Wobbly Falcons Host Dream Team Eagles

Pensive Days for Atlanta Falcons Fans

Can Turner Slow Game Down? (AP)

Pardon the potential for this post to be seen as less than rosy, but the stars are all lining up for fans to feel very nervous about the upcoming game on Sunday night. Coming off an embarrassing performance up in Chicago, the Falcons play host to the Philadelphia Eagles who had a convincing win in St. Louis, not to mention the firepower they’ve added on both sides of the ball. Nothing would please Falcons fans more and restore some shaky confidence than a huge win over Michael Vick and the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, but the prospects aren’t looking particularly bright at the moment. Some searing questions as fans get ready for a huge game….

1) Can Falcons Get Their Mojo Back?

Funny to think about the Falcons being in a funk after going 13-3 and winning the #1 NFC seed, but that’s exactly what the Birds appear to be in at the moment. If you include preseason, the Falcons are 1-7 since the New Orleans game a few days after Christmas. They lost a tough game to the Saints, beat the 1-14 Panthers, were destroyed by the Packers in the “Debacle in the Dome,” lost all 4 preseason games, and were smashed to pieces by the Bears in Chicago. Sure, preseason doesn’t count, but the “judging talent vs. winning” only goes so far when you show up and get completely manhandled in the season opener.

The Birds obviously did some wonderful things in 2010, and probably were peaking when they defeated the Ravens and Packers in a matter of 3 weeks. A loss to drop to 0-2 wouldn’t be devastating, but it would add yet another notch to the belt of having an inability to beat elite teams, which may be another omen for a potential postseason.

2) Are Coaches Recent Comments Meant to Inspire?

Easy Score (AP)

Sometimes coaches’ postgame comments can be overanalyzed or misinterpreted, especially after a loss. Fans look for any morsel to help explain away big losses like the ones the Falcons were witness to in Chicago. Most times, postgame comments are meant to soothe worried fans confidence. Coach Mike Smith, Mike Mularkey, and Brain Van Gorder’s comments may be doing the opposite.

Smith was quoted as saying that “we’re only going to take what the defense gives us” (paraphrasing). Mularkey said “we’re not going to force the deep ball if it’s not there.” And Van Gorder said that they were “behind in tackling” because “we just haven’t had that many opportunities to tackle.” So let’s see if we can get this straight, you talk all offseason about being “explosive,” which by association means being aggressive, and this is what you give after being steamrolled 30-12 in the season opener?

3) Should Rodgers Replace Snelling on Depth Chart?

May seem like a silly question on the surface, particularly since Rodgers had a negligible impact in his debut, but the idea of having a complementary backfield really comes into play. Michael Turner and Jason Snelling were just too much alike in Chicago to be an effective tandem. Turner is the undisputed starter and the fact is that hardly any teams have been able to make a three man rotation.

Given the penchant for Matt Ryan’s checkdowns and the coaching staffs extremely conservative offensive philosophy, wouldn’t it make more sense to get the attempted screens and dump-offs to the back best suited for them? Perhaps this is only a reaction to the very limited amount of offensive snaps the Falcons got against the Bears, but can a 3 back rotation really work?

4) How Much Will Injuries Hurt?

Lone Bright Spot from Bier (AP)

What a bad time for the Falcons to get the injury bug. Jonathan Babineaux, one of the most underrated players on the entire team, is out for 3 – 5 weeks. Ovie Mughelli looks doubtful for the game as well after going out very early on Chicago. As the leader of the offensive line, Todd McClure was severely missed in the Chicago beatdown. News also came out that Harry Douglas may have suffered a concussion. The Falcons were going to have their hands full with a completely healthy lineup and now it will be an even tougher fight.

Can Snelling step in for Ovie? Can Vance Walker, Peria Jerry, and Carlton Powell fill the huge gap left by Babs? Can Kerry Meier and Eric Weems make an impact in the slot? Was it just rookie game jitters for Joe Hawley at center? Let’s hope the answer is yes to all the questions above or it may be a long night.

5) Can Falcons Slow Down Vick and the Eagles?

The Eagles were already one of the best offensive teams in football and then they went out added even more firepower to their arsenal. Michael Vick, Lesean McCoy, Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Steve Smith, Ronnie Brown, and the list goes on and on. Very few teams have outright stopped the Eagles and their offense, so maybe the best the Falcons can hope for is to limit them as much as possible.

The Birds had a hard time with Chicago’s “high-power offense” and if they replicate that effort, a new NFL offensive record for points scored may be set. Van Gorder and the defense better dig very, very deep or it could get really ugly.

6) Why Can’t 2010 Ravens Gameplan Be Permanent Offense?

Why No Ravens Gameplan? (AP)

With the advent of another complete blowout, at the hands of the Chicago Bears this time, an interesting question keeps coming up over and over: why can’t last year’s offensive gameplan against the Baltimore Ravens be the permanent offense? In that game, Matt Ryan looked at his absolute best, completing 32 of 50 passes, for 319 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 101.6 QB Rating.

Fans realize that opponents will gameplan and strategize ways to take away a teams strength, but the best teams always dictate their offense to the defense and not wait for the defense to be nice. There weren’t 70 yard bombs, but Ryan looked the most comfortable he’s ever looked all the while picking a part a pretty good defense in the Ravens. Why not throw the conservative playbook out the window and let Ryan do what Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Phillip Rivers are allowed to do on a weekly basis?

7) Should Weems Be Pushed as KR/PR?

