Offensive Line of the Week: Falcons dominate Redskins up front
In today’s fantasy-obsessed football world, it’s easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O’Hara is here to fix that. Following each batch of games, O’Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all the teams that played and ultimately select that week’s top five units, headlined by a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The rankings that you see below reflect O’Hara’s pecking order for Week 9 and Week 9 alone. This is NOT a running O-line Power Rankings for 2018. This is NOT a projection into the future. The goal of this weekly column is to answer one simple question: Which five offensive lines stood out above the rest in last week’s action?
Without further ado, the Week 9 winner is …
The Falcons certainly looked like a different team coming off their bye week, as they throttled the Washington Redskins 38-14 on the road. The Redskins ranked in the top five in scoring defense and total defense coming into the contest, but the Falcons made them look far worse. Atlanta claims this week’s Offensive Line of the Week award after recording a season-high 38 points while converting 10 of 13 third-down tries, going 8 of 8 on third downs in the first half alone.
Despite missing Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and the Falcons had a huge day on the ground against a Redskins defense that had held Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott to less than 100 yards combined in their last three games. Coleman’s 156 scrimmage yards were the second-most of his career, and he became the first player in team history with 75 rushing yards and two receiving touchdowns in the same game. Matt Ryan had 350 passing yards (his 50th career game with at least 300 passing yards) and four touchdowns with help from the big guys up front.
The Falcons were Pro Football Focus’ second-ranked run-blocking and pass-blocking unit of Week 9. The group gave up two sacks — one by Jake Matthews against Ryan Kerrigan — and two other pressures. Left guard Wes Schweitzer had his best game of the season, while right tackle Ryan Schraeder and center Alex Mack didn’t give up a single pressure. Mack was PFF’s highest-graded center of the week.
The rest of the top O-lines from Week 9
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers’ offensive line took over against Tampa Bay, helping the offense earn a franchise-record five touchdowns in the first half. On top of that, Carolina became the third team in the last 10 NFL seasons to score four rushing touchdowns in the first half of a game. Two of those were picked up by Christian McCaffrey, who finished with 79 rushing yards and 78 receiving yards. With great protection from his offensive line, which allowed five total pressures against the Bucs, Cam Newton hasn’t thrown an interception in three games. Right tackle Taylor Moton continues to be the most consistent player on the Panthers’ front after not allowing a pressure in the game.
Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers did what many teams struggle to do — run the ball in Seattle. Los Angeles amassed 375 yards on offense, including 160 yards on the ground. After not seeing the field since Week 6, Melvin Gordon was effective with 16 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. He has scored a touchdown in six consecutive appearances — only Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt have longer active streaks. The offensive line was a big part of Gordon’s big day and recorded a decent performance in pass protection, giving up two sacks and four pressures. Right guard Michael Schofield didn’t allow a single pressure, along with left tackle Russell Okung, who had his best performance of the season.
New England Patriots: The much-anticipated Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers duel ended up being pretty one-sided. The Patriots racked up 433 yards of total offense with 123 yards on the ground thanks to a combination of James White and temporary running back Cordarrelle Patterson. (Seeing the Patriots use players in different roles isn’t unusual.) The 6-foot-2, 228-pound Patterson has filled the void left by Sony Michel’s absence in the backfield for the last two weeks and found success Sunday. Before this season, Patterson never had more than three carries in a game. Against the Packers, he had 11 attempts for 61 yards and a rushing touchdown. Major credit goes to the offensive line for adapting in the ground game. PFF agreed by naming the Patriots the top-ranked run-blocking unit of the week.
The Patriots welcomed back right tackle Marcus Cannon, who’s been out since Week 6 and didn’t allow a pressure for the first time in a game this season. Filling in for an inactive Shaq Mason, right guard Ted Karras gave up an early sack to Mike Daniels but settled down and didn’t allow another pressure the rest of the way. Left guard Joe Thuney had one of the best games of his career and was PFF’s highest-graded left guard in Week 9 after not giving up a pressure. Overall, the O-line gave up a pair of sacks and three total pressures.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to the top of the AFC North with a big divisional win against the Ravens. The offense amassed 395 total yards and was able to stay on the field by converting 10 of 16 third-down attempts (62.5 percent). The Steelers’ 113 yards on the ground marked a huge turnaround from the 19 rushing yards they had in Week 4 against Baltimore. As per usual this season, James Conner played a significant role out of the backfield with 107 rushing yards and 163 scrimmage yards. Including a 25-yard rush Sunday, Conner has a total of eight carries of 20-plus yards in 2018 — already five more than Le’Veon Bell had all of last season.
Ben Roethlisberger recorded three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) thanks to his offensive line, which ranked No. 1 in pass-blocking in Week 9, according to PFF. The unit didn’t allow a sack but five total pressures. Matt Feiler gave up one pressure in his second game at right tackle in relief of Marcus Gilbert (knee). Left guard Ramon Foster had his best game of the season, while right guard David DeCastro continues to prove he’s one of the best pulling guards in the league. Maurkice Pouncey has been dominant the last several weeks, as he hasn’t allowed a single pressure since Week 6.
Follow Shaun O’Hara on Twitter @ShaunOHara60.
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