Can Shaky Falcons Upset Streaking Packers?

Can the Birds Restore Some Much Needed Confidence with Win?

Anyone Have a Memory Eraser? (J.Getz/AJC)

The “Debacle in the Dome” shook most fans to their core and its one of those type of losses that’s so bad, that it takes a long time to get rid of in many fans minds and hearts. Some think that it may have even ripped off a mask of this team, specifically the coaching staff, that has shown it to not be truly considered in the conversation of elite. The Falcons need this win against the Super Bowl defending Champion Green Bay Packers in so many ways.

Most of which is to remind a nervous fan base that this team can still compete at the highest levels with goals of titles in their minds. It all was going along magnificent with the Falcons getting the #1 Seed in the NFC, home-field advantage, and looking invincible at home. Then the nightmare just kept getting worse and worse and ended with one of the worst playoff blowouts (at home) in NFL history.

Not many can get too upset if you lose to the defending Super Bowl Champs, especially the way that the Packers and, specifically, Aaron Rodgers are playing since going on their unbelievable run through the Georgia Dome and on to grab the Lombardi Trophy. That’s assuming that your team takes care of their business elsewhere. That has not happened in 2011.

After adding firepower on both sides of the ball and rounding out one of the deepest rosters in franchise history to an already 13-3 team, the sky was the limit. The Falcons didn’t win a preseason game, were embarrassed in Chicago (where they couldn’t muster one offensive TD), scraped by the Eagles where they almost let a 3rd string QB beat them at the end (and who are now 1-3 themselves), lost to the youngest team in the NFL and a division rival in Tampa Bay in one of the sloppiest games in memory, and all but let one of the weakest teams in the NFL in pure rebuilding mode beat them in Seattle.

Forget the past, this game is about the future and whether this coaching staff are the right men to carry this team to competing on the highest level. If the Falcons can win this one, than they restore some much needed confidence about the direction of this team. But if they lose, this will just continue to pile on the angst of an already ill fan base concerning the coaching staff.

If the Falcons win, than everything is right back in front of them. But if they lose, that would drop them to 1-5 against elite teams or heavy contending teams in recent history (beat the Eagles; lost to Saints after Christmas, lost to Packers in playoffs, lost to Bears, lost to Bucs, and another loss to the Packers) and basically make them indefensible on being considered a legit threat to any titles going forward. This one’s big for many reasons.

((Editor’s Note: This blog posting will take on a little different format than usual. Andy Tisdale of the Oak Creek Patch blog in Wisconsin, an excellent writer and Packers fan, contacted The Bird Cage and wanted to swap questions in an effort to inform each other’s readers on their opponent’s team and fan bases. Andy sent several questions to The Bird Cage and we sent several questions back to him. This was a very neat experience and can provide some extremely informative viewpoints on what the Packers and their fans went through not long ago themselves. First questions are from Andy to The Bird Cage. Second set are from The Bird Cage to Andy and Packer fans. Hope you enjoy………..

1) The Falcons gave up a king’s ransom to get Julio Jones. It generally takes a few years to get the measure of a wide receiver, but based on early returns, has he been worth it?

Just missing the top 10 are the FALCONS' Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. Jones has 342 yards but has yet to score during his rookie season.

Hard to Find Julio Detractors (AP)

At the time, it was a major shock for all our fans. We started hearing rumors the day before that Thomas Dimitroff was going to try to vault all the way up the charts to get either AJ Green or Julio Jones. The vast majority of us outright dismissed it as a ridiculous rumor. We were all completely surprised when they called our name to grab Jones. You will be hard-pressed to find any Atlanta fans who aren’t ecstatic to have Jones as a Falcon. The player himself was never questioned, because most of us also follow college football, specifically the SEC, and anyone who had seen him play knew he was the real deal and would flourish anywhere he went.

That being said, there still are some among us who wonder if the price wasn’t too steep. We gave up a 2nd and 4th this year, and a 1st and 4th next year. Most weren’t worried at all about the 4th rounders because we feel that this is one of the more talented rosters the Falcons have had in their short franchise history. Some were able to be OK with the 2nd rounder, but the big one that hurts the most is giving up the 1st rounder next year. Even though most feel this roster is pretty deep, we’re starting to see major issues on the offensive line and our secondary has leaked like a sieve seemingly forever.

