FALCONS: 5 things we learned from the Miami win

Michael Turner averaged 3.0 yards on 22 carries against a rugged Miami defensive front. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Michael Turner averaged 3.0 yards on 22 carries against a rugged Miami defensive front. (BOB ANDRES/AJC).

THE HOME OFFICE – Where was this four-sack and four-turnover defense hiding at all preseason?

Did inserting Brian Williams into the starting cornerback position make that much of a difference? It helped. Also, the

Arthur Bland and former President Jimmy Carter embrace before kickoff. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Falcons owner Arthur Blank and former President Jimmy Carter embrace before kickoff. (BOB ANDRES/AJC).

Falcons mixed in a healthy dose of zone defenses and received an incredible pass rush from the defensive line.

Here’s a quick look at some of the things we learned from the decisive and at times dominating 19-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Next up, the Carolina Panthers, who are looking for quarterbacks today. Maybe they’ll ring up Joey Harrington, who was cut by the Saints.

1. THE LINEBACKER UNIT WAS UPGRADED: Last season when you looked at the stat sheet after the game usually Lawyer Milloy and Erik Coleman were the leading tacklers. That’s not a good sign with the safeties lead the team in tackles. Against the Dolphins, the linebackers finished first, second and third. Lofton had 11 tackles, Mike Peterson had seven and Stephen Nicholas  had six. “The LBs played like brothers out there,” Nicholas said. “The process started during two-a-days. Mike P came in and we all gelled.”

2.  SEND OVER THE BEER MAN: Defensive end Kroy Biermann solidified his spot in the defensive line rotation with two sacks and a forced fumble. “We do not have four defensive linemen,” coach Mike Smith said. “We have seven or eight starting defensive linemen. I think it’s very important that you rotate those players and try to keep them as fresh as possible.”

Brian Williams had an impact in his first game. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC)

Brian Williams had an impact in his first game. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC)

3. PRESEASON DOESN’T MEAN SQUAT: That defense that played the preseason didn’t bother to show up on Sunday against the Dolphins. These “new” guys can play. “I don’t put a whole lot of stock in what happens in the preseason,” Smith said. “This is a young group of defensive players that haven’t spent a lot of time together. They will continue to get better.”

4. RYAN-TO-GONZALEZ, GET USED TO IT: Quarterback Matt Ryan said tight end Tony Gonzalez makes his job easier. “He’s a mis-match nightmare for defenses,” Ryan said. “Trying to decide if you are going to cover him with a safety, a linebacker or a cornerback (must be difficult). Whether or not if you are going to single cover him.”

5. RUN GAME BOTTLED UP: The Falcons were not overly concerned about their run game being bottled up against the Dolphins. “There are going to be games where we have to run the ball to win,” Ryan said. “There will be games when we have to throw the ball to win.”

127 comments Add your comment

Blue Fender

September 14th, 2009
8:49 am

All we need to do now is to get Ryan’s accuracy fixed. GO FALCONS!!!

Blue Fender

September 14th, 2009
8:50 am

OOOH! My first First!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 14th, 2009
8:55 am

Can I be second on my own blog?
Yeah, Ryan did miss some throws early. Minor tweaks, I’m sure.

Ryan

September 14th, 2009
8:57 am

Ryan

September 14th, 2009
8:59 am

JK…. The defense was a lot of fun to watch yesterday! Come on in Carolina…. your next.

dwells83

September 14th, 2009
9:03 am

I was really impressed with the Defense to say the least but I was also encouraged in how we tried to get Norwood involved early with some passes going his way. The team had alot more balance which will spread out the defenses the entire year. Keep up the momentum. I hope no one is questioning TD decisions about player personnel now. Hopefully next week the Panthers have their same quarterbacks next week :)

Case Quarter

September 14th, 2009
9:05 am

The defense was definitely improved, and the pass rush was great (besides Abraham). We know nothing…

slow roller

September 14th, 2009
9:09 am

6. Gonna be hard for Roddy White to get back his probowl numbers. No longer the biggest receiver on the field with Gonzo around.

ddawgdavis

September 14th, 2009
9:12 am

Jake Long (vaunted Number One pick) was blown up by Abraham. He had an extremely hard time handling #55 without a fist full of jersey. Why is Biermann not getting much more love? Not only did he get two sacks and a Fumble, but he was on every special teams kickoff and kept the Dolphins in terrible field position. Defense and Special teams (minus Elam, sorry). Can’t wait for the offense to just click, next week against Carolina is a good place to start!

Trainwreck

September 14th, 2009
9:15 am

If the D can play like that or close to that all season… This season could be something special. Hard to keep in mind that it’s only 1 game…

DJ

September 14th, 2009
9:19 am

In preseason, you defense 3rd and 17 with man coverage to see how your players react. In the regualar season, you keep the play in front of you to win the game. This defense will be fine because the brains in charge (i.e. the coaches) have a clue.

