7 things wrong with the Falcons

 

Sporting Atlanta's version of the cheese heads, the ice heads Chris Elliott, Brian Sutton and Danny Boswell (left to right) cheer for Falcons quarterback Matt "Matty Ice" Ryan as he takes the field to play the Green Bay Packers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Sporting Atlanta's version of the cheese heads, the ice heads Chris Elliott, Brian Sutton and Danny Boswell (left to right) cheer for Falcons quarterback Matt "Matty Ice" Ryan as he takes the field to play the Green Bay Packers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons (2-3) will try to circle the wagons against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (1-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

The one thing that sticks out from our chats with Falcons coach Mike Smith this week is notion that the coaches and players have to work together to right their ship.

“It starts with the coaching staff and the players,” Smith said. “We’re only going to fix this together. We’re not going to fix this individually. It’s not one person, it’s not one thing.”

Man, it sure isn’t one thing. Here’s my little list of 7 things that need some fixing.

  1. Penalties. They have 32 penalties through five games after being the least penalized team in the league last season with 58 penalties. Tyson Clabo’s holding made sense under the “you can’t let the quarterback get killed” doctrine. Roddy White’s penalty made sense, too. He was complaining about the late hit – that wasn’t called – when Ryan took a pop while sliding. The illegal substitution and illegal formation penalties are pee wee football penalties. Those are the ones that must be eliminated.
    Matt Ryan calls an audible at the line of scrimmage during 1st half action against the Packers. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

    Matt Ryan calls an audible at the line of scrimmage during 1st half action against the Packers. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

  2. Where’s the Ice Man? Quarterback Matt Ryan is not playing well (seven touchdowns, six interceptions). He had his fourth-lowest passer rating (53.6) in four seasons against the Packers. He had a 49.3 on Dec. 28, 2008 in a season-finale 31-27 win over St. Louis, a 46.6 against New Orleans in a 35-27 loss on Nov. 2, 2009, and 29.3 in the second game of his career, a 24-9 loss to Tampa Bay. The Falcons are 16-0 when he has a passer rating of 100 or more. They need the razor-sharp 100-point man going forward.
  3. Pass defense. The secondary is still hemorrhaging yards. They are giving up 294.2 yards per game which ranks 28th in the league. Chicago’s Jay Cutler (312), Seattle’s Tarvaris Jackson (319) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (396) have all passed for more than 300 yards against the Falcons. (If Jermichael Finley doesn’t have two drops, Rodgers would have passed for more than 400 yards.)
  4. Pass rush. Defensive end Ray Edwards, signed to help the pass rush, only has one sack and John Abraham is battling another groin injury. Edwards acknowledged that he has been slowed by knee surgery that he had during the lockout. “It’s getting better and better each week, and it’s starting to show in my play,” Edwards said. Also, Edwards, who was signed to a six-year, $30 million contract, eased into a new role. With Minnesota he rushed solely from left end. The Falcons flip-flop their ends depending on the matchups, so he’s played some left and right end. “I’ve adjusted,” Edwards said. “Actually, my first sack came from the right side. I definitely have adjusted to it.” Perhaps the Falcons need to drop the whole notion of harassing the quarterback and actually getting them on the ground.
  5. Packers kicker Matt Crosby nails a long field goal over the reach of Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

    Packers kicker Matt Crosby nails a long field goal over the reach of Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

    Protect the Ice Man. The offensive line, with one new starter, has given up 14 sacks and 35 quarterback hits. However, they have given up only one sack in the last two games.

