Atlanta Falcons DB Ricardo Allen

Any Given Sunday: Falcons over Panthers

What is Kyle Allen?

I mean, we know who Kyle Allen is -- he's an undrafted rookie free agent who has had a few good games in Norv Turner's system with the Panthers, buffered by Christian McCaffrey's brilliance. He transferred in college, had a penchant for throwing some pretty ghastly interceptions, and also for throwing the ball well. He's not Cam Newton, and, because NFL teams are now realizing the extent to which you have additional resources available when you find quarterback competence on a cheap contract, there are many reasons for the Panthers to want to believe that Allen is good.

I do think that Allen hits several standards of confident easy quarterback play. He's accurate on his first reads. He doesn't hold on to the ball too long when he sees someone coming open. While not exceptional on the run, he has been able to make some plays there. He has demonstrated bits and pieces of confidence, as well as understanding when he can't do something at times.

One thing that Allen absolutely can't do is throw deep: He has attempted 34 throws with a target distances of 20 yards or more, and has completed six of them. Three of those completions were on balls with depths of 20, 21, and 22 yards. Even using traditional boxscore depth of target data, which includes anything past 15 yards as "deep," Allen has the worst deep pass DVOA of any quarterback with more than 20 attempts at -23.0%. If that doesn't sound that bad, keep in mind that the average deep ball pass DVOA is 57.8%. The only other quarterback with a) more than 20 deep ball attempts and b) a negative DVOA is Daniel Jones.

Worst Deep Ball Passers, 2019
Player Team DYAR on
Deep Passes
Deep Passes
Kyle Allen CAR -43 -23.0% 57
Daniel Jones NYG 4 -9.9% 49
Josh Rosen MIA 19 3.2% 21
Mason Rudolph PIT 44 3.3% 56
Mitchell Trubisky CHI 58 8.1% 51
Jared Goff LAR 64 5.1% 65
Case Keenum WAS 104 41.4% 29
Minimum 20 deep pass attempts

Before this week's game hits the DVOA ledger, Allen came in as almost a league-average quarterback. He had -4 DYAR on 258 pass attempts, and a -11.8% DVOA. This game will anchor him down further, as you'll read, because the Falcons have been a terrible defense for the majority of the season.

Pair that lack of a deep ball with a penchant for negative plays, and you get the gist of the argument to not count on Allen. Allen's 9.0% sack rate is in the bottom five of all qualifying passers. Carolina's offense now has 19 turnovers, tied for fifth-most in the NFL. Only 15 of those are under Allen, but Allen has fumbled seven times in eight starts and has now thrown nine picks in his last four games.

You can see that the offensive design worked to perfection here. It's a Cover-2 design with a deep zone, and both intended target D.J. Moore and McCaffrey are wide-open at the time of the throw. Allen just sails this pass so badly it winds up right in the hands of deep safety Ricardo Allen.

It's going to be pretty tempting for the Panthers to keep Allen, all things being equal. Allen will be an exclusive rights free agent in 2020 and won't project for a real contract for at least a couple of seasons. While Carolina is under no real cap crunch for 2020, they haven't given what it will cost to keep McCaffrey in the fold yet, and are also looking at unrestricted free agency for Shaq Thompson, James Bradberry, and Gerald McCoy. If they get to trade Cam Newton, that makes these contracts a lot easier to play with.

Of course, with each passing week, it becomes less palatable to keep Allen. He's going to have to show a lot over these last six weeks to keep the team from looking at Will Grier or another high pick, because his warts are already pretty apparent.

Where the Game Swung

The most impactful plays of this game, in chronological order, as dictated by fiat by Business Daddy EdjSports and their Game-Winning Chance (GWC)metric:

  • Allen's first interception of the game, a throwaway attempt that was poached by DeVondre Campbell, was worth 10.6% GWC mostly because it set the Falcons up with field position deep in Carolina territory.
  • Kenjon Barner's punt return touchdown boosted Atlanta's GWC by 12.8% GWC.
  • Allen's second interception, pilfered in the red zone, was worth 13.0% GWC for the Falcons.
  • Finally, Matt Ryan's arcing 48-yard pass to Julio Jones, as shown below because of its beauty, set the Falcons up with first-and-goal from the 2 after they were at third-and-16 from midfield and likely eyeing a punt. That boosted Atlanta's GWC by 13.0%.

