What We Saw: Week 16

It was a big week for young WRs

Lions @ Falcons

Final Score: Falcons 20, Lions 16

Writer: Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL on Twitter)

 

This game went about as expected, as both teams played conservative grind-it-out offense, and we went into the half with a score of 10-10. The game remained tied at 13-13 heading into the fourth quarter, until the Falcons scored a touchdown to take a lead. The Lions responded with a nice drive but were stuffed badly on a 3rd and 2 with just over two minutes left, and they took the field goal on 4th and 6 to make it 20-16. After a costly Russell Gage fumble gave the Lions a short field, they drove the ball down to a first and goal with under a minute left. However, backup quarterback Tim Boyle threw a poor interception at the goal line to end the game, and the Lions continued their trend of playing close, hard-fought losses. Miraculously, the Falcons improved to 7-8 on the year. Outside of the key turnover, the Lions will be frustrated with their penalties, as they committed around six false starts, with offensive lineman, wide receivers, and even the quarterback chipping in to the pre-snap penalties that often stalled out drives.

 

Detroit Lions

 

Quarterback

 

Tim Boyle: 24/34, 187 yards, TD, INT

 

Tim Boyle got the start this week filling in for Jared Goff, and let’s just say that Goff’s job is likely safe for now. Boyle picked up a first own on a hard count on the first drive and had good timing with Amon-Ra St. Brown on a third and long conversion. On third and goal on the opening drive, Boyle missed a wide-open St. Brown for what would have been a touchdown.

Boyle later had a horribly inaccurate pass on a 3rd and 5 to an open Josh Reynolds for an incompletion. The Lions leaned on the running game the next drive, with false starts stalling the drive, until the Lions converted a fourth and 6 with the punter, Jack Fox, completing a pass for a 21 yard gain. Boyle followed it up by a poor decision out of the pocket throwing to Josh Reynolds where he wanted a flag but was a risky pass regardless. On the next play Boyle threw another risky pass, but it found its way through traffic to St. Brown, who turned upfield for a touchdown. It was Boyle’s first career touchdown pass.

Boyle got a chance in the two-minute drive at the end of the half and started with two short passes to St. Brown to start the drive. Boyle missed an open Kalif Raymond, then completed short of the sticks to Tom Kennedy. A desperation heave ended the half.

Boyle had another poor throw on 3rd and 3 to Reynolds, attempting a back-shoulder throw but leading him too far downfield. The Lions never fully turned the game over to Boyle, as they were still running the ball under one minute left in the game driving for the win with one timeout. With the ball at the nine-yard line with 39 seconds left and a 1st and goal and a chance to take the lead, Boyle threw an awful interception over the middle of the field on his first read, right into an awaiting defender. The pass was woefully behind the receiver even if the linebacker wasn’t there. Boyle will return to his role as the Lions’ backup quarterback as soon as Goff is healthy.

 

 

Running Backs

 

Jamaal Williams: 19 carries, 77 yards

Craig Reynolds: 11 carries, 29 yards | 4 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards

 

Jamaal Williams played 28 snaps as the between the tackles runner for the Lions. Williams stiff-armed his way for a nine-yard game on a well-blocked play early on, but was immediately subbed out for Craig Reynolds. Williams played about half the snaps for the game and was serviceable, but he didn’t get more than was blocked. Williams wasn’t involved at all in the passing game, where Reynolds excelled.

Craig Reynolds‘ best plays of the game came in the passing game, as he was a solid contributor every time he was called upon. Reynolds had a nice reception out of the backfield where he made a man miss and broke a tackle and turned a short pass into a first down. He later received a screen pass after picking up a first down on a 3rd and 2 run. He was targeted on an incomplete wheel route downfield, which was followed by another pass reception the next play. Reynolds looked good overall, playing just one less snap than Williams. He’s shown enough to earn a spot on someone’s roster in the future.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Amon-Ra St. Brown: 11 targets, 9 receptions, 91 yards, TD | 2 carries, 19 yards

Josh Reynolds: 7 targets, 2 receptions, 36 yards

Kalif Raymond: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 56 yards

Tom Kennedy: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards

KhaDarel Hodge: 1 target, 1 reception, 21 yards

Brock Wright: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 4 yards

 

Amon-Ra St. Brown was the leading Lions receiver in this one, and good things happened when they gave him the ball. St. Brown had two catches early on in the first drive, including a nice low and away pass that he caught with his hands to convert a 3rd and 6. St. Brown then converted a 3rd and 14 from the slot where he broke an outside route and caused the defender to fall down. On the final play of the opening drive, St. Brown broke off another defender on an in breaker and was open for what surely would have been a touchdown, but Boyle sailed the pass over his head to a covered wide receiver.

On third down from the 21-yard line in the second quarter, St. Brown was targeted on a curl route in heavy traffic. He caught the ball with his hands, turned upfield for a nice run after the catch, and pushed his way across the goal line for a touchdown.

 

 

He added two short receptions to start the two-minute drill. Later he was wide-open for a nice gain off of play-action to get the Lions into the red zone. St. Brown is a solid route runner, good with the ball in his hands after the catch or on designed runs, and seems headed for a career as a solid slot receiver at the very least.