Eric Weems had a fantastic season last year as the Falcons kickoff and punt returner. He took two kickoffs all the way to the house for a touchdown (one a potentially game saving return in Tampa Bay) and did extremely well in punts as well. Not only was he a very good returner, he never dropped or bobbled punts and was a sure handed fair catcher.

So what happened? Stunningly, he simply watched punt after punt hit down near the Falcons own red zone and roll inside the 10 and 5 yard line. Many times the offense took the field, they had 95+ yards in front of them against one of the NFL’s best defenses. He surely will get it corrected, but if he doesn’t than Dominique Franks showed in preseason that he can return as well.

8.) Can Meier or Weems Step In and Up?

What Happened to Weems? (AP)

Recent news that Harry Douglas came back to practice is welcome news to coaches and fans alike. However, reports initially came out that HD received a concussion in the Bears game and, with the new NFL rules, you would think that perhaps he may not be ready to go. If that’s the case will Kerry Meier and/or Eric Weems be ready to step up in one of the biggest games of the Falcons season against the best cornerback corps in the NFL?

Meier looked surprisingly good after only being a year removed from ACL surgery, but possibly facing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot is a little different than matching up against a 2nd or 3rd stringer in preseason. Meier would be more of a possession receiver anyway. Eric Weems has a similar style to Douglas, but he’s been up and down in the pass game as well, but has shown some promise when he’s gotten balls thrown his way.

9) Will We See Hayden and/or Sanders?

Fans are sick to death of hearing about how new defensive additions to the team “aren’t ready because they haven’t learned the defensive system.” What’s so difficult about Van Gorder’s defensive system? Drop your All-Pro defensive end 15 yards down the field to cover receivers on 3rd down: check. Give 10 yard soft cheese zones that receivers can run circles around: check. Never send creative blitz schemes and stunts: check. When you do blitz, run the most telling and obvious blitz in the world (telegraphed nickel blitz) that never works: check. Allow offenses to convert their 3rd downs, regardless of how far they have to go: check. Seems pretty easy to most of us.

In all seriousness, hard to believe we won’t see James Sanders and Kelvin Hayden in this game with all the Eagles speed and offensive talent in the pass game. Sanders experience would be much appreciated and Hayden’s potential as a desperately needed, legit nickel back would surely be welcome. Just get them in the game and stop with the “difficult defensive system” stuff.

10) Where’s Your Comfort Level Right Now?

Will Smitty Have Them Ready? (AP)

Where do you stand with your current Atlanta Falcons right now? Do you chalk up the Bears smashing as just a really bad game (usually averaging only one per year under Coach Smith) and your confidence is unwavering in this coaching staffs ability to fix their mistakes and right the ship? Or do you feel a deep sense of worry about the future of the Falcons under this coaching staff?

As several authors have noted, including the AJC’s own Mark Bradley and ESPN South writer Pat Yasinkas, the Falcons are in a serious funk right now with a winless preseason being sandwiched in between the “Debacle in the Dome” in the playoffs and the absolute smashing by Chicago last Sunday. If you look at the whole picture, than it’s simply a small blip on the radar. But if you look at the last 8 games the Falcons have played, they have been downright bad.

Your Turn

Time to give your best go at analyzing, deducing, and prognosticating what will happen on Sunday Night Football.

838 comments Add your comment

Wabe

September 15th, 2011
10:12 pm

I think Hayden starts this weekend. Heard Owens is also one of the any guys who are banged up at the moment. I think that paired with the less than stellar play we’ve seen out of that NCB position gets Hayden out there this weekend.

Wabe

September 15th, 2011
10:14 pm

I really liked what I saw out of Franks in the preseason returning kicks, and I was hoping that they’d give him a shot when the Bears game was pretty much already decided. But they didn’t. Weems is the safe bet, Franks could be the guy that is a bit higher-risk, but high reward potential.

[...] Wobbly Falcons Host Dream Team EaglesAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Why not throw the conservative playbook out the window and let Ryan do what Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Phillip Rivers are allowed to do on a weekly basis? Eric Weems had a fantastic season last year as the Falcons kickoff … [...]

falcon21

September 15th, 2011
10:22 pm

We need someone on this team that says I’m gonna punch you in the mouth. We don’t have that, the Glanville way, Gritz Blitz, come on BVG do your job. WR is right , we need some attitude on this team, O and D. It can’t always be pretty, you have to be a little ugly sometimes to earn respect, talk to Harvey Dahl, he will tell you.

Wabe

September 15th, 2011
10:27 pm

Wabe

September 15th, 2011
10:31 pm

Quick question to ponder…

With the loss of Babs and the Falcons being thin at the DT position at the moment with Peters still slowly nursing himself back to playing shape, do the Falcons show more 3-man fronts?

I believe the do, I just hope they’re not foolish enough to pressure with 3 guys. If they do show 3-man fronts, I hope they mix it up with various pressure packages.

One thing that absolutely needs to be emphasized this week more than any other week is getting Vick to the ground. Again, I think we’ll get to Vick, but getting him wrapped up and down to the ground, that’s something else.

