An ugly win is much better than an beautiful loss and the players, coaches, and fans will definitely take it in the rough and tumble NFL. No win is easy and certainly isn’t guaranteed. For all the talk about not coming out in a lull after the big emotional win in New Orleans, the Falcons came out pretty flat against the 49ers, particularly the offense. The 49ers did come out strong and played like the wounded animal many thought they would. The special teams collapsed again and nearly cost them the game. The offense sputtered and stopped before they finally got the job done. The Falcons defense carried the day by keeping the Birds in the game and giving them multiple chances to win the game. But give credit where its due, the Falcons found a way to win and could have definitely folded up tent many times. Roddy White got the ball back after the game seemed lost. Matt Ryan and the offense drove down the field to give them a chance to win the game and Matt Bryant once again nailed a field goal to win the game. Five film reviews about the escape against the 49ers……
Don’t even include the fact that he just went over 5,000 yards receiving on Sunday, he’s gone to consecutive Pro Bowls, and is nearing the 30 TD mark, Roddy White just proved against the Niners that he is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Stats alone don’t define what great players are. Not only is Roddy White on track for a possible 1,500 yards receiving, but he proved he’s worth the dough that Thomas Dimitroff decided to pay him. After seeing a terrible interception thrown by Ryan, Roddy didn’t give up on the play and raced 60 yards down the field to strip Nate Clements of the ball and give the Birds another chance. Also credit Harvey Dahl for pursuing the play as well and having awareness enough to cover the ball. A question was posed earlier in the summer if Roddy White is a top 5 receiver in the NFL? In a word: YES!
Following the same theme of Roddy White being a top 5 receiver, The Bird Cage asked if Curtis Lofton could become a play-making linebacker in the mold of Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis. He may still have some coverage issues to work on, but he’s already shown that he’s on track to make that leap. Lofton is already on his way this year with making huge plays to go along with his stellar tackling. After failing to notch a sack last year and never grabbing an interception in his career, Lofton is the unquestioned leader of a defense on a serious rebirth. Lofton still has some work to do in coverage, but he appears to be making the transition to making other plays on the field besides large amount of tackles. The continued path could finally lead Lofton to his first well-deserved Pro Bowl appearance.
Not including the Arizona game, the Falcons special teams has completely botched almost every aspect of their play in the first quarter of the season. Outside of the one missed field goal in Pittsburgh, Matt Bryant has become ice cold in his kicking and won the game for the Birds in consecutive weeks. That’s where the magic stops. There was the awfulness in overtime in Pittsburgh with Ovie Mughelli’s clipping penalty, basically killing the drive potential and then there was an untimely shank by Michael Koenen. The Steelers go the ball on the 50 yard line and promptly scored. After a quick three and out in a raucous New Orleans, the punt coverage team let Lance Moore run to the 2 yard line allowing the Saints to jump on the Falcons quickly. Luckily, the Birds battled back and won a hard fought game. This one almost cost the Falcons. After going down 7-0 and obviously coming out flat, a huge blocked punt and a resulting touchdown dug the Falcons a deep hole. Special teams coach Keith Armstrong has always led the Falcons to be one of the best units in the NFL. Not sure what’s going on, but they must get it fixed and fast before another blunder actually does cost the Falcons a game.
Even though the Falcons defense played pretty well overall, a disturbing trend is developing with regards to screens and draws on third and longs. The Falcons gave up screen after screen and draw after draw to Frank Gore and the Niners wide receivers. Surely, Sean Weatherspoon’s coverage skills were missed, but Stephen Nicholas played pretty well in his absence. On a side note going forward, the Falcons are in great hands with Lofton, Spoon, and Nicholas. Much of the time it wasn’t the players per se, but the Niners were allowed plenty of space to make plays. It is true that an overly aggressive defense is susceptible to screens and draws, but it was seemingly so predictable to the average fan and yet Brian Van Gorder and the defense continued to give up 1st downs at the hand of screens and draws. The defense almost lost the game in overtime to the same predictable plays. Screens and draws almost lost to New Orleans and were even susceptible to a weaker 49ers offense. Overall, the defense has improved a great deal, just sniff out those screens and draws better.
Not it wasn’t the steamroll fans wanted. No it wasn’t a statement that the NFC will have to come through The Georgia Dome in Atlanta, but the Falcons found a way to win, plain and simple. After falling short to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Falcon have found ways to win games they could have easily lost in consecutive weeks. Many in the media want to call it luck, but luck only carries a team so far. Yes, it is true that the Saints got a lot of bounces last year, but they took advantage of what was given to them and the ending had them hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The NFL is so tough that any win is a good win. Matt Ryan and the offense wasn’t on track. The special teams had a bad collapse. The Birds obviously suffered from a huge hangover and emotional letdown with the big win over the Saints in New Orleans. On a bad day and taking the best shot a talented team had with a fighting spirit, the Birds found a way to win the game. If fans are still having the same conversation against the Rams, Seahawks, and Browns (even though they are better than advertised) than that’s a different story. But for now, the Falcons are a tough team that can take a punch and give one back.
The offense was anemic and for whatever reason couldn’t muster much of anything in the passing attack. After having a couple good weeks in a row, Mularkey called a weak game and couldn’t take advantage of the Niners insanely aggressive defense. What happened to the screens and draws? The Niners certainly used them to great effect. Turner had a decent day, but he simply is not the Turner of 2008. Matt Ryan looked out of rhythm all day and much of that could’ve been due to constant pressure. Harry Douglas is back, but is prototypical slot and maybe not a true #2. Snelling just seems to be running harder than Turner, but isn’t getting the carries. What happened to Cardinals and Saints gameplan? Who knows, but after the first drive failed to torch it down the field and same old drive after drive failed to produce, the Falcons were lucky to get the win. Mularkey can’t keep putting Ryan and the offense in third and long.
-Overall thoughts on the escape
-Is Roddy White in fact a top 5, elite receiver?
-Has Curtis Lofton made the turn to play-making linebacker?
-What in the H is wrong with the special teams?
-How bad is special teams?
-Worried about the screens and draws or nitpicking?
-What happened to the offense?
-Do the Falcons have moxie or just lucky?
-What happened to Matt Ryan and the passing attack?
-Has Turner lost a step?