The playoffs are unofficially done, and they should be. The mask was ripped off of this Falcons team against the Eagles when they not only failed to show up, but led a pretty embarrassing effort to boot. Injuries are definitely abound throughout the Falcons roster, but excuses need not apply. The Falcons didn’t have Ryan, Turner, Dahl, Baker and even Jenkins, but Philadelphia wasn’t at full strength either. The Eagles didn’t have their number one running back (Westbrook) or their number one receiver (Jackson), but they found a way to come out and play the game tough and resilient. They found a new stud in their offense with Leonard Weaver, who looked like John Riggins against the Falcons defense. The Falcons looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable in the Dome on Sunday. They came out and played soft and weak from the opening whistle. Everyone knows well about the return of the player who once owned this city and lost it all, and he had his “redemption”, if that’s what some want to call it. Redemption is defined as “recovery or preservation from loss or danger”. And that can certainly be applied concerning himself, but it has no regard or relation to exercising anything with the Georgia Dome or the Falcons. If a mistake was made, any redemption would be relegated to self-modification and not connected to Atlanta and its fans. The Falcons folded on playoff Sunday and the season certainly should be redefined.
Falcons fans know all about the injuries that have plagued their team this year, but that excuse rings hollow when it comes to the playoff hunt. The Falcons had injuries across the board and then some, but the Eagles did too. The Birds were without Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Sam Baker, Harvey Dahl, and Michael Jenkins. That comes to almost 50% of the starting offense. That can definitely be attributed to the loss, but the Eagles were without their number one wide receiver (Desean Jackson) and number one running back (Brian Westbrook) and still managed to come out and win the game. They didn’t only win the game, but pretty much dominated it from whistle to whistle. The Falcons defense didn’t have any injuries and they pulled their same performance in folding out. The Birds D did keep them in the game early, but many of the conversion fails were due to drops as opposed to excellent defense. The offense is mainly to blame for the blowout, but the defense made it really easy in the second half. Just like normal.
Several fans took the time to issue the charge that their wasn’t that much a difference in starting quarterback Matt Ryan and backup Chris Redman. The thought pattern went that Redman was able to manage the game in the same regard as Ryan in terms of not throwing interceptions and getting the job done. Even though there never was an issue, it was surely put to rest on Sunday against the Eagles. Chris Redman had his struggles early and often in his first start for the Falcons. The QB missed his receivers several times by throwing too high or low and just never seemed to get into rhythm. He took the opening drive and went three and out. The Eagles game-planned and wanted to make Redman beat them and he couldn’t. If Redman had legit starter talent than another team starved for QB readiness surely would have inquired about him. Redman tried his best, but the game was over pretty quickly for fans realizing the field couldn’t be stretched. The interception for a touchdown was the icing on the cake of really terrible day.
The defense has been much maligned this year, but the biggest fault for the Falcons blowout came in the form of the offense failing to do pretty much anything. The Eagles game-planned for the Birds wanting to run the ball first, always, and often and stopped them pretty well. Norwood and Snelling had several attempts to get something going, but the Eagles stacked the box and let their stellar corner man up on Roddy White and……….Michael Jenkins was out, so you do the math. The receiving corps was thought to be one of strength, and that certainly isn’t the case. There’s Roddy White and Michael Jenkins and that’s it. Douglas was injured early and there is nothing after that. Play-calling can certainly be called into question, but everyone deserves blame in this embarrassment. The Eagles bracketed Gonzalez and stuck Asante Samuel on Roddy White and that was about it. At one point in the telecast, Fox put up a stat where the fullback Leonard Weaver had 95 total yards and the Falcons had 94 yards. Even though the Falcons were decimated by injuries, they still had a really, REALLY bad game.
Falcon fans will certainly remake their early projections as they head toward the final fourth of the season. The Birds were picked by many to win the NFC South and lead the way towards a serious playoff drive. That has not been the case, and then some. Injuries have piled up and that will a solid reason for the Falcons woes in 2009, but fans don’t want to hear excuses. The New Orleans Saints destroyed the team of the decade, Patriots, at home without either of their starting cornerbacks. The Falcons are at .500 and have still not beaten a team with a winning record to date in the ’09 season. The label to date would have to be inconsistency. The Falcons have not had any winning streak or really any identity this season. They’ve beaten the teams they should have (save one in Charlotte), but haven’t gotten a W against a team worth very much. The Birds are smack dab in the mix of a new youth movement and that has proved to be a very big challenge. The playoffs are done. Fans of the Birds know they have lost to every important NFC East team and fail in every tie-breaker category. The Falcons currently stand at 6-6 and have the unbeaten Saints next week. Dark clouds have begun to form over Northside Drive and MLK. The once bulletproof armor of the Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff era is starting to show kinks. The Falcons are embedded in a massive change from a decade of bad personnel decisions, poor hires, and illegal activities, but fans were beyond disappointed today.
The defense had a typically bad day, but they did play good enough to keep the Falcons in the game when the offense was completely pathetic. After a first series three and out and a kickoff return fumble, the defense was put in the absolute worst position. They held their own for a long while, but finally collapsed in a wave of weakness. The Falcons secondary had another terrible outing in allowing McNabb to dominate the passing attack and made fullback Leonard Weaver look like John Riggins. Jamaal Anderson continues to play defensive end, Abraham is obviously done, and the cornerback situation is beyond atrocious. Brian Van Gorder may have been a whiz at UGA, but his defenses on the pro level are anemic and weak. The few times Lawrence Sidbury Jr. and Kroy Biermann were in, they made a sack. For a team and organization that spent 7 out of 8 draft picks on defense, the results are awful.
Falcon fans had to once again absorb another embarrassing defeat in the Georgia Dome. The emotion would understandably be present and the injuries have decimated the Birds, but the fight was absent on Sunday, particularly in the second half. The Vick experience fell in favor of the former Falcon and his fans. The Birds move forward, virtually being eliminated from the playoff picture and will have a tough road to hoe in fielding a winning season. After holding on to a thread that the season could turn around, Falcon fans got a big splash of cold reality in a dominating loss. Hopefully good times are ahead.