The Falcons were hit in the mouth several times today by the Cowboys and wilted under the pressure in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. If last week’s win over the Bears was a total team win, today’s loss was a total team defeat. All aspects of the Falcons team performed poorly and contributed to a pretty bad conquest at the hands of the Cowboys. Many reasons or excuses may be offered up such as the Cowboys coming off a bye, the Falcons having a short week, the Cowboys “needing” the game more, or playing on the road, but all excuses aside, this team didn’t show much fight and heart that we’re accustomed to seeing starting with the coaching staff down.
The Birds started off to an amazing start, driving down the field at will and scoring a touchdown on a 8 minute drive that made it appear as though the Falcons might be in for a repeat for the 49ers game, and how the game took a complete nose-dive from there. The Falcons offensive series looked inept and predictable, going several 3 and out several series in a row. The offense never found their groove from there, having another atrocious rushing effort. The defense held the three-headed monster of Barber, Jones, and Choice pretty much in check, but the Cowboys only needed Tony Romo to pick apart the Falcons secondary to put this one away. The Falcons have entered their ridiculous stretch with the Bears, Cowboys, Saints, and Giants in a six game run that will determine the season, and stand at 1 and 1. The Niners lost again and the Bears got beat 45-10 by the Bengals, so the Birds victories aren’t looking to be what they were a week ago. One thing is for certain, the Falcons better drop this loss from their memory quick and prepare like never before because arguably the best team in football awaits to host the Birds in the SuperDome on Monday Night Football. A look at today’s beat-down:
Matt Ryan had one of the longer days in his young career, spending much of the game looking up at the amazing screen in Cowboys Stadium after being sacked four times, hurried, and beat on by the Cowboys defensive front. Marcus Spears, Demarcus Ware, and Bradie James were in Ryan’s face all day and put the pressure on from the first snap. The horrible play of the offensive line doesn’t excuse Ryan’s poor decisions throughout the game, where he threw into tight coverage and seem rattled, quite unlike his normal persona. Two touchdowns, but a fumble and two picks again, making it four picks in two weeks. Grade – F
Zero Rushing Attack
Last year with the Falcons being ranked second in the league in rushing seems like decades ago, as there appears to be something seriously wrong with the rushing attack. The offensive line may have deserved some of the blame, but the bulk of it appears to lie at the feet of last year’s Pro-Bowl running back Michael Turner. He is hitting the hole slow, tip-toeing, lacks vision, and braces for impact whenever a defender gets near him, unlike last year where he was the punisher. The reason for the blame turns on the fact that Jason Snelling looked superb today getting more action in the backfield. Snelling hit the holes hard and fast and earned a 9.7 yards a carry average. Not time to give up on Turner by any means, but if Coach Smith truly believes in the best player playing, Snelling should be getting more and more reps. Turner – F; Snelling – A
What Happened to our O-Line?
The Falcons offensive line had a meltdown day today. After being one of the absolute best in the league in keeping Ryan upright and safe, the offensive line gave up 4 sacks (two in one series), and let the Cowboy defenders in Ryan’s face all day long. Some of it may be due to play-calling, but the O-Line had an absolutely terrible day all-around. The days of enforcing their will on opposing defenses may be in question. Baker, Blalock, McClure, Dahl, and Clabo may have been blamed for the running game, but they may not be the problem after all seeing Snelling have such a good day. The Falcons rushed for over 100 yards combined, but the whipping by the Cowboys front warrants a low one. Grade – F
Lone Game-Ball – Jason Snelling, rushing for over 9 yard average and 68 yards looking quick, tough, and fast hitting the holes.
Draped Over Receivers
Not a great day, but not necessarily a terrible day either. Roddy White had 50 yards and a touchdown and Gonzalez chipped in over 30 yards and that was about it. Michael Jenkins had a bad day in dropping several balls that hit him in the hands. The corners were draped all over the Falcons wide receivers all day, but many of Ryan’s passes were off the mark. Coach Mularkey got Gonzalez involved early in the first drive and he went missing again. How can teams do such a good job at covering so many weapons on offense? Eric Weems should get many more looks in the slot showing nice speed and quickness. Pretty much a non-factor. Grade – B-
Run Stuffing, but No Pressure D-Line
The defensive line provided no pass rush on Tony Romo throughout the game and allowed him all day to find receivers. They helped Romo to have one of his best days in their new stadium throwing for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Cowboys offensive line manhandled the Falcons D-Line all day. For some unknown reason, John Abraham consistently dropped into coverage many times instead of rushing the passer. Abraham, Babineaux, Anderson, and Biermann aren’t providing the pass rush hoped for, but they did hold the triple rushing threat of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice in check for the most part. The rushing defense has vastly improved, but they are getting no pressure on opposing QBs, and if Romo picked apart our defense, can you imagine what Drew Brees will do? Oh No. The play of the game was when Babineaux, Abraham, and Biermann all had a shot on Tony Romo and missed him, which would have held the Cowboys to no points in the red-zone right before halftime. May have been a different game if they don’t score a TD right there.Good run defense, but no pass rush. Grade – C+
Linebackers, Core of the Team
Linebacker continue their solid play, being the one of the few bright spots on defense. Lofton had a low day in terms of tackles with 5 total, Nicholas chipped in another three, and Peterson had 1 solo and 3 assists. The linebackers did help keep one of the better rushing attacks in check, but they let Tony Romo run for over 30 yards and pick up many crucial third downs. The linebackers weren’t too much of a factor since Romo was busy throwing all over the field on our secondary, and they did a pretty good job keeping the backs to small gains with passes out of the backfield. Nicholas added one of two sacks. Grade – B-
Turn, Burn, and Torched Secondary
Terrible outing by the secondary, allowing over 300 yards passing and getting manhandled by Miles Austin and………..Miles Austin. The guy lit Brent Grimes up like a Christmas tree and the questions again resurface whether he is a true starting cornerback in the NFL. Flashbacks of him getting burnt by Mushin Muhammed last year came back to the forefront. The rest certainly deserve their fare share as well. Chris Houston had another really awful game as well, giving up several big third down conversions to Miles and Patrick Crayton. Houston lacks the awareness to get his head around for a big play. The long touchdown catch and run by Miles also came against Thomas DeCoud where he simply was outrun. DeCoud and Coleman led the team in tackles, which is a sure-fire indicator that a loss is coming. DeCoud did have a sack on a really nice blitz. Coleman had many sacks, but let TE Jason Witten come up with many big third down catches, especially near the end of the game. Chevis Jackson saw some playing time today, but seemed behind the receivers several times as well, surely not up to par with where he was last year. Again no sight of Chris Owens or Tye Hill. Hate to say it, but the secondary is the major weak link of the defense, and the fears of preseason have come to fruition. Brian Williams injury appears to be pretty significant. Grade – F
Defensive Game-Ball – None, no one deserves one.
Special teams had another good day on kickoff coverage and punt coverage as well, until they finally broke against the Cowboys where Patrick Crayton drove a nail through the Falcons comeback hopes. It is what it is, but that punt shouldn’t even happened and Coach Smith should have shown some guts and gone for it on 4th and 2, losing by two scores in the 4th quarter. They get somewhat a pass for an otherwise excellent year. Grade – C+
Special Teams Game-Ball – None
Starting with Coach Smith all the way down the buck stops at the top. Coach Mularkey showed a great plan of action on the first drive, but was unable to adjust when the Cowboys made some adjustments of there own. The short and intermediate passes either stopped or Ryan was forced to throwing into coverage and the creativity was not there in the passing attack. If the running game is non-existent, there appears to be a major flaw in Mularkey’s approach. Leave Snelling in for the entire game since he has the hot hand. Did they even attempt a pass over 25-30 yards? Coach Van Gorder called a weak game as well. He did blitz often, which worked a few times, but he has got to find ways to cover up for his pathetic cornerback situation. Would seeing Tye Hill or Chris Owens be that much worse? How about trying either William Moore or Thomas DeCoud at corner? Or even Jamaal Fudge? Likely grasping here, but something has to change with the corners. Many of the blitzes that were called were bottled up with fair ease by the Cowboys line and gave Romo a big chance to score deep. Coach Smith again showed lack of confidence and guts in not going for it on 4th and short yet again late in the game in obvious 4 down territory. Matt Ryan even wanted to go for it, but was quickly told to hit the sideline. Next play: 73 yard punt return for a touchdown to essentially end the game. The entire coaching staff showed an inability to adjust to the Cowboys changes. Too many weapons on offense to be struggling, and changes likely need to be made in the secondary. Better get it together quick. Grade – F
Yes, games are often lost in the NFL, and every team has an off day, but this makes two games in on the season where the team didn’t seem to carry a confidence that they could win the game. For all the preseason hype the offense is pretty weak and the defense has some serious issues to correct with so many good teams on deck. The Falcons are 4-2 with a difficult schedule, but to be considered one of the best in the league, the Falcons have to be more consistent and show the firepower on both sides of the ball. Many fans were realistic that the Birds might still be a season or two away, and games like this certainly reinforce that notion. Falcons vs. the undefeated Saints, and the best team in the NFC, on Monday Night Football. If the Falcons play like they did today, pass the Tylenol and Pepto-Bismol .
-Your thoughts on today’s beatdown in D-Town.
-Give your grades.
-Is Ryan feeling a sophomore slump or just another not so great game?
-Cowboys that good, or Falcons that bad.
-What’s the deal with Turner? Should Snelling overtake Turner on depth chart?
-What in the world happened to our O-Line today?
-Running attack officially in panic mode?
-What’s our defenses problem?
-Jerry’s loss making that much of an impact?
-More blitzing or less?
-Please fix our cornerback situation