It’s been a frustrating year for the Atlanta Falcons due to a myriad of injuries to key players, and star wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White suffered significant injuries this season that really crushed the Falcons. Jones’s injury caused him to miss the vast majority of the season, while White’s ankle and hamstring issues forced him to miss three games and be ineffective in eight others. White has been able to salvage his season here in the final stretch, and he put up arguably his best performance of the year last night, as the Falcons nearly upset the San Francisco 49ers in Candlestick’s farewell.
White and Matt Ryan helped keep the Falcons in it despite some more subpar blocking, and the Falcons would have pulled it off had Tramaine Brock not wrestled the ball away from Harry Douglas to create NaVorro Bowman’s memorable 89-yard touchdown return on that interception.
Just how rough of a year has it been for White? Well, yesterday’s performance was just his fourth game with at least five receptions, and the interesting thing is that White is finally hitting his stride since all four of those games have come on a straight streak. He’s finally healthy, and it’s showing. Fantasy owners who were willing to trust White benefited greatly from his performance on “Championship Week”, as he was responsible for 20 fantasy points.
But more importantly, his performance was crucial in the Falcons near-upset, and he was almost automatic as a pass-catcher. Ryan threw it to his No. 1 target 15 times, and White was able to haul in 12 of those passes for 141 yards. That’s an 80% catch rate and a very impressive average of 9.4 yards per target.
The standout play was the 39-yard touchdown reception that he had in the fourth quarter, and it was a terrific play from both Ryan and White. The throw was spot-on in between Brock and Eric Reid in the end zone, and it took an absolute dime from Ryan to make that play work. But White deserves high praise for his role in the TD catch, because it took great plays from both receiver and quarterback to connect on that big touchdown pass, especially since Brock and Reid are two good defensive backs. White ran the post route perfectly, blowing by Brock, and he did a great job of getting by Reid with explosiveness and savvy. He also did a nice job of looking-in the ball and corralling it for the touchdown, and plays like that show us that White is finally healthy and able to make those big plays again. His lack of stats earlier this season were solely due to nagging, rather severe injuries, so it’s great to see that White is once again healthy and effective.
We’ll see if Roddy White and the Atlanta Falcons can pull off the upset next week against the Carolina Panthers in order to spoil the Panthers bid at a playoff bye.