Falcons: MVPs and LVPs of September

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The Atlanta Falcons have seen their fair share of highs and lows this early into the season. Albeit, the highs haven’t been that high, and the lows have been record-breaking. Poor player execution and coaching failures have hindered the success of this franchise. That’s not to say there weren’t any standout players, because there were, but you’re only as strong as your weakest link.

MVP – Calvin Ridley – WR

The biggest bright spot on the Falcons has been third-year receiver, Calvin Ridley. Through three weeks, he has amassed 349 yards and four touchdowns on 21 receptions. Ridley has become Matt Ryan’s go-to guy, accounting for 30 percent of his targets. However, this can be attributed to Julio Jones sustaining an injury before Week 2 and impacting his performance. Still, that does not discredit the impact that Ridley has had on this offense. He has also been a player that keeps drives alive, accounting for 19 first downs, currently on pace to smash his total from last season (47).

Ridley spoke in the offseason about his desire to become an elite receiver and is very much making due on that statement. He is the only receiver in the NFL to log over 100 yards in each of the first three games of the season. DeAndre Hopkins is the only player ahead of him in receiving yards. However, the Cardinals’ wide receiver has caught 11 more passes.

LVP – Isaiah Oliver – CB

Teams have enjoyed picking on Isaiah Oliver. If the Falcons don’t make any adjustments to counter this, then it’ll only get worse. On 27 targets so far, he has allowed 17 receptions for an insane 247 yards and two scores. His soft coverage has allowed an average of 14 yards per completion and given quarterbacks a 63 percent completion rate when throwing his way.

Oliver also has a missed tackle percentage of 13. 

Maybe the return of Jordan Miller and Kendall Sheffield will force Oliver to step up and make a play. The Falcons will already be without Darqueze Dennard and possibly AJ Terrell for Week 4. It’ll be up to Oliver if this defense wants to make any sort of turnaround.

Here’s a nice thread showing how awful Oliver was against Chicago.

MVP – Matt Ryan – QB

It’s unfathomable that fans have watched the first few games of 2020 and concluded that Matt Ryan is apart of the problem. If anything, he is the engine behind the offense’s success. Sure, his game against the Bears was not anywhere close to his best, but did you see what he was working with? When you’re already down two of your top three receivers and a backup right tackle, it’s not going to be the best showing, especially when you have an offensive coordinator who has the creativity of a toddler. Had Russell Gage never left the contest, the offense may not have sputtered as bad as it did.

Nonetheless, Ryan has shown he has what it takes to be labeled as one of the league’s best. He currently sits third in the league with 961 yards and six scores. Yes, he has two interceptions, but one was on a hail mary and shouldn’t be considered a mistake.

Excluding Matt Ryan, the combined record of the top six quarterbacks are 13-2. Those two losses came from Dak Prescott, with their lone win coming against the Falcons in Week 2. Atlanta’s defense has let down their offense every week.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons will face off against another top-six quarterback in Week 4 as Atlanta travels to Green Bay to take on Aaron Rodgers on Monday night. The last time Ryan played at Lambeau on Monday night, he threw for 375 yards and four scores in a 43-37 loss. Julio ended the game with 11 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown. That performance can very much be duplicated.

LVP – Dan Quinn and Dirk Koetter – HC and OC

Amazingly, Dan Quinn is still the coach of the Falcons. It’s hard to imagine any other franchise not firing him after the start the Falcons have had, especially after last season.

With Quinn being a defensive-minded head coach, you’d be reasonable to assume that the Falcons would have somewhat of a respectable defense. However, that has not been the case and has cost this team immensely. Routinely the Falcons have been in the bottom third of the league in total defense, and with the pass defense being as awful as ever, the trend looks to continue in 2020.

Quinn does have a run of games that will be crucial in turning this season around.

Dirk Koetter has been equally as awful as Quinn. With the Falcons up 16 points with just over 10 minutes to play last Sunday, Koetter decided to pass the ball for three straight possessions instead of running the clock down. Each pass fell incomplete, and each drive wasted no time.

Between 10:46 and the two-minute warning, the Falcons wasted a total of two minutes and thirty seconds of game clock, averaging fifty seconds a drive. Atlanta possessed the ball with 4:21 left in the game up by three points and punted the ball 11 seconds later.

For comparison, Chicago started their next possession in Falcons territory — due to a penalty on the punt — and in five plays, they wasted 2:07 of game clock. The loss to the Bears falls on Koetter’s inability to put the game away.

 

 

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