Falcons reeling offensive line just good enough against stout Saints defensive front

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After an underwhelming performance against the Panthers, the Falcons bounced back against the Saints. Atlanta was dominated in the trenches two weeks ago by Carolina; Arthur Smith didn’t shy away from that either. “You’ve got to give Carolina credit,” he said after the game. “They beat us on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football….”

The usual suspects struggled, namely Jalen Mayfield, who received a 45.4 PFF grade, which was actually higher than his season grade of 38.8, but his pass blocking grade was an abysmal 27.8. He’s struggled as a rookie, and his 38.8 PFF grade for the season — 73rd out of 74 eligible guards in the NFL — illustrates just that.

Even more surprising was the usually reliable linemen faltered as well — Chris Lindstrom and Jake Matthews. The former has ascended to become one of the better guards in this league but was disappointing against the Panthers’ defensive front, posting a 47.5 pass block grade. The latter, the offensive line’s stalwart, was even more disappointing as he was handed a season-low 48.7 overall grade, including a 34.0 pass block grade.

The Saints attempted to follow the Panthers’ blueprint. Many were probably worried for Matt Ryan‘s health facing the Saints’ defensive front, who historically terrorize Ryan. Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, Shy Tuttle, and company are a talented group and definitely out-match the Falcons offensive line on paper… but not on Sunday.

As far as the eye test goes, the Falcons offensive line wasn’t anything to write home about. They were bailed out several times by their quarterback’s slipperiness in the pocket. Mayfield did battle against a good interior defensive line and is steadily improving overall but still gave up at least four or five pressures that I saw.

Jake Matthews held up well in pass protection outside of giving up a sack to Cam Jordan, but with 63% of his rushing snaps coming against Kaleb McGary, I expected much worse. McGary certainly deserves recognition for his effort Sunday against New Orleans. He is displaying flashes of the development he found at the end of last season. Matt Hennessy has also progressed nicely but still fares to improve his awareness and overall pass protection. Chris Lindstrom is going to be an excellent guard under Arthur Smith; that is all.

The offensive line couldn’t get much of a push in the run game, though. The Saints held the Falcons to an average of just 1.1 yards per carry, but they kept Ryan clean enough to win the football game. Even though the line gave up pressure — 12 total — Ryan was able to avoid defenders. Onyemata led the Saints with four total pressures, which shouldn’t surprise anyone as the Falcons are weakest in pass protection on the interior. The Falcons’ offensive line didn’t dominate the defensive front of the Saints by any means, but they were good when they needed to be against one of the best units in the league.





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