After the hangover of the Falcons loss in Pittsburgh wore off somewhat, fans were ready to have it expunged from their memory with a turnaround performance against the visiting Arizona Cardinals. No one will mistake the 2010 Cardinals with the ones who were seconds from a Super Bowl title, but they still have some talent and a good coach. The Falcons came out and destroyed the Cardinals from the opening kick in pretty much all aspects of the game. Coach Mike Smith even had the offense take a knee in the red zone with several minutes remaining. Granted the Cardinals aren’t the class of the league, but the Falcons showed they have some of the juice that many raved about during the off-season. The long-awaited test comes in 6 days against you-know-who, but let’s enjoy the great win for a little while. Five film reviews from the beatdown on Sunday….
Even though Michael Turner got off to a good start and was running hard himself, the MVP of this game was one #44 – Mr. Jason Snelling. The superb running back from the final 3 games of last season had a career day gaining 180 total yards (129 rushing, 57 receiving) and 3 touchdowns (2 rushing, 1 receiving). There was often a discussion of who the Falcons would keep in their long-term plans between Jerious Norwood and Snelling. Some believed that Snelling was too similar to Turner’s running style and he might be the one to not get re-signed. On a day that Norwood was injured yet again and Turner also went to the sidelines, the answer seems pretty crystal clear. Not to start a running back controversy, but Snelling adds an element in the passing game that Turner just doesn’t have. Either way, its great to have #44.
Yes it was a lesser opponent and it was only one game, but first round draft pick Sean Weatherspoon looks to be the real deal as he adds another element of speed, athleticism, and toughness to the newly revamped defense. He notched his first sack and by far and away led the team in tackles at 8, with the next closest leading tackler being Curtis Lofton at 3 tackles. Once considered somewhat of a weakness, the linebacker corps with Lofton, Nicholas, Peterson, and now Weatherspoon is absolutely one of the strengths of the team. Some doubted that Spoon could be a legitimate pass-rushing threat when he came out of Missouri. Guess those doubters have been proven wrong, at least for now.
Maybe it was the fans reaction. Maybe it was the press clippings. Most likely it was neither, but Coach Mike Smith certainly looked a different coach yesterday throwing caution to the wind and going for touchdowns instead of field goals. After coming up short in Pittsburgh and being faintly criticized for being entirely too timid, the Falcons coach reminded everyone why he’s so well-liked and will be here for a long time when he went for the 6 points instead of the 3. The Falcons also have had a tendency to start fast and let their foot off the gas once the Falcons get comfortable. Fans thought they may be in store for another lapse when Tim Hightower burned the defense for an 80 yard touchdown. But to the Falcons and the coaches credit, the Birds took back control of the game and never let up until they were taking a knee in the Cards red zone with only a few minutes remaining. Kudos to Coach Smith on having his team extremely well-prepared and having a fantastic game.
The Falcons held Larry Fitzgerald to under 100 yards receiving with no touchdowns, picked off 3 interceptions and could have had more, notched 2 sacks, and pressured QB Derek Anderson often throughout the game. The young and fast secondary looked particularly impressive with Christopher Owens and William Moore both nabbing interceptions. Dunta Robinson also looked good in coverage with several passes defensed and solid run support. Jonathan Babineaux picked up where he left off in 2009 with another sack. John Abraham and Kroy Biermann didn’t nab sacks, but had good pressure. Sean Weatherspoon, Curtis Lofton, Stephen Nicholas, and Mike Peterson also had good games. With William Moore pairing with Thomas DeCoud in the secondary, it sure was very nice to get a great glimpse of this defenses potential and what may come of the very talented and very fast defense constructed by General Manager Thomas Dimitroff. The next test is the toughest of the season of course.
The Bird Cage has been one Mike Mularkey’s absolute toughest critics, even asking the question if the offense had flat-lined under him. The Cage and its author gladly eats some serious crow because Mularkey called a fantastic game. Fans had been begging him to eat the aggressive defenses up by calling screens. Check. Jason Snelling looked great in the passing game with several screens that caught Arizona’s defense totally off-guard. Deep passes were desperately wanted for the offense. Check. Although the connections weren’t made on deep routes to Harry Douglas, that’s something that Ryan can work on and improve as he goes along. Douglas and Finneran were both worked into the game along with Gonzalez. Mularkey kept the Arizona defense guessing and once again proved that when the running game is clicking, he’s absolutely one of the best in the business. Throw in the fact that the Steelers defense held the NFL’s best running back, Chris Johnson, under 40 yards rushing and you get an awesome sense of relief that Mularkey does still have the skill. The Bird Cage happily eats crow for being too hard on the OC.
-What’s your film reviews from the game?
-Agree with these five or have your own?
-Great showing or just a weak opponent?
-How awesome is Snelling?
-Could there be a running back controversy?
-Is Spoon the real deal or way too early?
-How would you grade Coach Smith and coaches performance?
-How high can this defense climb?
-Great defensive effort or weak opponent?
-How would you grade Mularkey’s performance