A common theme you will see in these answers is regarding our coaching staff because dissatisfaction is at an all-time high with them and this one is no different. Many of us believe that our coaching staff is holding us back and are either incapable or unable of making needed adjustments to move us into a legit Super Bowl contender. After the “Debacle in the Dome,” as many of us in The Bird Cage call it (one of the worst blowouts at home in playoff history by none other than your Packers), we expected to see some changes in philosophy on both sides of the ball, specifically the offense where we just couldn’t keep up with high-octane and aggressive teams with our hyper-conservative, run-first, ball-control offense. They said all the right things about becoming explosive in the off-season and the Julio Jones trade seemed to indicate that. Than we are treated to the same-old, same-old this year and now we sit at a very shaky 2-2, which could easily be 0-4.

Some think that our GM, Thomas Dimitroff, is trying to take us the way of the Patriots, Packers, and Saints in their pass-heavy, aggressive offense philosophy, while Coach Smith seems to be stuck in the old-school, run-heavy, conservative play-calling. The best way to summarize it is to ask why we would trade 4 draft picks to get a receiver to be a #2 option in a run-heavy, hyper-conservative offense? Drafting Torrey Smith or Leonard Hankerson, or even keeping Michael Jenkins, could have accomplished that without giving up so much.

2) This three-game stretch before the Falcons’ bye week must’ve looked much better in the offseason. Now that Detroit and Carolina have morphed from cushy to dangerous opponents, how do you see the Falcons performing in this three-game stretch?

To be honest, most of our fans seem to be having a serious crisis in confidence in our coaching staff and their ability to truly maximize the talent on this team. While he may have missed on some picks, by and large Thomas Dimitroff has done an amazing job reshaping this team in such a short time after the Michael Vick nightmare destroyed our team, roster, and franchise in so many ways. We felt that our team was legitimate contenders to make a serious run at the Super Bowl both last year as we entered the playoffs and this off-season. But the magnitude of the blowout given by your Packers shook most of us to our core and many of us just have the feeling that a mask has been ripped off on this coaching staff and it appears that we’ve just never been the same since, including preseason and the start of this season.

Using that as an introduction and the way our team has played and looked this year, it’s hard for us to look at any opponent remaining on our schedule and truly pencil that in as a sure win. That is honestly not a joke. The way we played so poorly against Chicago and losing to Tampa Bay with one of the youngest rosters chock full of rookies and 2nd year players starting has decimated confidence in our coaching staff, not necessarily the players. Add that on to barely escaping a loss against one of the lesser teams in the NFL in Seattle, who are in a pure rebuild mode, and it’s easy to see why so few fans are optimistic about the rest of the season.

If our defense made Tavaris Jackson look like a Hall of Famer, throwing for 300+ yards, we shudder to think what Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton will do to us. There is a true feeling, even if not on the surface, that we can drop any game this year, and that absolutely includes Carolina and Detroit. We’ll know everything we need to know about this year’s team after the next three weeks.

3) I noticed on The Bird Cage you go into a lot of detail about passing routes and the Falcons’ offensive scheme. What sorts of routes do the Falcons favor, and what are they likely to employ against Green Bay’s surprisingly porous pass defense?

Although there are some who still think we should continue our run-heavy, hyper-conservative, ball-control offense, most fans want to see the offense open up and become much more aggressive in terms of letting Matt Ryan run the show. Most of the fan base seems to still on board with Head Coach Mike Smith getting plenty of time to correct his mistakes for what he’s done in such a short period of time. He has been the only coach to lead the Falcons to back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history (that should tell you something about our history in and of itself). However, the same can’t be said of either coordinators, Mike Mularkey on offense and Brian Van Gorder on defense.

Smith and Mularkey are obsessed with running the football and establishing the run, even when it’s obviously not working (as has been the case a lot recently). When Michael Turner is running well and the team as a whole can establish the run, the team operates pretty well on offense with the play-action passing game. That was fine, well, and good in the beginning before teams started figuring us out. Now the secret is out that all you have to do is stop the run and our offensive cannot or will not adjust. The big joke among many of our family members (our term for our blog posters) is that Mularkey can’t run a screen pass to save his life and that he has a total of about 4 wide receiver routes that he runs: curl, out, go route, and a wide receiver screen (that rarely works).

