There were several questionable calls on both sides of the ball and in general from Coach Smith. The script was laid out for the defensive game-plan by the Jets the previous week: apply pressure early, often, and always on Brady. Coach Van Gorder did none of that, at least that’s the way it appeared on TV. Tom Brady had all day to throw the ball, move around the pocket, and finally get into a rhythm. The future Hall of Fame QB looked plenty shaky all on his own, but it was just a matter of time before he burned the Falcons for a big play. After missing on several long attempts, Brady put nail in the coffin with a long pass to Chris Baker that essentially put the game out of reach. Very few blitzes came from any of the LB’s or DB’s and relied solely on pressure from the front four, which didn’t come. No sacks and very few QB pressures. The defensive players didn’t pull there weight, but the game-plan was pretty weak. Grade – C-
If Van Gorder had a bad day, then Mularkey had a worse one. The first drive looked great, moving the ball down the field at will, but we seriously stalled in the red zone and when they kicked a field goal on that drive it likely was a bad omen for the day. The Falcons continue to go to the air on 3rd and short, which is baffling for a run-heavy oriented offensive philosophy. Tony Gonzalez only caught a pass in the fourth quarter, which was really hard to believe being the MVP over the first two games. Coach Mularkey should have figured out a way to get the future Hall of Famer the ball more often. Although the Falcons were playing from behind, the Falcons seemed to abandon the run entirely too early. Since Turner seemed to be running soft, Snelling should have gotten more chances to run the ball. One of their best players, Vince Wilfork, went out of the game early and we failed to expose that weakness. Who knows if Norwood may have made a difference? Coach Mularkey seemed to call many plays that had only one option, such as calling a rollout on a critical 3rd and 4, which appeared to only have Roddy White as an option, and Ryan had to throw out of bounds when that was snuffed out. The play-calling looked intimidated and under-confident that we could go down the field and put it in the endzone. Grade – D
Trouble in the Trenches
The Falcons offensive line had troubles all year, but this game was a particularly rough one. The offensive line only paved way for Michael Turner to gain 56 yards rushing and Jason Snelling chipping another 3 yards as well. Much of the responsibility may reside with Coach Mularkey abandoning the run so early (2 rushes in the 3rd quarter, and 1 rush in the 4th), and Turner seeming to tip-toe to the line, but the offensive line is certainly not the dominant force they were last year in the rushing attack. Although performing well in pass blocking, the offensive line was one of the main reasons for the Falcons success last year, and are not off to a great start so far. Holes just don’t seem to be there for the backs the way they were last season. Penalties have also been a major issue this year with our OL. Even though it was only a false start, Sam Baker picked a really bad time to commit it after a touchdown was nullified when Michael Jenkins was called for offensive pass interference. This created 2nd and long on an extremely critical series. Whatever the problem is with our road-graders, it needs to be fixed to achieve success this year. Grade – C
What is going on with our Pro-Bowl running back from last season? He just hasn’t been the same running back so far this year. Save for the second half against Carolina, Turner has seemed to be indecisive and not running with the same speed and burst he had pretty much all of last year. It may not be all of his fault as the offensive line doesn’t seem to creating the holes it did last season, Coach Mularkey seems to abandon the running attack earlier, and teams seem to be dead set on putting 8 in the box, forcing Matt Ryan to beat them. That being said though, Turner shares some of the responsibility in tip-toeing a little bit as he gets to the line of scrimmage. The Falcons had their amazing turnaround and the ensuing high expectations in being the 2nd best rushing team in the NFL. Currently, we’re ranked near the bottom in terms of rushing. This makes two games that Turner has had huge fumbles in the red-zone that turned out to huge miscues, last week a score could have led to putting the Panthers away and this week’s fumble may have been the turning point of the game. The Falcons were tied 10-10 with the Pats and a chance to score right before halftime. The Birds had all the momentum heading into the half, and Turner’s fumble seemed to take the air out of the offense. Jerious Norwood added a nice change of pace last year, but has been hurt the majority of the time this year. Jason Snelling is doing some good things in limited chances, so maybe he needs to get more touches going forward. Grade – D
Tough Call, Drops, and Where’s TG?
The passing attack looked in sync and on point in the first drive and after that…..? The line blocked well for Ryan in the passing attack and he complete over 60% of his passes, but too many drops, miscues, and predictable passing downs led to a pretty inefficient day in the aerial attack. The Patriots were the ones who ate up the clock and played keep away from the Falcons, thus limiting their opportunities in the passing game. No rushing attack or threat led to the Birds having to throw the ball to move the chains and credit the Patriots secondary for covering the receivers well. Michael Jenkins had the best day of the bunch with 78 yards, but the biggest play of the day was the touchdown that was nullified when the refs called offensive pass interference. The call was a pretty weak one since Leigh Bodden was completely turned around and had no idea where the ball was. Technically, it may have been the right call, but there was a holding call on both Brian Finneran and Tony Gonzalez in the endzone that wasn’t called on the first drive. Roddy White had a very forgettable day, dropping several huge passes that could have been first downs and were complete drive killers. White has had his ups and downs, but needs to get going in the vertical passing attack and return to his Pro-Bowl form. A good running attack would help that though. Even though Booker and Finneran are adequate, it would be really nice to have Harry Douglas and his great pass catch and running ability paired with Tony Gonzalez in the middle. Speaking of Gonzalez, what happened today? Coach Smith and Coach Mularkey have got to figure out ways to get this playmaker the ball. He may have been double-covered throughout the game, but you wouldn’t know with the other passing lanes closed. Grade – C
Ryan Didn’t Win or Lose
Matt Ryan finished will almost 200 yards passing and completed over 60% of his passes, but had several times that he simply threw the ball out of bounds. Again, this goes back to play calling, but the schemes that the Patriots had for Ryan evidently confused him quite often. Teams may be dead set in making Matt Ryan beat them, but he has to get some help from the rushing attack. Running almost half the amount of offensive plays as the Patriots and getting half the time of possession, Ryan wasn’t able to get into much of a rhythm at all in this one. He wasn’t helped out by dropped passes, penalties, and fumbles. Ryan never cam close to getting a pass intercepted, but had several passes batted at the line of scrimmage. Grade – C+
-What’s your thoughts on the loss?
-Give your grades on the Coaches, O-Line, Rushers, Receivers, and QB.
-Expected tough performance, or the offense imploded?
-Pass interference on Jenkins on TD, or bad call?
-Good Pats defense or terrible game-plans?
-What’s the deal with Turner and the rushing attack?
-Turner’s fumble the play of the game, or not a big deal?
-Why in the world did Gonzalez only get one catch?