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Week 5 Game Recap: Atlanta Falcons 32, Houston Texans 53

What you need to know

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta’s ground game has become highly predictable—a criticism levied at offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s schemes for years—and the Texans often reached the backfield on most of Devonta Freeman’s attempts during the first half, but Freeman earned a 21-yard gain on a Wildcat play late in the half and finished the drive with a touchdown off a middle screen. Ito Smith had a little more luck when Atlanta ran during passing situations but not enough to legitimately question the roles between Freeman and Smith. Neither could punch in goal line opportunities late in the game. Atlanta’s defense gave up four touchdowns and 592 yards in this game. Two of those scores were the result of coverage mistakes and much of Will Fuller and Keke Coutee’s production came from poor execution of zone coverage. Atlanta led the league in offensive penalties heading into this game and Smith committed a pair of holding penalties late in the half and center Alex Mack’s clipping call derailed a drive to open the third quarter. Ryan threw his seventh interception of the year—a pick-six on a final drive when he threw the ball behind Austin Hooper with less than a minute left.

Houston Texans

Kenny Stills was ruled out due to his hamstring injury. He also showed up on the injury report with an ankle injury. His status moving forward is something to monitor and without him Keke Coutee will remain getting the bulk of the snaps in his absence.

Jordan Akins is the Texans athletic option at tight end but with Darren Fells the complete option at the position, he remains a pass catching option only. Akins had one reception for 21-yards on a check down from Watson.

Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, 74 offensive snaps, Pass: 32 - 46 - 330 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 7 - 1
Ryan found Julio Jones twice during the Falcons’ second possession, including a third-down crossing route where J.J. Watt’s late hit on the quarterback put the ball inside the Texans’ 15. Ryan found Mohamed Sanu two plays later on a crossing route and San dove across the goal line for Atlanta’s first score. Ryan got bailed out by Mohamed Sanu on a third-down throw while on the run from pressure that was intended for Calvin Ridley but Ridley fell down and the Texans were in position to intercept it until Sanu cut off the pass. Ryan later found Ridley for a 22-yard out to reach the Texans’ red zone. Watt foiled a touchdown drive on 3rd and 4 by running through the rookie tackle Kaleb McGary and hitting Ryan during his release on a pass intended for Austin Hooper. This forced a field goal. Ryan escaped a Watt sack attempt on 3rd and 5 but D.J. Reader chased Ryan down when he tried to extend the play late in the third quarter. Ryan took a third-and-inches sneak for a touchdown to cut the lead to 10 points. He cut the lead to 8 with a scramble and throw to Austin Hooper. Ryan worked free on a roll to the right and found Ridley for a 28-yard score at the right boundary of the end zone and Ridley worked free of Jonathan Joseph, who thought he pushed the receiver out of bounds. Ryan threw his seventh interception of the year—a pick-six on a final drive when he threw the ball behind Austin Hooper with less than a minute left.

RB Devonta Freeman, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 30 - 0, Rec: 5 - 40 - 1 (5 targets)
The Texans stuffed a shotgun gap play on the first play of the game—J.J. Watt disrupted the pulling tight end and Freeman had to dance just to lose a yard. Freeman tried to bounce an I-formation run to right tackle but only managed two yards due to the Texans filling the gaps ably. Atlanta tried a misdirection toss to left end but it only went for two after the left tackle failed to reach the cornerback in the flat. Freeman earned an off-tackle run to the weak side from an I-formation and he was met In the backfield once again for a loss of two. The Texans then foiled a screen play intended for Freeman and forced Ryan to throw the ball away. He earned the first down during the fifth series a late in the half with a short run up the middle that was also nearly stuffed by the Texans. Freeman earned two more yards just ahead of the two-minute warning another lackluster effort by the Falcons line. Freeman got a first down on a Wildcat run with Sanu in the backfield. Freeman ran through a wrap as he worked around right end and the first explosive run of the day for Atlanta—a gain of 21 yards. Freeman wove his way into the end zone at the end of the drive on a middle screen—extending across the goal line on the play. Julio Jones failed to pick up a run blitz off the backside that wrapped Freeman for a short gain to begin the third quarter. Freeman earned five yards on a screen in the middle of the third quarter. He earned three from a two-tight-end set after a muffed punt to begin the fourth quarter. He followed up with seven more on a shovel pass but an illegal shift penalty nullified the play. Freeman earned a look inside the one but was stuffed inches shy. Freeman earned nine yards on a check-down over the middle when down by 15 points with six left in the game—and shovel pass later in the drive for eight.