Sunday can’t get here quick enough…

waynester

September 15th, 2011
10:33 pm

Wabe
kinda quiet tonight…..
In DLed’s injury report Douglas said he was ok, but we have to take that with a grain (alcohol?)….
D3
Question #6 has got me flummoxed. I’d like to see ONE GAME where Ryan is allowed to make most if not all the calls just to see how we’d look. We know how we look when MM is making the calls–pretty conservative, take what the Defense is allowing rather than dictating. I like the way our “D” stacks up vs. PHI…. as for my “comfort level” I’m almost always in Larry Munson mode–the opponents are giants, we barely have a prayer and are looking for ‘ol Lady Luck to make an appearance….Dang, I miss Larry!

falcon21

September 15th, 2011
10:48 pm

Wabe, I think we will throw everything we have at Vick including the kitchen sink. I hope the LB’s will big in this game in applyling pressure. Dang it’s late gotta go!

falcon21

September 15th, 2011
10:50 pm

[...] Wobbly Falcons Host Dream Team EaglesAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)The Birds had a hard time with Chicago's “high-power offense” and if they replicate that effort, a new NFL offensive record for points scored may be set. Van Gorder and the defense better dig very, very deep or it could get really ugly. …NFL Preview Capsule: Eagles at FalconsWashington PostNFL Picks Week 2: Can Falcons, Cowboys Avoided Dreaded 0-2 Hole?SB Nation PhillyESPN NFL Power Rankings Week 2: 3 Reasons the Philadelphia Eagles Are OverratedBleacher ReportNBCSports.com -Garry Cobb -ESPNall 859 news articles » [...]

Nookah

September 15th, 2011
11:04 pm

Greetings Cagers!!

Nice job as usual D3. You have posed some food for thought.

My greatest conundrum is how can we contain all that speed that the Eagles possess? This is one game where sound tackling is going to be of paramount importance. I know it is always of paramount importance but moreso on Sunday night. The truth is we have no room for error, no room for missing not even one tackle. I must admit Cagers, I am very nervous about this game. I am not sure we can just flick the switch and come out playing lights out.

However, if I am Smitty, I am going for broke. What do I have to lose? If I play too passive I’ll be 0-2 anyway, so what the heck?

I’ll be honest, I’m a Falcon fan and I’m going into this game as a fan and supporting my team regardless of the facts that stare me in the face. I’m optimistic and say we will indeed flick the switch. Is that rational reasoning? Absolutely not but I’m hoping the Ravens version of Matty will be playing on Sunday night and not the Soldier Field or Green Bay version.

I’m making no “football sense” only the heart of a true fan and I am expecting a win, plain and simple.

By the way I heard Herm Edwards say on ESPN tonight, that the problem we have is that there is no one on our squad that can mirror the speed that Vick has and so we cannot practise at the game speed that we will experience. Any truth in that?

Go Falcons!!!

Nookah

September 15th, 2011
11:13 pm

Mike

September 15th, 2011
11:13 pm

Do I think the Falcons will get this turned around? Yes. The Mike Smith coached Falcons have never stayed down too long.
Do I think the Falcons will win Sunday? I hate to say it but, no. The Eagles have always had our number and though I think we will play much better, we will be forced the start the season 0-2.
Am I worried about this team? The fact that we can sit here ans talk about how we can be worried about a Falcons team that has had winning seasons 3 years in a row and went 13-3 last season tells us that we are in a pretty good spot as fans. But what it also tells us is that we dont want to settle for just getting by anymore. As weird as it is to say about a team that went 13-3 last year, but that is what this team has been for the past three years. We bend but dont break. We score just enough. We had so many close games last year. How often have you been able to say over the past 3 years that the Falcons dominated the opposing team. Like as in the Patriots, or Green Bay, or New Orleans type dominate? Once…twice? But you know what…that was fine in the past because we were new and growing and young and learning. Well we are getting to the point now where those excuses for the lack of dominance wont cut it anymore. We have had several years of working on the D. We have talent galore on our O. My fear is that we don’t have the correct coordinators and schemes to take us to that next level. We need that fearless, aggressive, explosive, and creative approaches that I just don’t think MM & BVG have in them.

So in the long term I am a bot worried that we are where we are going to be unless we take it to the next level. In my mind I am giving MM & BVG the first half of this year to show us the Falcons that we have all dreamt about. If they cant do it, then I say its time to find some coordinators that can.

Nookah

September 15th, 2011
11:18 pm

Cagers,

More dismal news for those of us who put a lot of credence in the opinions of the the “talking/writing heads”.

http://www.bangthebook.com/news/2011/09/13/philadelphia-eagles-vs-atlanta-falcons-pick-and-preview/

Matt will win this game…………….Bryant that is.

Go Falcons!!!

Nookah

September 15th, 2011
11:20 pm

Blog monster alert!

Nookah

September 15th, 2011
11:21 pm

D3, I just had my post eaten by the blog monster!! I guess this is as good a time as any to retire.

Nuff respect!! In the a.m.

Nookah

September 15th, 2011
11:50 pm

Enter your comments here

Nookah

September 15th, 2011
11:51 pm

E43

September 16th, 2011
12:16 am

1) MOJO BACK- Yes. All we have to do is hang with them long enough for Vick to make a mistake. If were down 14 early then you can forget about it.

2) COACHES COMMENTS- Don’t care for them. Unless of course you expect a coach to say “Eagles? oh no its the dream team. Lets hang the white flag before the coin toss so nobody gets hurt… They’re great were not.there’s no use even trying.”

3)RODGERS VS SNELLING- Quizz has to earn more carries with the starting Oline. Yes he only had two carries but that’s not my fault.

4)INJURIES-Every team has injuries whether they’re visible or not. Its up to the coaching staff to adjust and utilize the bench properly.

5)SLOWING VICK- Doubt it. But we must win the Turnover game. No dropped INT’s and Vick is bound to fumble the ball. Good idea to be around the ball.

