Menu Close

Falcons Lose to Saints in Ridder’s First Start

Falcons at Saints Game Summary December 18th

FALCONS AT SAINTS GAME SUMMARY DECEMBER 18TH -The Atlanta Falcons (5-9) fell to the New Orleans Saints (5-9) in a key divisional game that kept the playoff chances alive for the Saints. 

The Falcons benched Marcus Mariota at quarterback earlier in the week in favor of rookie, Desmond Ridder. After a shaky start for Ridder, Arthur Smith tried to hide his new quarterback's deficiencies behind an effective run game that reestablished control for the Falcons. Atlanta outscored New Orleans 15-7 in the second half, but came up short late in the fourth quarter.

The Saints rode the momentum of explosive play after explosive play to take a commanding lead early in the game. Dennis Allen used Taysum Hill effectively and Alvin Kamara finally had a strong showing after weeks of ineffective play.

The Saints sealed the game with a fumble recovery on a Ridder pass that popped out of Drake London's hands on 4th and 5 deep in Saints territory. Had London been able to hold onto the football, the Falcons would have been in field goal range with a chance to tie the game or take the lead with a touchdown.

Despite a combined 21-35 record, every team in the NFC South is still in contention. The Saints would have been eliminated with a loss or a Panthers or Buccaneers win, but none of those scenarios occurred.

Let's see what went wrong for the Falcons.

Who Covered?

Falcons at Saints (-4) (o/u 43)

Falcons 18 - Saints 21

ATS (Saints -4)


Over/Under (+/- 43)

UNDER (39 Total Points)

Ridder Woes

Desmond Ridder looked like a rookie quarterback in his first NFL start. Ridder completed 13 passes on 26 attempts for 96 yards. He averaged 3.7 yards per throw and clocked in a QBR of 31.9. He failed to complete a pass on the Falcons first two possessions and, when he did begin completing passes, he threw almost exclusively to Drake London.

London is a special receiver and should be Ridder's first option in the game. However, London should not be Ridder's only option. Many of the passes Ridder did complete to London could have been broken up, if not for London's ability to come away with 50/50 balls. Ridder seemed to have trouble communicating with many of his receivers. He made errant throws nowhere near his receivers. He took a few deep shots and overthrew his target every time. Despite his ability to use his legs, the Saints sacked him four times.

Nobody should be impressed with Ridder during this game, but let's give him a few more starts to see his potential. Per Football Outsiders, The Saints rank 12th in pass defense DVOA (0.2%). PFF ranks Cameron Jordan 14th in pass coverage with a grade of (85.1), while Tyrann Mathieu ranks 26th with a grade a 82.8. Demario Davis also had an incredible day, recording 8 tackles and coming very close to two interceptions.

The Saints pass defense is stout and proved too much for Ridder. When it was clear Ridder would struggle, Smith went with his two running back approach to establish control and put some points on the board.

Tyler Algeier

Falcons running back Tyler Algeier had the best game of his career on Sunday. He carried the ball 17 times for 139 yards, including a 43 yard run that set the Falcons up for their first touchdown of the game in the third quarter. The Falcons also utilized Cordarrelle Patterson in the run game. Patterson ran 14 times for 53 yards and 1 touchdown.

The Falcons love to use the dual threat running back approach because it allows them to get the opposing team's defense moving in different ways. Algeier is a powerful back, who the Falcons will run through the A and B gaps. Patterson works better in space and on quick tosses, which gets a defense running side to side. This dual threat enables the Falcons to get creative in their blocking scheme.

Patterson and Alegeier both rank in the top ten in DYAR. It is truly incredible to see two running backs on the same team carry equal amounts of importance for an offense.

Offensive Line

The offensive line has been a big part of the run game's success. Atlanta ranks 4th in adjusted line yards (4.82) and 2nd in running back yards (5.00). The Falcons have an incredible right side of the line with Chris Lindstrom at right guard and Kaleb McGary at right tackle. PFF ranks both of these lineman in the top 5 in run blocking. Lindstrom is ranked 2nd with a 92.2 rating.

Curiously, the Falcons have given up 32 sacks this year, including 4 agains the Saints on Sunday. This could be a product of trying to play pass protection against running quarterbacks who will extend the play with their legs. Nevertheless, the sacks often kill drives and take the running game out of the equation, forcing Atlanta to pass. Never a good thing.