RB Ito Smith, 35 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 19 - 0, Rec: 6 - 45 - 0 (6 targets)
He gained three on his first touch during the third possession after executing a cutback to right guard. He then cut down hill on the next run designed for an off-tackle play and earned 11 yards. Smith earned a yard later in the series up the middle to end the first quarter. Smith picked up a first down from a shotgun play on third and short. Smith committed a holding call on Bradley Roby to prevent the cornerback blitz from earning the sack. A few plays later, he caught a short pass and the Texans committed a facemask penalty that put the ball in the red zone and prevented a third and short. Smith got run over by Zach Cunningham’s pressure up the middle on the next play and he held the blitzer to prevent another sack. Smith couldn’t avoid a pair of flat defenders on a short pass after his second penalty and earned only a few yards. Smith earned a dump-off on 3rd and 20 for a gain of 10 and Atlanta punted away Atlanta’s first drive of the third quarter. Smith stumbled after the catch of an empty set slant in the left flat on third down in the red zone and came up a yard short while down 16 points early in the fourth quarter. Two plays later, the Texans stuffed Smith on a run from the one up left guard.

WR Mohamed Sanu, 62 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 5 - 42 - 1 (5 targets)
Ryan found Sanu on a crossing route from a trips set at the Texans’ 13 and dove across the goal line from the four for the first Falcons’ touchdown. Sanu cut off a pass intended for Ridley on an improvised crossing route under pressure to convert a third-down during Atlanta’s third possession. If he didn’t cut off the route, the Texans likely intercept the target because Ridley fell to the ground. Sanu earned a yard when the Texans weren’t fooled by the second Wildcat attempt in the game—this time down by 16 late in the third quarter. Sanu took a target in the flat in the flat on 4th and 1 and got the ball to the Texans’ 1.

WR Calvin Ridley, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 88 - 1 (9 targets)
The receiver slipped on a short sideline route on 2nd and 8 during the Falcons’ second series and the ball bounced off his hands. He ran a strong out route with a nice sale of the post against off coverage for a 22-yard gain to get Atlanta inside the Texans’ 25. Ryan found Ridley for 16 yards in the right flat during the fifth series to reach midfield. Ryan led Ridley too far on an inside-breaking route and into a throng of defenders who should have intercepted the target late in the half. After a first-down clipping penalty on Alex Mack, Ridley was overthrown at the sideline on a deep out. Ridley earned an out route late in the third quarter down by 16 points. Ryan worked free on a roll to the right and found Ridley for a 28-yard score at the right boundary of the end zone and Ridley worked free of Jonathan Joseph, who thought he pushed the receiver out of bounds.

WR Julio Jones, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 42 - 0 (7 targets)
Bradley Roby knocked a short pass away on third down and forced Atlanta to punt away its first possession. He earned 14 yards on a leaping catch of a stop route to begin the second series. Three plays later, he caught an over route for a first down and Roby stripped the ball but the ball bounced out of bounds. Tacking on a late hit on Ryan by J.J. Watt, and Atlanta earned the ball at the Texans’ 15. Zach Cunningham and Jonathan Joseph combined to break up a slant early in Atlanta’s third possession. Jones worked the post to begin the fourth series but Jones couldn’t get inside of the safety to reach the ball. Jones earned eight from the slot late in the half to begin ATlatna’s fifth drive.

