The Falcons return to the Georgia Dome on Sunday against the NFL’s best team and one of the more embarrassing scenes in franchise history. Injuries are well-noted and are a legit reason for the Birds travails this year, but the amount to which the Falcons were beaten and battered with the playoff hopes hanging in the balance was pretty upsetting to fans. Emotions were abound throughout the game and the Falcons defense did keep it close for a half, but the second half was atrocious on many levels and some even questioned if the team quit against the Eagles. Even if the Falcons aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they need an enormous miracle and a monumental collapse by all three teams in front of them, which won’t happen. Playoffs should be the last thing on the Falcons and their coaches mind, pride should be first. The Birds are likely done for the year in terms of the postseason, but they’re playing at in the Georgia Dome in front of the home crowd and a good showing would do the fan-base wonders. Coach Smith commented on the Eagles game that “it was the only game where the Falcons didn’t have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.” If they show up against the NFL’s best team than the Eagles game was an anomaly, but if another beatdown ensues, then the Birds will drop under the .500 mark and worry will consume many fans.
1) How will the Falcons Come Out?
The Falcons have always been a fast-starting team under Coach Mike Smith and when they come out of the gate ready to play, they usually come away with victory or at least have an excellent chance to win. The Birds came out flat and lifeless against the Eagles with the playoffs on the line. The offense had many quick three and outs, the defense allowed the defense to march down the field, and special teams gave up a quick fumble that promptly changed the momentum of the game. It’s an old cliché to erase such a bad performance from the memory, but can one that was so embarrassing be wiped away with ease? Many have brought up comparisons to the Jim Mora Jr. era when the team had a complete meltdown in the last of the season, but the team and their coaches insist there’s no sign of that happening. Fans will get a really good idea around 1 pm on Sunday.
A list of who was out against the Eagles on Sunday: starting quarterback, starting running back, starting left tackle, starting right guard, and number two receiver. That’s in addition to the Falcons already being without their starting defensive tackle and starting cornerback including their 2nd round draft pick and slot receiver. Many think that this amount of injuries is a legit reason on the Falcons troubles, but others say that many injuries are simply part of the game and that’s just excuses. Many teams can absorb big losses, but the depth is usually there to offset them and the Falcons just aren’t there yet. In all likelihood, the Birds probably wouldn’t have a much different record to date anyway, but the injuries didn’t help. Could the Falcons have a had a major chance against the NFL’s best team at full strength? Probably not, but it sure would make fans more confident. Can Redman, Snelling, Grimes, Svitek, Romberg, and Booker step up better than they did on Sunday? Let’s hope so.
This has been the argument that has produced the most passion among the Bird Cage in recent weeks. Is the Falcons defensive problems due to coaching and schemes or a serious lack of personnel? Coach Van Gorder was hailed as an aggressive and intense coordinator that thrived on having tough, gritty defenses at the University of Georgia that annually ranked in the top 5 of college football. Van Gorder was known for his constant pressure and having his defense prepared to play. Last year’s defense was supposed to be a one-time deal with Van Gorder not having his “guys” to implement his aggressive schemes. The Falcons defensive calls have remained pretty basic throughout the year with pressure coming from the predictable places and quarterbacks having all day to throw the ball and get into rhythm. The Falcons are ranked among the leagues worst in almost every defensive category and the excuse of not having the right personnel is hard to swallow with teams like the Broncos and Saints being among the best in the NFL simply with the addition of a new coordinator. Much of fans ire has come from a seeming refusal to attempt new things, even though getting the same result week in and week out.
That being said, a counter argument does have some validity with the holes abound on the defensive roster. The defensive line is one of the lightest in the leagues and that’s not including the injury to first round draft pick Peria Jerry. Trey Lewis was hoped to return to his rookie form, which has failed. Jamaal Anderson has played better at defensive tackle, but gives up tons of weight on the inside. Abraham is a shell of his former self from last year. Kroy Biermann has had moments, but needs more time. Same with Sidbury Jr. Curtis Lofton is having a pro-bowl year, Nicholas is having an OK year, but not fantastic. Peterson has had some good games in the run game, but has gotten burnt in the passing attack as well. Thomas DeCoud and Erik Coleman have shown promise, but have had some serious issues as well. The cornerback situation is obvious. Chris Houston is not progressing, the Tye Hill experiment lasted one game, Brian Williams was hurt for the year, Brent Grimes can’t match up physically, and Chris Owens is finally starting. Coaching may bare some blame, but the Falcons defense has not improved after spending 7 out of 8 draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. Dimitroff certainly needs more time, but the cornerback situation lies at his feet. What do you think?
The Falcons have been hit hard by injuries as has been aforementioned. The Falcons have lost Harry Douglas, Peria Jerry, William Moore, and Brian Willams for the year. The have also lost Sam Baker, Harvey Dahl, Michael Jenkins, Brian Finneran, Jerious Norwood, Michael Turner, and Matt Ryan for games throughout the season. Many believe that injuries are a part of the game, but this amount is simply unable to overcome. Others however argue that injuries are simply part of the game and the best teams find ways to overcome them. The Patriots lost Tom Brady in the first week last year and still went 11-5. The Saints were without their starting corners and annihilated the Patriots. The Eagles were without Donovan McNabb and won with Kevin Kolb. The Eagles were also without Brian Westbrook and Desean Jackson, and that turned out pretty well for them last Sunday. The Dolphins lost their starting QB and still have been able to win games. If nothing else, its safe to say the Falcons have a serious lack of depth up and down the roster.
Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Mike Bell, Jeremy Shockey, Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore. Is there any hope of a defense keeping these offensive stars down? This is the same defense that made fullback Leonard Weaver look like Eric Dickerson last week. The Saints offense ranks as the best in the NFL. The Falcons defense ranks among the leagues worst (28th out of 32). Pass the Tylenol and Pepto-Bismol.
The game against the Eagles was understandably emotional and had several reasons for fans not being up to par. Injuries have taken their toll and the Falcons serious second half slide hasn’t helped much either. The Dome has been supportive throughout the year, but the last three home games (Redskins, Bucs, Eagles) have been less than forgettable. Add to that the fact that the Birds haven’t defeated a team with a winning record and this year has not been the most exciting. Regardless, the fans need to turn out and will the Falcons through.
It’s been a tough road this year for the Falcons and their fans and expectations were likely too high for such a young team, but the season still has four games to go. Even though the Falcons playoffs hopes are finished, the fans can find out a lot about the make-up of this team. Is this team only a few players and hires away from a big playoff run next year? Or is this team in need of some serious changes up and down the roster? Fans will find out over the next 4 games, starting against the best team in football on Sunday.
Your assessment of the season: OK with progress considering injuries and schedule or severely disappointed in what has transpired this year?
-Any change against the #1 team in football?
-Shock the world, or Eagles part deux?
-Should Ryan and Turner go if not 100% healthy or sit them?
-Who’s the most to blame on defense: coaching/scheme or personnel?
-Will Van Gorder be on hot seat after this year? Should he be?
-Injuries a legit reason or paltry excuse?
-Who will torch Falcons D this week?