Manny

September 14th, 2009
9:21 am

I thought that the Falcons looked OK, but needs some improvement. We have to improve on the O-line in order to get Turner going. It may have also been the play-calling, too. We cannot afford Michael Turner having a 60+ yard game. That puts too much on Ryan, and Ryan- while good; isn’t the kind of QB that will win big games with his arm.

Also, Biermann is my new favorite Falcon. He just stayed in the backfield. (But can someone get him a cooler number? 71 just seems so… offensive line-ish? Get him a number in the 50s.)

If the Falcons win their first playoff game this year- or even the Super Bowl; there will be no other single person more valuable to that effort than Tony Gonzalez. Like they say where I’m from… that man is a beast (shawty)! He’s a big freaking target. He is a power forward playing tight end. He got nice moves and some speed. With Tony in the mix, the Falcons is now a perennial powerhouse with no real gaps.

Jimmy

September 14th, 2009
9:24 am

#7-Falcon “Fans” are so lame. The place was half-way empty when your team took the field. What a joke!

Ernest

September 14th, 2009
9:26 am

The Falcons looked good in their first game. Few questions though….

1. Should we attribute Elam’s misses to just having an off game?
2. Though he did not show up much in the stat sheet, did Jamal occupy blockers enabling others to make tackles?
3. Did Chauncey Davis play?
4. What happened with Verron Davis getting cut on Saturday? Who took his spot on the roster?

DJ

September 14th, 2009
9:28 am

OK Manny, with Brew-ski gone, Beer Man is the heir to the throne. It’s only a matter of time before the sponsors make him a superstar.

Nativebird

September 14th, 2009
9:29 am

Stephen Nicholas showed up HUGE, at LB and on STeams. You’ve got to starting asking…could this have been installed last year? It’s looking like Boley and Brook really were THAT bad last year. I’m sure the adds on D-Line helped, especially P.Jerry, the guys going to be a pro-bowler one day. (Grady who?)

Yup

September 14th, 2009
9:31 am

Let’s see how anyone of us would react to throwing a ball when 7 guys are closing in like a freight train. With the pressure Matt was getting I thought he did an excellent job. YKW would had been sacked mulitiple times.

Southside Falcon

September 14th, 2009
9:32 am

Its too good to be a Fan now man

Rev Blake

September 14th, 2009
9:35 am

Last week we had a Dolphins fan come on here and suggsest that Ryan was average at best. He concluded that the Dolphins would win by stopping the run game. To which I informed him, if the Dolphins choose to focus solely on the run game, then the Falcons would give them a long day. Well, the Dolphins did and the Falcons did.

Great game! Excellent work by the defense and special teams coverage unit.

DJ

September 14th, 2009
9:39 am

I was there before the game telling all the Dolfins fans in my section to get comfortable now because when the game started they would be squirming in their seats. By the 2nd quarter, they were gone; how lame is that?

Zach

September 14th, 2009
9:42 am

It seemed like Burner ran up the middle the majority of his carries, is there any particular reason why the plays were not called more to the outside?

Coach Hinz

September 14th, 2009
9:48 am

D-Led, I couldn’t agree more about the Beer-Man. That guy just wants to prove himself more than these big contract guys. I think the offense had a couple missed opportunities to score TD’s… Turner and Elam had an off day but they will bounce back. The Ryan to Gonzalez combo is going to be fun to watch.

DP in NC

September 14th, 2009
9:48 am

Case Quarter….the pass rush was great besides Abraham….he had two sacks, what more do you want?

Gatorzone

September 14th, 2009
9:49 am

How about the tempo of the offense? I loved the speed of the drives in the first half. I was disturbed by the lack of running game but encouraged by the adaptability.
Bierman, Abraham, Peterson, Jerry, Nicholas, even Anderson looked good.
I am excited about our DEFENSE!!!!!

DJ

September 14th, 2009
9:49 am

Ya Zach – to keep ‘em honest. The Dolphin’s were repeately burned by trying to stop Turner with 8 in the box. The staff kept running it so the ‘Fins would do the same. The game plan is obvious to all teams and they still wont be able to stop it.

Willie Coyote

September 14th, 2009
9:54 am

Keep improving and finish those drives boys.

Hopefully the injury to Jerry isn’t an issue.

Ernest

September 14th, 2009
9:57 am

I realize I asked about Verron Davis and meant Verron Haynes, the former RB from UGA. There was a brief statement in the Sunday AJC that he was let go due to a ‘football decision’. Can anyone shed insight on this?