6)2010 RAVENS- Difference between 2010 Ravens and 2011 Bears game is that Matt Ryan didn’t throw interceptions and he wasn’t sacked 5 times. Matt Ryan actually moved the ball down the field well against the Bears.He used the no huddle and did most things as planned. There were a record number of checkdowns but it was the turnovers that make 2011 Bears game differ from 2010 Ravens. Ryan did just about the same stuff against the Ravens but with 0 turnovers and only 2 sacks. Instead of field goals we had TD’s vs the Ravens which was also a home game. Joe Flacco also didn’t throw for 250+. Ryan did engineer a last minute drive but the difference is he had that opportunity and he also didnt have to be perfect.Matt Ryan has to be perfect against contendors and if not the team has to at least give him a chance. They cant puddle into yogurt before halftime.

7)WEEMS PUSHED AT KR/PR-If it aint broke…. Chances are the coaching staff is telling him to stay as far away from the ball if he questions his ability to handle it. I don’t think that would change if Franks was plugged in. But I know the day Franks mishandles the ball inside the 5 will be the last time we see him back there.

8)WEEMS/MEIER STEPPING UP- I see Meier being depended on more than Weems because chances are Weems will be plugged in to emulate HD. Harry Douglass would have struggled to get 50 yards. Even if Weems and Meier play well its likely the attention would go to Julio Jones and the Pro Bowlers.

9)HAYDEN/SANDERS SIGHTING- If they’re not quite ready then I would lean on Hayden to play. Sanders responsibilities are a disaster waiting to happen. If Hayden messes up he at least wont be the last man standing.

10)COMFORT LEVEL- Football is not sexy. If its sexy then its not football.

Eric C.

September 16th, 2011
12:29 am

Yep, every once in a blue moon, i have a nightmare involving the Falcons when a blowout is expected…used to get them when they were to face the 49ers. I had one of those a few days ago, and the Eagles were up 48-3 at halftime. Definitely not feeling good about this game…but will be pulling hard for the Falcons and hoping for a nice surprise.

Eric C.

September 16th, 2011
12:30 am

Let’s hope Hayden and Sanders can help stabilize the secondary like Buchanan, Robinson, and Milloy did in past seasons

Great Falconi

September 16th, 2011
12:58 am

Time for everybody to man up, bleepdammit. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. Man up. The Falcons are a good team. Man up, dammit.

This ain’t UGA. This team is run well. This team will be good. This team has been good for a while. Grow a pair and boo the hell out of any Eagles player or fan who shows his face on Sunday. If you see a fan in a Falcons Vick jersey cheering him on, ignore that fan. That fan is not a Falcon fan. You are a Falcon fan. Support your team.

BT

September 16th, 2011
6:04 am

I expect, the Falcons to attack the Eagles weakest area on defense in their LB`s and safeties.
That means run the ball with Turner and utilize Gonzalez and stamp out time consuming drives.
The key is how well the execute in the red zone, it`s a must to see an improvement over week one.

Defensively, they will lay back in in cover two shell keeping everything in front, hoping they can get adequate pressure on Vick from their front four, while maintaining gap control.
Plus, I expect BVG to mix up utilizing a spy or two on Vick, possibly Moore or Spoon but not at the same time.
Contain and get a few shots in on Vick, he will force things and make mistakes by dropping the ball or throwing into coverage.

Overall, play smart, relative mistake free ball and earn a win.

Samuel

September 16th, 2011
6:06 am

When you win your division seemily, the schedule gets tougher the next year. Being that said, you can’t over analyize. Adversity is part of the game. NO EXCUSES, NO EXPLANATIONS!!

knievel

September 16th, 2011
7:14 am

I am hopeful that the Falcons will do better this year against Vick. The o-line really needs to protect Ryan this week. He was on the ground too much last week. Defense needs to step up and keep Vick in the pocket. I want to see both of my teams win this weekend dangit. The dawgs should win, the Falcons gotta get outa preseason slump. COME ON!! Great post D3. Please dvr the tenn vs Florida game and watch it with us tomorrow. Gotta have one game tomorrow we can drink and watch. Thanks and GOOOO FALCONS, and Bullpups!!!

JJ

September 16th, 2011
7:56 am

D3, great write up. I’ve gone from overly optomistic to pessimis after the collapse in chicago. Hope I’m wrong but I see a perfect storm coming.
Consider, falcons on national tv, vick at the domes racetrack, bvg’s soft college zone, mm idiotic playcalling, babs out, 1/3 of crowd rooting for vick, and did i mention the falcons on national tv?
As a fan for over 30 yrs, I can only recal a handfull of wins on national tv, greenbay and minnesota comes to mind, sure theres others. Know its a new regime that I’m very proud of but its hard to forget previous embarassements on tv.
Hope I’m wrong and would gladly eat some crow sunday night.
We’ll still finish with a winning record, just not ready for primetime yet and I firmly blame that on our coordinators who have to go, too much talent to be outcoached, outschemed!!!

JJ

September 16th, 2011
8:00 am

And Ronnie Brown will prob. have a huge game since I just dropped him from my ffl team!

Ken Strickland

September 16th, 2011
8:16 am

As a Falcon fan I don’t fear the Eagles or the talent they have. What I fear most is the team I support, the Falcons. The Eagle have issues with their OL, DL, and LB’s. So far, Mularkey hasn’t made any attempt to utilize his RB’s very much in the passing OFF. Using them to attack the Eagles LB’s would be a big plus, as well as reving up our rushing attack and using more play action.

