian Moreau the whole series”— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) November 7, 2021
Moreau has been picked on by opposing teams more often throughout the season. Despite being able to matchup size for size with most NFL receivers, he’s been having arguably his worst season as a pro. He’s given up over 70% completion and 5 touchdowns when lined up in man coverage.
Regardless of who he covers, they will be in-line for a lot of targets. He’s mostly covered the opposing team’s deep threat. With Michael Gallup’s availability uncertain right now, that likely puts him across from Amari Cooper. A matchup to keep our eyes on.