  6. Run game: Michael Turner rushed for 100 yards against Chicago and 114 against Philadelphia. The “Ground and Pound” attack has sprung Turner for 20 yards against Tampa Bay, 70 against Tampa Bay and 56 against Green Bay.
  7. Third down woes. The Falcons are allowing the opposition to convert on 46.3 percent of their third downs, which is 30th in the league. Curtis Lofton has a plan. “Put pressure on the quarterback,” Lofton said. “Get sacks. Sacks equal great coverage and great coverage equals sacks. We have to just keep working together and playing together as a team.” Ask if he could pinpoint the issue, Lofton said, “It’s a combination of different things.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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347 comments Add your comment

MadFalcon

October 13th, 2011
5:16 am

Play calling stinks talent is there Maularky & VanGorder are stinking up the place. We have played 5 games with no adjustments to the other team

BirdFanscout

October 13th, 2011
5:50 am

The offensive line, with one new starter, has given up 14 sacks and 25 quarterback hits. -DOL

You answered your on questions about where is the Ice man and the running game. Baker plays like his feet are in 2 ft of mud, Reynolds is a tackle playing guard who can’t get leverage against DT, and scheme because the blocks on the second level are not happening.

Steve

October 13th, 2011
6:03 am

Has anyone looked at the fact our kicking game stinks??? Bosher can’t put the ball through the back of the end zone so teams are always getting a good return and we are starting usually at our 20 or worse. His punts are REALLY bad too! I know he’s a rookie but he is a Pro and he stinks!!!

FFF

October 13th, 2011
6:04 am

We can keep writing and blogging on the Falcons, but nothing is going to change until the coaches and players do a better job. At this time I don’t think there’s much that can be done to correct bad drafting, FA signings and coaches that need replacing. The way the team is playing we will be very lucky to finish 8 and 8 this season.

Larry

October 13th, 2011
6:07 am

8. Defensive coaching: We ranked 24th in 2008, 21st in 2009, and rank 27th this season after four drafts and several FA acquisitions–that’s coaching, or more specifically, lack thereof.

Rome Dawg

October 13th, 2011
6:16 am

If you look at the offensive play calling of the first 2 series of the Green Bay game, we weren’t so predictable. It was fresh and different. You can’t do play action pass or handoff up the middle every play. And I don’t think Matt Ryan throws a good deep ball. That is not his game.

Falcons 2011

October 13th, 2011
6:19 am

All these problems in the fourth year of Dimitroff? The Packer’s GM knows talent when he sees it. Dimitroff knows overpaying for mediocre free agents and wrecking next year’s draft on a foolish gamble.

Thomas the twerp

October 13th, 2011
6:24 am

Man have I fooled Mr. Blank into thinking I know what I’m doing.

Jimmy Carter

October 13th, 2011
6:31 am

What do Falcons do?
Lay eggs.

Scott Anderson

October 13th, 2011
6:37 am

M Turner should have been traded 2 years ago when the Falcons could get something for him.

I seen him tackled in the backfield by a safety by himself.

Cant run cant win.

Need a power back and need him now.

Go Falcons 6-10

robert

October 13th, 2011
6:38 am

with 9 probowlers returning you have to look at the coaching.

Big Dude

October 13th, 2011
6:41 am

The run game is too predictable. Turner ran the ball only about 3 or4 times to the right side. Even the new guy can’t run to the right side. It’s always off left tackle. Sam Baker can block for a run, but can’t protect for passing game.

W. Andrews

October 13th, 2011
6:44 am

8. Face the reality that the defense needs major work and vangorder has to go.

DC Dirty Bird

October 13th, 2011
6:59 am

Play calling….play calling….play calling. Creative play calling can mask offensive line deficiencies. After Sunday night, I think the offensive play calling is a combination of Mularkey and Smith. You don’t change your play calling simply because you have a 14 point lead against the most prolific offense in the league. Defensive play calling on 3rd down has to be some of the worst I’ve ever seen. Teams should fear Spoon or WillyMo coming at them on 3rd and 7+. Instead they look forward to our soft zone that allows WR to catch and fall for 1st downs. Lastly, memo to TD, power backs are a novelty in this league. Thank you Mike Turner, but we must move on to a more dynamic back that can make the offensive line look better than they really are on any given Sunday a la Matt Forte in Chicago, Fred Jackson in Buffalo, and Frank Gore in San Fran. These guys are superstars, just good backs who can hit the hole quickly, make someone miss in the open field, take advantage of the screen game, and not get walked down by LB’s.

call play

October 13th, 2011
7:03 am

changing a play call will suddenly make a bad QB, oline, dline, DBs and RBs good? WOW!!!?!!! I didn’t realize it was that easy!!!

