THE BRANCH — The Falcons came out of Sunday’s 20-17 victory over Tampa Bay with more questions than answers.
Here’s the list?
1. Why was running back Michael Turner even playing?
He clearly didn’t appear to be 100 percent and couldn’t finish runs in his normally strong fashion.
“I don’t know what’s going on with those guys,” wide receiver Roddy White said. “We’ll see throughout the week. That’s all I know.”
2. What exactly is Matt Ryan’s toe injury?
If it’s turf toe, let’s call it turf toe. Those things are nasty and can linger. Remember, old Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert retired with turf toe.
3. How will the offense operate without Turner and Ryan?
“It was tough,” White said. “Especially because those guys are our franchise players. Mike is a big part of this offense. When he’s in there we can run the ball and the play calling is different. We just have to roll with it and get ready to go.”
4. How healthy will right guard Harvey Dahl and left tackle Sam Baker be going doing the stretch?
The Falcons gave up six sacks, which gives them 20 for the season.
“We made some changes in our protections,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We started allowing more guys to stay in before they went out. We were down two offensive linemen as well. We hung tough and that’s what it’s all about.”
5. Can Chris Redman carry the torch down the stretch if Ryan’s out for an extended period?
“I thought he ran the offense very effectively,” Smith said. “He did not turn the ball over. As s backup in this league it’s a very difficult position. Chris, when called upon, made the most of his opportunity. . . I thought Bill Musgrave, our quarterbacks coach, did a good job with him on the sideline.”
Tight end Tony Gonzalez was impressed with Redman.
“He was tunnel vision out there,” Gonzalez said. “There was no need to go out there and try to pump him up. He’s been around a long time. He’s a veteran quarterback. He’s been in this situation before. I think he showed that he knows what needs to be done.”
6. What to do with Jason Elam and the kicking “operation?”
It sounded like Smith was absolving Elam for his missed field goal on Sunday.
“Jason kicked the ball right down the middle on two of his opportunities when the operation was clean,” Smith said.
When pressed about the miss, Smith said, “It’s an operation and I’m not going to comment on one individual.”
The Falcons brought in four kickers for tryouts last week and Elam at least thought in his mind that he had one more miss. He’s now missed seven field goal attempts this season.
“It’s been frustrating,” Elam said. “It really has been. I’m just trying everything I can. All these little mechanical things to make sure that I get the ball going straight and it didn’t happen again. . . . Again, it’s all about consistency and I’ve got to figure out a way to be more consistent, bottom line.”
7. How’s the playoff picture looking?
If the playoffs started today Dallas (8-3), New Orleans (10-0), Minnesota (10-1) and Arizona (7-4) would be your NFC division winners. Philadelphia (7-4) and Green Bay (7-4) are sitting in the wildcards spots followed by the Falcons (6-5), New York Giants (6-5) and San Francisco (5-6).
The Giants have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Falcons. The Falcons have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the 49ers. The Falcons need to beat Philadelphia on Sunday to pull up a game and get the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles.
“I don’t know if we saved the season,” said Gonzalez after the thriller over Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome. “We’ve got five games left. Anything can happen.”