Many are envious of the creative passing games that have become extremely popular in places like New Orleans, New England, and your own Green Bay. There have been many opposing players that have come on record after beating us and saying that “their offense didn’t do anything that we weren’t expecting,” and therein lies the major issue. We feel that we have one of the best offensive arsenals in the NFL with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Harry Douglas, Jacquizz Rodgers, Kerry Meier, and Eric Weems, only to see Mularkey run Michael Turner on two straight 1 yard gains directly into the middle of the line.

A great description of our last game is that we finally see Julio Jones catch a nice drag route where he goes for like 29 yards, only to never see it the rest of the game. Barring an unforeseen and major turnaround, most fans feel that this will be the last year of the Mike Mularkey Era in Atlanta.

4) The perception in Wisconsin is that the Falcons will be out for blood this time and ready to avenge their playoff loss last year. Is this accurate for the team? For the fans?

Wasn't There a Mercy Rule? (C.Compton/AJC)

Fans from our blog surely can’t speak for all fans, but we really don’t see this game as any sort of revenge and it didn’t seem to create any bad blood for the Packers and their fans. If anything, we were jealous that a team could look that good embarrassing a #1 seed on their own turn all the way to the Lombardi Trophy. For most fans perspective, it seemed to be more anger towards our team, specifically our coaching staff, than anything else. There’s no reason to be angry or feel like this is game that will “make everything alright” because you’re the ones with the Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl rings.

That being said, a win against the Packers would really do wonders for a fan base that has been shaken to their core since the last time the Packers entered the Dome. Anything else will just be piling angst on an already deteriorating coaching staff. A loss here will all but tell us that we’re not even close to being elite, because that would make us 0 – 5 in our most recent games against elite or at least major contending teams (New Orleans, Green Bay, Chicago, Tampa Bay, and another Green Bay loss).

5) The Falcons tried everything to stop Aaron Rodgers in January. Nothing worked. What might they try this time, and will ex-Viking Ray Edwards be a major part of whatever they do try?

Try to not have him score 8 TDs and throw for 700 yards? In all seriousness, Rodgers is the best player going of any in the NFL right now and I’m sure our predictable, swiss cheese, jumbo jet (the size of the holes in our “zone”) defense will try to limit Rodgers big plays and make him earn it, which he has proven he can do. Once again, this goes back to coaching as well. Fans feel like this is one of the best and most athletic defenses in franchise history.

Dimitroff has drafted well and we have developed players pretty good also. Major angst is levied at both coordinators these days and it just depends who gets more from week to week. Right now, it appears that Brian Van Gorder is more disliked this week. We literally can make any quarterback look like a future Hall of Famer. One of the points from the last post was titled “A Quarterback’s Dream,” and it basically says how, regardless of experience or talent, this Falcons defense will make you look fantastic.

Elite quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have proven to shred this defense, but it goes much deeper than that. We can make a mid-range QB, rookies, and even former backups look like Pro Bowlers. The zone is a ridiculously soft gameplan that many high school defenses would be ashamed of. Van Gorder puts our corners 8 -10 yards off of every receiver and there are literally enormous holes anytime a receiver catches a ball. Always only rush 4 linemen (and many times only 3) with limited success and never employ any type of exotic blitz scheme or aggressive play-calling whatsoever.

The defense seems to boil down to a “bend-but-don’t-break” philosophy that is getting decimated on a weekly basis. In terms of Ray Edwards, we all hailed the pick, especially for the price we got him for ($6 million a year compared to $12 million a year for Charles Johnson). Some are upset that he hasn’t done more so far, but the vast majority lay the blame at the feet of the defensive coaches. Speaking on schemes, Van Gorder actually came out and said that he “liked the way our defense played” against the Packers in the playoffs, just that “we didn’t tackle well.” Yes, he actually said that.

6) After four games, what conclusions can you draw about the 2011 Falcons?

First of all, we didn’t win one preseason game and looked pretty awful doing it. We tried to rationalize that away as only being “preseason.” Many of us thought that we would get a tough game in Chicago on opening day, but the way we came out and played so poorly in all aspects of the game was tough to stomach. We made Jay Cutler look like Joe Montana, Roy Williams like Jerry Rice, and our much ballyhooed “explosive” offense couldn’t even muster an offensive touchdown.