Ron B

September 14th, 2009
9:59 am

Watching the defense during preseason I kept saying that these guys were sandbagging. Of course Coach Smith didn’t want to show his hand early! He saved the REAL defense for the regular season. They did us proud!

St. Mt. Gal

September 14th, 2009
10:05 am

Great defensive game. Excellent way to open the season. Go Falcons!

Xs&Os

September 14th, 2009
10:09 am

The Falcons got lucky yesterday….
1. They were not able to score more points than they did after Miami GAVE them 4 turnovers in great field position. Great teams can do this…Falcons..not yet so.
2. Our secondary is still suspect. You have to be able to CONSISTENTLY stop the run and defend the pass..Pennington was still able to pick these guys apart… Just wait…Carolina got their @sses tapped yesterday and they’re gonna come in with a chip on their shoulder…can we say Pre-madonna Steve Smith…who CAN back up what he says he’ll do on the field.
3. As in Week 3. Brady and Co. will have a field day against this team UNLESS Abraham has a good day..that is the key to beat the Pats..if our front four can’t get to him…the Falcons can count that game as a loss…
4. We have no deep threat…Matt Ryan can read a defense…but he does have a noodle arm..but if our O-line doesn’t hold up…he’s goin down…
5. Did you see how many points Drew Brees and Co. put up yesterday?….I think I”m gonna start praying for the Falcons secondary…
6. Looks like Vick will be starting sooner than later…(Yes I”m a Vick fan…don’t condone what he did..but good Lord give the guy a chance…I see the NFL had no problem reinstating the sales of his jersey)

FranktheFalcon

September 14th, 2009
10:10 am

The refreshing thing is how great the defense played! Before the game, I was extremely worried about the defense, particularly the secondary, based on how they had played in preseason. The defensive pressure from the defensive line was better than I could have hoped for. The LB’s were one, two, and three in tackles, instead of the leading tacklers being the safeties. Great job defensive line and linebackers!!! Forcing 4 turnovers was huge. Getting Brian Williams really helped. Tye Hill will be worked in gradually (much like Foxworthy last year), and then we will be pretty solid in the secondary. Don’t worry about Matt Ryan’s miscues, he will get it done this week if we can slow down the other team’s pass rushers even a little bit more. Jason Elam is a great kicker who had his worst day as a pro. He had a great year for us last year and he will kick great the rest of the year. We all have off days, I am just glad Ryan’s miscues and Elam’s errant kicks did not cost us the game. Even on an off day with defenders all around him, Ryan was still 22 of 36 with 2 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. NOT BAD FOR AN OFF DAY!

Our offense has many weapons and is extremely hard to defend. They may shut down one facet of the offense but we will hurt them with the other. This will probably be the fewest points that we score in a game this year! I am already looking forward to this week’s game! It is great to be a Falcon Fan!!!!!!!

quincy

September 14th, 2009
10:10 am

BIG GAME! BIG ON DEFENSE! BIG WIN!

billy

September 14th, 2009
10:11 am

Thanks Tuna for choosing Miami because we would have ended up with Jake Long (who looked very average as a blocker) instead of Mattie Ice. He sure out smarted us?

DHunt

September 14th, 2009
10:16 am

Defensively they wanted to get faster and play with more urgency. I only saw once or twice where a defensive player slowed down before the play was over. Houston stopped playing on that circus catch when he should have still been right there, in a great coverage position, making a play on the ball. And whichever safety that was who let Ricky Williams float out free on the Fins TD. Other than those two plays, even when the fins were moving the ball, the defense was punishing them for it.

Could it be possible that the defense will be better than the offense this year? (And despite what they showed this game, this offense will score 24+ points a game this year.) Barring injury, and with a good growth process for our young defensive backfield, I say it’s very possible. Tony G is a beast, but we all knew that. But this defense is for real and very few people expected that.

TheManMike

September 14th, 2009
10:20 am

Ron B you are right on. They really did not show what they were really bringing during the preseason. I think it took the fins by surprise. Our LB’s were holding back during ps waiting for Sunday. Biermann, the guy is a motor – a beast.

I’ll miss the Carolina game next week, be in Maine for a wedding……Boo.

Go Birds!

Kane337

September 14th, 2009
10:20 am

Don’t worry about Turner and the run game. Some teams will game plan to take the run away and stack the box. The Dolphins did that and that left Tony G to be one-on-one with defenders. That is why he had a good day. Other days teams will try to double Tony or Roddy and then Turner will have his day.

Bailer

September 14th, 2009
10:21 am

whoooooray for our side. The owner is now showing the skills he used to make Home the GIANT it is today.

GT97

September 14th, 2009
10:22 am

Ernest – I can shed some light on the release of Haynes. He is not worth a crap. I rather have Thomas Brown activated. I am guessing to make a spot for the new cornerback.