The best way to slow MVick down is to hit him hard and often, which is what teams successfully did when he was a Falcon. He’s going to have a lot of pressure on him, and I know he wants to have an outstanding gm and show up the Atlanta fans who’ll be booing his every move.

While Vick has a powerful arm, it’s not very accurate. But it’s certainly accurate enought to hit receivers that are as wide open as the Bears receivers were. This would be a perfect time for VanGorder to abandon his heavy reliance on zones and go man to man. He needs to force Vick to make plays with his arm rather than his legs.

If Snelling replaces Mughelli, it will give us an excellent runner and pass receiver at FB. When MTurner is replaced by JRogers, it will give us 2 excellent runners and pass receivers out of the backfield. Mularkey needs to take full advantage of that.

Using them as receiving options out of the backfield will not only give QB MRyan 2 more receiving options, it spreads the DEF, and limits their LB’s ability to blitz, as they will have to cover our RB’s, which would actually provide Ryan with more protection.

We need to attack their perimeter with our rushing and passing OFF and take advantage of their CB’s poor run support, as well as their poor LB play. Their LB’s are far better at blitzing than defending the pass and stopping the run. Mularkey needs to use our RB’s to limit their LB’s ability to do what they do best, and that’s blitz.

Mitch (the one in Rome)

September 16th, 2011
8:16 am

I don’t really get the hate on the offense. First, the Bears really played one helluva game Sunday on D. Can’t put that all on the Falcon’s O. Really. If you play a deep cover 2 and get pressure, there is NO WAY in hell to throw it deep consistently. Just is not going to happen. I know all the fat arm chair QB’s think differently, but I’d just say play the game and you’ll understand. We got behind with turnovers and could not run the ball for having to make up ground. Bottom line, tip the hat to the Bears and move on.
Second, I’m less concerned with the O than the D. Not quite sure why you drop Abe into coverage. I’d rather have 6 DB’s in coverage and rush Abe. Not necessarily the Falcon’s personell scheme, but hey, just an opinion on how to shut down the Eagles. Anywho, just a defensive preference. What we can’t have are the 3rd down “miscommunications” anymore. We can’t miss assignments. We clean that up and we are going to be A OK.
Third, all the haters need to learn the game of football and comment intelligently like a real fan. Come on people.
Go Falcons!

Shirly Hemphill

September 16th, 2011
8:46 am

The Eagles are going to have their way with us and then you’re gonna see the dome cheering Vick like he was still here.
This will not turn out well for the team’s morale but we’ve seen it before . Always fairweather fans in this town, going way back.

OC/DC Dinosaurs

September 16th, 2011
9:00 am

D3 the fact you have 10 questions to ponder and probably more that you left off the list indicates some pretty big issues the coaching staff must address. I think all of the issues involve question number TWO. I was really disappointed with the statements by the coaching staff this week. They seemed to take NO OWNERSHIP of the problems at all and were BLIND to the issues especially Mularkey and Van Gorder. Their statements indicated the problems are due to basic football skills of individual players that need to improve for the team to be better. It is a “can’t see the forest for trees” attitude. The coaches displayed a PASSIVE ATTITUDE that is exactly the way the TEAM played last week and last year. This passive attitude has to change for the players that we have are to WIN as TEAM. We have to think “SCORE A TOUCHDOWN” instead of yards on offense and “GET THE BALL BACK” instead of performing a process on defense. The TEAM needs the attitude Roddy White displayed when he scored the winning touchdown in the Ravens game last year. He was not going to be denied a touchdown. The coaching staff has to present a mental attitude on both side of the ball that support winning a game. I am ready for the comments in the cage to be glowing descriptions of the great things our Falcons have done in a game instead of picking at the things that are causing problems neglected by the coaching staff.

Paddy O

September 16th, 2011
10:35 am

Last question first: Comfort level: Trepidation. I was 99% sure we would kick Chicago’s lame Cutler butt – predominantly, we did. BUT, we lost the turn over battle & the red zone success rate. In other words, we were very un-Mike Smith like. Without those key elements heavily in existence in 2010, with this teams reliance on conservative play calling, we will have problems the entire season. I was impressed last year with our teams discipline, which we maintained until Roddy started pushing the envelope & getting unsportsmanlike penalties, which then bloomed the rest of the year. I hope we return to that controlled game, but target long passes with our great receivers.

Paddy O

September 16th, 2011
10:38 am

I am still mystified at BVG’s reaction to our tackling problems. It should insult him that we sucked so bad. Spoon needs an ass chewing – jump on the guy & wrap up.

D3

September 16th, 2011
10:45 am

Great Friday Cage Family! — Hope all of you are ready for a great weekend with BEAUTIFUL weather. If it stayed 70 degrees outside all year, I would be the happiest person in the world (that and a Falcons win on SNF).

Tried posting this last night, but even the blog monster ate my post. I’m not trying to be chicken little here with recent posts and comments, but I would be remiss if I weren’t honest about my state of mind right now. Smitty deserves to be here a long, long time for what he’s done is such a small amount of time, so let me get that out of the way first. That being said, the last 8 games or so that we’ve played it appears as though the league has figured us out, whatever that means. We lost to New Orleans at home (granted, was a good game, particularly defensively), beat 1-14 Carolina, and then had the Debacle in the Dome. We looked OK in our 1st preseason game, but after that we looked like garbage the rest of the way and we didn’t win ONE game. That’s all a run-up to getting blown out by Chicago, and I’ll admit that their defense played well, but the Monsters of Miday they are not.

