The Falcons played inspired football against the NFL’s best team and nearly pulled off the improbable upset, but fell short with a couple of miscues towards the end of the game combined with some bad play calls. The playoffs are done, but the Birds showed that they still have a lot of fight left in them and likely will take pride in the final three games. The Falcons went toe-to-toe with the Saints and fought back several times but came up just short. Chris Redman rebounded with a good game and only made one critical mistake throughout the contest against a very good Saints defense. Jason Snelling had a tough running game and Michael Jenkins scored his first touchdown of the year after dropping a potential game-changing TD earlier in the game. The defense had its ups and downs, but held the NFL’s best offense under 30 points and kept the Falcons in the game and gave them a chance to win at the end. There are some good things to take away from the loss, but none other than this team has tons of fight left in them and that bodes well for a season where the breaks fall their way.
After an absolutely atrocious game against he Eagles last week, Chris Redman came out and looked sharp from the opening drive. The play-calling certainly assisted Redman’s improvement in letting him hit some shorter passes and get into rhythm early in the game. Redman threw for over 300 yards and played mistake free football, except for a costly interception at the end of the game. That one wasn’t completely on him either since he was given the task of starting 2nd and 22 after an unbelievably poor play call with the game in the balance. Redman had some big throws down the field and came away with some critical first down conversions throughout the game. After making Falcons fans wonder about their future at the backup QB position, Redman showed he has the talent and skill to compete on this level. Whether or not he’ll get a chance to start somewhere or if he’ll be a Falcon next year are other questions altogether since his contract is up this year.
Jason Snelling had another big day in the Falcons backfield going over 100 total yards (37 rush, 65 receiving) and one touchdown. Jerious Norwood chipped in another 30+ yards, but the torch of the number two running back seems to have been passed to Snelling behind Michael Turner. Norwood’s speed was thought to be the perfect complement to Michael Turner’s hard running style, but Norwood’s injury issues may have had an effect on his ability to get into a rhythm. Norwood certainly has the burst he’s always had, but Snelling is getting more touches and appears to be more in the Falcons future than Norwood, especially since #32’s contract is up after this year. Will the Birds elect to try and resign Norwood, or will they look to draft a running back in the draft since Snelling has shown he’s capable of handling the #2 duties.
Coach Mularkey and Coach Van Gorder had a better called game except for a few bad choices at really poor times. Coach Mularkey seemed to have one of the better games of the year against one of the NFL’s best and most aggressive defenses. He allowed Redman to get into rhythm and brought out some of the trickery that made him famous. He set up a couple of big plays to Michael Jenkins, one that was caught for a TD and another one that should’ve been. He did a very good job of compensating for not having his starting quarterback, starting running back, and starting left guard. He had a nice mix of calls and kept the aggressive Saints fairly off balance. Unfortunately, two of the last calls of the game were the worst. Potentially, the play of the game came with the Falcons getting the ball back after holding the Saints to a field goal with a little under 5 minutes remaining in the game. Mularkey broke out the wildcat formation with Norwood at QB and made the ill-fated decision to call a reverse to Eric Weems, who was promptly dropped for a 12 yard loss. Predictably, the next play was Redman trying to overcompensate and threw an interception. The defense somehow gave the Falcons another chance to win it with less than 2 minutes, but by all accounts that was a game-changing call. The Falcons appeared to be driving down the field for either a game-winning TD or tying field goal but completely stalled out on the last series. Redman got it to a 4th and 2 and the last play was the ballgame. It may have been Redman’s decision to checkdown, Snelling’s failure to move deeper, or Mularkey’s overall call, but the short dump off was way too short and officially ended the Falcons upset hopes.
After allowing an avalanche of points against the Eagles at home the week before, the Falcons stepped up and played much better overall defensive football against the leagues top-scoring offense. The Saints still drove up and down the field, but their usual big plays were kept to a minimum and had to earn every yard. Drew Brees threw for almost 300 yards and 3 TDs, but that’s just “average” for him. They kept the Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush combination under 100 yards in their rushing attack, but were obliterated in the passing game to the running backs. Although they held the Saints big plays to a minimum, the Saints still found there way in the passing game with rather ease. How many times can Marques Colston be wide open on an intermediate dig route? Brent Grimes filled in pretty nicely for injured Chris Houston (and got hosed on a couple of pass interference calls), Chris Owens looks to be the real deal for the future, and Chevis Jackson had another good game in the nickel. The Falcons didn’t get much pressure on Brees, and that has been a serious issue all year, but the Saints QB is one of the best in the biz in feeling and avoiding pressure. Although a source of strength in the running game, the linebackers are quickly becoming a liability in the passing game. The failure to get off the field on third downs has been a major problem all year, and is simply inexcusable in allowing teams to get multiple third and longs. The all-out blitz with 3rd and 19 was played like a fiddle and allowed the Saints to moonwalk in the endzone. Van Gorder shows promise and surely deserves some room, but the third down failures have to stop.
You never want to play the poor officiating game, but the call on Brent Grimes where he made an interception was a really horrible call. Granted, the Saints had more calls (6) against them than the Falcons did (4), but there were several pass interference calls that were made on Grimes, but the interception was a really bad one. The replay showed that both players were jostling for position and Grimes certainly didn’t interfere. It was a 3rd and 10 anyway, but the taking away the interception was killer. The next series allowed the Saints to score a touchdown to move the score to 23 to 9 and all but out of reach, even though they did fight back like mad. The other pass interferences could be understandable, but that one was weak. Coach Smith also was mad enough to slam his headset to the ground when there was a “no-call” made on the screen pass for a TD.
Even though the Falcons aren’t statistically eliminated from the postseason, they need a complete meltdown by the Cowboys and Giants, and its unlikely that either team will lose the rest of their games. How much is that Carolina loss a playoff-killer right about now? But the fact is that this very young team has seen its fair share of bad breaks and then some. One of the hardest schedules in the NFL combined with a multitude of injuries. The Falcons have three very winnable games left on the docket taking on the Jets in New York, the Bills at home, and finishing the year at the 1-12 Bucs in Tampa Bay. The Birds should take nothing for granted, but these next three games can be a great learning and building experience for next year. Given all the tough spots this year, the Falcons were in every single game in the fourth quarter except for one. They had a chance in New England, could’ve won in Dallas, took the Giants to overtime, and took the NFL’s best teams to the wire both times. That’s certainly a lot of excuse-making, but the as silly as it sounds, the next three games are pretty critical for this young team to show they will be around for years to come and to break some certain ridiculous “curse” that’s hovered over the franchise for “a little while.”
Offense – Chris Redman – After a really bad performance against the Eagles, Redman threw for over 300 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
Entire Falcons Team – Even though it was a loss, the team fought hard and never gave up after a really embarrasing defeat that could have spiraled the locker room and the season
Hard to argue against an 82 yard, 1 TD day receiving, but is Michael Jenkins a legit number 2 wide receiver to complement Roddy White? Jenkins has shown an ability to redeem himself in games he makes mistakes, but dropping big catches in games is hard to watch. With Harry Douglas returning from injury and Brian Finneran having injury issues again, should the Falcons target a receiver in the draft?
-Disappointed with yet another loss or pleased with effort?
-Any prayer for Falcons in the postseason?
-Is Chris Owens the real deal at CB in the future?
-What would you do to the cornerback situation in the off-season?
-Should Mularkey or Van Gorder either be on the hot seat?
-Will the Falcons resign Jerious Norwood with Snelling’s emergence?
-Were their some bad calls against the Birds, or pretty fair called game?
-Can/Will the Falcons sweep the last three games?
-Is Michael Jenkins a legit number 2?