Rolando McClain played only 17 of 55 (31%) of the defensive snaps in this game. All the while, his fellow linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Miles Burris played every single down. The results speak for themselves.
Matt Ryan had his worst game of the 2012 season. He had his second lowest passing total (249), and his second worst completion percentage (64.9%), and by far his worst QB rating (59.4). He had thrown for at least two touchdowns in every game this season. He threw for just one in this game. He also equaled his entire season total in interceptions (3) in the first half.
The Falcons had their lowest point total of the season (23). Ten of those points were the direct result of a turnover. The Raiders had given up at least 31 points in each of the three previous games (35, 31, 37).
McClain started the game. He was in on the first three plays of the game. In those three plays, the Falcons picked up 25 yards, 9 yards, and 3 yards. Then the Raiders took McClain out of the game and switched into nickel. The result was a Joselio Hanson interception-the first of the season for the Raiders.
McClain would play just 14 snaps the remainder of the game.
Coach Dennis Allen confirmed on Monday that the Raiders' plan is to sit McClain in favor of rookie Miles Burris in the nickel defense. This means in games like against the Falcons in which the team passes a lot, McClain will play very sparingly.
In the Falcons game in particular, McClain was not in the game on 6 of the 10 defensive stops on third down-including two of the three interceptions.
He is being seen as more of a run stopping linebacker for this team now. Although several times he was not in the game in short yardage.
Following John Abraham's strip sack on Carson Palmer, the Falcons got the ball in first and goal at the two. First down, McClain was in and they threw incomplete. Second down, McClain was out and Philip Wheeler and Miles Burris teamed up to stuff Michael Turner for a short gain. Third down, McClain was back in and made the run stuff for a one yard loss. It was the biggest defensive stop of the game and the plan worked perfectly.
McClain will probably play quite a bit more when the Raiders face the Jaguars at home next week. The Jaguars don't have the same kind of passing offense as the Falcons. They do, however, have a great running back in Maurice Jones Drew.
But as it stands, even in those games without a great quarterback throwing the ball, the Raiders have chosen a rookie linebacker over McClain to play every down while McClain has become a part time player on this defense. That plan worked well enough to continue to go with it.