Falcons vs. Buccaneers: Full Report Card Grades for Atlanta
Doing more with less was probably an appropriate theme for the Falcons' performance against the Bucs. Atlanta was able to pull out a victory despite being without Roddy White, Julio Jones and Steven Jackson.
Let's take a look at which players stepped up to help Atlanta get the job done by dishing out our Week 7 game grades for the Atlanta Falcons.
ALL STATS ARE VIA ESPN.COM
1. Matt Ryan
If the now-2-4 Falcons are going to have any shot at turning their season around, they're going to need grade "A" performances from Matt Ryan from here on out. Atlanta certainly got that kind of effort from Ryan on Sunday.
In throwing for 273 yards and three touchdowns, Ryan helped the Falcons offense remain viable by getting the ball to Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers in spots where they could make plays.
Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerard McCoy spoke about Ryan's performance after the game via Buccaneers.com, saying "His game has already been at the level that is elite. I think he proved it against people who questioned if he was elite or not, or what he could do with the people he had, and he showed it today.”
1. Jacquizz Rodgers
It's been a similar story each week for Rodgers since he's taken on a feature role in Steven Jackson's absence: Not a lot of yardage on the ground, but a big contribution in the passing game.
Ryan targeted Rodgers more than any other receiver against Tampa and Rodgers rewarded him with two touchdown catches.
2. Jason Snelling
Snelling wasn't able to find much room on the ground, but he ran the ball hard and drew coverage in the passing game as a checkdown option.
3. Patrick DiMarco
DiMarco doesn't get much pop when he gets a hat on somebody and he didn't do much as a lead blocker against Tampa.
1. Harry Douglas
Douglas made the most of his opportunity and showed that he can be the type of playmaker who can help make up for Julio Jones' absence. He proved to be instant offense for Atlanta in the first half against the Bucs before Tampa devoted more coverage to him in the third and fourth quarters.
2. Darius Johnson
Johnson flashed some ability in the preseason and many Falcons fans were happy to see him called up from the practice squad earlier this week. He jumped right in and had a nice catch for a first down against the Bucs.
3. Drew Davis
Davis helped set up Atlanta's clinching touchdown with a 24-yard one-handed grab. It was his only catch of the day, but it came just when the Falcons needed it.
1. Tony Gonzalez
Tampa Bay focused a lot of its attention on Gonzalez, so his numbers from this game (two receptions, 30 yards) won't tell the whole story. The coverage Gonzalez drew created opportunities for Douglas and Rodgers.
2. Levine Toilolo
Toilolo wasn't targeted in the passing game, but he played an active role on special teams and made a tackle.
1. Lamar Holmes
This may have been Holmes' best game of the year in terms of pass protection. The Bucs didn't really get any heavy pressure on Matt Ryan, and Holmes did a solid job against Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Holmes is a better pass protector than run blocker at this point.
2. Justin Blalock
Solid job in pass protection; has to continue to push this young offensive line to be better run blockers.
3. Peter Konz
Konz didn't get pushed around as much as he did against the Jets and Matt Ryan saw little pressure up the middle.
4. Garrett Reynolds
It wasn't always pretty, but Reynolds did his part to keep Matt Ryan clean against an underrated Bucs defensive front. Atlanta still wasn't able to get much going running behind him on the ground, though.
5. Jeremy Trueblood
Trueblood drew a holding penalty in the first quarter that put the Falcons behind the down-and-distance. The Bucs weren't able to sack Matt Ryan, but they came close a couple of times working against Trueblood.
1. Osi Umenyiora
Umenyiora did a nice job against the run and helped keep a couple of Doug Martin runs from being bigger gains. He also had a couple of quarterback pressures against Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon.
2. Jonathan Babineaux
Babineaux didn't wreak havoc, but he did help control a Buccaneers rushing attack that gashed the Falcons in Week 17 last year. Tampa was able to convert two short fourth downs on the ground, but one of those plays (Tampa running back Mike James' third quarter conversion) was there for the Falcons linebackers to make.
3. Corey Peters
Peters continues to anchor the defensive line by taking up space and blockers on the inside. He continues to show up on film, but not so much in the stat sheet.
4. Jonathan Massaquoi
Massaquoi notched a half a sack and showed some improvement at the point of attack in the run game.