A Streaky Defense

The Falcons defense struggled early to keep the Saints off the board. The pass defense is still one of the worst in the league, ranking 29th in DVOA (21.4%). The Saints exploited this on many occasions, starting with a 10 play drive where Andy Dalton completed four passes over 10 yards or more that ended with a 19 yard touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson.

The next time the Saints had the ball, Taysum Hill connected with Rasheed Shaheed for 68 yards on the second play of the drive for a touchdown. Dalton completed 11 passes on 17 attempts for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hill continues to be a problem for the Atlanta defense, throwing for 80 yards and 1 touchdown and rushing for 30 yards on 7 carries.

Once the Saints established a lead, they relied on Alvin Kamara to control the game clock and minimize the Falcons time of possession. Kamara had a huge day rushing for 91 yards on 21 carries. This was frustrating for the Falcons, because Kamara has been neutralized most of the season. Per Football Outsiders, Kamara ranks 39th in DYAR among 40 running backs with 100 rushes or more this season. He's been ineffective all year as the Saints have had to turn to an inconsistent Andy Dalton for production.

Explosive Plays

The Falcons' defense struggled to contain the Saints' chunk yardage plays. Atlanta allowed more than 10 explosive plays of 10 yards or more during the game. Much of these plays came in the first half, when the Falcons' pass coverage looked lost. Atlanta plays a soft zone in coverage, which allowed receivers like Rasheed Shaheed and Juwan Johnson to work underneath and find open space.

Dalton might be careless with the football, but he knows how to hit open receivers. The Falcons did a passable job holding Chris Olave to 3 receptions for 53 yards, but Johnson and Shaheed ran amok in the middle of the field. Johnson has become Dalton's favorite target and posed constant problems for the Falcons. He hauled in 4 receptions for 67 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Troy Anderson did his best to pick up coverage, but the linebacker is an obvious mismatch for the more fleet-footed receivers.

Fourth Quarter

Even with the explosive plays and the soft coverage, the Falcons held the Saints to zero points in the fourth quarter and came up with some huge stops.

With 13:23 left in the fourth, the Falcons relied on some nice play from their defensive front and linebacker unit. DeAngelo Malone made a great play to blow up a Kamara run on second down. Atlanta followed that up with a blitz on third down, where Rashaan Evans sacked Dalton and forced a punt. Evans had a massive day with 10 total tackles, 5 solo tackles, and 1 sack.

The 3 and out enabled the Falcons to score and bring the game within 3 points.

With the score 21-18 and 7:07 left, the Falcons forced their second straight 3 and our after Jalen Hawkins made a nice play to break up a Dalton pass. The Falcons took over and penetrated deep into the Saints territory before fumbling the ball and icing the game.

Game Notes

Here are some erratic notations from the notebook I keep during Falcons games:

  • Dalton has the third highest passer rating in the NFL on 1st and 2nd down.
  • Ridder looks miserable through the first 2 drives. This could be a long day for Atlanta.
  • Chunk yardage has been a major issue for the Atlanta defense.
  • Saints are 31st in turnover differential.
  • When Hill has run for 50 yards or more, the Saints are 4-0 (now 5-0...).
  • Saints are the 2nd most penalized team in the NFL, while the Falcons are the lowest penalized team.
  • Lorenzo Carter is playing well on the defensive line for the Falcons.
  • Rasheed Shaheed vs. Troy Anderson is a mismatch all day.
  • Tyler Algeier is AN ABSOLUTE MONSTER!
  • Falcons lose. Ugh.

Parting Words

This game followed a similar game script as many of the Falcons losses.

Pass defense and blown coverage continues to be a problem early on, while the Falcons seek to establish a run game and control the pace of play. Despite having talented receivers, the Falcons' quarterback struggles continue, making it hard for a team with a weak defense to come from behind.

Atlanta will play the Baltimore Ravens next week. A win keeps them in the playoff hunt, while a loss all but seals the season.

Do you like our Falcons at Saints Game Summary December 18th? Slick here to read more from Godzilla Wins.

Atlanta Falcons @ Baltimore Ravens

Saturday, 12/14 at 1:00 pm on CBS



















Win BIG with Godzilla Wins

1 Comment

  1. Pingback:NFL Week 16 Saturday Schedule and Leans - GODZILLA WINS!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *