Falcons survive Bucs, several questions linger

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan get his foot examined. (CURTIS COMPTON/ccompton@ajc.com)

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan get his foot examined. (CURTIS COMPTON/ccompton@ajc.com)

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.

With his injured right foot in a padded brace Matt Ryan looks on as quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave confers with Chris Redman on the sidelines during 2nd half action against the Buccaneers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Matt Ryan looks on as quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave confers with Chris Redman on the sidelines during 2nd half action. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

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.

Falcons kicker Jason Elam was 2 of 3 making this one in the first half, good enough to help the Falcons survive the Buccaneers 20-17 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons kicker Jason Elam was 2 of 3 making this one in the first half. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

“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.”

115 comments Add your comment

Rock Preston

November 30th, 2009
8:38 am

Good question. Why was Turner playing?? You have to protect players from themselves sumtimes!!!

John Cosner

November 30th, 2009
8:53 am

Good Point!! What are the coaches thinking


November 30th, 2009
8:54 am

All good questions. Here’s the most important answer…Elam should be gone, off the team by Tue. Any kicker would be better. He’s a liability, totally unreliable down the stretch, and especially if this team should somehow luckily make the playoffs. You think he would still be kicking for Parcells or Bellicheck after 7 misses? Come on Coach Smith, move on and do what’s obvious. He’s killing this team almost singlehandedly.


November 30th, 2009
9:21 am

Not much difference between Ryan and Redman, except Redman protects the ball better and looks to go down field more with his passes. Injuries are killing this team. Where is our pass rush? I expect to see Tye Hill and Jason Elam both cut today.


November 30th, 2009
9:30 am

I keep telling myself I don’t believe in curses… but wow… if Turner and Ryan are out bye bye to a 2nd winning season


November 30th, 2009
9:33 am

The only problem that I see with Redman is that he does not put much zip on the ball. This will translate to INTs after Philly watches this film.

Blue Fender

November 30th, 2009
9:43 am

On defense, it’s not personel but the scheme. We keep running those zone defenses and anyone can find a hole in the zone given time. If the defensive line doesn’t get pressure on the QB, then the receivers just need to run to space and wait. EITHER RUN MORE BLITZES OR STOP RUNNING ZONE COVERAGE! IT DOES NOT WORK!

Mike is Back

November 30th, 2009
9:50 am

It was ugly…but it would have been even worst…if we had lost. I’M PROUD OF THE WAY THEY PERSEVERED TO THE END…GREAT WIN!!!

I felt like when we got those four plays…we would win that game. THIS should be the infusion of energy this team needs to get rolling…I like what Roddy said…you can’t worry about injuries…you gotta roll with what you got…they gotta BEAT PHILLY…as especially the THE SAINST. lol

GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fat Ryan

November 30th, 2009
10:06 am

Great teams find ways to win…now some guys just need to step up

Dr. Spank

November 30th, 2009
10:11 am

The CDC is reporting a Herpes epidemic will break out in Atlanta this week with the return of Mike “Ron Mexico” Vick.

Lock up your daughters, Citizens.

(Heck, after Vick’s prison “experiences,” you might want to lock up your sons, too.)

Soap on a Rope, anyone?


November 30th, 2009
10:18 am

Who would have thought that the coaches plays Turner against the lowly Bucs, when the Eagles is coming to town!!

Is Coach Smith suffering with BRAIN FARTS!!! Totally illogical!!

Save Turner the Burner for Eagles, Saints and Jets!!

Finally, we get a good game of complete route running and solid catches from Jenkins. He absorbed hits after the catch.

Hopefully, Redman got some rocket fuel stash somewhere. While his decision making and accuracy is good, he will need to put zip on his passes.

Maybe Ryan will be back before Sunday game.

The secondary need to stand tall and play big the final five games.

Falcons can still go 10-6, control your own destiny!!!!


November 30th, 2009
10:30 am

@Blue Fender

I’ve been yelling this all year but people just want to bash our corners. I know intra-divisional trades are normally frowned upon, but I think we should try to swap Gregg Williams for BVG.


