Atlanta has some serious issues on the offensive line
The Falcons offensive line was supposed to be a strong point coming into the season. Instead, they have easily been the most inconsistent part of an otherwise stellar offense. Monday night two things happened that showed things may get worse before they get better.
First off, the Falcons lost right guard Brandon Fusco to what looked to be a severe injury. Fusco, who was signed to a three-year deal in the offseason to replace Wes Schweitzer, was riving in pain in what looked to be a severe leg injury. Atlanta is already without their starting left guard, Andy Levitre, for the season. Schweitzer is filling in for him, which leaves Ben Garland as the replacement for Fusco going forward. If there is any positive outlook on the situation, it’s that Garland has some talent and experience for a backup, and Fusco has had his fair share of ups and downs this season.
The second thing that occurred was their total failure to protect Matt Ryan. For 60 minutes, Ryan was under duress, leading to an underwhelming showing against a defense that has struggled the past few weeks. The Giants came up with 3 sacks on the night, usually coming when they needed them most.
The Atlanta Falcons played defense?
Atlanta has been allergic to defense, allowing over 29 points in each of their last four games. New York has been equally as bad on offense, making for an intriguing battle on Monday night. A battle that Atlanta got the best of by a large margin.
The one thing the Falcons have really struggled with is defending running backs in the passing game. An issue that is a major concern when facing the likes of Saquon Barkley, who has dazzled through the first six games of his career. However, for the first time all season, Atlanta’s defense did a fantastic job game planning for Barkley and kept him in check the entire night. That made it difficult for Eli Manning to get anything going in the passing game.
With that being said, the Falcons were obviously facing an offense with major issues. The Giants offensive line problems are much worse than anybody could have imagined coming into the year. They cannot create holes for Barkley in the running game and have been even worse in pass protection. The Falcons pass rush, which has been non-existent for the most part, looked completely revitalized against the Giants. They totaled four sacks and never allowed Manning enough time to throw the ball downfield to his talented weapons.
Thank God, Grady Jarrett is back!
Jarrett has missed the last two games and seen the Falcons allow over 200 yards on the ground to the Steelers and Bucs, two teams that don’t have great rushing attacks. Prior to that, with Jarrett on the field, the Falcons were one of the tougher teams to run against.
Jarrett returned on Monday and the difference was night and day. The Giants tried to stick with their running game, but it was a constant logjam in the middle, starting with Jarrett. Not only did he contribute to holding Barkley to 43 yards on 14 carries, but he also came up with a beautiful swim move to beat Will Hernandez in the first half for his first sack of the season, and first of two on the night. We all knew Jarrett was a difference maker on the defense, but it’s unappreciated until he is out. The Falcons don’t get that win without him on the field.