More than anything it struck a fear in me I haven’t had, or was always buried deep due to our success. And that is that these coordinators are not the guys to take us to the promise land. Have they been by and large very successful? Yes. But they have shown an inability to compete with coaches at the highest level, for the most part. The final point is that my biggest hope for the offseason was to learn from the playoff loss. The coaching staff said and did all the right things about becoming explosive and then we get torn to shreds by a good, not great, Bears team? Also, I know I probably shouldn’t read too much into the coaches post-game comments, but it makes me fearful that we’ll always be good, but not great under these coordinators with their excuse-making and fear of the opponent. The best teams dictate THEIR scheme, agenda, and tempo the oppositition, not sit back and wait for them to be nice and let us score or make a mistake themselves. We’ll see. Hope I’m proven wrong, and I’ll be the first to eat crow if need be, but I am terrified of this upcoming game on Sunday Night.

LRD

September 16th, 2011
11:34 am

As far as chewing out Spoon. I bet behind closed doors, Smitty, Lofton, Peters, etc lit into him. One thing under TD and Smitty is that they keep their dirty laundry hidden.
The coaches comments after the Bears game was the same way. Every now and then they will drop comments, but very rarely in their reign have they called anyone out in front of the media.

Ownes injury could lead to the sightings. And I still think we need DeCoud to get his head out of his nether regions.

Vick: As stated above. Hit him hard, often and make sure it is legal. But with Young injured, the dream team is really a few good hits away from being a mediocre team.

My feelings going into this game are fearful, but I am getting more and more optimistic.
A- as it is the Eagles and they have had our #.
B- Babs is out, Peters is questionable. Will jerry finally step up and have the monster game we need him to have?
C- Ray Edwards/Beertruck/Abe need to contain and pressure vick.. We cannot have them dropping in coverage giving MV the edge.
D- William Moore needs to get to Vick. Several times. Heck bring Dunta again too. We need to hit him
E- Crowd. Crowd needs to support their home team.
I cannot wait though to hear the roar of the crowd for the home opener.

SeminoleWarrior

September 16th, 2011
11:38 am

Morning Cage Family,

D3, another well done and well thought out posting. Like your 10:45 posting, I am watching this week with careful attention. I told a very good friend that I will be using my binoculars more this weekend than anytime I can recall in recent memory. Why? I want to make it a point to watch the communications between Mad Mike upstairs and Smitty downstairs.

For those that say this is the week we need to open up, I say you are wrong. This is the weekend when we need a healthy dose of Michael Turner, Jason Snelling, and Jacquizz Rodgers. The Falcons simply must get back to Falcons football. What we do best is boring, sometimes stale and sometimes predictable. But, damn it, it works. I have said time and time again – this horse is built to run and run WE MUST to this weekend if we want to win this game.

The Eagles are a small, fast defense. Its strength is in the blitz and in pass defense. The Falcons will need to pound that small, fast defensive front and attack those young LBs with a strong, short passing game. In other words, MR2 needs to do the SAME THING he did last week (minus the turnovers) in order for the Falcons to be effective.

Stop the presses!! I hear the outcry screaming right now! SW, have you bumped your head while rehabbing that shoulder. Are you really calling for more chunk and dunk? Yes, I am. Why? Because this week, chunk and dunk keeps McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, and Vick on the sidelines. That plays into the scheme. If force to “electrify”, Vick will make mistakes. And if we can use those mistakes to our advantage to produce points, that is advantage ATL. Get into a shootout with Andy Reid and that offense and we lose…it’s that simple.

Back in a minute..

John Waynesworld

September 16th, 2011
11:41 am

Thanks D3. Here’s hoping the NFC South teams all go 0-2, except us, of course.

Go Falcons!

1) Can Falcons Get Their Mojo Back? Heck yes. With the exception of GB, nobody handed it to us on our home turf last season. The crowd, OUR crowd, had better be L-O-U-D.
2) Are Coaches Recent Comments Meant to Inspire? They are just towing the line. Nothing special will be spoken outside of that locker room about how much this game REALLY means.
3) Should Rodgers Replace Snelling on Depth Chart? NO. Jason is a beast and a better blocker-safety valve pass option. If only Ryan would get the ball to him a little earlier Jason would go balls and fangs down the field.
4) How Much Will Injuries Hurt? Not too much, if the right guys step up. I am looking at Carlton Powell to help fill the void, literally, left by Babs’ absence.
5) Can Falcons Slow Down Vick and the Eagles? Vick will get his yards, especially in the middle of the field. The main thing the Falcons must do is HIT HIM. Knock him down after a pass, fall on him, accidentally step on him, anything to make Mike “feel” the game.
6) Why Can’t 2010 Ravens Gameplan Be Permanent Offense? I grudgingly agree with the coaches that different teams with different star players require different game plans. The Ravens were not going to give us the run, so we just threw the ball all over the field. That, however, is not our personality, at least while we have Turner in the backfield. If Turner could catch and run better, then I am sure we would play that type of aerial attack more often. Maybe next year or if Turner gets hurt.
7) Should Weems Be Pushed as KR/PR? I don’t know what’s going on with Weems. I am sure it will be fixed, whether he is coached up or replaced with Franks. I would rather have Weems take care of the punts simply because I don’t remember him ever fumbling a punt away.
8.) Can Meier or Weems Step In and Up? Hopefuly HD will be ready to go, but if not I think they will do fine. For our WRs it is all about protection for Ryan, unless some receiver gets the dropsies.
9) Will We See Hayden and/or Sanders? I hope and think so. Owens is both injured and ineffective (double whammy) so he may be finally OUT as NCB and in as ST.
10) Where’s Your Comfort Level Right Now? As I said before, hopeful but with a nagging case of Low “E” (expectations). It should clear up when Ryan and Roddy hook up for a 1st Quarter TD.