We were able to bounce back against the Eagles in a monumental win for this franchises psyche by beating Michael Vick in the Georgia Dome and finally put that saga to rest, a least a little bit. In that game, Vick was taken out of the game and we still tried to allow a 3rd string QB beat us at the end. We turn around and lose to the youngest team in the NFL with rookies and 2nd year players up and down the roster. Not taking anything away from Tampa Bay because they are extremely talented, but we feel that we should have won that game, for no other reason that we are farther along in the process than them. Losing to them absolutely let them in the door as a legit threat to the NFC South crown.

Big Game for Smitty (C.Compton/AJC)

We play lights out against a weak Seattle team in the first half, only to let them come storming back and nearly beat us in the 2nd half. A few different decisions by Pete Carroll and we easily lose that game. Frankly, if only for a few plays we easily could be 0-4 right now. As mentioned earlier, this team (specifically the coaches) seemed to have never recovered from that embarrassing night in January on our own home turf.

Some feel that you all ripped the mask off of this coaching staff who have been squeaking by and flying under the radar in 2010. We’ll know a lot more about this team the next three weeks. We can obviously stomach a loss to the Packers, who are the defending Super Bowl Champions and one of the hottest teams in the NFL, but absolutely cannot lose to Carolina, Detroit or Indianapolis.

If we make it to 5-3 at the midpoint of the schedule with the harder part coming in the first half, many of us will breathe a little easier and still have hope. But if we hit 4-4 or 3-5 while losing to the teams other than Green Bay, you’ll have a hard time seeing many fans with a ton of hope. Frankly, if we lose to Carolina with rookie Cam Newton starting at QB at home, it’s hard to defend how we are even close to competing for any titles this year.

7) Is this the Falcons’ chance to make a “statement” win and get their season back on track?

As mentioned earlier, this is a really big chance for the coaching staff to prove they still have what it takes to compete on the highest level. Most of us wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a statement game, per se, but it would do wonders for a very nervous and shaky fan base concerning this coaching staff. Most fans believed that we would likely lose the Packers game if for no other reason than the nightmare from January and they were OK with that.

However, they surely didn’t think that they would have lost to both Chicago and Tampa Bay playing the way they did. A win here got much, much bigger when the Falcons lost to both the Bears and Bucs, and nearly losing to the Eagles and Seahawks. In conclusion, Falcons fans need a reason to believe this team is capable of competing at the highest levels again.

1) One of the reasons for success seemed to come with the hiring of Dom Capers as the Defensive Coordinator. Was there ever any main concerns with fans about the direction of the coaching staff, specifically if Mike McCarthy was the right coach?

Oh, absolutely. First of all, there was massive discontent when the Packers chose McCarthy. He wasn’t a big name; he was an unknown San Francisco offensive coordinator who was coming from a lousy offense. Packers fans wanted to go out and get a big-name coach or former coordinator and McCarthy definitely wasn’t that. He’s also not very forthcoming with the media or with fans, which rubbed some fans the wrong way. There was the Brett Favre unretirement cluster bomb in the summer of 2008, during which a substantial portion of the fan base (not including myself) wanted his and GM Ted Thompson’s heads for sticking with Aaron Rodgers.

Just last year, after the first six games when the Packers were 3-3 and then late in the year when they were 8-6, there was just an outpouring of calls for Jon Gruden to come in and coach. Because the Packers’ season started with Super Bowl expectations and the Packers had such a talented team, the thinking was that McCarthy was just not getting the most out of his squad and somebody else should come in and lead us to a title. Well, the Packers went on a six-game winning streak and the rest is history, and now there’s not a fan in Wisconsin that complains about Thompson or McCarthy. But yes, there has definitely been plenty of controversy around McCarthy at various points in his tenure.

2) Right now in Atlanta, there seems to be a struggle on what offensive direction the team should take. Before the recent major success, did fans ever worry or complain about McCarthy’s heavy passing attack philosophy?

I don’t think so, because y’know, it’s worked well. Speaking for myself, I’m a bit of a old-school football purist, and I like to see a team that can run the ball and stop the run first and foremost. The 2010 Packers had a lot of trouble with both, but they also won 14 games, so I wasn’t too fussed. McCarthy’s scheme mixes in a lot of short passes and screens that essentially replace the run, and while I’d like to see us be a bit more balanced on principle, I don’t think it hurts the offense much if at all. There have been times when McCarthy’s gotten plenty of flack for a missing, lousy or un-creative running game—in the regular-season game at Atlanta, he called back-to-back fullback dives and two QB draws on different drives, for example—but I don’t think there’s been much sustained discontent among the fan base. If the scheme wasn’t working, you’d hear people talking, but my gosh has it worked in the past.

