7 reasons to ‘Back away from the ledge’

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones said he looked up too late for the ball. (Associated Press)

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones said he looked up too late for the ball. (Associated Press)

BIRDLAND – Here are my seven reasons to back away from the ledge.

I’m sensing that the Falcon Nation did not have a very good weekend after the 34-16 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday night. (I went to see my neighbor/season-ticket holder George. He normally likes to talk Falcons, but he was paying bills. Anybody would rather talk football than pay bills!)

It seems like folks are ready to jump off of buildings and bandwagons. Why? The Falcons, the defending NFC South champs, haven’t even reached the season-opener yet.

I watched the game again on the NFL Network on Sunday and came away with

The Vince Lombardi Trophy on display at the Super Bowl. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

The Vince Lombardi Trophy on display at the Super Bowl. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

seven reasons to back away from the ledge:

  1. Jacquizz Rodgers can run without blocking. He made guys miss in the backfield and still was gaining yards. So, hmmm, what would he do with some blocking?
  2. Chris Redman can’t play quarterback without blocking. The reserve line made him look bad. Tight end Marquez Branson almost got Redman decapitated on one play. However, I don’t know what Redman was thinking on the pass to Kerry Meier. He tried to thread the needle with two defenders surrounding Meier? That’s how 95-yard touchdown returns happen.
  3. The Falcons have two punt returners. Eric Weems and Dominique Franks are electric on punt returns.
  4. Who’s the referee who called pass interference on tight end Tony Gonzalez? We need to check his ref card.
  5. The Falcons threw 42 passes in the first half because they were working on their no-huddle attack and pass protection. Normally, they would have worked on the no-huddle during OTAs.
    Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward (86) tries to break a tackle by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Roderick Hood (26) during the first quarter of the NFL Super Bowl XLIII football game, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009, in Tampa, Fla. The former UGA standout is now an accomplished ballroom dancer, too. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

    Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward (86) tries to break a tackle by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Roderick Hood (26) during the first quarter of the NFL Super Bowl XLIII football game, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009, in Tampa, Fla. The former UGA standout is now an accomplished ballroom dancer, too. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

  6. It was Pittsburgh. They’re usually pretty good. I heard they’ve won at least a couple of those shiny Vince Lombardi trophies.
  7. Julio Jones will make that catch next time.

Here’s the rewind story from the game:

Most starters played deep into the third quarter, but the Falcons were thumped 34-16 by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night at Heinz Field.

The defeat dropped the Falcons to 0-3 in the exhibition season.

“We made way too many mistakes offensively, defensively and special teams,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We gave up too many explosive plays there in the first half.”

What we learned

1. Pass defense must improve. Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, who was on pace to throw for 428 yards, shredded the Falcons’ pass defense. On a 77-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, Brent Grimes nearly made a spectacular pass breakup at Pittsburgh’s 45, but it was a score nonetheless. The swift Brown split safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud and outran them to the end zone. On a 44-yard TD pass, Brown was flanked to the left with Dominique Franks in coverage. He ran a post and got behind Franks. Roethlisberger stepped up in the pocket inside of defensive end Ray Edwards, who was on the ground, and threw to the end zone.

2. Julio Jones is fast. The fleet receiver can get open deep. He zoomed past Pittsburgh’s star safety Troy Polamalu, but dropped the pass in the end zone. “I looked early and put my head down, trying to make up some ground,” Jones said. “I just looked too late when I got to the end zone. That’s no excuse. I still have to make that play.”

3. Edwards will help the pass rush. Edwards did not record a sack in his debut with the Falcons, but he had some good pressure. With the Steelers worried about the perimeter rushers, John Abraham and Edwards, defensive tackles Jonathan

Matt Ryan completed 22 of 42 passes for 210 yards with a TD and an interception in a loss to Pittsburgh. (Associated Press)

Matt Ryan completed 22 of 42 passes for 210 yards with a TD and an interception in a loss to Pittsburgh. (Associated Press)

Babineaux and Vance Walker broke free for sacks. Edwards and Abraham switched sides several times, with Edwards rushing from the right and Abraham rushing from the left. The Falcons also dropped Edwards into coverage at least three times. It’s reasonable to conclude that the Falcons didn’t sign him to a five-year, $30 million contract because of his coverage skills.

Injury report

No injuries for the Falcons were announced during the game. However, Smith said a couple of players left the game with injuries and did not return. Center Todd McClure (knee) was among them. Smith said he’d have a full report on Monday. Defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee), cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring) and defensive end Lawrence Sidbury (ankle) did not play. Peters likely won’t play against Baltimore in the exhibition season finale, while Robinson has a shot. Both have been rehabbing with the training staff.

The numbers game

42

The Falcons threw 42 passes in the first half. They wanted to unleash the passing attack and get a good read on Garrett Reynolds and Mike Johnson in pass protection against the Steelers’ vaunted 3-4 defense. Both held up well in their battle for the starting right guard spot.

23

Kicker Matt Bryant made all three of his f

These two have to get the pass defense figured out.  Here, Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder emphasies a point with head coach Mike Smith during defensive drills with players in the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

These two have to get the pass defense figured out. Here, Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder emphasies a point with head coach Mike Smith during defensive drills with players in the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

ield-goal attempts from 23, 30 and 46 yards. He has made all eight of his field-goal attempts in the exhibition season and, dating back to last season, Bryant has converted 23 straight field-goal attempts.

13

The number of players who caught passes against the Steelers, including Kevin Cone, the former Georgia Tech receiver, who had one catch for nine yards.

Sound bite

“Those are some of the plays that we just need to make. It was good really on both ends. We kind of got the ball to the right spot. We just have to come down with those. Julio has made those plays before in college and he’s going to make plenty of those plays for us.”

– Quarterback Matt Ryan on Jones dropping a deep pass in the end zone.

Loose ends

Ryan completed 22 of 42 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His 10-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White was his third of the exhibition season. … Eric Weems set up the Falcons’ lone touchdown drive with a 48-yard punt return. … Jones was the team’s second-leading receiver with five catches for 59 yards. … Running back Jacquizz Rodgers led the team in rushing with 38 yards on seven carries. … Wide receiver Harry Douglas, who’s having a strong exhibition season, had three catches for 31 yards and had a touchdown-saving tackle. … Safety William Moore led the team in tackles with six. … Tight end Tony Gonzalez was called for offensive pass interference to nullify a 2-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

What’s next

Atlanta (0-3) plays Baltimore (2-1) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Dome. The Ravens defeated the Redskins 34-31 on Thursday.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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196 comments Add your comment

GState08

August 29th, 2011
5:17 am

There were some positives but overall it was a lackluster performance. Hope they work out the kinks before week 1.

JIm

August 29th, 2011
5:19 am

I’m still a little worried about the O’line.

Charles

August 29th, 2011
6:13 am

The Steelers were playing backup corners all night. And Matty Slush completed slightly more than 50% of his passes. I’m going to be awful happy. When these bums start 2-7! Let the excuses begin!

Greg

August 29th, 2011
6:14 am

I was happy to see that Ryan didn’t get jittery feet nearly so much as he did last year (and Pgh’s rush will give them to most QBs). Still, he’s throwing too many inaccurate balls. A continuing problem. Many of his misses could not even come close to being touched by the receivers, and some of those misses were thrown without any pressure on him. Very disturbing. This has been going on so long, I’m not sure it “fixable” (the constant refrain from Smith and Ryan). The OL blocked well overall in pass protection, not so good on the run. Turner looks slow hitting the hole. LBs looked pretty good against the run. But the DBs were average at best, and based on last year, having Dunta in there would not have made them better. So, a pretty good team, probably 8-8 or, with some luck (like we had in three victories last year), 9-7. But I don’t see a near-term future in which we’re competitive with the better teams (NO, GB, Pgh, NE, etc.)

J

August 29th, 2011
6:29 am

People state that the steelers had their third string corners in……. news flash football is a team sport… their line and backers bring the pressure not their corners….. plus troy p roaming in the secondary……. some of these bums need to brush up on their football iq ……. take a class

Willy

August 29th, 2011
6:37 am

The Colts are 4-24 during the last several pre-seasons but usually find a way to win when it counts.

Roy

August 29th, 2011
6:41 am

Dropping lots of passes thats what i remember about Julio Jones at Alabama! Hope i’m wrong about him but i think we wasted lots of drafts picks!

MountainMan

August 29th, 2011
7:00 am

Turner runs like a Krispy Kream Doughnut.

BC

August 29th, 2011
7:00 am

When I saw JJ’s drop/ I thought Mike Jenkins was back.

Falcon James

August 29th, 2011
7:00 am

So we stuck with Tired Abe, Weak Arm Ryan, and Slow Turner, can’t cover nobody owens and franks? I still think I will jump.

HJones

August 29th, 2011
7:03 am

DLed, You are on the verge of asking an important question in the article, but just can’t do it. The questions is.
WHY SIGN EDWARDS AS THE SUPER PASS RUSHER AND THEN DROP HIM OFF INTO PASS COVERAGE?

My question is
Why are we throwing those short passes to Michael Turner?

Big Daddy

August 29th, 2011
7:10 am

My concern is that even though it is preseason most of the good teams have great series when the starters are in. They move the ball, play good defense and their special teams make plays. Only the special teams seem to have distingushed themselves so far this pre-season. The offense sputters and even though we are breaking in a couple of new players, Matt is running for his life, the running game seem stymied and the pass defense seems woefully inadequate. Meanwhile, the defense is getting torched for long plays every game.

I would like to think that the coaching staff is addressing the problems and making the appropriate adjustments. However, the progress has been slow in coming. And, although I think we will probably have a winning season, if things don’t get better, we will be looking at a wildcard instead of a division lead.

Collin

August 29th, 2011
7:23 am

Man everyone didn’t seriously expect flawless football in a preseason with almost no offseason did you? The falcons will be fine, but it may unfortunately take a few games to really get on a roll :(

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:24 am

HJones — I didn’t want to be too hard on Edwards in his first game back. I do know that he got off to a slow start last season. 1 sack in first 7 games or something like that. Falcons can’t afford a slow start from him with their schedule. Passes to Turner are last resort, check-down plays.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:26 am

Falcon James — Don’t jump! Back away from the ledge. Abe is fine. Ryan has a nice arm. Turner can still run (see Miami game), Owens is tough and Franks is talented.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:28 am

BC – Wow! Mike Jenks? My man Chris Vivlamore who’s going to help on the beat this year caught up with Jenkins for us. Just in case you missed it. http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-falcons/q-a-michael-jenkins-1145918.html

INDIAN BIRD

August 29th, 2011
7:29 am

after watching the game on NFL network yesterday I noticed a couple things that nobody mentioned 1- julio drop the pass because the defender grab his right arm just before he jumped for the ball, bad no call for PI. 2- the steelers never get call for big penalty’s just ask the seahawks. 3- O’l noodle arm as they call him threw a perfect 60 yard bomb that was not caught see #1 but big Ben threw a 40 yard duck (that look like it took all he had) and it somehow falls right into hte recievers hands. 4- on both big plays by the steelers Grimes went for the pick, in a real game I hope he just knocks the ball down. In others don’t panic just yet but I agree a solid nickleback would be nice even if it’s just for more depth.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:29 am

MountainMan — I like Krispy Kream Doughnuts!!! You can get them at QuikTrip now.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:30 am

Willy — Good point.

Falcon James

August 29th, 2011
7:31 am

HJones

August 29th, 2011
7:32 am

Dled, The question needs to be explored by asking the Defensive Coordinator. Edwards does what the defensive scheme says. I have noticed many times in the past that our “rushing” ends drop into coverage. Is that the best use of their talents. Do other teams do the same?

chillax

August 29th, 2011
7:33 am

It’s pre-season. It’s about working out the kinks and figuring out who to cut. It’s glorified practice. Ask me again in 8 weeks and if we’re 2 – 5, then I’ll start to worry.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:33 am

Charles — The Steelers’ power is their front seven. Their first-team corners are not much better than the second-teamers. The Falcons moved the ball and had three TD drives stall. You are too hard here. Get another cup of coffee!

reebok

August 29th, 2011
7:34 am

revising my prediction from 9-7 to 7-9. unlike last year’s scheulde of cupcakes, the falcons play a lot of tough games this year. our ‘defense’ is going to get embarrassed.

HJones

August 29th, 2011
7:35 am

DLed,
QuikTrip stopped using them. They have moved their own substitute to the first shelf space.

Chandler going Deep..

August 29th, 2011
7:37 am

““We gave up too many explosive plays there in the first half.”

Hey coach Smith, we heard that before. Going on 4 yrs now Sir…..Blah….

Turner “the former burner”= “ButterBall”
Dont ever try to run outside the tackles or you will have minus yardage….Blah

Hey MM your bags already packed? Kick tons of rock….

Dont panic? hows 2-4 sound? Chicago, Eagles, GB, (0-3) yada, yada, yada……

Ed

August 29th, 2011
7:37 am

Wow, offer a disagreeing comment and it gets blocked…

Jimmy Crack

August 29th, 2011
7:39 am

These are not the regular season Falcons, they are the preseason Falcons. Zero game planning up until this game, where Coach said there would be @ 75% game planning against the Steelers, with position battles and substitutions galore because of the shortebeen ned practice schedule.

Overall…Down by a 10-0 score early and the starters fought back to tie the score at 10-10. At that point I would be completely satisfied if they shut it down right there with the starters on the sideline.

One critical point…DeCoud looked like a rookie out there and we may seek FA Safety help soon.

just sayin'

August 29th, 2011
7:40 am

60yd BOMB from Melt….look at the replay…he almost fell down after the throw…looked like he just threw a javelin with the arc he had on that one…bet he had to ice the arm after that throw…

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:43 am

Chandler — Quite harassing the Falcon fans. Take the day off. Back off D3 too!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:45 am

Ed — Not all the time. I’ll go to the spam folder. –Josef Stalin runs the blog filter.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:47 am

Chandler — The 7:37a.m. comment is fine under the Fairness Doctrine. I think they take the Eagles and Seattle. Key game in first five is Tampa Bay. They’ll need to Rise Up vs. Philly and Green Bay.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:48 am

HJones — Knock off doughnuts? No. We’ll have to protest that.

jerry

August 29th, 2011
7:48 am

What’s up with the kickoff guy? Is that as far as he can kick it?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 29th, 2011
7:49 am

reebok — Wow. That would be the first losing season under Coach Mike Smith.

HJones

August 29th, 2011
7:50 am

DLed, Just in case the worst happens, you may want to identify 2-3 ledges. The worst would be a loss to Chicago. It’s preseason but we should have seen 1 or 2 impressive offensive drives like the New Orleans Saints had last night.

Charles

August 29th, 2011
7:57 am

@ J, I’ve forgotten more football. Than you’ll ever know son..

HJones

August 29th, 2011
7:57 am

DLed, THE FILTER IS STOPPING MINUTE COMMENTS!

Ed

August 29th, 2011
7:58 am

HJones – and here I thoguht it was just me.

DC Falcon

August 29th, 2011
7:59 am

I quit trying to comment, either I have been banned or your filter wont let me in. Would be nice to know if I got banned as I dont recall doing anything inappropriate. Or are we censoring views here.

DC Falcon

August 29th, 2011
7:59 am

Now, odd that that that one went through.

Season Ticker Holder

August 29th, 2011
8:03 am

I am concern about the O-line. Both the starters and backups had problems with blocking assignments.

Charles

August 29th, 2011
8:06 am

@ D. Led, I wonder why they had 3 drives stall out?? Could it be qb play? And, no I don’t drink coffee.

dean

August 29th, 2011
8:12 am

Seeing Julio juke Head and Shoulders out of his jock was priceless.

Rodster

August 29th, 2011
8:14 am

I just have no confidence in the Falcons. I want to have confidence. I always pull for them. But it’s like a curse. It’s painful every season. The Falcons will win against some good teams, they’ve got enough play makers to do that, but they will not win the biggest games. Kudo’s to Mike Smith, he’s righted the ship and they are a ‘good’ NFL team. But they have not achieved upper echleon status.

The Man

August 29th, 2011
8:18 am

Really? Looking like the same team that got blew out the Dome by the Pack isn’t reason for concern? And like yuo say, THIS IS PITTSBURGH not NE or a high powered offense. The DB’s are once again terrible with tissue boy Robinson being the leader. And where exactly is Ray Edwards?

mike

August 29th, 2011
8:19 am

I thought I was reading a medical journal today considering all the excuses being posted for the falcons. I will check back maybe five games into the season.

rward

August 29th, 2011
8:19 am

I have observed the same thing for years. No news here. Undersized out of position secondary kills us way too often. Some things never change.

David

August 29th, 2011
8:24 am

The Sky is falling the sky is falling!!!

Whopper Dawg

August 29th, 2011
8:26 am

7 reasons to jump clear off the ledge

1. Yeah is was Pittsburgh. But the whole idea behind this season is to be as good as the best, hence the Jones trade and pick and the DE free agent signing. Question – do you think we are closer to Pittsburgh this year or further away? It looks like we are further away. Oh, and it was Pittsburgh but it was also Miami and J’ville.

2. Pass defense is shaky. Not only Pittsburgh, but J’villes ones looked very good against our defense. It is a passing league.

3. Nickel back, do we have one? If so, who is it?

4. Turner is no longer the burner, maybe we should call him Turner the simmer.

5. MM. Really no coordinate a wide open offense, but then again after three games, not sure we have one anyway.

6. The rap on Jones was the drops. Remember Gruden’s rant and video clips when Jones got selected. Looks like it is a valid concern.

7. Depth. DLine is OK, other than that we gots problems. Pittsburgh backups were manhandled ours. Let’s hope the injury bug stays away.