5. Malliciah Goodman
Goodman was having a decent game against the run and even getting a little pressure before he drew a roughing the passer penalty in the third quarter that prevented what would have been a 3rd-and-15 for the Bucs.
6. Peria Jerry
Jerry came up being in the red zone late in the first half when the Bucs had to settle for a field goal after Jerry pressured Glennon into an incompletion on second down and sacked him for a loss on third down.
7. Stansly Maponga
Like Goodman, Maponga drew a costly personal foul penalty that gave the Bucs a first down in the fourth quarter.
8. Cliff Matthews
Matthews came in and provided a fresh body along the defensive line while also making his usual contribution on special teams.
1. Joplo Bartu
Bartu bounced back from a rough stretch against the Jets, Pats and Dolphins with a much better performance against the Bucs. He led the Falcons with 10 tackles and also contributed a half a sack and a quarterback hit to the victory.
2. Akeem Dent
The Falcons defense really missed Dent's presence when he was gone, because he seems to have taken over as the unit's leader with Sean Weatherspoon on the sideline. Dent's play helped keep the Bucs rushing attack in check.
3. Paul Worrilow
Like Bartu, Worrilow did a better job of finishing his tackles this week and appeared to play with better field awareness.
4. Omar Gaither
Gaither got pushed into Matt Bosher on a Falcons punt early in the game and he came in too high against Mike James when he ran for his red-zone, fourth-down conversion that set up Vincent Jackson's second touchdown catch in the third quarter.
1. William Moore
Moore set the tone for the Falcons defense when he came through on a blitz and forced Mike Glennon's fumble that led to the Falcons' first points of the day. With so many offensive stars out, the Falcons desperately needed a spark like that from their defense.
2. Thomas DeCoud
DeCoud displayed great awareness on both his scoop-and-score fumble and onside kick recovery late in the game. He needed to do a better job getting his head around to the ball on the fade route that Vincent Jackson caught over him in the third quarter.
3. Desmond Trufant
Trufant put forth a feisty effort and stuck his noise in several plays from his new position in the slot in place of Robert McClain.
4. Asante Samuel
Samuel was beaten badly on Vincent Jackson's first touchdown catch, but he played solid game otherwise. He even had an uncharacteristic tackle against Jackson that prevented a first down early in the game.
5. Robert Alford
Grade: B+ at corner, F as a punt returner
Alford nearly had an interception and he had a pass break up in the end zone on an attempt to Vincent Jackson. He was a disappointment in his debut as a punt returner because his fumbled return allowed the Bucs to score a touchdown and get right back into the game in the third quarter.
6. Robert McClain
The Falcons made an adjustment during the bye week and played Desmond Trufant in the slot in the place of a struggling Robert McClain. The move worked out to the benefit of McClain's game grade in this case because he made better use of his reduced time on the field against the Bucs.
1. Matt Bryant
Bryant did his job and connected on his only field-goal attempt of the game.
2. Matt Bosher
Thanks to Bosher, Tampa's best starting field position of the day came at its own 40-yard line late in the fourth quarter after a penalty on the Falcons punting unit. Other than that, it was usually at or around its own 20-yard line to start all its drives.
1. Mike Smith
Smith did a nice job of having his undermanned unit ready to play. You can surely nitpick about letting another double-digit lead slip away, but in this game that was largely attributable to Robert Alford's third-quarter special teams fumble as opposed to conservative coaching.
The decision to put Desmond Trufant at nickelback in place of Robert McClain could go a long way towards improving Atlanta's third-down defense.
2. Mike Nolan
Nolan's defense gave up a lot of plays to Vincent Jackson, but the unit was more aggressive against Mike Glennon than it was against the other two young quarterbacks (Ryan Tannehill, Geno Smith) it faced this season.
3. Dirk Koetter
The former Jaguars offensive coordinator found himself in what was probably familiar territory this week when he had to concoct an offensive game plan with a wide receiver corps that would dress three undrafted free agents with Harry Douglas and Brian Robiskie.
Kudos to Koetter for finding even more ways to get the ball in Jacquizz Rodgers' hands and moving Harry Douglas around in the first half so the Bucs couldn't key on him like they did Tony Gonzalez.