By Matthew Asher
As is tradition with the Falcons this season, they won yet another close game, narrowly defeating the Tampa Bay Bucs 24-23. For the fifth time this season, Matt Ryan and company have had to engineer the game-winning drive while trailing late in the fourth quarter.
The win gives Atlanta ten for the season. They are still in the lead for the top playoff spot for the NFC and are tied with the Houston Texans for best record in the NFL. Of course, not everything about the Falcons win was good.
Backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers gets an A. This was a great all-around performance. Rodgers had 73 kick return yards, 30 receiving yards and led the Falcons with 49 rushing yards and scoring one touchdown on the ground. His 152 all-purpose yards were led all players. As mentioned before, Rodgers is consistently outperforming starting running back Michael Turner. The Falcons may want Rodgers as their starter next year.
Wide receiver Julio Jones gets an A. This time it was Jones’ turn to lead the team in receptions and receiving yards. Julio finished the game with six reception for 147 yards including an 80-yard touchdown pass from Ryan in the third quarter.
Atlanta’s defense gets a B+. With Doug “Muscle Hamster” Martin already reaching the 1,000-rushing yard mark last week, the Falcons defense did an overall good job of limiting Martin. Yes, Martin did finish the game with two touchdowns but both of them were run in from one-yard out. Averaging about 100 yards per game coming into the Atlanta contest, he was limited to just 50 rushing yards on 21 carries. His longest run of the day was for 10 yards meaning he was contained throughout the game.
Quarterback Matt Ryan gets a C+. Yet again Ryan had another solid performance. Ryan finished with 353 passing yards, a passing touchdown and one 13-yard scamper. Since Ryan averages slighty fewer than 300 passing yards again, why is he listed in the “Bag” category? Yet again Ryan continues to turn the ball over. Just one game removed from his career-worst five interceptions, Ryan turned the ball over twice this game. Rhonde Barber intercepted one of Ryan’s passes returning it 28 yards and Ryan also fumbled the ball. In just two games Ryan has nearly doubled the number of interceptions he has thrown all season
Starting running back Michael Turner gets a C-. In the eleven games Atlanta has played this season, Turner has only eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark twice. A few weeks ago against New Orleans, Turner couldn’t eclipse the 20-yard rushing mark. The same thing happened against Tampa when he ran 13 times for 17 yards. Just like against Arizona, Turner ended up scoring the winning touchdown, but his overall statistics were once again subpar at best. This may be Turner’s last season in the NFL, or at least with the Falcons, if he turns in games like this one.
Kicker Matt Bryant gets a D. Bryant has been struffling as of late. He was a perfect 10-10 throughout the first four games for the Falcons. Since then he’s missed 5 of his last 21 attempts including 2 of them against the Bucs. Bryant finished the day with just one 31-yard field goal made. He missed a 48-yard attempt and a 22-yard kick at halftime which would have giving the Falcons the lead. In the end it’s didn’t play a deciding factor but in the playoffs, it could come down to one kick.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.