November 30th, 2009
10:33 am

1) Turner played because the Falcons had more respect for TB than the rest of us.
2) Ryan looked like he wanted to get back out there, but Redman kept things going.
3) Impressed witn Redman’s focus and determination despite the sacks and hits.
4) Pat Yasinskas said Baker left the game with “multiple injuries.” Sounds like a traffic accident.
5) He seemed to be reliable within his abilities. And that’s what the team is struggling with right now – confidence.
6) They tried out some folks, didn’t they?
7) Keep the W’s coming at home, and get that winning season.


November 30th, 2009
10:41 am

DOL do you think Ryan was hurt before the game? I thought the timeout was very unusual for Ryan to call on the second play of the first possession. Ryan came close to throwing a pick 6 on that first pass play.


November 30th, 2009
10:46 am

Good article D-Led, especially the point about Turner. Why did he play? That was just stupid…period. Other thoughts:

1) #55 is clearly distracted by something else…he is not hurt (as usual), so what is it? Missed several tackles, and got NO push up the field.

2) #8 is SOLID, for being a back-up who has not played this season. No interceptions on emergency duty…he gets the game ball. He just needs to get the ball out of his hands quicker. This is Ryan’s problem too…is it because the WRs are not getting open?

3) D-Led, was #21 solid? Did not see him give up a completion…is this true? He certainly did not make a fool of himself like #24 Hill did during the two plays that he appeared. You notice how the Bucs went deep immediately after he came in? I think the secret is out on this guy…soft in coverage. But my question is deeper: How do you expect to win games in the NFL with these guys playing CB? Its not Grimes, Hill, or #23’s fault…they are doing what they can. The blame here lies with Dimitroff. Should have brought in several veteran corners after the preseason game against the Chargers. Has had chances to sign guys to help out…its about EGO now.

4) I think Ryan will be back…unless the toe is broken. Turner probably won’t be back next week (when we really needed him). Turn back to ole dependable Snelling (made his first mistake as a Falcon with the fumble) and use #32 to switch the pace. Move on and let Turner rest…we will need him when we go down to TB, which will decide our playoff fate.

5)On the positive…our run defense is NASTY. I really like what we do on first and second downs against the run. But as good as we are on fourth down on Offensive…we are just that bad on 3rd down on Defense. It just seems like our defensive players are not in position to make plays on the ball. Yes, the Corner/LB mesh is off, but isn’t that about coaching? We have to scheme for the next four games to force defended passes and interceptions. VanGorder, listen up: you are dialing blitzes, good. Now, think about placing players in specific locations across the field, like say…the SLANT, CURL or DRAG routes. It doesn’t take a Defensive Coordinator to see that teams KNOW that your guys can’t cover intermediate routes. Switch it up for four games…come with a nice package that INCLUDES players squatting on routes. What else do you have to lose?

We can still make it, if Ryan returns. Beat Philly at home, you have a good shot against NO at home, the Jets lost their QB (you can beat them), beat the BILLS at home…showdown at TB (who could really beat us…they matchup better with the Falcons than these other teams save NO).



Gin Blossoms

November 30th, 2009
10:48 am

A better question is “Does Chris Redman give the Falcons a better chance to win RIGHT NOW than Matt Ryan?”

If he limits turnovers, he’ll be an improvement.


November 30th, 2009
11:18 am

Samantha Baker hurt again. That is a huge shocker!!
Has anyone seen John Abraham?? Lawrence Sidbury has as many sacks as Abraham since the 3rd game…NONE. Why not give Sidbury a shot?


November 30th, 2009
11:36 am

I agree with all your statements. Redmon, with a weeks practice should be OK. I would start Snelling. I’m a little worried about the O line tho. Get rid of Elam & Hill today, thank goodness Jenkins woke up. Which one of him will show up for next weeks game.
If we don’t give up, we still have a good chance for the playoffs. There are some beatable teams coming up.
We need some pass rush to help the corners. Some different schemes as someone mentioned earlier. Run defense looks good.
We have had so many injuries, but I like the depth we have better than any time in many years. With all our problems we still field a pretty good team. Cut some of the dead weight, get healthy, get some corners and I see good possibilities for years. I had rather trade a #1 pick and something extra if necessary, for a proven corner than try to develop a draftpick

F-105 Thunderchief

November 30th, 2009
11:59 am

Cut Elam and sign Brandon Coutu pronto. With all these injuries and the schedule, I don’t expect the Falcons to make the playoffs. Last year was a miracle. This is, in reality, Year Two of the rebuilding process. All I want is to nail down that ninth win to burst the curse.