3) What was one of the biggest changes that McCarthy and other coaches made to reach and win the Super Bowl?

Another Packers TD (J.Crawford/AJC)

I’ll give you two, because there’s two huge ones I can think of. The first one was Dom Capers’ decision to play his nickel defense about 75% of the time last year (which has continued into this year). That was a big change from ’09 and it really helped the Packers limit opposing passers. If you can rush the QB and contain the run with two defensive linemen and always have an extra defensive back, that’s a really big advantage. It also enabled Charles Woodson to play mostly in the slot and operate as a cornerback/safety hybrid, where he was extremely effective. That worked because Sam Shields and Tramon Williams were solid all year on the outside; this year Williams has been injured and Shields’ coverage is much worse, which is a big reason why you see the Packers hemorrhaging yards.

The second one was the loss of TE Jermichael Finley. The coaching staff basically built the offense around him in the 2010 offseason, and you could see Rodgers preferred to go to him in the first four games. Then he blew out a knee in Week Five and went out for the year. Boom, your entire offense has to be adjusted because now you’re playing a rookie fifth-rounder at TE and he’s nowhere near the receiver Finley was. Greg Jennings became the featured receiver and had a dominant year. A lot of that is obviously Rodgers and Jennings’ individual skills, but it was also McCarthy and OC Joe Philbin making the adjustments to help Jennings make plays.

4) The “Debacle in the Dome” as many of us call it here in Atlanta seems to have been a turning point for both franchises with you all winning the Lombardi and us devolving into a downward spiral. How big of a win was that for the Packers and their fans?

That was the game where I think the team shifted in the eyes of Packers fans, from “Good, but not great” to “Holy crap, these guys could be Super Bowl champions”. I mean, at that point we’d beaten the Giants, we’d stifled the Bears and survived Michael Vick and the Eagles. Rodgers was looking very good and the defense was too, but nobody expected what happened in Atlanta. The Falcons were the No. 1 seed, we heard all week how they were invincible at home and how the Packers had lost to them in November, and everyone was kinda full of trepidation. Then, boom. Rodgers puts on a dazzling performance and suddenly we’re in the NFC Championship game. That was enormous for Packer fans, and I’m sure for the Packers as well.

5) The Packers lost a few games before getting on a scorching hot streak all the way to the Super Bowl title. How much do fans believe that winning the Lombardi was a product of how well they were playing? What helped the Pack get on that streak?

I think it was a combination of Aaron Rodgers’ return after a game and a half’s absence, good coaching by McCarthy and the realization that the Packers’ backs were absolutely against the wall. We were in a scenario where if we won the final two games, we’d make the playoffs, that’s it. As the pundits say, we controlled our own playoff destiny. That realization was part of it. Desmond Bishop said after the regular-season finale that the Packers’ mindset was on a six-game winning streak. The team never seemed to doubt that the Super Bowl was within their reach. I’m not sure if that completely answers the question, but those are the reasons I can think of.

6) Green Bay is a model for drafting and developing great players. Who has had more of an impact on the Packers success: Aaron Rodgers or Clay Matthews? Have there been any head-scratchers in recent drafts?

Hard to say. You can point to either player and say “Without them, we don’t win the Super Bowl. Simple as that”. Each is tremendously important to the Packer offense/defense. If pressed, I would say Rodgers.

As far as head-scratchers, not really. The last really big “Huh?” player was Justin Harrell, our first-round pick in 2007 and probably Thompson’s biggest bust. He was somebody that Packers fans hated literally from the minute he was drafted (fans in the Lambeau Field Atrium during the draft infamously booed the pick when it came over the loudspeakers). Harrell was constantly injured, and when he could get on the field, he was ineffective. Beginning with the 2008 draft that netted Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley in the first two rounds, though, Thompson has been on a ridiculous roll for the last few years. Almost all of his high picks have contributed or are starting.

7) Even though it is such a difficult task, are the Packers fans “expecting” to repeat as Super Bowl Champions this year?

