I’m not a big analytics guy. It’s not that I don’t think they’re important or useful, it’s just simply my dumb math brain isn’t skilled enough to explain to the general public what they are and why they’re important. Me writing an analytical piece would be like your auto mechanic explaining to you how knee surgery works. It’s nonsense.
Despite this very true fact, even someone as number dumb as myself can look at the plain old statistics on paper and tell you that this Falcons defense is absolute trash against the pass. Even if your mathematical abilities stopped at being able to read numbers, you could quickly make the case that Kirk Cousins better have a gigantic weekend… or else.
Kirk has been anywhere from horrible to upper-medium at best this year. Even in games when you could say the Vikings were playing pretty well, he still found a way to commit crucial turnovers and display shockingly poor pocket awareness. This Falcons defense needs to be the cure to his woes, if just for one week.
Now let’s let the plain old school statistical numbers tell you exactly why.
We can skip right past the ridiculous amount of points the Falcons are allowing this year and jump right in to quarterback performances. Here’s a quick look at what guys who throw the ball have done against the dirty birds:
- Wilson: 322 pass yds, 4 pass TDs
- Prescott: 450 pass yds, 1 pass, 3 rush TDs
- Foles/Trubisky: 316 pass yds, 4 pass TDs
- Rodgers: 327 pass yds, 4 pass TDs
- Bridgewater: 313 pass yds, 2 pass TDs
Not a single performance under 300 yards, and touchdowns all over the place. The guy the Vikings walked away from to sign Kirk, Teddy Bridgewater, put up 261 yards in the first half last week! And these numbers are just the headlines: They don’t touch on the fact that opposing quarterbacks are completing 72.8% of their passes overall, that the Falcons D has made just 1 interception through 5 games, or that their secondary is banged up.
But hey, why stop at QBs when we could also easily tell you how the Falcons have handled No. 1-2 wide receiver combos?
- Metcalf/Lockett (SEA): 12 rec, 187 yds, 1 TD
- Lamb/Cooper (DAL): 12 rec, 206 yds
- Robinson/Miller (CHI): 12 rec, 164 yds, 2 TD
- Valdez-Scantling/Shepard (GB): 6 rec, 66 yds
- Anderson/ Moore (CAR): 12 rec, 205 yds, 1 TD
Justin Jefferson isn’t a flash in the pan. He’s here to stay. You saw that last week when the Seahawks had to actually game plan for him. With two guys going strong, there’s no reason he and Thielen shouldn’t have a monster weekend if Cousins is on target.
But what about tight ends Spencer? Surely they have to be able to stop something through the air? Incorrect. The Falcons have given up an absurd 7 touchdowns to opposing tight ends so far this year. With Irv Smith finally emerging last week and Kyle Rudolph still being Kyle Rudolph, these guys should be making plays all over the field.
Now I know what you’re thinking: These numbers are all great, but Mike Zimmer and the Vikings are a run-first team. It doesn’t matter that Dalvin Cook‘s out. They need to establish the run to win games. Although I completely agree with that, and expect them to do it to a certain degree, running backs are the only thing the Falcons have been sort of OK at stopping in 2020:
- Carlos Hyde – 7 rush / 23 yds / 1 TD
- Zeke Elliott – 22 rush / 89 yds / 1 TD
- David Montgomery – 14 rush / 45 yds
- Aaron Jones – 15 rush / 71 yds
- Mike Davis – 16 rush / 89 yds
I still fully expect the purple to try to establish Mattison and Boone, but as soon as they do, I can’t imagine any strategy other than rifling the ball up and down the field in an attempt to get to 40.
Now let’s say you’re still holding out. Maybe you’re an 83-year-old former high school football coach who is pounding his fist on his kitchen counter shouting, “Establish the run, this isn’t on Kirk.” Let me throw one more thing at you: The Falcons are terrible at pressuring the quarterback.
They have only seven sacks through five games, and everybody who’s lined up across from them has looked the sort of comfortable that you usually only see on relaxing boat rides or picnics with one’s family. The Kirk kryptonite that is QB pressure should not be there this weekend, and he should be able to take a deep breath, open his eyes, and throw the football.
This is all just a bunch of very basic information that any idiot could look up on ESPN.com. But it shouldn’t take much of a leap for that same idiot to then also understand by looking at those numbers that if Kirk Cousins doesn’t put up a monster this weekend — I’m talking 300 and 3 TDs, or 400 and 4 — then what is the point of any of this?
What is the point of having a quarterback who is being paid an elite salary? Against an atrocious passing defense with your superstar running back on the sideline, what is the point of having Cousins if he can’t light up the scoreboard? Hand him the ball, let him throw it, and he better perform. And if he can’t, what is the point of any of this?