November 30th, 2009
12:09 pm

Jason Elam get outta town!! Bring back Chris Mortensen!!!

Into Metrics & Probabilities

November 30th, 2009
12:18 pm

I’m not giving up on the Falcons yet like many of you. From week to week any NFL team’s situation can change due to injuries to key players. With that said and with five games remaining, anything is possible and it doesn’t all have to be negative. GO FALCONS!!!!

I agree that Jason Elam MUST GO NOW!!!!
The margins for the Falcons to win and too close to have a placekicker that is not consistently kicking field goals. Hell…I believe he’s also missed an extra point this year too.

Arthur Blank

November 30th, 2009
12:25 pm

Let’s sit back and see how this thing plays out. Before Tom Brady was Tom Brady, he got his chance after being a backup and filling in for a injured player. Go Redman.


November 30th, 2009
12:30 pm

As bad as all this sounds, I live near Philly- and have seen all the Eagles games this year. They are not a good team at all. Matter-of-fact, they’re more like a 5-6 team then a 7-4 team. They have eeked out wins over a bad Chicago team and a bad (but tough) Redskins team. They have also lost to the Raiders, gotten blown out by the Saints, and beaten down by the Chargers. Most of their wins are against lower tier teams, other than the win over the Giants. Yes, Falcons are banged up…so too are the Eagles. They are missing Westbrook, DeSean Jackson has a concussion, and their TE Celek has ligament damage in his thumb. Falcons have to find some heart Sunday, somehow….some way…they have to find a way to win. Certainly it would be great to have Ryan & Turner out there, but you gotta roll with what you got.

Are you serious, We are in big Trouble agains Philly.

November 30th, 2009
12:33 pm

Enter your comments here


November 30th, 2009
12:36 pm

The Falcons have sooooooo many problems you’d have to hire an accountant to keep track of them.
It’s now beyond pathetic.


November 30th, 2009
12:37 pm

I would say the playoffs aren’t in the future. The Falcons aren’t a very good team, too inconsistent, too many holes on D. However, they should be able to complete the main goal which should be to put together back to back winning seasons.


November 30th, 2009
12:42 pm

is turf toe the same thing as ligament damage? i thought i heard the reporters mention that during the game. We’ll know more by Wednesday i guess but this is not a good way to go through this final stretch.


November 30th, 2009
12:48 pm

Our winning yesterday had so little to do with us because we played like do-do yesterday. While the run defense held its own, our win is credited to the inexperience of the young Freeman (short armed or overthrew a bunch) who we still managed to make look pretty good a whole lot and Piscatelli’s being called for defensive holding, giving Falcons an automatic 1st down on 5-yard line with 0:36 left. IT WAS THE TAMPA BAY BUCS FOR PETE’S SAKE! THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A CONTEST!! No pass rush at all, little or no confidence in our secondary again this week! The O-line beat up. Elam – no words! What happened to Norwood after the touchdown? Redmon played great given the circumstances, but we got helluva work to do on both sides of the line. If the team plays like it did on yesterday against Philly, defending the Dome will be a thing of the past!

Beautiful Monte

November 30th, 2009
12:49 pm

Didn’t gdg73 room with Vick in da big house?

Randal the Vandal

November 30th, 2009
1:06 pm

What a nail biter. I think I drew blood. Nice job Redman, Jenkins and Gonzo. The thing that has bothered me is the ability of our offense to establish a rhythm in the past several games and control the field. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE HURRY UP OFFENSE???!!! When we were running this we kept the defense on their heels, controlling the field and winning games.


November 30th, 2009
1:18 pm

vick will be signing nikes in the endzone sunday. at 11.30


November 30th, 2009
1:24 pm

I’ve admired the Coaching staff so far for what they have been doing since they started, however, I can’t let Coach Smith off this time. The Burner should never have been out there. Your saying we need him to beat Tampa. Please….. How long will he be out now. We needed him for the Eagles and Jets. I don’t know what they were thinking. High Ankle Sprain 3-6 wks. Snelling was tremendous last week. He is a big runner. Norwood is our changeup guy and should remain that. Give Snelling the rock and get Norwood to the edge. This Team is at Critical Mass right now. Playoffs start next week.