TE Austin Hooper, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 56 - 0 (9 targets)
He earned a quick throw-out for five yards on second down to begin Atlanta’s first offensive series. Hooper juggled a backside screen on the second series of the third quarter and was wrapped quickly. His calf cramped up and he left the field under his own power. Hooper earned an over route that was high and behind him late in the third quarter. Ryan found Hooper on third down for a short completion on a crossing route while under heavy pressure—forcing a punt. Hooper worked open and waited on a Ryan scramble to earn the two-point conversion and cut the Texans’ lead to eight points. Hooper earned a significant garbage-time reception of nearly 20 yards to reach midfield late in the game and then earned another first down on the next play against the Texans’ soft coverage.

Houston Texans

QB Deshaun Watson, 73 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 33 - 426 - 5 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 47 - 0
A complete change from last week, Deshaun Watson showed up on Sunday against the Falcons with a vengeance. He had as many touchdowns as he did incomplete passes with five. Watson even was able to find big plays through the air hitting six passes for 20-plus yards including a 51-yard quick strike and run to Keke Coutee out of the slot. With the Falcons focused on Deandre Hopkins, Watson went to Will Fuller and he was able to hit him for three touchdowns covering 6, 33 and the game sealing 44-yard touchdown. On the 44-yard touchdown route, Fuller adjusted his route getting back upfield and Watson laid the ball perfectly out in front of Fuller to run under it for a touchdown. Watson was also able to target tight end Darren Fells in the red zone twice for touchdowns using his size against smaller defensive backs. Watson showed his accuracy and helped put the potential of the Texans offense on display if they are hitting on all cylinders during a game.

RB Carlos Hyde, 47 offensive snaps, Rush: 21 - 60 - 1 (1 targets)
It was another productive day for running back Carlos Hyde who was able to get back into the end zone with a one-yard touchdown run. Hyde was able to cap off a near touchdown from Will Fuller. Hyde’s longest run was 14-yards but outside of that is was tough sledding for him. He did have a fumble in the first drive of the game after a Falcons defensive lineman got int he backfield to punch the ball out. Hyde remains the Texans top back to tote the ball

RB Duke Johnson, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 59 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets)
The Texans are still finding ways to work in Duke Johnson not the offense. Johnson had a 24-yard rush and was able to get 59 total yards on the ground. Johnson only had one catch the entire game for 8 yards but his presence on the field opens up so much for the passing game with defenses having to account for him. The touches for Johnson have not been there but part of the issue is due to others in the offense getting touches at a higher rate.

WR Will Fuller, 72 offensive snaps, Rec: 14 - 217 - 3 (16 targets)
It was a career day for Will Fuller putting up 217 yards and tying a franchise record with 14 receptions on the day. Fuller even put up three receiving touchdowns which even tied a franchise record and was a yard short of setting the record fourth touchdown. Fuller pulled out the full array of routes to put yards up on the Falcons. He had three receptions over 30-plus yards including a game sealing 44-yard touchdown reception. His first touchdown game on a play-action pass for six-yards in between two defenders where he was wide open. Fuller was able to show his speed and prolific route running to get open giving Watson some easy throws to hit.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, 71 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 88 - 0 (8 targets)
With all of the offense going around the field, Deandre Hopkins did not get into the end zone but he was still able to rack up receptions and yards during the game. Hopkins longest reception came on a 29-yard catch and run that saw him bounce off two defenders with him taking off up the middle of the field. With others giving the vertical presence, Hopkins was able to work underneath routes and and nickel and dime through the Falcons defense.

TE Darren Fells, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 20 - 2 (2 targets)
Darren Fells remains on the field and he gets targets and against the Falcons he made his opportunities count. He caught two touchdowns for 12 and 8 yards which ended up being his only two receptions of the day. Fells has turned into a viable red zone target but his overall targets will be low due to the other skill players around him on the field. Fells is the Texans primary tight end and poses issues when the Texans get into the red zone.