Ed-Covington

September 14th, 2009
10:24 am

If we could only have had all of those 6′3″ – 230 lb CBs everyone had been clamoring for; just think what we could have done! LOL

TokyoTom

September 14th, 2009
10:26 am

I was at the game and kept my focus (i.e. binoculars) on the line play. For Ernest above: 1) Elam’s kicks looked really bad, even the 50 yard kick, nothing wrong with snap or placement on the plays 2) Anderson had a steady game and kept getting into the backfield; his pressure flushed the Q-Back into the waiting arms of Abraham & Biermann on a couple of the sacks. He will never be a superstar but will be the kind of player who makes the other linemen look good.

The Miami D-Line was keying on Turner all game; the Falcons O-Line wasn’t able to open any holes for Turner. We showed some new formations but they telegraphed which way Turner was going to run- credit Miami for defensing the run on the fly.

Credit our defense also for not being itimidated by the Wild-errr-PussyCat formation. Maybe Pat White will improve with experience but he added nothing to the Dolphin offense yesterday. Norwood is much more effective running that play (and had another solid as usual game).

Finally- Tony G showed why he is a Hal of Famer- not only with his catching but he put down a couple of hard licks on running plays and help open a hole for a good Norwood gainer. The two tight-end set of TG and Peele (?) adds to the havoc for opposing defenses. Are we running behind TG, throwing to TG, or using TG as a decoy? I don’t know how good we will be over the long haul, just need to take the season one game at a time. Can’t wait for the over-rated Panthers and the lousiest (by far) traveling fans next week!

Ed-Covington

September 14th, 2009
10:28 am

Ernest & GT97:

AJC made a point of saying that the move left the roster at 52, so Haynes was not released to make room for anyone.

mountain_jim

September 14th, 2009
10:31 am

I also wished Parcells was there with a camera on him. His #1 pick Long got JACKED UP by Abe, ha ha. I really wanted to see the look on Parcells right then.

NativeAtlantan

September 14th, 2009
10:31 am

Hey…where is FALCONSSORRY today?? Eating crow maybe?

FreeMikeVick

September 14th, 2009
10:33 am

Vick would not have missed that pass to Roddy.

Will Jones II

September 14th, 2009
10:35 am

Ernest –
I would think with veron haynes just getting sued or what ever the financial thing he went through before he got to the Falcons means, he probably got some personal baggage. We cut him and didn’t do it to add to the team. But on the good note the Falcons brought that intimidateing tenacity to the dome. Go FALCONS

bill

September 14th, 2009
10:38 am

Gonzalez was great. We don’t need hundred yard games from Turner or Roddy White to win now (not that we won’t get some). Just too many offensive weapons to stop them all.

Defense certainly showed up. D-line grew as the game went on, but I think the addition of Peterson made all the difference.

Even with Jason Elam having a bad day and Ryan slow to get going, it was never close.

The big challenge now will be to stay healthy. Rotating 7 guys on the D-line will help, as will depth at wide receiver and running back position.

I can’t end this without mentioning the ultimate role player Olvie Mughelli. Good to see him getting some attention.

**Frederick(Bailey)Douglass**

September 14th, 2009
10:40 am

D-Led…I was thoroughly suprised by yesterday’s chain of events. I like your 5 points. I think we learned all of them. If I may, let me add a couple more:

1) Yes, the LB corps was upgraded, but more specifically, Peterson is a MAN. I have not seen “head-busting” like that in a Falcons uniform at LB since the Hammer was in tow. I think we FINALLY have the right mix at LB.

2) DeCoud was solid…which was one of my concerns. Although Pennington did not really try him on any deep routes, he seemed to be in position and he threw his body around against the run. D-Led, did you see anything from him in particular?

3) I think we shut the playbook down around the third quarter. We leaned on individual efforts (e.g. Tony Gonzo) because we knew we had it in the bag. No need to show anything new…so, don’t be alarmed. We could have beat them by 30 points if we wanted.

Other than Elam not realizing that the season has started, we were SOLID. Next week, Carolina, with a QB that might get his teeth knocked out and nose broken by Steve Smith before they even get on 85South to come to the DOME…

Expect us to shut them down, and gear up for NE. People, we actually have a major shot to be 3-0 at our early break. Any word on Peria’s injury?

FBD

mountain_jim

September 14th, 2009
10:41 am

I want to see better Oline pass-blocking and better long accuracy from Ryan next week.

Merideth Ford Goldman

September 14th, 2009
10:43 am

I’m too important to care about football.

GeeZ

September 14th, 2009
10:50 am

Being the Falcon lover that I am…I must express my concerns with Elam…What was that about? Did I miss his name on the injury report? I’m sure M. Anderson is sitting on his couch yellin….”Put me in coach…