November 30th, 2009
1:25 pm

And another few things… Real talk – if Piscatelli isn’t called for defensive holding, we lose – Just realized Redman had actually thrown six incomplete passes before the final TD!! And defensively we generated NO TURNOVERS!!! Tampa Bay managed to block a punt on special teams, caused a fumble… US – NOTHING! ARRRGGGHHHH!!

Tim McKyer

November 30th, 2009
1:30 pm

Jason Elam, Tye Hill, Chris Houston, and Brent Grimes all should be cut! I’d rather just give Owens and Chevis Jackson a chance. They can’t do any worse.


November 30th, 2009
1:38 pm

Something about Atlanta teams and the edge of the seat phenomena.I would love to watch a game where we at least get the quarter back sacked.John Abraham missed free shot to sack Freeman pun intended really think about it.We obviously do not have a disciplined football team.However, I am glad they perservered and won reminded me of the 1998 Conference Championship game against the Vikings.Well, I am MV& Fan will always be loyal since he always kept Atlanta Falcons in the post season granted Dan Reeves had not been fired maybe more.How many coaches and schemes etc did we go through.The team needs balance and the secondary gets exposed every game.Back to Back winning seasons only time will tell.Haters be forewarned MV7 is under your skin and this Sunday prepare for a new rivalry may the best team win.OUr team do not scare anyone unlike when MV7 was here just YOutube his highlights in fact we could have utilized him yesterday since Matt Ryan toe injury will cost the franchise in the long run.I am so glad Atlanta Falcons were in the 1999 Superbowl because we will need more new weapons to return in the near future.Secondary better be addressed in Free Agency,Kicker,some bigger lineman on both sides.Peace!


November 30th, 2009
2:01 pm

What you saw yesterday was league “parity”. When one team is clearly better than the other, the men in stripes control the game.

The Buc’s game plan was to grab and hold on both sides of the ball until the refs put a stop to it. Fortunately, the men in stripes finally pulled out the flag on the final drive.

If the refs pull those types of flags out in the first quarter, the Falcons win going away.

Just ask JA #55 – all you TV watchers missed Mr. Abraham showing his half torn off jersey to the ref who, ironically, on the next play called holding on the same player for the same infraction.

I am certain Mr. Smith’s weekly report will remind the league that receiver contact after 5 yards is a penalty and tackling a pass rusher is also a penalty.

6 - 10

November 30th, 2009
2:11 pm

I like our chances even more for a playoff berth with Ryan out. :)

At least Chris can throw a football down the field and doesn’t panic in the pocket. Worried about Turner though.


November 30th, 2009
2:22 pm

Why do get that same feeling that I am watching the same Falcons of years gone by?
I have always liked Redman, and he did really great, especially coming off the bench not expecting to play. As someone else noted, I also think he needs to get his body into his throws, more zip, or he will have a lot of ints. It would be nice to see some long balls, but our OL can’t protect him long enough for the receivers to run their routes, so he’s going to be throwing short until that happens. I too was surprised that Turner was back in, and not surprised that he was re-injured. Norwood looks good as a pass receiver and on the shovel-pass, plays that get him beyong the line of scrimmage before he touches the ball. Abraham was easily side-stepped by the QB when he had him zeroed in for a sure sack; can’t figure that one out. I think Elam has developed a weak leg. He had a hamstring earlier. I don’t remember which leg, but either one will through off the kick. His kicks are straight for PATs, but beyond that they are wide-left, which I believe are caused by his trying harder to get the distance. If he is going to remain employed he better start aiming at the Right post. Too bad Sam Baker has so many injuries, but that was his history (hope TD remembers this next draft).

I’m guessing Ryan’s toe injury is a normally 3 weeks rest, and even then he won’t be fluid: but coach will just give him one week off, deja vu Turner!


November 30th, 2009
2:32 pm

Ryan’s toe is a sprain, listed day-to-day. He’ll probably play next Sunday. Again, Eagles aren’t as good as advertised.


November 30th, 2009
2:33 pm

Hey Falcon Fan (12:09)…Bring back Chris Mortensen??!!?? You can hear him on either ESPN or local sports talk radio about every day…………Now, bringing back MORTEN ANDERSON might be a better suggestion.

