The seventh week of the 2014 NFL season matched the beat up Atlanta Falcons against a ferocious Baltimore Ravens team. The end results were not all that surprising, as the depleted Falcons were beaten handily in a 29-7 domination. Struggles on the road continued for Atlanta, who’ve now lost four games in a row and seem to have their season slipping away. When looking at the individual performances for the Falcons, not all was as bad as it seemed — there were some positives to take away from this game. Let’s take a closer look at who played well and who struggled this week.
Best Three Overall:
Massaquoi had easily his best game as a pro, wreaking havoc all day long against the Ravens. Even though he finished the game without a sack, Massaquoi’s presence was felt throughout the game, tallying 3 QB hits, 2 hurries, 5 tackles, 1 assist, and 3 stops in just 20 pass-rushing attempts. Massaquoi had the type of game that many had been waiting for after a promising close to the 2013 season. We all got a glimpse of what he could do with increased snaps, and it couldn’t be more painfully obvious that the coaches need to get Massaquoi on the field more than they have been. Thankfully, Massaquoi’s snap count has been steadily increasing over the past three weeks (30, 44, 52), and his play on the field has certainly earned him even more playing time. Massaquoi grades out for the season as by far the best pass rusher on the Falcons’ roster, and he certainly played like it on Sunday. Despite his limited snaps, Massaquoi is still the 13th ranked 3-4 outside linebacker in the league out of 49 qualifiers (Kroy Biermann is dead last).
Somewhat quietly, Trufant is ascending into the top tier of NFL cornerbacks, if he’s not already there. Teams have clearly been avoiding his side of the field, as he was only targeted three times against the Ravens (only twice against the Bears), yielding two catches for a mere 18 yards while collecting a pass deflection and finishing with his highest PFF grade of the season. Trufant has played nearly 100 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and ranks in the top-six of the entire NFL in total times targeted (for players who’ve played 75% or more of their team’s snaps), tying with top-tier corner Darrelle Revis. For the year, Trufant is currently ranked as the sixth best cornerback in the league, far ahead of guys like Revis, Aqib Talib, Joe Haden, and Brent Grimes.
What else is there to say about Matt Ryan? Despite playing behind an offensive line held together by wet paper towels, Ryan continues to deliver the goods and is currently the second-highest graded quarterback in the league, tying with Philip Rivers. Against Baltimore, Ryan had one of his better games of the season, and it would’ve looked even better if not for the three dropped passes, which are now totaled at 18(!) for the season. Ryan was sacked a season-high 5 times and finished with an 86.2 passer rating with one touchdown and no interceptions. Ryan was most effective when throwing 10 or more yards down the field, but struggled when targeting the short-range middle of the field between 0-9 yards — a sign that he may be missing Harry Douglas more than fans originally thought. One telling stat: Ryan is dead last in the league with only an average of 2.78 seconds in the pocket before a sack. Get this man some protection!
Worst Three Overall:
Matthews has really been struggling as of late. Against Baltimore, Matthews had his second-worst game of the season, yielding a sack, four QB hurries, and two penalties. Over the past three weeks, Matthews’ play has essentially fallen off a cliff. Granted, going up against pass-rush extraordinaires like Jason Pierre-Paul, Jared Allen, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil will be extremely challenging for any rookie, even one as highly regarded as Matthews is. Matthews recently admitted to have been playing through a high ankle sprain, and it’s clearly affecting his play right now. Atlanta could let Matthews rest on the bench for a couple of weeks, but 70 percent of Matthews might still be better than 100 percent of anyone currently on the roster. My guess: when Matthews heals up, he’ll be right back to his dependable self.
Toilolo continued his awful start to the season, grading out poorly as both a receiver and a blocker. Toilolo was targeted four times, catching two passes for 20 yards and no drops — a big improvement over his three-drop performance last week, but still nothing to get excited about. Toilolo hasn’t offered much as a receiver, owning the worst receiving grade for any tight end in the NFL, but he may be even worse as a blocker. Toilolo gave up two hurries in just nine pass-block attempts, and continued to struggle getting movement in the run game. Toilolo has only graded out positively in one game this season, and his -16.9 overall grade for the year is the worst in the entire NFL.
Tyson Jackson and Paul Worrilow
Jackson and Worrilow both finished with the same negative grade, so we’ll take a look at them both.
Jackson played his worst-graded game of the season against Baltimore and didn’t offer much assistance to the Falcons’ defense in either run support or pass rush, including a penalty he was called for. Jackson only played 37 snaps but did collect two stops and a QB hurry. Previously known as a rock-solid run defender, the $25 million dollar man has yet to earn a dollar of his lucrative contract, making little difference on the field.
Worrilow continues to rack up the stops with five more against the Ravens and 33 for the season, good for third in the NFL at his position. The problem is that he is still grading out very poorly in nearly every aspect. In coverage against the Ravens, Worrilow was targeted seven times, yielding six completions for 54 yards, one touchdown, and a 138.4 passer rating. For the year, Worrilow is ranked 57th out of 63 qualifying linebackers, and is in the bottom 10 in both pass coverage and run defense.
Game Notes: Where was Robert McClain in this game? McClain was active on Sunday, but didn’t see a single snap, giving way to veteran Josh Wilson who played 19 snaps and graded out poorly in coverage. Defensive changes were certainly coming, but I didn’t foresee McClain hitting the bench.
- Joplo Bartu continues to receive the bulk of snaps at inside linebacker while Prince Shembo recovers from a knee injury. Bartu played 59 of 68 snaps and graded out poorly overall, specifically struggling in pass coverage.