A win’s a win’s a win, especially in the rough and tumble and highly competitive National Football League. The Falcons got a tough win on the road and got back to .500, but fans looking to gain confidence in their 2011 Falcons after a less than stellar beginning campaign found none after Game #4 in Seattle. Yes, an ugly win is better than a pretty loss, but the Birds are a shell of their 2010 selves right now.
Like an old friend (really enemy) that keeps popping up every time the Falcons play, fans can guarantee that they will see the Falcons completely implode in the 3rd quarter. This has been a hallmark of the Mike Smith reign in Atlanta. No lead is safe with these Falcons, and even though they came out and fired a 50 yard bomb to Julio Jones in the first series after halftime, you just knew they would find a way to let the Seahawks back in the game. And sure enough, they did.
A stat popped up that said the Falcons have been outscored 52 – 13 in the 3rd quarter. That’s embarrassing and unacceptable. There’s absolutely no one to blame except the coaches here. Halftimes are supposed to be for adjustments and trying to improve, right? This has been an issue since Smith took over and the buck stops at his door. Fans can count on their hands how many teams they’ve seen the Falcons put away in the last 3 years. Granted, the Seahawks are a gritty team, but they are in a serious rebuild mode. How can fans expect their Falcons to even compete with the big boys of the NFL if they can’t even put away the lesser teams?
After starting flat to begin games in the 2011 season, the Falcons finally got off to a fast start on both sides of the ball. One of the hallmarks of the 2008 Falcons was to get the ball rolling quickly and score on their first possessions. The defense held the Seahawks to a 3 and out and the offense drove down the field for a touchdown on an impressive opening drive. The Birds looked poised and focused and reminded us of why the Falcons have had so much success over the last three years and helped lead to a very commanding 24-7 halftime lead.
This defense has to be every quarterbacks dream in the NFL. It doesn’t matter one bit whether you’re a future Hall of Famer like Tom Brady, an elite QB like Aaron Rodgers, a young gun like Josh Freeman, or a former backup like Tavaris Jackson, you will succeed against the Falcons weak and soft defense. You won’t have to worry about getting pressured, any exotic blitz schemes, and your receivers will have spaces for your receivers so wide open that jumbo jets can fit in there.
In all seriousness, when is the last time the Falcons have made life difficult for an opposing QB? A week after Cutler looked like Joe Montana against the Falcons, he was reduced to rubble against the Saints the next week. After throwing for miles of yards, Cam Newton has got to be licking his chops for his first 500+ yard game.
Maybe it’s the injury to Jason Snelling, but the inclusion of Jacquizz Rodgers more in the offense is a breath of fresh air in the backfield. Michael Turner did score two touchdowns, but he’s becoming very inconsistent and maybe its simply a case of defenses knowing what to plan against. Rodgers finally gives the Falcons a true complementary back to Turner’s grinding running style. Of course, since Rodgers looked good and quick in the first half, than he was never seen again from a Mularkey run offense.
Even though Ryan looked good in spots, the franchise QB has serious issues on his deep throws. Julio Jones had beaten his man several times only to see the ball sail out of bounds by Ryan. He did connect on Jones in the first series after halftime, but there were other times where his throws missed the target. He seems to have a serious issue of just throwing the ball up and letting his receivers get it. Ryan appears to throw the ball towards the sideline, perhaps limiting the chance for an interception. Michael Konen made a good point about the players having “nervous energy” under Smith and that certainly goes with the idea of limiting mistakes. Ryan obviously has the arm strength, but lacks the touch on the deep ball. Who knows the reason, but you would think the deep game would have improved by now.
For fans, such as this author, that were hoping the coaches would open up the offense and run a more spread-type philosophy like the Saints, Packers, and Patriots, and give the full reigns to Matt Ryan, today’s return to a conservative, run-first offense signaled that no such change will be happening this season. The team evidently wanted to get back to their “identity,” which was to be a run-heavy offense. It worked well in the first half, and when it does, the Falcons offense hums along smoothly.
Problem is, when the opponent shuts down the run, the offense seems scattered and unable to adjust. Another issue is that this Falcons team doesn’t own a road-grading offensive line and Turner can be inconsistent and goes down if he’s hit in the backfield. Just seems such a waste not trying to use such a potent offense in a more aggressive and creative manner. An offense with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers, Kerry Meier, Eric Weems, and Matt Ryan just screams to be more aggressive, but that’s obviously not in the 2011 cards. Right or wrong, though, the Falcons offense will sink or swim with the run.
This could be a new nickname for the Falcons defense. They allow jumbo jet size holes in their defense for the opposing team to pick apart at will. How many times can a receiver be absolutely WIDE OPEN with no one 15 yards around him. It doesn’t even appear hard for the quarterback to make the throws. There are no tight windows to be thrown in the Falcons secondary.
The Falcons allow jumbo jet sized pockets for the quarterback to throw in because you know for absolute certain you won’t see any kind of creative or exotic blitz scheme from Van Gorder or Smith. The linebacker corps is one of the Falcons best strengths, but this coaching staff seems intent on keeping them in charge of chasing and tackling only with no hope for making plays in the backfield. Tavaris Jackson just had a career high in passing yards with 319, enough said.
It’s becoming a weekly issue with special teams. Matt Bosher did kick a few to the back of the end zone, but he also kicked on out of bounds at a very bad time when the Seahawks were gaining momentum. Another punt was returned inside the Falcons 10 yard line and set up another Seahawks touchdown. It appears that issues aren’t just limited to offense, defense, and coaching. Eric Weems did do a better job of not letting punts roll to the 1 yard line, so that’s a positive.
Who knows exactly what’s going on up in Flowery Branch, but this team just has an odd feel and look to it. The players don’t seem to having a very good time and a usually cool and collected coaching staff, mainly Smith, seems erratic and ruffled. Several times the camera panned to Coach Smith and he just looked not like himself. After Hauscka missed the field goal, it seemed to be a sense of relief that he didn’t lose instead of being happy to win. Maybe it’s the fact that the Falcons haven’t been able to fly under the radar after last year’s success or maybe there’s deeper issues. Whatever the case, winning cures all.
Obviously, this seems like a silly question since Harry Douglas is the slot receiver and the #4 option behind White, Jones, and Gonzalez, but the Jonesboro product has been abnormally silent with only 64 yards receiving after a great preseason. This goes back to the Falcons living or dying with the run and evidently refusing to open up the pass game, even with such a potent arsenal. Don’t even mention where Kerry Meier and Eric Weems are. What some offensive coordinators wouldn’t give for the Falcons weapons.
Thomas Dimitroff traded away 4 picks to get Julio Jones and he is off to a very good start. The question here is whether Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith are on the same page anymore. They both talked about being explosive over the entire off-season and they have been anything but. When pressed to look at their issues over the first 3 games, the coaching staff decided to double-down on the run-heavy philosophy.
Some believe that Dimitroff is trying to take the Falcons towards the new type of passing and aggressive offensive philosophy, while Smith is stuck in the ultra-conservative run-reliant mode. Question is why did Dimitroff feel the need to get Jones and trade away so many picks if the offense was going to be the exact same. Torrey Smith, Titus Young, or Michael Jenkins for that matter, could be a #2 receiver in a run-heavy offense and the Falcons would still have all four picks left.
Analyze the meek win if you decide………