Josh Reynolds grabbed a first down catch on their first offensive play of the game, but it was downhill from there. His end zone target but was covered and he had no chance at it, and Reynolds and Boyle rarely seemed to be on the same page, with numerous missed connections that seemed to be more on the quarterback than the receiver. His usage was right up there with St. Brown, however, so Reynolds should have some deep league value when Goff returns.

 

Atlanta Falcons

 

Quarterback

 

Matt Ryan: 18/24, 215 yards, TD, 3 sacks | 4 carries, 5 yards

 

Matt Ryan started out the game under siege with three sacks within his first five dropbacks on the opening drive. Ryan threw behind Olamide Zaccheaus on a choice route on the next drive for an incompletion on third down.

The Falcons’ two-minute drive stalled out after a tipped pass on 2nd and 7, followed by Ryan flushing the pocket on third down due to perceived pressure and throwing it away. He could have stayed in the pocket longer, and he did have a hot-read open immediately, though they would have had to make a play to gain the first. But it was not a well-executed play by Ryan to end the drive.

Ryan completed a really nice deep ball to Pitts in the second half, and they moved the ball well when Kyle Pitts was involved in the passing game. But the drive ended on a 3rd and 5 where the Lions brought five and Ryan seemingly had no quick read. He was engulfed quickly by the rush and threw incomplete as he was hit.

Ryan did a nice job on a drive that spanned the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, using his legs to buy time, first on a bootleg pass to Russell Gage and then stepping up in the pocket to hit Pitts for a first down on 3rd and 5. Ryan followed it up with a play-action touchdown to Hurst down the sideline for the go-ahead score.

 

 

The Falcons are winning ugly, and the offensive line is a concern, so we don’t see much of the high-volume Ryan anymore, making it tough to judge just how much he has left in the tank. He can still throw a well-placed ball, but it falls apart when the blocking fails. Upgrading the offensive line will be a top priority for the Falcons.

Running Backs

 

Mike Davis: 7 carries, 28 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 7 yards

Cordarrelle Patterson: 7 carries, 14 yards, TD | 2 targets, 1 reception, -1 yard

 

Cordarrelle Patterson was targeted on the second play of the game but was targeted just one more time throughout. Patterson was generally bottled up in the running game, but after a failed 3rd and 1 sneak from Ryan in the red zone, Patterson got the toss on fourth down and made it to the corner for a touchdown.

 

 

Patterson split the work with Mike Davis and played one fewer snap, and ran just one more route than Davis. Patterson is still returning kicks, but his offensive role has decreased, and you have to wonder if he is hitting the wall in his first year of heavy offensive usage. Without the touchdown, this would have been a disastrous fantasy day for Patterson.

Mike Davis had an excellent blitz pickup on third down on the second drive after Patterson handled first and second down, which could be a hint to why Davis keeps playing snaps. Davis was running hard but not breaking tackles for any significant yardage. H simply gets what is blocked, and lacks the burst to break free into open spaces. His passing game usage was nearly non-existant as well.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Kyle Pitts: 6 targets, 6 receptions, 102 yards

Russell Gage: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 39 yards, fumble

Olamide Zaccheaus: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 32 yards

Christian Blake: 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards

Hayden Hurst: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards, TD

Marvin Hall: 1 target, 1 reception, 10 yards

 

Kyle Pitts started strong with a first down catch in traffic on third and long on the first drive where he lined up as a slot receiver. Later he ran a simple out route from the slot in the red zone where he turned it into eight or so yards, and was close to breaking it for a touchdown.

Pitts had a catch over the middle to start the second quarter for nine yards, and after a holding play, Pitts was again lined up in the slot and ran a post over the middle of the field for a nice gain. Two plays later, Pitts lined up out wide and had single coverage with a cornerback, where he ran a go route and caught a nice ball from Ryan on the sideline and got two feet in bounds. It was the kind of play that we will see more of in the future, and the type of play where Pitts looks like a top-end wide receiver, let alone a tight end.

 

 

Pitts ended his work with a 3rd and 5 catch in the third quarter where he started out wide and broke in, showing how he’s a big inviting target over the middle of the field. On Hayden Hurst‘s touchdown, Pitts lined up as an inline blocker and ran a post, drawing double coverage in the end zone to free up Hurst. He’s clearly got the attention of opposing defenses.

Russell Gage started the second quarter off with a catch off of play-action on an in-breaker. He was targeted on another in-breaker off of play-action n the third quarter, but he dropped what would have been a gain of at least ten yards. Ryan went right back to him on the next play as the Falcons spread things out and let Gage start in the slot, and after working his way towards the middle he broke it out for a nice gain to the sideline. He followed that up with yet another catch off a play-action bootleg where Ryan found time and hit him for a short gain. Gage was the recipient of a screen pass on 3rd down where a first would have iced the game. Gage came up just short, but more importantly fumbled the ball, giving the Lions a huge chance to pull off the upset.

Olamide Zaccheaus had a catch leading up to the two-minute drill where he spun upfield for a first down. Just as involved as Gage early on in the game, but faded late and caught just two passes.

Hayden Hurst caught a touchdown off of play-action where Pitts drew coverage up the seam. He was targeted just one other time and was generally a non-factor.

 

Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL on Twitter)

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