There was a lot to take in during the Atlanta Falcons opening game to the 2019 regular season. After rewatching the game, we have a thorough analysis for viewers and readers broken down into 10 takeaway points. Let's get right to it.
Matt Ryan really played poorly. It's customary for quarterbacks to get a lot of blame when the offense struggles, and Ryan was hardly the only one at fault, but his two interceptions were both terrible passes uncustomary for him. On the third drive in the first quarter, Ryan also missed a wide-open Julio Jones, which would have been a touchdown, and was too high on a third-down pass attempt to Russell Gage, who caught the pass but out-of-bounds.
The offensive line wasn't any better than it was a year ago. It's too early to say Atlanta's offseason moves didn't work. Minnesota has one of the best defensive fronts in the league, and facing them early in the year should only help the more inexperienced Falcons linemen, but it was a well below average effort up front. The Vikings sacked Ryan four times and hit him seven times. In the first quarter, rookie guard Chris Lindstrom committed a penalty that helped stall a drive, and then Jamon Brown did the same thing on a successful third-down conversion in the second quarter right before the half. That hold from Brown turned a third-down conversion into a punt.
Ty Sambrailo played in the second half, replacing rookie Kaleb McGary, and there's a report that the Falcons 'fear' Lindstrom has a fractured foot. Obviously, things are very unsettled on Atlanta's offensive line after just one game.
Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones were not nearly visible enough in Week 1. Freeman was sort of taken out of the game because of the early deficit, but he still only ran for 19 yards on eight carries. Matt Ryan was the team's leading rusher well into the second half.
It felt like Ryan tried to force the ball to Jones too much early. That led to one of Ryan's two interceptions. Maybe the lack of preseason reps or coming back from injury hinder Jones more than we initially realized. It's hard to pinpoint why, but the Ryan-Jones connection wasn't on in Minnesota.
The Falcons turned the ball over three times and had a punt blocked. The Vikings scored touchdowns following all of those errors. Minnesota was opportunistic and only strung together two drives of more than 45 yards. The Falcons actually outgained the Vikings by 75 yards.
That and how Grady Jarrett played were one of the few positives for Atlanta. Jarrett was the Falcons' best player, posting five total tackles, including one for loss, 1.0 sack and one quarterback hit.
The defensive line overall created a couple negative plays, but generally, the Vikings front pushed them around, especially in the run game. Minnesota gained 172 yards on the ground. It looked like Atlanta did experiment a bit with the 3-4 scheme the team discussed trying over the summer. Perhaps that scheme change can explain why Falcons defenders were out of position defending the run so often Sunday.
Vic Beasley showed signs of life, but he didn't finish too many plays. One instance was particularly frustrating where he had Kirk Cousins wrapped up, but he didn't bring him to the ground before Cousins threw the ball away. Atlanta had some pressure on Cousins in that sequence, but a penalty extended the drive and led to a touchdown.
The Falcons finished with nine penalties for 78 yards overall, including four on defense. That's far too many. Atlanta killed two of its own drives and extended two Vikings drives because of penalties.
On offense, I thought Atlanta's best player was Austin Hooper. He only had one catch in the first half, but he finished with a team-high nine receptions for 77 yards. The offense began to move the ball better in the second half when Hooper was more involved.
Lastly, Dirk Koetter didn't have a good day in Minnesota either. Again, falling behind early played a role in his playcalling, but Atlanta had just 17 rushes versus 46 passing attempts, and really it was 15 running plays versus 52 dropbacks, counting sacks and scrambles. That's not the type of balance Atlanta said it would strive for when it brought Koetter back as offensive coordinator this offseason.
From a specific playcalling perspective, Koetter made a gaffe when the Falcons had second-and-goal at the 3-yard line, calling a play-action pass in a goal-line formation. Ryan rolled to his right and only had two viable receivers on the play, both of whom were covered. The Vikings picked off Ryan's desperation pass.
The problem I had with the call was the fact Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley and Devonta Freeman were all not on the field for that play. Hooper was, but the pass went to Luke Stocker.
I'm guessing Koetter's plan was for Ryan to find a wide-open Stocker in the corner of the endzone because the Vikings forget to cover him. Maybe that would have happened if Atlanta's other weapons were on the field, but they weren't. Minnesota isn't going to fail to cover Stocker if he's one of just two receivers on a play.
What were your takeaways from Week 1? Let us know in the comments below: