The Falcons ended their only two game skid in the Coach Mike Smith era by blistering the Redskins in the first half, and then holding on in the second half after coming out completely flat in the third quarter. Not the most satisfying of victories in terms of complete games, but a needed win at home to snap the streak nonetheless. Michael Turner made us all remember why he is one of the best running backs in the game, basically putting the entire game on his tough-running legs. Matt Ryan continued his struggles as a second year quarterback, and the defense had a huge day in all aspects from the defensive line to the linebackers to the vastly improved secondary. The Falcons defense had 5 sacks in the first half alone and played lights out in quarters one and two, but came out maybe a little too comfortable in the second half and let the Redskins climb back in the game. A win that was expected and one where the Falcons took care of business, which wasn’t a guarantee in previous regimes. A look at the positions:
Studly Defensive Line
The defensive line followed up their pretty good game against the Saints with a dominating performance against the Redskins front line. Granted, the Redskins possess one of the worst offensive lines, and offenses in general, in the NFL but give credit where its due. The defensive line put constant pressure on Jason Campbell from the opening drive, particularly in the first half. Jonathan Babineaux had a monster game with 10 total tackles and 2 and a half sacks. Kroy Biermann chipped in 2 tackles and a nasty sack to start the game and John Abraham collared half a sack as well. Jamaal Anderson continued his solid play against the run after moving pretty permanently to defensive tackle, and Trey Lewis got involved quite a bit as well. Vance Walker is certainly making the most of his opportunity in the NFL showing good speed out of a big body and definitely giving a preview that he might be in the lineup for rotation for good. Poor second half, especially third quarter, but that can be said for the entire team. Grade – A
Solid LB Corps
The Birds got the usual tough performance from the linebacking corps. Mike Peterson led the way with 8 sol o tackles, Lofton had 8 total tackles, and Stephen Nicholas chipped in another 3 total stops as well. Along with the defensive line, the linebackers helped keep the Redskins under 100 yards combined rushing. The linebackers did give up several big third downs when Jason Campbell scrambled with his legs picking up 40 yards on the ground and some crucial first downs, particularly in the second half. This continues a bad trend on giving up yards on the ground to mobile QBs (remember Romo in Dallas?), especially with Donovan McNabb, Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez, and Trent Edwards on the horizon. Grade – B
Vastly Improved Secondary
Welcome to the lineup and to Atlanta Tye Hill! What a home debut Tye Hill made in red and black in the Terror-Dome. Heads up play to catch the tipped pass for an interception, but the run back for a touchdown was pretty remarkable to see. 62 yard touchdown return that saw Hill make some pretty nice moves to cross the pylon. Surely its early, but it looks like Thomas Dimitroff may have done it again in snagging Hill with a seventh round draft pick. Many fans and this author included clamored for Hill to get in the lineup earlier, but Dominique Foxworth didn’t start until the seventh game. Chris Houston had 5 tackles and looked better than previous games and Chevis Jackson had a sack from the nickel slot, possibly taking over his role from last year. Erik Coleman had 7 tackles and Thomas DeCoud collared another 3 total tackles. The secondary got a lot of help from the front seven in terms of pressure and defended a pretty anemic passing attack, but give credit where its due, particularly from the most beleaguered unit on the team a couple of weeks ago. With rookies Chris Owens and William Moore on deck for next year, it appears the future may not be so dark in the secondary after all. Grade – A-
Game Ball – Tye Hill gets a consideration, but Jonathan Babineaux earns the game ball with a huge 2.5 sack day
Young Ryan QB
Matt Ryan didn’t have the best day today, but then again when Michael Turner runs like that he doesn’t need to. Ryan completed 17 out of 24 passes with one TD and one interception for 135 yards. Pretty much a non-factor for the most part. The Falcons jumped out to a big lead thanks to Turner’s running and Tye Hill’s pick six, so the play-calling surely got conservative (too conservative in the 3rd quarter) and with the Burner on fire, than play the hot hand. Ryan was sacked 3 times and seemed a little gun-shy after his pick which was a really terrible decision. Even though he didn’t have the most stellar of days, Coach Smith commented on how well Ryan audibled into running plays, one of which scored. It may be too easy to place blame on Ryan because maybe it’s the O-Line, the sacks, his second year, the play-calling, receiver routes, or a combination of all the above, but the bottom line remains that Ryan is not the same QB as a year ago. Grade – C
Turner the Man
Simply put, Michael Turner is The Man and is on a mission to get back to the playoffs and Pro-Bowl. Turner ran as good as he ever has in red and black, running hard, fast, using mad moves, and turning on the afterburners in the Terror-Dome today. #33 racked up 166 yards on the ground with two beautiful touchdown runs of 30 and 58 yards, not including another huge run that was called back by a penalty. The Falcons seemed to have found their rushing attack again, and most credit goes to The Burner himself. The offensive line must be doing a better job creating holes for the back. Jerious Norwood’s lightning quick speed is missed in some aspects, especially in situations such as Aaron Stecker failing to make a first down with a wide open space ahead in the 3rd quarter, but he did have 3 receptions for 22 yards. Ovie Mughelli’s return and presence is being felt throughout the team. Grade – A+
Not a huge day for the receivers, but as mentioned earlier, they didn’t need one with the way Turner ran the ball. Gonzalez led the way with 41 yards and one touchdown and Roddy White had 3 grabs for 27 yards. The injury to Finneran may be of concern, which would leave the Falcons at 4 receivers. Might Troy Bergeron be getting a call from the practice squad. Grade – B
The Nasty Boys
The offensive line has gotten their mojo back in the form of imposing their will in the rushing attack. The offensive line paved the way for Turner against a formidable front including Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, and Brian Orakpo. They were on their game and had the Redskins defensive line committing penalties and jumpy, chiefly in the first half. If the offensive line has re-discovered their rushing attack, they have lost their superb pass-blocking ability from the first 5 games, giving up sacks by the boat load. Just as Ryan’s subpar play may not be entirely his fault, some of the blame may lie with Ryan holding onto the ball a little too long or receivers not getting open. Regardless, the Nasty Boys have got to figure out ways to keep their franchise QB upright. Grade – B-
Game Ball – Easiest pick of the season…..Michael Turner: 166 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns.
Coach Smith and Co. did what they were supposed to do in having the team prepared and beat teams they should beat. Coach Smith stopped his first small losing skid dead in its tracks by getting a win over the lowly Redskins. Smith and his teams toughness showed when they realized they were allowing the Redskins to get back in the game. Absolutely love the fire and passion of Smitty getting in the scrum on the sidelines and protecting his boys, notably getting in Me-Angelo Hall’s face, or mouth maybe the better term. His players will follow him anywhere for times like that, always having their back. Coming out completely flat in the second half is a cause for concern against an inferior opponent, but they did realize what was going on in time. Coach Van Gorder called a good game, particularly in the first half taking advantage of the Redskins weak offense and putting pressure on Jason Campbell. They have surged in stopping the running game pretty much from all teams except the Patriots. The secondary is improving every week and coaching up is obviously going on, just ask UGA fans what’s happened since he left Athens. Coach Mularkey gets mad props for re-discovering the running game. Whatever he and Coach Boudreau have figured out, they get great credit. The passing attack continues to be an issue, not sure who’s at fault, but it’s time for Mularkey to figure out the aerial game just as he did the rushing game. Grade – A
The Falcons came out strong, took their foot off the gas, but pulled away with the game against a lesser opponent. The Falcons were heavily favored today and the Redskins are certainly a team in disarray, but the Birds did what they had to do to get the win. It may not have been the prettiest win in the world, but it is a victory nonetheless and gets them to 5-3 at the midpoint. Save one game against the 49ers, the Falcons have not put together a complete game on offense and defense, and there are tons of areas for improvement (particularly Ryan and the passing game), but Falcons show great signs of a team looking to make the postseason again. Yes the Falcons beat a much weaker opponent today, but many times in this franchise’s history this wasn’t a guarantee.
-Impressed with the game as a whole?
-Turner officially back on track for another Pro-Bowl year?
-What’s the deal with the waves of sacks coming Ryan’s way?
-Is Ryan holding onto the ball too long and a little gun-shy?
-You fix the passing attack.
-Once a source of strength, is our WR corps running out of talent?
-Great D-Line performance or really weak ‘Skins O-Line?
-Concerned about mobile QB’s scrambling yardage?
-Tye Hill our lockdown CB we’ve been waiting for, or a way too early?
- Anxious about the Redskins scoring 17 points?
-How about Coach Smith? Would you want to play for him?