Game was 14-14 at this point (C.Compton/AJC)

Not really. I’ve heard this question a lot, and I really think we’re not. A lot of Packers fans still remember 1996-1997, where Brett Favre and the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI but lost to the Broncos in XXXII. The fans understand that it’s incredibly difficult. Plus, it’s really early in the season for talk of a repeat. If we’re, say, 10-3 in Week 14, then you’ll hear a lot of repeat blather. Right now, though, all we’re expecting is to be in playoff contention.

8.) Now that the Falcons are on a major slide, what teams do Packers fans fear the most in the NFC? Do Packer fans feel that the Lions are a legitimate threat to the NFC North crown?

Preseason, I think the teams Packers were looking at as our major competition were the Saints and the Eagles. We beat the Saints, if only just, and the Eagles spent the first quarter of the season self-destructing. At this point, fans are naturally focused on the other undefeated team in the league and in our division, namely, Detroit. Because Packers fans have watched the Lions be so terrible for so many years, I think there’s a definite sense that the world is upside down and it’ll right itself eventually in the form of some Lions losses. Having said that, I shudder to think what Matthew Stafford (we can’t get to the quarterback) and Calvin Johnson (we can’t cover so far this year) could do to our defense. I still think the Packers will win the division, but it’ll be closer than anybody thought it might be

10) Prediction of Final Score

I’ll say Packers over Atlanta, 31-24. Aaron Rodgers is coming off a stupendous game against Denver and I don’t see him or the Packers offense slowing down anytime soon. Having said that, the defense has figuratively lived and died by the big play this year. We’re 31st in passing yardage given up, but we’re only 18th in points given up, because we’ve forced 11 turnovers in four games. Sooner or later, that’s going to catch up with us, and it could easily be against Atlanta. If Atlanta plays it safe and doesn’t turn the ball over, this could easily be a Falcons victory.

(((((On behalf of The Bird Cage and all its family members, sincere sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to one of our Original Bird Cage Members, DePlane, and his entire family this week for their loss of a close family member.))))))

751 comments Add your comment


October 6th, 2011
11:24 pm

Wow D3–what a blog. That’s a load to digest but good stuff. Thanks….


October 6th, 2011
11:48 pm

Your blogs are just too damn long. I bet you don’t get many visitors. Your a great blogger, but they’re too long.


October 7th, 2011
12:37 am

Reminder — This blog is a different set up than the usual. Only half of this blog posting is mine (the first questions that are answered came from me) and the other half is the questions from the Packers Blogger Andy Tisdel. It did come out to a very long post, but to be frank, I won’t be around the computer over the weekend and it just didn’t make sense to do two separate posts in a matter of days.

waynester — Like I said, this isn’t the norm and only half is from me and the other half is from Andy. I know it came out to be entirely too long, but it’s just the way it worked out. No sense in doing two separate blogs. And I’ll be out of town with my two young boys, so I wouldn’t be near a computer anyway.

FalconFan — Point well taken. I’ll certainly concede that fact on this one, but most of them aren’t even half this long. As I said before, only half of this post is mine. All the questions in green are answered from Andy Tisdel, a Packers blogger. I hope you come back for our regular posts, because this is not the norm.


October 7th, 2011
12:41 am

Great read(s) D3; that goes for all your blogs. D.Led writes as much except he has the opportunity to space them out with different headlines and over the course of days. You don’t need me to defend your work, it speaks for itself. Great info, thanks!


October 7th, 2011
12:47 am

fsjr — Thanks a bunch my friend. Cheers!

Why am I still up?

Night ‘All!


October 7th, 2011
12:49 am

As for the substance of your blog and your assessment of our coaches, I couldn’t agree more. I thought the Falcons would finally turn the corner from taking what teams give us (that’s both sides of the ball) to us dictating the pace or flow of the game and making opponents adjust to what we do.


October 7th, 2011
12:54 am

Think I’ll take a shot at those questions that were asked about the Falcons
1. Julio Jones – Priceless

2. We expected teams to get better. That’s why we went out and tried to get better ourselves. Fans still believe that this team has SB potential and should compete with anyone on any given Sunday. That’s what makes us scream at the tv; because we hate to see our team under-achieve.

