Three things I liked and three not-so-much from the the Falcons’ 38-25 season-opening loss to the Seahawks Matthew Tabeek
Now that the dust has settled some, here are three things I liked and three not-so-much from the Falcons' 38-25 season-opening loss to the Seahawks on Sunday.
1. A sack from Takk: Back in early July, we kicked off a 10-part series ranking the Falcons we thought were in line to have a breakout season in 2020. Takk McKinley was the first one in that series for a reason: Everything lines up perfectly for McKinley to finally have that big year we've all been waiting for since he arrived via a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
McKinely is now in his fourth year with the Falcons and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season after Atlanta opted to not pick up his fifth-year option. The Falcons, in a statement, said they "are taking a wait-and-see approach."
On Sunday against the Seahawks, McKinley sacked Russell Wilson on the Seahawks' first offensive play from scrimmage and played an excellent game overall, tallying five tackles, six quarterback hits, a tipped pass and that aforementioned sack. McKinley is off to a flying start, and the Falcons have to like what they are seeing.
2. Gurley's ground game: Perhaps the most anticipated debut for Falcons fans everywhere was Todd Gurley's on Sunday. Gurley, another player we have on that list of breakout players in 2020, signed a one-year contract worth a reported $6 million with the Falcons during the offseason. Despite leading the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,093 on 343 touches and being named the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, Gurley enters 2020 with something to prove following the last two seasons.
On Sunday against the Seahawks, Gurley reminded us early on of how good he can be when featured in the run game. The former Georgia Bulldogs star ran 10 times for 51 yards and a score in the first half and looked well on his way to a dominant day. While he had considerably less touches in the second half, Gurley reminded us thet he can be a difference-maker in the run game.
3. Heckuva Hurst haul: Speaking of glimpses and positive signs, did you happen to see Hayden Hurst lay out for that sensational 27-yard catch late in the first quarter? Hurst ran past Shaquill Griffin and Jamal Adams, giving the Falcons a first down in Seahawks territory. Seven plays later, Todd Gurley punched it in for his first score in a Falcons uniform.
While he was targeted five times, Hurst ended up with just three catches for 38 yards. It wasn't a spectacular debut, but it was enough to see why the Falcons sent a second-pick to Baltimore to acquire him. Oh, and that list of top 10 breakout Falcons players? Hurst was No. 1. We're expecting to see much more from him in the ensuing 15 games.
*Bonus eye-popping stat: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage each had nine catches and all surpassed 100 receiving yards on the day. Jones finished with a team-high 157 yards while Ridley and Gage tallied 130 and 114 yards, respectively.
Pretty crazy, right? Well, according to Elias Sports Bureau, Sunday was the first time in NFL history a team had three players with nine catches and 100 yards in the same game. Wow. Just, wow.
NOT GREAT, BOB
4. Forgettable fourth downs: We've discussed and dissected the Falcons' fourth-down mistakes on Sunday quite a bit here and here, but they still have to top my not-so-great list of things to forget from the loss to Seattle.
The Falcons were 0 for 4 on fourth downs or, in other words, turned it over on downs four times. Making it worse was the fact that the Seahawks scored on the ensuing drive all four times - touchdown, touchdown, field goal and a touchdown. The Seahawks were 1 for 1 on fourth downs, and we all know what happened there: Russell Wilson connected with D.K. Metcalf for a 38-yard touchdown to break open what was a two-point game at the time. Seattle never looked back.
5. Not enough turnovers: Speaking of turnovers, the Falcons failed to force any against the Seahawks on Sunday. On the flip side, Atlanta turned it over twice - a fumble and an interception.
In case you need a reminder, the Falcons forced just 20 turnovers in 2019, ranking 19th in the league. At the bye week last year, the Falcons were 31st in the league in the turnover differential before turning things around in the second half.
6. In search of the century mark: The Falcons finished with 72 net yards rushing against the Seahawks, with Todd Gurley leading the way with 56 yards on 14 attempts. It appeared early on that Gurley would eclipse (or come close) the 100-yard mark after tallying 51 through two quarters. But, alas, it was not to be.
It's been a while, too, since any Falcons running back has surpassed the 100-yard mark. How long? You'll have to go all the way back to Dec. 23, 2018, when Brian Hill rushed for 115 yards on eight carries in a 24-10 win against the Panthers in Week 16.
Gurley rushed for 857 yards on 223 carries in 2019 and averaged 57.1 yards per game.
EARLY LOOK: COWBOYS
The Falcons and the Cowboys will square in Week 2 down in Arlington, Texas. Both teams are coming off losses.
The Rams outlasted the Cowboys 20-17 on Sunday night in a game that featured some questionable decisions and some controversial penalties. But one of the things the Rams did really well was neutralize that Cowboys pass rush and, at the same, dominate the time of possession.
Did the Rams provide a blueprint on how to beat the Cowboys? If so, how did they do it?
Rams coach Sean McVay opted to go with an up-tempo game plan with a lot of play-action. Jared Goff executed it to (near) perfection and the Rams' running back by committee (led by Malcolm Brown) eventually wore out the Cowboys on defense - and kept their high-powered offense (Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb) on the sidelines, especially in the first half.
The Falcons are not the Rams, but it's hard to argue with McVay's plan. Wins are hard to come by in this league and LA is 1-0 while the Cowboys head back to Texas 0-1, looking to rebound against the 0-1 Falcons.
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