The first Sunday of the 2021 NFL season is officially in the books. There were plenty of exciting contests throughout the day, but the Atlanta Falcons-Philadelphia Eagles matchup was not one of them.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' NFC South rival fell hard to the Eagles, 32-6, in the Battle of the Birds. It was not a pretty debut for new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith as the favored Falcons were flat-out embarrassed in their own backyard.
In case you didn't know, the Falcons are the Buccaneers' next opponent. The Bucs have had an extra three days to prep for their upcoming matchup, but now they have actual film and stats to throw into the mix.
Since the All-22 has yet to be released, we will look at five numbers from the Falcons-Eagles game that bode well for the Bucs this weekend. Please keep in mind that stats and numbers used from Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference don't include the Chicago Bears-LA Rams or the Baltimore Ravens-Oakland Raiders games yet.
Heading into 2021, many considered the Falcons offense to be a solid unit. Even without Julio Jones. There may be a few people rethinking that idea after Sunday's loss.
Scoring six points is an insult in today's NFL, especially if those six points aren't the result of a missed PAT. One reason why the Falcons went touchdown-less against the Eagles is because they couldn't score touchdowns when they were in the red zone. And then on top of that, they never got back inside the Eagles' 20 after the first two drives of the game. In all, the Falcons were 0-for-2 in the red zone and 0-for-1 in their lone goal-to-go situation.
The Bucs held Dallas to a 1-of-4 mark in the red zone and a 0-for-1 mark in goal-to-go situations in their opener. Bruce Arians complimented Tampa Bay's red zone defense Friday morning after the game, calling it "great". Another "great" performance will go a long way against the Falcons.
No, we aren't talking about the 12th man or anything of that nature. Instead, we are referring to the number of penalties the Falcons racked up against the Eagles. Their 12 penalties are the second-most in the NFL heading into Monday night. They even have the second-most presnap penalties (5), which is even more bothersome.
Only their previous opponent, the Eagles, have more total penalties (14) and more presnap penalties (6).
The Bucs know how much penalties can affect a game. Their 11 penalties against the Cowboys went a long way toward keeping Dallas in the mix on Thursday night. And as you'll see next, the Falcons' penalties were a major, major hindrance when it came to their production -or lack thereof- on offense against Philly.
Atlanta started off with 67- and 77-yard scoring drives that both resulted in field goals. 144 yards on the first two drives is impressive, even if the Falcons came away with only six points. Matt Ryan and Co. notched 12 combined first downs during those two drives and had eight plays of 10+ yards.
What came after was pure misery. The Falcons gained just 97 yards for the rest of the game. They converted just one of the next nine third downs (11%), had just five plays of 10+ yards, and produced just seven first downs, as well.
It gets worse when you look at the net total. The Falcons amassed 146 yards on the first two drives, but produced just 77 net yards for the rest of the game.
You know the Bucs defense is looking at this and salivating right now. Smith better get his offense figured out and get it figured out quick.
Thus far, the Falcons grade of 73.1 has rendered them as the NFL's least-efficient pass-blocking unit, per PFF.
The front five allowed 18 total pressures against the Eagles. 12 of those were pressures allowed out of a true pass set. This represented the third- and seventh-highest totals, respectively. The Bucs recorded 15 total pressures, 14 of which came when Dallas was in a true pass set. Those numbers are the seventh- and third-highest totals in the NFL.
This isn't ideal. Especially when you have a statue like Ryan at quarterback. And, as we all know, the Bucs love to blitz. A lot.
Sunday could be a big day for the Bucs front seven.
Smith loves to use play-action. It's a vital component to his offense and he was very successful when he ran it with Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and Co. as the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. Per Sports Info Solutions, the Titans fielded the eighth-best EPA/att (0.18/att) when throwing out of play-action in 2020.
However, he hasn't found much success so far in Atlanta. Per PFF, Ryan is currently the 27th-rated quarterback out of 32 qualifying players when running play-action. Based off the first week only, it's not a small sample size in that context, either. Ryan dropped back into play-action 11 times against the Eagles, which is currently tied for the ninth-most dropbacks.
He completed 63.6% of his passes (19th) for 44 yards (23rd) and a 4.4 average depth of target (25th). He was pressured six times (2nd-most) and averaged 2.78 seconds to throw, which was the 12th-lowest amount of time.
If the Falcons can't get their play-action game going against the Bucs, then Tampa Bay is going to shut down the run, get after Ryan, and thus make it another long day for the Falcons offense. Keeping the Falcons from having success when running play-action should be the No. 1 agenda for the Bucs defense this week.
Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other NFL news and analysis. Follow along on social media at @SIBuccaneers on Twitter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.