SeminoleWarrior

September 16th, 2011
11:43 am

Many will be nervous about the loss of Babs for this matchup. Count me among them. But I have been watching with care the play of Vance Walker. This guy plays with a chip on his shoulder. He has heard all the pundits downplay him and he has been steady while growing into his position. But let me pause to give some love to another guy, Hip Hip Peria. Hip Hip was the most active last week that I have ever seen him be. The stat line did not show big numbers but the film revealed that he was very active. He knows that he has a chance to make a BIG statemenf on Sunday night. And I do believe he will.

Lots of folks think that MR2 has to come out and have a Tom Brady like game. I beg to differ. MR2 needs to be MR2. After this, there are 14 games left in the “Chase”. He will lead us to victory in many of those. But all I want MR2 to do is be MR2; steady, calm, and efficient. That is critical!!

SeminoleWarrior

September 16th, 2011
11:52 am

D3 made a very interesting point about Coach Smith. Only Leeman Bennett rates higher in my book in terms of Falcons coaches. Coach Reeves is third. I have said it time and time again. I understand that the head coach is the TEAM LEADER and that all final decisions are his. But Smitty HAS TO see that it is not the “conservative” nature of the offense that is hurting this team. It is the steady state of poor execution, poor technique, and poor communication on the DEFENSE, Smitty’s calling card, that is holding back this team.

Yes he is not flashy. But this offense, as conservative as it is, has proven it can play when it is ADHERED to. When we establish the run, when we establish the dominance of the intermediate passing game, we control the clock, we score points, and we usually win games. Smitty’s “take what we can get comments” this week are the STRONGEST indications yet of this team not planning any thing dramatically different in the way it operates. Julio Jones is a fine acquistion but we here at the TeePee can already sense that he (through no fault of his) is going to be the unfair brunt of all the negative vibes. as this season goes on. Why?

Because the fickle fan base in the stands, just like a lot of American in many other ways, are going to look to the simple to point the blame. We gave up all these points to get this guy so that we could be “explosive”. NEWSFLASH!! Smitty has NO INTENT of being explosive. It is NOT IN HIS DNA!!
Explosive was never the way the Ravens won games, explosive was not the way the Jaguars won games, and explosive has not been the way the “New” Falcons have won games to this point. We have ground it out, playing rubber band defense, and living with Lady Luck in a Falcon uniform.

I know you do not like what I am saying….but the truth is the truth.

Paddy O

September 16th, 2011
11:54 am

I’m kind off intrigued by the notion that we switch over to a preponderant 3-4, since Babs is out. We have a lot of guys who are hybrid DE/LB & I think the 3-4 might give us better QB pressure & confuse the Offense, at least the O line.

SeminoleWarrior

September 16th, 2011
12:01 pm

People will jump on the wagon and say that the team focused on the offense first and neglected the defense. Sure, we drafted a quarterback and we needed to. We could have went the FA route and found a caretaker until then. But let me be clear. The front office, particularly the moves of Rich McKay, are the underlying reason for the mess the Falcons were in. I will come back to that later.

Smitty walked into the ideal situation. Even before we signed Turner, our offense, duirng the Mora era, with Gregg Knapp calling the plays and a suspsect passing attack, lead the league in rushing. Warrick Dunn, he of similiar size to Rodgers, spearheaded the leagues top rushing attack for THREE years! HELLO…it was this, ATL’s abiliity to RUN THE DAMNED ball that brought the Falcons to the limelight of the football world. Sure, popularity of a certain number seven helped but he NEVER put up the kind of QB numbers that one would ever expect of a #1 draft pick as a quarterback. He was the most dynamic RB playing the QB position that the NFL and fans everywhere, especially in ATL, had ever seen.

SeminoleWarrior

September 16th, 2011
12:06 pm

Look at this franchise and its history. When the Falcons have been on the rise, it has been because we put a PREMIUM on running the ball effectively and consistently. If we are to get to the promised land, we have to find that balance, sustain that balance, and commit to that mission. Anything else and the mark is missed.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons have NEVER had that fierce, focused defensive coordinator. The Falcons HAVE never invested in a draft in which SERIOUS focus has been placed on the defensive side of the ball. Other than Deion and Nobis, the best Falcon defenders were not first round selections. Hell, the best Falcon defends were either mid to late rounders OR they came to ATL from somewhere else and rose up (i.e. Rod Coleman, C. Bennett, to name a few).

darrell starks

September 16th, 2011
12:06 pm

1. First of all both coordinator must do a better job with play calling and be more aggressive.
2. Dunta is not a zone player he is more man 2 man cover, Mularkey should no that by now.
3. Roger and Snelling should be in the back field at same time.
4. The ice man must throw deep to Avatar and keep philly defense on there toes.
5. More screen play call to Rogers
6.Blitz Vick on almost every play to keep him confuse and hurting, because the Eagles offensive line is weak.
7.The no huddle offense in full affect.
8. Do more trick plays.
9. Speciall team must step up and do better.
10. After the game every one go get philly cheese steak from the connection.

GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!
10.