Just your casual five-man deep zone with Luke Kuechly carrying Jones up the middle and unable to do anything about it. Phew.

The Panthers never got above 15.6% GWC from that 20-0 score on, so the only swinging that happened was Carolina fans in their beds, reliving the nightmares.

By the (D)VOA

ATL 13.2% -37.0% 12.6% 62.7%
CAR -75.5% 11.8% -18.1% -105.3%
ATL 16.5% -56.5% 12.6% 85.6%
CAR -65.5% 12.5% -18.1% -96.1%

Dat ass. It got beat.

Carolina's single-game DVOA is the third-lowest of the year to date. Washington this week against the Jets and in Week 4 against the Giants are the only two single games that have been worse.

Week 2 of the New Atlanta Falcons Defense

The Atlanta Falcons went on bye and, evidently, had Dan Quinn study what had gone wrong with his defense to that point. Raheem Morris has been more involved. Everything has changed since then.

By DVOA, the Falcons have had three games with a negative defensive DVOA (meaning, better defense), and two of them have come in the two weeks following the bye. We looked at what happened against the Saints last week. We explored the sacks. I want to look a bit at the coverages -- something that's a little harder to quantify in metrics.

In Weeks 10 and 11, per NFL Next Gen Stats, the Falcons allowed zero wide receivers to gain more than the league average separation of 2.83 yards.

In Weeks 1 to 8, the Falcons allowed the following wideouts to gain more separation per pass than the league average: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Pharoh Cooper, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Zach Pascal, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, and Chad Beebe. Not all of those players had a ton of catches or were a big portion of the offense in their respective weeks, but the fact remains that the Falcons were not exactly difficult to get open against. They were making a ton of coverage mistakes.

Now, they're pouncing on balls left and right -- they had nine passes defensed in Week 11.

The play before Allen's sailed pick, the Falcons run essentially the exact same coverage, and Allen gets a ball out that would be catchable if not for Ricardo Allen hauling on it to break it up. And, of course, the cornerbacks played a lot better in this game too. Desmond Trufant intercepted Allen early, and this was one of the better Isaiah Oliver games of the year.

I'm sure this is sort of bittersweet for Falcons fans who are now watching Quinn try to fight his way off the hot seat, particularly while losing what once looked to be a top-five draft pick. I don't think the news that Atlanta's defense is improving because it's no longer abysmal is inherently exciting info for anybody outside of their building. They aren't going anywhere this season. But it is worth noting as we head down the stretch that opponents that once thought they were looking at a points bonanza when they went up against this defense now have started to meet some actual resistance.


1 comment, Last at 20 Nov 2019, 11:26am

1 Kyle Allen did well as a…

Kyle Allen did well as a backup forced into the lineup and playing within the system. He is not a long term solution. I note that his bone-headed interception in the endzone against Atlanta was almost identical to his boneheaded interception in the endzone against Green Bay one week prior. It does not seem as if Allen is even learning from his mistakes. Not being able to throw deep, unable to threaten the defense with a run, unable to learn from his mistakes, Kyle Allen is not going to lead the team to anything but long term mediocrity.

I am astounded that David Newton is running articles seemingly daily on ESPN insisting that the Panthers need to get rid of Cam Newton and Ron Rivera.

If the Panthers need to cut Cam Newton, it will be because he doesn't recover from his Lisfranc injury before training camp. If he is healthy, he is a bargain at $19 million. If he isn't, then not. But that decision is for June, not November the year before.

As to Ron Rivera. What in the hell? I have a hard time thinking of more than four franchises that wouldn't trade their coach for Ron Rivera in a heartbeat. And one of those is contractually bound to pay their coach for the next nine years no matter what.