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
seven reasons to back away from the ledge:
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
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.
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
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.
Kicker Matt Bryant made all three of his f
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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