Originally written on Pro Football Spot  |  Last updated 11/8/14
“As long as number two is back there for Atlanta, you always got to have faith”. That was a sentiment going into the game today for Falcon fans. Despite always believing in Ryan, I had major doubts going into this game. What could he do with just a Hall Of Fame tight end going to face double coverage, a slot receiver, and a bunch of undrafted free agents? Ryan couldn’t have a more efficient game.He looked more comfortable than he has all season long. You could say that Tampa Bay’s defense inflated his numbers a bit, but then you have to look at his options. Even the hardcore NFL fans had no idea who Drew Davis, Kevin Cone, or Darius Johnson was as players. Ryan made it work and shredded Tampa Bay’s defense with timely passing to his two quickest options in Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers.It was a major confidence booster for Atlanta, after going through a three game losing streak for the first time in Mike Smith’s tenure in Atlanta. Many people including myself were starting to consider this a lost season. Despite several players saying that they weren’t done, it was hard to believe them with so many key players injured. Even against a winless team, they managed to fight through and led for the entire game.Harry Douglas takes chargeI’ve always defended Harry Douglas over the years. Some Falcon fans like him for being the slot receiver that makes timely plays. Some fans get irritated by his inconsistent play and being non-existent at times. It’s a nonstop struggle with Douglas, although nobody can deny that he mostly carried the offense today. With Tony Gonzalez commanding most of the attention, it was Douglas who made the most of his opportunities.It’s a rare for a receiver to catch all seven of his targets, yet Douglas did just that. He made tough catches on third down, to go along with a spectacular 54-yard catch while being held. Although he was quiet in the second half, he did more than what was expected. He ran a double move that fooled Dashon Goldson, who bit on a route similar to the NFC Championship game last year when Julio Jones broke free for the opening touchdown of that game. That led to a 37-yard touchdown. Douglas had his way with Jonathan Banks and Leonard Johnson for the entire first half.We won’t know the health status of Roddy White until later in the week, but it’s promising to see Douglas capable of stepping up. Darius Johnson made a few nice plays and Drew Davis had the circus one-handed grab. We’ve seen what White is capable of when he’s healthy. People may have forgotten a bit, since Julio Jones has been the main guy for the past year and half. It’ll be very refreshing to see White healthy, whether it’s next week or likely against Carolina. Regardless of White’s health, Douglas needs to be consistent and continue to take more of a bigger role.When William Moore plays well, the defense feeds off of it.You look at last year when Atlanta’s defense shined the most. It was when they forced Peyton Manning and Drew Brees to throw for a combined eight interceptions. Moore had three of those interceptions, not to mention making several game changing stops. Whenever Moore is either forcing turnovers or comes up with a big tackle or pass defenses, his energy seems to energize the defense.Obviously the defense still has some issues, but it will be like that for the rest of the year. They came up with stops on third down and limited Doug Martin, before he had to leave the game with a shoulder injury. Moore set the tone from the start, with a sack and forced fumble that led to Thomas DeCoud scoring on the recovery. It was like 2012 all over again with Mike Nolan allowing the safeties to blitz. That was something that was lacking against Geno Smith two weeks ago.Moore is one of the true difference makers on this defense. I’m not sure if there is any safety that hits harder than him, along with having good ball skills for a safety. He came up with two pass defensed today as well. Moore has been solid this year, but he hasn’t that game where he was making play after play. He had that kind of game today and the defense will need more of it.Quick NotesNothing else really stood out other than two performances. Douglas and Moore were major difference makers, so I’m going to briefly discuss a few other things that stood out.Jacquizz Rodgers will get some obvious love for his performance. Even though Jason Snelling seems to have more success running the ball, Rodgers is such a difference maker in the open field. He always makes someone miss, which was clear on the second touchdown. Another thing that was wonderful to see was allowing Rodgers to line up as a wide receiver.They were going to do that against New England on that crucial fourth down that could have sent the game to overtime. Instead they put Rodgers back as a running back and to help the offensive line block. Am I allowed to still be bitter about that loss? You line Rodgers up in the slot against a linebacker, easy first down I’d say. With Tampa Bay’s pass rush being pretty mediocre, it allowed Rodgers the chance to be a wide receiver and he went right past Lavonte David (who had an outstanding game) for a touchdown.We have to take baby steps, when grading the offensive line. It was the first time all season Ryan wasn’t sacked and he only took two hits. The right side of the offensive line still concerns me, especially going into Arizona next week. Still you have to give them credit for allowing Ryan to be comfortable all game long.The rookie cornerbacks were tested all game and responded well to the attention. Desmond Trufant did allow his fair share of catches, but he was going up against Vincent Jackson. It was a tall order for him and he actually hung in their well. It was Asante Samuel, who misjudged the ball that led to Jackson having the long touchdown catch.I’m not sure why Robert Alford hasn’t gotten more playing time. It seems like every time he plays, he makes plays. He had two pass defensed today and seemed to play better, as the game went on. Obviously the fumble on the punt return was inexcusable, but he shined yesterday at cornerback. If they are going to play him over Robert McClain, then they should possibly look at someone like Darius Johnson to return punts. Alford has much more of an upside at cornerback and will be needed there, since McClain has been pitiful this season.Outlook aheadAtlanta goes on a road trip to face Arizona next Sunday. It will be the first game against former teammate and one of the best Falcon defensive players of all time in John Abraham. Even though he’s been mostly a role player now, Abraham is still dangerous and has the ability to force a strip sack at any moment of the game. It’ll be interesting to see how Lamar Holmes deals with Abraham’s speed, considering he struggles with speed rushers. Sam Baker could return, who also has a problem with speed rushers. That being said, Baker blocked Abraham for many years in practice so maybe he’ll fare better. He needs to get healthy first.I’m confident going into the Arizona game, which is a drastic difference from last week. While Atlanta’s offensive line is bad, Arizona’s offensive line is even worse. That should open up some opportunities for the defensive line. Carson Palmer continues to be on the decline, so the defense will once again have the chance to make some plays.We’ll see if Steven Jackson, Roddy White, and Sam Baker return this week. Jackson reportedly suffered a setback, so I have my doubts. White and Baker should be ready to go, although I’m not sure if they’re any people clamoring to see Baker back. They paid him a big contract, so we got to see more of him before completely burying him. He can’t be any worse than Jeremy Trueblood.This is another game that Atlanta should expect to win. They need to win this stretch, before the showdown against Seattle in the Georgia dome. I’m expecting Ryan to take a lot of hits, but he’s shown that he can deal with the pressure and still deliver. I’m not expecting anything less, especially against an Arizona secondary that was torn to shreds by Russell Wilson. I’ll be back later in the week to look more into the matchup against Arizona.You can follow me on twitter @Allen_Strk
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