Ken

October 13th, 2011
7:05 am

What’s wrong!! EVERYTHING!!! Mike Murlarkey needs to be more creative with the offense use all the weapons we have on offense. You know whether we are running or passing based on the packages on offense that does half the job for the defense stop helping them out MURLARKEY!! The offensive line is not nasty anymore since we lost Dahl no one has stepped up with that NASTY hard play that good ole Harvey gave us the O Line is just soft now!! O Line needs to keep Matt from getting hit is not comfortable in the pocket and when he has one it is not for long at all. BVG can we put some pressure on the opposing teams QB? How about jamming a reciever or two to disrupt timing to give the rush a little more time something!! At least make it harder for the other team than it is in practice!! When will your safeties start taking the right angle at a defender they are always out of position!! Either BVG can’t teach or our player can’t learn or BOTH!! Both the defense and offense can perform better it is obvious that the opponents know what the Falcons are going to do so the coaches need to do watch film on thier own tendencies in situations and change it up. No in game adjustments at all for the Falcons!! If they have been making in game adjustments you sure can’t tell it because its not working!! Falcons will be 8-8 this year if they are lucky.

Truth Hurts

October 13th, 2011
7:10 am

1. Maularky
2. VanGorder
3. O Line
4. Bosher
5. Secondary (on third down)
6. Pass rush
7. Run game

Atlanta Native

October 13th, 2011
7:15 am

The ONLY constant on this team in the past 3+ years is the coaching staff.

Van Gorder is an idiot (if you need confirmation – ask the folks in Statesboro). You can’t pressure a NFL QB when only rushing 3. The “soft” zone only allows QB to pick apart the coverage. It’s a proven fact that pressure creates sacks, incompletions and turnovers. Van Gorder’s continued over-use of the “zone” confirms that he is unwilling to learn from his failures. Until TD gets rid of Van Gorder, the defense will remain solidly in the bottom tier of teams.

Mularkey is also an idiot. (The exception is the first two drives against GB which were fun to watch and surprise, surprise produced clock control AND touchdowns). There is not much scripting needed to devise his standard offensive plan: Turner up the middle, Turner up the middle, play action pass underneath to Gonzalez, punt. Mularkey’s comments earlier in the week confirm that he’ s arrogant and unwilling to learn from his failures. Until TD gets rid of Mularkey, the offense will continue to sputter and fail to produce points.

Whopper Dawg

October 13th, 2011
7:17 am

MM. MM. MM. Jones has yet to touch the end zone.

Tank

October 13th, 2011
7:18 am

The Falcons are totally “Disfunctional”; Offense/Defense/Spec Teams…COACHING !!!!

Truth Hurts

October 13th, 2011
7:21 am

@Atlanta Native – Preach!!!!

Savage57

October 13th, 2011
7:28 am

The problem with the Falcons is simple, They started reading, and more unfortunately, beleiving all of the press about how good they were. What was once a team striving to prove their mettle on the field has become a collection of individuals without confidence, cohesiveness and hunger that’s better at talking about games than playing them.

Point to Matt Ryan as an exanple. Exalted and elevated way too early as an “elite” QB, endowed with the moniker “Matty Ice” for doing a couple of times in the regular season what pro QB’s are expected to do – lead the team to victory. He hasn’t been able to live up to the baseless hype fest that was bestowed way too early. When you win games with meaning, on the road, against superior competition, that’s when you prove you have ice in your veins and earn nicknames and more importantly,titles.

For now, let’s just call him “The Matty Melt” until he proves he can stand up to the heat of the spotlight when it is brightest.

DC Dirty Bird

October 13th, 2011
7:30 am

Not at all “call play”. What better play calling does is put players in better position to use whatever talents they have. For example, if I put my tight end in the back field just behind the LT/RT, he can chip the DE/OLB that is trying to plant Matty Ice in the turf. Here’s another one. How about run screen plays from 3WR sets (which is why we need a more complete back than Turner) on 1st down in the second half. I’m no coach, but I’ve watched enough football to know that our plays are a) not complex b) not aggressive c) mildly predictable.

