Atlanta Falcons drop 2016 home opener, fall to Buccaneers 31-24

Sep 11, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) can
Sep 11, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) can /

The Atlanta Falcons fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-24, in their 2016 home opener on Sunday afternoon, exposing issues on both sides of the ball.

The Atlanta Falcons welcomed in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (who swept the Falcons in last years season series), for today’s home opener in the Georgia Dome. However, today’s game did not go the way the Falcons and fans had hoped.

By looking at the score, it is obvious that the Falcons defense did not have it’s best day. The defense was penalized way too many times, and in very crucial moments. This ultimately cost the Falcons, as almost every one of those penalties led to Tampa Bay drives being extended and ending with points. There were some positives, including the play of rookie linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, as well as veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney, and star corner Desmond Trufant.

Ryan, Sanu, and Coleman step up

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons /

As for the offense, things did look much better than the last 8 games of the 2015 season. Matt Ryan had a really good game, finishing 27/39 with 334 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was very comforting to finally see Ryan back to his old form.

The receiving corps looked much improved also, due to Mohamed Sanu‘s 5 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. It was nice to see a receiver other than Julio Jones make big plays for this offense. Tevin Coleman looked really good today as well, especially in the pass game. He racked up 95 yards on 5 catches, and showcased his improved hands that were so heavily advertised during the offseason.

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Offensive line struggles…

The most concerning thing regarding the Falcons offense was the poor performance of the run game, as well as the sub-par showing by the offensive line, especially 2014 6th overall pick Jake Matthews. The Atlanta Falcons had a chance to tie the game with a 2 minute drill, even though they went down 31-13 in the 3rd quarter. This is a positive, but going down 18 points to the Buccaneers in the Georgia Dome is not good going forward for this Falcons team. When a team goes down by multiple scores in the second half, it makes it obvious to the opposing defense that the pass game is going to be the primary focus.

In the next 5 weeks, Atlanta has to face pass rushers like Kahlil Mack, Cameron Jordan, Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, Michael Bennett, and Cliff Avril. If Jake Matthews and the rest of the offensive line struggles against elite pass rushers, like they did today against a good Buccaneers front, wins will be very hard to come by. As many Quarterbacks know, going down 18 points and staring at any of those elite pass rushers is downright scary, and not a recipe for success.

Next: Georgia Bulldogs survive home opener against Nicholls State

Hopefully, Coach Dan Quinn can instill some discipline in the defense and find a way to improve the offensive line play just a little bit. Otherwise, this season is going to be long and tough, especially for Matt Ryan and the rest of the Atlanta Falcons offense.