The Falcons blew a big opportunity in many ways by blowing some momentous chances in the final minutes in Charlotte. This game had trap written all over it and the Falcons really have no one to blame but themselves, couple of players in particular, if this one decides a playoff berth down the road. But if they play like they did today, it won’t matter anyway. Tons of badness to go around, but the Falcons worked and pried themselves right back into the game, just to literally throw it away at the end. Jason Elam missed an easy chip shot go-ahead field goal and Matt Ryan made one of the worst decisions all year, possibly of any game, by throwing a terrible pass that was way too high to Michael Jenkins. Football is a team game, but those two plays pretty much sealed the loss. The Falcons are now going to have to fight like mad to get some wins down the stretch of the second half. The Falcons let a very proud Carolina team get into rhythm early and blew some big chances down the stretch. With a New York Giants team coming off a bye, they better get to work or a look at a .500 record will become a reality.
Regardless of play-calling, receivers, or whatever the second year quarterback gave the game away with a really bad throw and an even worse decision. He had yet another really bad first half where he looked uncomfortable, shaky, and under-confident in the backfield. His throws were errant and he seemed to look to throw the ball away way too quickly again. He had a whopping 48 yards passing in the first half and who knows what the play-calling is, but Ryan deserves pretty much all the blame for the first half. His throws were high all day and he again locked onto receivers. To his credit, he came out in the second half and played really well, looking crisp and authoritative on his passes. He found his other receivers again in getting Roddy White involved and had many clutch throws throughout the comeback that they appeared to be mounting. After the defense got a big stop and Eric Weems had a big return, Ryan’s first play from scrimmage was a high throw to Michael Jenkins in double coverage that sailed over Michael Jenkins head right into the arms of CB Richard Marshall. Many fans knew what was coming next: a 45 yard touchdown by Jonathan Stewart to end the game. Granted Jason Elam should have made the field goal that puts the Falcons ahead 22-21, but Ryan’s decision and throw ended any comeback hopes and just didn’t need to happen and have Ryan try to win the game. Ryan likely will get there, but that seems a lot more uncertain than in the past. There’s a reason for such a cliché as a “QB Sophomore Slump”. Time for Ryan to regroup.
After being so automatic last year, Jason Elam is a complete liability this year. The Falcons had some good mojo going and missed on a 3rd and 1, which brought Mike Smith’s decision to play it safe and take the points and the lead late in the game……….so he thought anyway. The kick looked bad from the start with Elam stutter stepping before the snap and the kick was even worse. The kick wasn’t even close. Very true that the snap and timing could have been bad, but that makes four pretty easy field goals he’s missed already and at some really bad times to boot. It’s likely time to start looking elsewhere for the future at kicker, maybe not this year, but Elam is 39 years old. The field goal continues the trend of the Falcons making some bad plays at inopportune times that turned the whole game.
Considered to be one of the biggest strengths of the team, the Falcons wide receiving corps is proving to be paper thin after Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Michael Jenkins is having a poor year after dropping many catchable balls throughout the year, including the game against he Panthers. With the loss of Harry Douglas, there has been absolutely no receiver that has taken on the role of slot and proven to be of no threat at all. Marty Booker was thought to have some gas left and Eric Weems speed was thought to translate into a must benefit in the passing game. Neither has taken the reigns. The rave before the season was the supposed inability of defenses to shut down so many weapons, but they’re doing a pretty good job of doing it. With the relative age and injury to Finneran, it appears time for the Falcons to look at wide receiver in the draft or free agency. Playing 20/20 hindsight, sure would be nice to have Laurent Robinson on the roster about now, especially since he’s starting for the Rams.
After having a huge day against the Redskins, the defensive line and linebackers went AWOL yet again in getting any pressure on Jake Delhomme. The Panthers QB is a very rhythmic passer and the Falcons let him settle into a rhythm and find Muhammed and old reliable Steve Smith. The defense produced no sacks on Delhomme all day and rarely even rushed him into throws. All-Pro left tackle Jordan Gross went down with an injury and they Falcons still couldn’t muster much of a rush. Abraham must be hurt or something because he certainly is not what he was last year. Are Sidbury and Biermann the future at defensive ends, or do the Falcons need to look via the draft or free agency? The defensive tackles look pretty deep assuming the healthy return of Peria Jerry, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to have another big body at DT.
The talk of Tye Hill possibly being a long term answer at cornerback got a douse of cold water today when he was seemingly benched in favor of Brent Grimes after getting picked on over and over by Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammed throughout the first half. Chevis Jackson didn’t make many plays, but Chris Houston did have a pretty good game in keeping Smith in check for the most part, particularly in the second half. Tye Hill’s possible benching illuminates once again the ridiculously thin talent at cornerback. The loss of Brian Williams was a huge blow the Falcons could ill afford and Hill may not be the answer after all.
Many fans reasonably expected this team to go through some growing pains with a tougher schedule, an inexperienced defense, and a young quarterback. The beginning of the season dictated that the games with Carolina would be tough fights, but after the Panthers early tumbles, this was one that the Falcons should win. The Falcons have been anything but consistent this year and have endured some tough losses, but this one will sting for quite some time. A game that by all accounts should have been won, but was given away at the end. A missed field goal and a really terrible interception with less than 5 minutes left in the game will not win many games, chiefly rivalry games. Its easy to forget that the Panthers were 12-4 and the second seed in the NFC last year, but the Falcons have got to win these types of games to even be considered on the next level. As it stands, the Birds are still right in the mix of the wild card picture with the Giants (5-4), the Eagles (5-4), and Packers (5-4), but if we play like we did today the point will be irrelevant. The Giants game in the Meadowlands just got a whole lot bigger next week.
-Very Disappointed, Really Upset, or Still Positive?
-Should’ve Won or Panthers Just Better Today?
-Official Panic Mode for Ryan or Just Sophomore Bumps?
-If Turner’s Out For a Long Time, Are We Done?
-Is it Time to Draft Another WR?
-Will Elam be our Kicker Next Year?
-How Bad are our Cornerbacks?
-Simply Put: Will We Make the Playoffs?
-Predict our Record from Here on Out
-What’s the Deal with John Abraham?
-Are the Falcons in Serious Trouble?