When you hear Mike Smith talk about the kicking “operation”, he’s referring to the fact that the Falcons have a new new long snapper for the last 3 games or so…and the timing is a little off. I’ve noticed Elam “false-starting” a few times recently. But his confidence is definitely shot right now.

There’s little doubt that we’ll see a different kicker next year, with no change right now. Keep in mind, if it doesn’t get better, Koenen can handle it probably about as well.

I Now Pronounce You "Barack & Larry."

November 30th, 2009
2:41 pm

Hopefully, Michael Vick will be able to make it through this weekend without any Herpes outbreaks or fathering additional illegitimate children who will also wind up in prison without a solid father figure like Matt Ryan.


November 30th, 2009
2:51 pm

Too bad about the injuries to Ryan and Turner, but those are not the biggest problems. While not as explosive, Snelling has done an admirable job in place of Turner, and other than a little understandable confusion, I did not see any drop-off when Redmon came in for Ryan.

Folks have been criticizing the D’backs all season, with some justification. But, the bigger problem is that Atlanta can’t seem to get any pressure on the quarterback (over several games), and can’t seem to protect ours.

As for Jason Elam. He is one of the best all time. He could be done, or it could just be a timing thing, but you would think they could sort that out by now.


November 30th, 2009
2:52 pm

Elam may be hurt but you don’t hear him complaining. I seem to remember a kicker that made every kick all season except his last one and that miss put the Falcons in the Super Bowl.

Did you all think all of the games were gonna be 45-10? The crowd yesterday was more pathetic than the Falcons; when are you ppl gonna get with the program? At 10-0 the crowd was upset the score wasn’t 17-0. Even the 25,000 or so empty seats were booing the home team.

Let me point out a fact here…the Falcons won. Further, they have only one loss at home in 2 years. It’s about time you all quit whining, get a ticket, and get behind your team. With 25,000 empty seats, you are all very close to not getting your team on TV.

C from Marietta

November 30th, 2009
2:55 pm

Matt gets hurt and now there is speculation. His career is over? Why even bring Jack Lambert? No one except the coaching staff, Matt Ryan and the trainer know how bad he is hurt. Why speculate even futher.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 30th, 2009
2:56 pm


Matt Stafford……….

He played with a SEPARATED SHOULDER and led his team to victory.

CHOKE regulated himself to CHEERLEADER while the BACKUP led the team to victory.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 30th, 2009
2:59 pm

I Now Pronounce You “Barack & Larry.”

November 30th, 2009
2:41 pm
Hopefully, Michael Vick will be able to make it through this weekend without any Herpes outbreaks or fathering additional illegitimate children who will also wind up in prison without a solid father figure like Matt Ryan.

“So basically you are saying” the CHOKE has no excuse for being a LOSER. Good point.


LaShondra B.

November 30th, 2009
3:00 pm

All yall racists are hating on Mike Vick. He gonna come back to Atlanta and beet the Falcons by his self. Blank stab him in the back and now he going to pay with the Eagles beeting the Falcons. Mike Vick play in the Super Bowl. Yall know I am right so shut up. Mike Vick is black Super Man.

Shamus Thacker

November 30th, 2009
3:05 pm

Is George Blanda dead?


November 30th, 2009
3:05 pm

Mediocre football team. Below average defense. Been drafting corners since Dan Reeves was coach and still can’t find any good ones. Candy a** players hurt all the time. No playoffs for this bunch, in fact what’s the over under on them even breaking the curse and having a winning record?


November 30th, 2009
3:12 pm

BOTTOM LINE: CONSISTENCY…Too many injuries for the Falcons…which translate to inconsistencies on the field! If Turner wasn’t 100%, then why are we putting him on the field to be re-injured for a longer period. We need our running game back….passing the ball, while good at times, has led to too many game-changing turnovers this season! As far as Elam: he may be a great guy but NFL demands consistency, there is no room for error when your trying to post up a field goal….especially 7 misses! I will always be a Falcon’s fan but I have been disappointed lately….I’m tired of playing teams so close (when we have no business playing that close). I am tired of waiting til the final seconds of the ball game to try and pull off a win, and I am tired of playing a strong game and then deciding to stop playing in the 3rd quarter. Smith has got to go back to getting better each week, lately I am not sure that has been happening. IT IS ALL ABOUT CONSISTENCY!!!!