The Falcons blew two double-digit leads and got stuffed on a fourth-down gamble in overtime as they fell to the Chargers, 33-30. The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter reports from the Georgia Dome.
Here are the grades from the Falcons’ 33-30 overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday:
Game Balls: None awarded in a loss.
Quarterbacks, C-minus. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan broke an NFL record, but that wasn’t at the foremost of his thinking after the team blew two double-digit leads and were defeated. Ryan has now passed for more than 200 yards in his 46 consecutive games, which broke the record he shared with former San Diego Chargers great Dan Fouts. “It doesn’t mean much when you lose, that’s for sure,” Ryan said. “But, obviously, any time you’re mentioned — especially with somebody as great as Dan Fouts — and you have a streak like that or consistency like that, it’s very nice to be a part of it.” Ryan had a strong game going. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 273 yards and one touchdown. But with the Falcons trying to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter, Ryan threw an interception to Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman. He peeled off inside coverage responsibility and jumped the outside pass. Ryan recognized his movement too late. The Chargers used the turnover to get a field goal and force overtime.
Running backs, B-plus. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 174 yards on 29 touches and one touchdown. Coleman left the game with a hamstring injury in the third quarter and did not return. Freeman didn’t have a chance on the fourth-and-1 in overtime as left tackle Jake Matthews got caught in traffic and didn’t make it to his block on Perryman.
Wide receivers/tight ends, C-plus. Julio Jones was spectacular with nine catches for 174 yards. Mohamed Sanu has not stepped forward as a viable number two receiver. He had just two catches for 12 yards while playing with a groin injury. He played in the Carolina game with a separated shoulder, according to reports that he would not confirm. If he’s not healthy, get someone else out there. The tight ends didn’t contribute much as Jacob Tamme’s lone catch was his 17-yard touchdown grab. Levine Toilolo had one catch. Why Jones doesn’t get more red zone passes is still a mystery. After Deion Jones interception that set up the offense at the 10-yard line, the Falcons passed to Sanu, ran Freeman and then pass to Tamme to net 1 yard. Jones needs to get one of those plays.
Offensive line, F. The Falcons returned to the Georgia Dome after two weeks on the road but their offensive linemen looked as if they were playing a road game. Falcons offensive linemen committed four false start infractions among their six total penalties. That included back-to-back false start penalties that preceded Ryan’s critical interception in the fourth quarter. “That’s unacceptable as an ‘o-line’ to have that many false starts and penalties,” Falcons center Alex Mack said. “We will just have to look at the film, see what happened and try to fix it.” The most costly penalties may have been the consecutive false starts that stalled a potential game-clinching drive and instead put the Falcons in a hole. After the Chargers scored a touchdown to get within 30-27 with 5:59 to play, the Falcons quickly moved 35 yards in five plays and gained a first down at San Diego’s 40-yard line. They were on the edge of Matt Bryant’s field-goal range with 3:41 to play. But right tackle Ryan Schraeder jumped early, moving the Falcons five yards back. Then left guard Andy Levitre moved before the snap, moving the ball back another five yards to make it first-and-20. Perryman intercepted Ryan on the next play. “It’s just lapses guys had,” Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said. “Stuff we usually don’t do.”
Defensive line, C-plus. Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn led the pass rush, which used stunts and other wrinkles to get after Philip Rivers when he held the ball too long. Beasley had two sacks and two quarterback hits. Clayborn had two quarterback hits and scored a touchdowns. Overall, the Falcons had four sacks and six quarterback hits. The Falcons held the Chargers to 78 yards rushing on 26 carries for 3 yards per carry.
Linebackers, D. The Falcons struggled to cover the shallow crossing routes and were tormented by them all day. The players have to communicate better on passing players off through their zones. They did a good job on tight end Hunter Henry. De’Vondre Campbell, who’s not 100 percent recovered from his high ankle sprain, led the team with 10 tackles.
Defensive backs, C. The passing defense gave up 371 yards and all of it was not on the linebackers. Right cornerback Robert Alford had his second game without a penalty of the season. Keanu Neal admitted to not rotating to his man on some of the crossing routes. Free safety Ricardo Allen also had a rough day.
Special teams, C. Matt Bryant was about two yards out of his range on the potential game-winning kick. Punter Matt Bosher had two big punts and averaged 50.5 net on them. The return game was dormant.
Coaching. D-minus. The decision to go-for-it on fourth down made sense to me. The defense was getting torched and likely weren’t going to stop the Chargers. However, the play call was porous. The stretch run to the outside took too long and had too many variables for it to be executed properly. One of the variables was left tackle getting to the second level to block Perryman. Matthews got caught in traffic and Perryman shot the gap to meet Freeman in the backfield. The pre-snap penalties must cease. They are a bad reflection on the coaching staff. Also, the defense, which may be way too young, needs to start taking some steps forward or this season could fly off the rails just like last season.
GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT
GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24
GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24