Many fans were talking before the game about how the Falcons almost always show up ready to play and rarely get blown out. Hah. Thanks to a collapse on all fronts, the Falcons were quickly in a hole 21-0 and they seemed completely unable to respond, which is totally out of character for a Mike Smith led team. The Falcons were 4-1 last year and went to Dallas and got destroyed (albeit the game was much closer than the Philly debacle). That set off a streak of the Falcons losing the next 6 out of 8 games, needing a 3 game winning streak to end the never-back-to-back finish. A loss is one thing, but a blowout has a tendency to shake some fans to the core. Which road will the Falcons take?
There’s simply no way to sugarcoat it anymore. The Falcons have severely underachieved since the preseason and the Cardinals and Saints game were obviously aberrations. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey is definitely to blame because he can’t adjust and has managed to take an amazingly talented offense and make it predictable, stale, and anemic. Hard to imagine the Falcons making a change if they get it corrected and make the playoffs, but that misses the larger point. Simply no more excuses. Even though the offensive line is well below average, to put it mildly, this offense is loaded with playmakers including Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, Matt Ryan, and Jason Snelling. This offense has gotten progressively worse since 2008 and the ship is leaving the harbor on Mularkey. The focus is now shifting to Mike Smith the head coach. How long will Smith tolerate mediocrity, underachieving, and regression from the offense? Better not be too long or all the goodwill he’s built up will quickly evaporate.
The coaching staff gets the major benefit of the doubt because they are the only coaching staff to lead this franchise to back-to-back winning seasons in its history, but they seemed stuck in concrete on Sunday. They got outcoached, outplanned, and outprepared by a staff that knows how to win on a consistent basis. Brian Van Gorder ran the same defense even after giving up two quick touchdowns. Mike Mularkey, well you know the deal. And Mike Smith seemed to never exhibit any urgency about getting back in the game after being whipped early and often. They have all the confidence from the fans right now, but if they see any more of those embarrassing displays than that will fade pretty quick.
Sorry, but you can’t call yourself a “power running team” or a “run first team” when you can destroy weak defenses and than get completely shut down by a good to great defense. You also can’t call yourself a “power running team” when you can’t get 1 or 2 yards or even inches on the goalline or the redzone when it counts most. The offensive line has always been known as overachievers, but that’s kind of a nice way to say the talent just isn’t there. Mularkey and Smith have plenty of time to turn this offense around, but they start taking advantage of the talent they have and admit what they are and can be. The Falcons offense has multiple playmakers at its disposal that can take advantage of Matt Ryan’s talents as a QB. Even though not the mad bomber (thanks SW), Ryan had no fear of slinging the ball around at Boston College. Mularkey’s offense has handcuffed him and made the QB entirely too tentative. He has a serious arsenal of weapons at his disposal in Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez, Justin Peele, Michael Palmer, Eric Weems, Brian Finneran, Michael Turner, and Jason Snelling. The Falcons need creativity, deep threats, and attack to their offense. It can happen, but that first requires Mularkey and Smith to be honest with what this team is….because it’s not a power running team.
Unlike the offense, the defense has been getting better since Mike Smith and Brian Van Gorder took over in 2008. They definitely have taken their lumps and had some awful displays. But overall they have improved, gotten more aggressive, and definitely are creating more turnovers. That’s what was so surprising on Sunday. Five minutes had barely ticked off and the Falcons were down 14-0. Van Gorder usually adjusts well, and he did seem to have them doing somewhat better before the “backbreaker” 83 yard touchdown pass just as the Falcons were clawing back in the game. No excuses on allowing Kevin Kolb to bake a cake, do his taxes, and wash the car while standing in the pocket. Fans at least know that Van Gorder will be yelling his tail off this week. Perhaps the defense was exposed or perhaps it was a one time deal. We’ll soon see with Ochocinco, T.O., Flacco, Rice, Boldin, Freeman, and Rodgers coming to town soon.
The Falcons are 4-2, tied for the NFC South lead, and even tied for the NFC lead after only playing 2 of their first 6 games at home in the Georgia Dome where they have only lost 3 games under Coach Mike Smith.
-What’s your thoughts on the Philly debacle?
-Time to panic or one game aberration?
-Which way will the Falcons go: 2009 or new path?
-How bad is this offense?
-Just mediocre or epitome of underachievement?
-Are the Falcons REALLY a power running team?
-What should Falcons do on offense? Give your gameplan
-Are you worried about this coaching staff?
-A bit too critical since Falcons play next 3 games at home?