SeminoleWarrior

September 16th, 2011
12:17 pm

Do not be fooled into thinking that this team needs to be explosive to win. The Pittsburgh Steelers have never been explosive. Sure, they open up cans of whip ass from time to time. But those SIX trophies were acquired through one key element……consistency. They have a plan, they stayed with the core of the plan, and they rallied when knocked down. ATL needs to do the same. Smitty is a defensive mind. Stop it with the sound bites. Get PERSONALLY involved and clean up that defense. If Sanders is supposed to be here to light a fire, put him on the field and let him do so. If Hayden is a better play than Rob or Owens, put the man on the field.

I’ve preached the loyalty facet in this blog many, many times. Bowden and his loyalty, Richt and his loyalty. Now here comes the song one again with Smitty. In the end, the Falcons will live and die not by the result of “explosiveness” but by the labor of consistency and focus.

As I look back one more time, it was more of a lack of the latter that has cost us to lose, in embarassing fashion, our last TWO regular season games. The Packers beat us because the defense was a damned joke, not foucsed, not consistent, and not prepared. The Bears did the same thing with the assist of a lot of help from lady luck. Three turnovers will be hard for anyone to overcome. But that secondary STILL is a disaster movie of epic proportion.

Sunday is a turning point. We know Vick will run. We know that the Eagles will bring their big plays. Everyone, from the President to the Pope to the newest infant being born in your local hospital knows this. I even heard whispers from the ghosts of Falcon football past acknowledge it.

70+plus thousand and millions around the world know that the Eagles are going to want to make a statement. The question, the most important question of the year for us ATL fans and coaches, is simple.

ARE WE READY FOR THE BIG SHOW?

D3

September 16th, 2011
12:30 pm

LRD & SW — Great posts my friends. Sitting this one out at the Dome as its my turn to keep the Devitt Boys at home and let the wife go. I get the Green Bay game. Pick your poisong, huh? I agree on the type of offense. And frankly, I don’t think we really have to throw 70 yard bombs to be effective. My point is……let Matt Ryan run the damn show. As SW pointed out, ball control doesn’t have to be running the ball 80% of the time. If you go back and look at that Ravens game, there weren’t any bombs in that game and by far and away that was one of the best complete games (outside of the soft prevent defense that let them back in the game) that the Falcons have played in a long time. The Ravens just could never get Ryan to the ground because he was picking them a part left and right. 5 yds here, 2 yards there, 8 yards there, 12 yards here. It was a beautiful thing, and then we haven’t seen it since.

Make Matt Ryan the d@mn OC for chrissake.

SeminoleWarrior

September 16th, 2011
12:31 pm

Back to Rich MacKay for a moment. His talent evaluation skills. Let’s take a look.

DeAngelo Hall in 2004, Michael Jenkins in 2005, No first rounder in 2006 (traded to the Jets for John Abraham), and 2007, Jammal Anderson.

Begin the TD era. in January 2008.

Matt Ryan and Sam Baker in 2008, Peria Jerry in 2009, Sean Weatherspoon in 2010, and Julio Jones in 2011.

Jury is still out but the dividends seem to have high potential in the new regime than what was produced in the first.

SeminoleWarrior

September 16th, 2011
12:33 pm

D3, I will take it one step further. Let the damned OC be the OC!! And Smitty, focus on your specialty, the damned defense.

Ken Strickland

September 16th, 2011
12:35 pm

Doggone you SEMINOLE WARRIOR, you took the words right out of my mouth LOL. I totally agree with your assessment of us needing to ram the ball down Philly’s throat with our rushing attack. Too many conveniently forget how well we ran the ball last week against the Bears and last yrs #2 ranked run DEF. QB MRyan started getting hit consistently when we abandoned the run and they pinned their ears back and went after him.

The problem with that was Mularkey did nothing to counter their rush. There were no screen or swing passes to our RB’s, nor did we effectively utilize the best weapon you can have against a cover 2 DEF, the TE. The Eagles handily won last wks gm against the Rams, but the Rams definitely exposed their DEF weaknesses.

They have serious issues with their run DEF, especially around the edges. I mentioned during the off season that none of their CB’s provide much in the way of run support. And while everyone got all excited over their new CB signings this off season, there hasn’t been any mention of their safeties. The Eagles were worse than the Falcons in giving up big pass plays. If fact, they lead the NFL in that category.

That stat certainly wasn’t caused by poor CB play alone, since they’ve added only one new starter in their secondary. One thing we know about Vick, and that is he’ll cut his reads early if pressured, especially if its up the middle. Basically, all of their OFF weapons, other than Vick, are receivers. So, if we pressure, hit or sack him often enough, it will take their other weapons out of the equation.

SeminoleWarrior

September 16th, 2011
12:38 pm

LRD, I am sure that Spoon had chewed himself out long before anyone else did. Look, when it comes to this kid, yes I am a homer. I LOVE the upside in this kid. He is going to be a damned good one for years to come.

His play on that run was a bone head move…we know it and most importantly, he knows it. But there are two things that I will say. He shook it off, got back into the game, and lead the team in tackles. That is more than I can say about those two clowns on the right side of the defensive secondary who in game after game, continue to make the same mistakes, blow the same damned pathetic coverages, and see the @$$es of more receivers than a young mother when she is changing diapers.

D3

September 16th, 2011
12:41 pm

SW — I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree my brother. The idea of always having a power-run, ball-control offense works on most teams, but as we’ve seen against GB, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and others stop our run game completely, we are frozen and almost always lose. I think Matt Ryan’s strengths are his intelligence and that intermediate pass game you talked so eloquently about. And yes, I think we have the personnel to be the Patriots, Packers, and Saints. Throw to set up the run, not the other way around. JMHO.