ME TOO

October 13th, 2011
7:31 am

The yardage on first down by quarter in the Green Bay game is below. The * indicates MT runs. Is this good YARDAGE on FIRST DOWN?

1st QTR
2*, 1, 0, 17, -2*, 5, -2*, 5, -2, 4*, 6*

2nd QTR
0*, 1*(td), 0, -1,

3rd QTR
3*, 5*, 2, -5, 26, 0*

4th QTR
0, 2*, 4, 3, -11, 15, 12, 2

smokey121

October 13th, 2011
7:34 am

@ D. Ledbetter, I completely agree with your analysis of the Falcons. These are 7 strong issues that really need to be addressed. However you really come short of finger pointing and throwing the Falcons coaching staff under the Bus. I honestly believe the coaching staff are either confused and dont know how to fix these issues. I also think they are in DENIAL about Matt Ryan’s arm. They cant get Julio the ball down field for two reasons. #1 Offensive Line cant protect Matt, #2 Matt arm is to weak to get the ball more than 60 yards. Mullarkey is not the Genius we thought he was for 3 years. He’s just good at disquising Matt’s short comings.

ATLDirtyBird

October 13th, 2011
7:36 am

Tavaris Jackson…..?? Tavaris Jackson??!!!

GA Fan

October 13th, 2011
7:40 am

Good article. Comments have been adequate. M.Turner is no longer the burner! We are asking to much from our QB. He just can’t throw the deep ball. Offensiveline is like many of the other teams in the NFL but the schemes help compensate. Defense needs work but if the offense would stop the 3 and outs maybe just maybe this thing could work.

O'Brien

October 13th, 2011
7:40 am

So far, I have not been impressed by Robinson, and Ray Edwards, 2 players who were given big money to help us take the next step. So far, that hasn’t happened. If their lackluster play continues, TD should feel some heat (not to mention Sam Baker was his draft pick).

AS

October 13th, 2011
7:42 am

The problem w/ the running game nowadays is that Turner can not turn the corner. All of the run plays are off tackle/up the middle. We have got to get Jacquizz in the mix more.

AtlantaDude

October 13th, 2011
7:45 am

Michael Turner. Great guy, but hurting the team.

Just like baseball has moved beyond simple stats like batting average, to look at OPS, etc., football needs something beyond yards per carry.

Turner gets 0 or negative yards on 5 plays in a row, then rips off a 25 yarder and it looks like he has 4 yards per carry. But that is not the same as a back that can reliably get you 3 or 4 yards.

So, we end up 2nd and 12 or 3rd and 8 and that puts too much pressure on the passing game

reebok

October 13th, 2011
7:48 am

How about this…this is an average football team, which last year caught lightning in a bottle due to a soft schedule and a lot of luck…this year, against a much tougher schedule, and not sneaking up on anybody, they are going to finish about where their talent says they should, around 8-8.

OPEN YOUR EYES

October 13th, 2011
7:56 am

IM SORRY GUYS, BUT I CAN’T WAIT FOR US TO LOSE TO CAROLINA!!!!!! I WANT ARTHUR BLANK TO ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING AND FIRE SOMEONE OR TRADE SOMEONE!!!!! ONCE WE LOSE TO CAROLINA THEN HEADS WILL ROLL!!!!!!

Bert

October 13th, 2011
8:01 am

Once we lose to Carolina? Carolina is a better team than us. Of course we will lose. This team is a bunch of overhyped posers. Ryan is a smart kid but not a franchise NFL qb. Building a team around him was a mistake from the start. Turner and Gonzalez are washed up and practically creak when they move. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was letting Dahl leave and then throwing away 2 drafts to grab a rookie receiver. Yes, he is is good, but that is irrelevant. You use drafts to build on your weaknesses and balance your team, and Dimitroff ruined that opportunity for a long time. This team is lousy and will be lucky to win 5 games, and the Falcons did it all to themselves.

It ain't rocket science...

October 13th, 2011
8:06 am

…they just aren’t that good…and Turner may be old, but did you see him run over two, count ‘em – TWO – Packers on the 2 yard line on his TD run…

tonyb

October 13th, 2011
8:06 am

Hard to blame Matt Ryan in one breath, then blame the poor offensive line in the other. If the QB has no time and is running for his life, he will be ineffective, no matter the name on the jersey. All of those great offensive weapons are nullified if he has no time in the pocket.

Yo Vince

October 13th, 2011
8:08 am

The penelties killed us against the Pack. We had good drives stopped and gave the ball back to the best QB in the NFL. Amust win on Sunday.

BobDawg

October 13th, 2011
8:08 am

Seems like once we get past the scripted plays we struggle (first 2 drives were all scripted)… Then in the 2nd half, everytime we had a big play…penalty!… (note Ryans across the field throw to Douglas)…
We need a WIN!!! That cures alot of woes….

It ain't rocket science...

October 13th, 2011
8:08 am

…and I was looking at the remaining schedule, and I really do not see us winning more than 4 of those games – maybe Carolina, Indy, MN, and Jacksonville…damn SI Jinx…

BobDawg

October 13th, 2011
8:09 am

@ yo Vince…. sorry for the duplication!

BobDawg

October 13th, 2011
8:10 am

… @ it ain’t rocket science… LOL and agree with you on the SI Jinx… It’s killing Philly now in all sports…

Bert

October 13th, 2011
8:10 am

I dont like Cam Newton, but Sunday will prove the vast difference in drafting talent vs drafting smarts. Ryan is smart, but he isnt very talented. Newton is dumber than a bag of hair but is amazingly talented.

Talent and skill matter more in the NFL. Ryan will dink and dunk and fumble his way to another loss while Newton just does what comes naturally and rolls the Falcons in the dome.

Falcons 4 life

October 13th, 2011
8:11 am

A lot of panic for no reason. The Falcons will be fine. 10-6 with a playoff appearence and beating the 49ers in the first round.

TIME

October 13th, 2011
8:11 am

We need a QB who can get that ball down field. QB out of Standford can get the ball down field.

Jenn

October 13th, 2011
8:13 am

It is no doubt the coaching staff. Perhaps the change at QB back coach is hurting Matt. It doesn’t appear the Falcons can make half-time adjustments as well as the other teams can.
I have no hope left for this year.
Another let down.

marktheshark

October 13th, 2011
8:16 am

Simply put: Our pass rush rarely gets to the opposing quarterback, giving him plenty of time to find an open receiver. Their pass rush has Ryan throwing too quickly to receivers who are rarely open. The difference isthey rack up passing yardage against us while our passing attack is ‘off’, to say the least.

Walker, Texas Ranger

October 13th, 2011
8:17 am

Almost every offense question goes back to the O line. Matt’s performance, running game and penalties. This area needs attention this off-season

rock

October 13th, 2011
8:17 am

1. Soft Zone Defense
2. Ryan inability to throw the deep pass
3. Poor coaching and players’ preparation

Mike is Back

October 13th, 2011
8:18 am

DLed, Great Stuff, I think you are right on it. All the teams had the same amount of time to prepare for the upcoming season… It’s time for these guys to start making some plays…enough excuses…ALREADY…GOOD coached teams don’t beat their self.

DC Dirty Bird

October 13th, 2011
8:22 am

I think we’re a better team than our record and that we have the talent to compete for the NFC Championship. Mike Smith has to demand that we coach to dominate, not to do well. We’re becoming the Jaguars from 2004-2007, they were good at a lot of things but not great at anything. Mike Smith was the Defensive Coordinator and Del Rio was the head coach. Where exactly did the jack of all trades master of none approach get the Jags?

Bert, where exactly did you get your Newton is dumb assessment from? Agree with you on the need to draft better athletes/talent though.

Concern

October 13th, 2011
8:22 am

we worst thing that could have happen was mentioning “Super Bowl and Falcons” in the
same sentence