Atlanta Falcons vs. Oakland Raiders: 5 reasons the Falcons won

Sep 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) meets with Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) after the game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Falcons defeated the Raiders 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons came away with their first win of the season against the Oakland Raiders. Let’s take a look at the reasons why.

After a disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Atlanta Falcons came away with a much-needed win in Oakland today. A fun, crazy-at-times game had Atlanta hold on for a thrilling 35-28 victory. There were some mistakes; missed tackles, dumb penalties, and a red zone turnover, but a win’s a win. Many players stepped up and made big plays in order for this team to escape the Black Hole with a 1-1 record.

Although a victory is always a good thing, the Falcons have to clean up those aforementioned mistakes if they want to build on this and have a successful season moving forward.  There were too many instances when the Falcons defense had the Raiders stopped on a 3rd down, only to commit a boneheaded penalty to extend Oakland’s drive. The defense struggled with tackling again this week, for something Coach Dan Quinn emphasizes, that has to change. Thankfully, they made just enough stops, including a key one on fourth down in the 4th quarter, to come away with the win.

That said, there were some nice performances by a handful of Falcons players. Let’s take a look at the positives and the reasons why Atlanta won the game.

Sep 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) runs the ball against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5: Offensive line

Coming into the game, it was imperative that the Falcons protect Matt Ryan and provide good holes for the run game.

Even against the formidable front-7 of the Oakland Raiders, the Atlanta offensive line played terrifically. They gave up only one sack and neutralized Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. Those two combined to have only 4 tackles and 2 QB hits.

Jake Matthews, in particular, had a nice game bouncing back from a poor performance in Week 1.

Aside from pass protection, the O-Line did a tremendous job opening up holes for Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman to run through. The duo combined for 139 yards on 29 total carries, good for a 4.8-yard average. This also included the would-be game-sealing touchdown run by Tevin Coleman in the fourth quarter.

If Atlanta can continue this kind of production from their offensive line, they could become a very dangerous offense this season.

Sep 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Justin Hardy (16) catches a touchdown off a deflected pass against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Falcons defeated the Raiders 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4: Third Down Efficiency

A large reason the Falcons fell to Tampa Bay in week one was their inability to extend drives. In that game, they only converted 3-13 3rd down opportunities. This made things very difficult for Matt Ryan & Co. as they never got to establish a good offensive flow.

Against the Raiders on Sunday afternoon, the Falcons were much better, gaining first downs on 5-10 opportunities. By doing this, it allowed Atlanta to get in a groove and become more creative with their play calls.

The ability to get into an offensive rhythm and control the clock is essential. Many of the game’s biggest plays came on third down.

There were big throws made by Matt Ryan, Justin Hardy’s ridiculous touchdown catch off of a tipped pass and Mohamed Sanu’s clutch catch to seal it at the end. If the Falcons can maintain this efficiency on 3rd down throughout the season, good things will happen.

Sep 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo (80) is tackled by Oakland Raiders free safety Reggie Nelson (27) in the second quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3: Tight Ends

With the Raiders deciding to cover Julio Jones with the entire state of California for most of the afternoon, the Falcons needed other options to step up in the passing game. Jacob Tamme, Austin Hooper, and Levine Toilolo all made huge catches for the Falcons today. The tight ends all stepped up and delivered for an offense that needed them to.

The trio combined for 10 catches for 180 yards and one touchdown. Jacob Tamme caught the touchdown for the group off of a dime from Ryan.

Every time Ryan rolled out on play-action it seemed one of the three was open for a solid gain. This is a big revelation for the Falcons, who haven’t had steady play from their Tight Ends since Tony Gonzales left.

If it weren’t for their performances today, the Falcons may not have come away with a win. With Jones/Sanu requiring so much attention, this could be a more regular occurrence for the Atlanta offense.

Sep 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) runs the ball against the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2: Kemal Ishmael

I want to give a shout-out to Kemal Ishmael for his performance today. He led the team with 15 tackles and also had a pass deflection. It felt like he was a

He led the team with 15 tackles and also had a pass deflection. It felt like he was a heat-seeking missile and was in on every tackle. Ishmael is a nice luxury for the Falcons, being that he is a backup, only starting while Keanu Neal is still out. Having solid depth in the defensive backfield is never a bad thing. This is especially true for a defense that currently only has 4 cornerbacks active. Ishmael’s play made things easier for a defense that struggled again on Sunday. They bent, but did not completely break. You can thank Kemal Ishmael for some of that fact.

Having solid depth in the defensive backfield is never a bad thing. This is especially true for a defense that currently only has 4 cornerbacks active. Ishmael’s play made things easier for a defense that struggled again on Sunday. They bent, but did not completely break. You can thank Kemal Ishmael for some of that fact.

Sep 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls a play against the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1: Matt Ryan

The Atlanta Falcons simply do not win against the Oakland Raiders if they do not have Matt Ryan.

After a pretty solid performance in Week 1, Ryan followed up with  one of his best games in a while. He completed 26 of 34 passes for 396 yards, his most since an overtime loss to Tampa Bay last season (397 yards). He also threw 3 touchdown passes to three different receivers. It appears that he is finally starting to settle into Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and this is very good for the Falcons hopes this season.

A big reason to Ryan’s success this afternoon was the switch to go no-huddle for a majority of the game.

It is clear to virtually all Falcons fans that Ryan and the offense operate better in the no-huddle and today was no exception. He made big time throws to nine different receivers against the Raiders. Ryan even ran for a key two-point conversion to put the Falcons up seven in the third quarter. All in all, a virtuoso performance from the veteran quarterback. Here’s to hoping he plays this well for the remainder of the season.

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