At first glance, Roddy White’s 13-catch, 111-yard performance on Sunday looks to be a solid day at the office for Atlanta’s best receiver. It was a career-day for him in terms of receptions, but was he really that effective in Atlanta’s passing game?
The numbers say no, not really.
Overall, Matt Ryan’s performance under center for the Falcons was quite dismal (though, from what I understand, Jim Mora was loving him quite a bit during the game), and, based on the numbers, was actually at his worst when targeting his No. 1 receiver.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Steelers appeared to be willing to allow Ryan and White to hook up on as many three-yard routes as they wanted, and then proceed to tackle well and not give up any big plays. Mission accomplished. And while White ended up catching 13 passes, he only averaged eight yards per reception, and was targeted on an incredible 23 of Ryan’s 44 attempts. Only one other Falcons player was thrown to even five times (Tony Gonzalez … who caught two passes). Bottom line: If you target one player 23 times in one game, that player is going to catch a lot of passes regardless of how good or bad the defensive coverage is.
Here’s the breakdown of Ryan’s attempts, and how he performed when throwing to White and his other targets.
Pretty easy to see the Steelers made an effort to take away White, and with Atlanta’s No. 2 receiver, Michael Jenkins, out of the lineup, that was much easier for them to do. The Steelers used both Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden in coverage against him, while six of McFadden’s 15 tackles were against white.
One of the most common complaints about Steelers cornerbacks is how far off the line of scrimmage they play (and I was griping about it quite a bit during the game on Sunday) but the Falcons ended up playing right into what Dick LeBeau was doing. A perfect example was Troy Polamalu’s fourth quarter interception.
Again, McFadden is lined up 10 yards off of White (as seen at the top of this image)…
And, of course, the Falcons attempted to go back to the well, running the same route they’d been dinking-and-dunking with all day, and throw another quick seven-yard pass to him. The only problem was the fact McFadden dropped off into a zone, while Troy Polamalu demonstrated his absurd closing speed, jumped the route, and made a vintage Troy pick.
As you can see, McFadden is standing at the 40-yard line picking up the inside slot man, while Polamalu sneaks in underneath and makes what should have been the game-clinching interception.
Don’t let the 13-catch, 100-yard numbers fool you; the Steelers completely took away the only player the Falcons were targeting in the passing game and made him, essentially, a non-factor. Whether or not they would have been able to do that with Jenkins in the game is up for debate, but it’s pretty clear the Steelers weren’t at all concerned about Harry Douglas or Eric Weems.