Losing yet another game this year isn’t all that surprising, especially with the kind of year the Atlanta Falcons are having as they compete for a top 5 pick instead of making it to the Super Bowl. However, the Falcons’ offensive line showed signs of life against the San Francisco 49ers, which has been a very rare thing to see.
One solid game will not make the Falcons’ coaches or fans forget just how awful and poorly their offensive linemen have played throughout the year, but in a game where they had to go up against arguably the best front seven the NFL has to offer, it was good enough to show that the line was indeed improving and at least headed in the right direction as the season comes to a close.
Against some of the best pass rushers in Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, the Falcons’ unit only allowed quarterback Matt Ryan to be sacked once and gave Matty Ice time to actually throw the deep ball — which has been obsolete this season due to injuries and a lack of protection overall. Instead of the front five hanging their heads on a very disappointing season, as they allowed Ryan to be sacked a career high 34 times and made him one of the top hit quarterbacks this year, they stood their ground against one of the best defenses in the league.
Even coach Mike Smith was impressed by the performance of his offensive line, which were huge underdogs as many analysts assumed they would get completely dominated by the 49ers’ stingy defense. He told ESPN:
“The interior of the pocket was a little more stout. I thought that we did a very good job with scheming, with chipping, helping and having backs chip out, tight ends chip out before they went into their routes.”
With the overall protection, Ryan was able to complete a season high 37 passes and had the opportunity to throw some deep balls to his wide receivers. As the Falcons will have many issues to address during the offseason, if the offensive line can put together two solid games the Falcons may have something a less difficult time working out the kinks to their beleaguered line.
Still, the guys up front have played only one solid game out of the 15 games they have played. Nothing is for certain, but anything that is positive in a year that has been just bad the Falcons will take it. The big boys up front for the Falcons will have another difficult challenge as they prepare to play their final game against the Carolina Panthers who also boast a great defense.
Smith and his coaching staff will see whether or not his line was indeed improving or if it was just a fluke.