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Falcons vs. Seahawks: Hat tips and head-scratchers

Sunday’s game against Seattle unfortunately stuck with the theme of the Week 1 drubbings we’ve come to expect from the Falcons. There’s room for improvement, of course, but it was an alarming display for a re-tooled team looking to compete for a division title.

Read on for Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers from Week 1.

Hat Tips

Todd Gurley’s first two touches

An encouraging sign very early on. The Falcons were drawing up some outside zone runs for Atlanta’s new feature back, resulting in 20 yards with Todd Gurley’s first two carries — one of which was a 15-yard dash to the right side of the line.

Gurley was obviously on a pitch count, which is not unexpected, but he displayed his patented burst off the snap.

Bonus hat tip for his diving touchdown later in the quarter.

Calvin Ridley’s third down conversion

Toe taps ahoy. Calvin Ridley is rightfully praised for his advanced footwork, and it was on full display on Atlanta’s first offensive possession. Ridley made a nice move off of the line of scrimmage to shake the defender and create outside leverage and then secured Matt Ryan’s pass. His impressive body awareness and footwork on the sideline to ensure the first down conversion is what makes him such a talented wide receiver.

Hayden Hurst lays out for the pass

Another new addition making an impact early in his first game in Atlanta. Matt Ryan connected with tight end Hayden Hurst in the waning seconds of the first quarter, a 27-yard pass-and-catch that saw Hurst split two defenders and lay out for the ball.

We love Austin Hooper around here, but it’s unlikely that he makes that grab.

The pass rush

The Atlanta Falcons defensive line looked much improved in this contest, with Takkarist McKinley, Grady Jarrett, and Dante Fowler combining for three sacks. McKinley had one of the best games of his career, tallying four quarterback pressures in the first half alone.

That’s more than any Falcon had in an entire game last season.

In a game where most aspects went awry, the pass rushing unit gets a tip-of-the-hat, and we’re excited to see what they can bring to the table in Week 2 against Dallas.

Head-Scratchers

Isaiah Oliver gets roasted

This seemed like a result of miscommunication, as Isaiah Oliver appeared to believe that he had safety help over the top on this play. At the end of the day, however, Oliver should never have been staked with the task of dealing with DK Metcalf on an island.

In the third quarter with the Seahawks driving, Isaiah Oliver slipped at the line of scrimmage and was promptly burned by the larger, faster DK Metcalf. The result was a drop-in-the-bucket 38-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson, and a scoreline of 21-12 Seattle.

Fourth-down conversions

The Falcons went 0-4 on fourth-down tries on Sunday, a glaring indictment of on-field execution. I appreciate their desire to take concerted risks in a contest where they could not seize momentum, but failing to pick up a Benson Mayowa blitz on the first try that led to a deflected Matt Ryan pass, and the fake punt fumble later on exposed the Falcons’ weaknesses when their backs are against the wall.

Dirk Koetter’s play-calling

After beginning Sunday’s game with some promising outside zone runs to Todd Gurley, Falcons OC Dirk Koetter began to revert to ol’ unreliable. The run calls into the heart of the defense and quick dump-off passes started to appear in short order, like Koetter was clutching onto comfortable familiarity in lieu of things that work.

If Dirk Koetter continues his lackluster offensive play calls — and there’s zero reason to believe that he won’t — this Atlanta offense will again be stuck in neutral for large chunks of games and forced to play from behind.

Sharrod Neasman’s fake punt fumble

Say what you want about the decision to dial up a fake punt from your own 25-yard-line (personally I appreciated the moxie), but it worked — and then it didn’t. Reserve safety Sharrod Neasman handled the direct snap and converted the try, just to lose the handle and turn the ball over. Emblematic of a game where nothing seemed to go the way it should.

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