3 You mentioned it, but it bears repeating. The Falcons run far too many stop routes. Curls, outs, comebacks, etc. All of which stop the receivers momentum moving towards the goal line, allowing defenders to recover, not taking full advantage of separation. Other teams are jumping these routes. Especially in big 3rd down situations. The four teams we’ve played thus far have been each been gashed by rarely seen pass plays from the Falcons, like the aforementioned drag route. Some of us have questioned is it the coaches desire, the QB’s capabilities, or something else entirely (O-line issues, personnel etc). At this point, I think GB will be surprised by a few more wrinkles in the Falcons pass routes, and route combinations designed to give Matt Ryan a better feel for who is more likely to be open, so he can make quicker decisions, get the ball out faster, and help with the protection problems we’ve experienced. We’ve seen flashes, so hopefully we will see a more sustained effort this Sunday.

4. The playoff loss to Green Bay was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for a team that had been rolling all year long. But looking back, that game got out of hand on two or three key plays, that were rapid 14 point swings. Throw in the fact that we missed getting Aaron Rogers down on the ground several times when he really should have been sacked, and the fact that said Rogers proceeded to have the game of his life and punish us brutally for those miscues, and you have what seems to be a total collapse. It really wasn’t. It showed that we really didn’t have the firepower to get back into a game quickly, and maybe that led to the Julio Jones acquisition (refer to answer #1), so there’s a platinum lining for that dark cloud.

Green Bay has continued that high level of play since that game, and the Falcons have appeared to struggle since then. Expect the Falcons to level off and start showing the consistency they showed over the past three years. Expect the Pack to come back to the pack some, as very few teams manage to maintain that lights out level of play over a full season. This then, is not so much a revenge, get back at them, type of game as it is a “get back on track” type of game. I’ll bet that’s the mantra at Flowery Branch. It should never be more about the other team than it is about making sure your own house is in order.

5. The Falcons missed opportunities to take Rogers down. If that happens again then expect a similar result. I think you will see more pressure from the LB corp this week, along with a bit more press coverage at the line to shut down the blitz beating hot routes. Edwards was brought in to provide more outside rush, and he hasn’t been as big a factor as we would have hoped. With the possible return of perennial pro-bowl snub DT Babineaux, the Falcons have a chance to disrupt Rogers. Falcons LB corps will also need to get better at sniffing out and snuffing out the RB passing game that several teams have used to good effect against us. Again, with the personnel we have at LB, esp. if Nicholus comes back healthy, we should be doing a better job with that. Could be the Achilles heel this Sunday.

6 & 7. We lost two road games to two decent teams. We beat the team that was the consensus team to win the NFC. It’s been four games, and the only thing you can say with certainty about the Falcons is that they are inconsistent. The offense is prone to sputter, and the defense is prone to leaking yards like a sieve. Then that same offense can run off 12 play, 7 minute scoring drives or a 30 second, 2 play scoring strike, that makes you wonder why they don’t do that all the time. That same defense will hold a team to 5 yards rushing in a half, keep teams out of the end zone by hook, crook, or miracle mojo, and come up with a big turnover when you least expect it. They’ve looked awful and they’ve looked excellent. And it causes us to sometimes wonder which they really are.

The biggest statement the Falcons can make this week is that they have shaken off the rust, and came to play for 60 minutes. It shouldn’t be expected or necessary to stop the Packers cold. Rogers and the crew will most likely make some big plays. We have to be able to respond well on offense and defense, and show continued improvement. Winning this game will not mean the rest of the season will be a breeze, and losing this game will not mean that the rest of the season will be an exercise in futility. But coming out and appearing less than ready, willing, and able to compete for every single second on the clock will start to leave a much worse taste in the mouths of a fan base all to familiar with euphoric highs that suddenly come crashing to the ground. Such has been the history of the Falcons franchise, but we were all hopeful that a new legacy started when Arthur Blank took the helm and the tide turned with the installation of the Dimitroff regime. Confidence in that turnaround is what may really be at stake this Sunday.


October 7th, 2011
1:00 am

And for what it’s worth, I have no problem reading anything that is worth reading. Getting input from the other teams perspective was certainly a worthwhile pursuit. Answering questions that outside observers have about our team actually provided opportunity for some perspective. All in all I give it a thumbs up. Keep doing what you can to keep it fresh, and keep up the good work.

Big Ray

October 7th, 2011
1:43 am

D3 ,

Outstanding blog. Truly outstanding.

It gives us some perspective on fans much like ourselves. Amazing how similar their feelings/perspective is to ours, no?

I wonder did anybody notice what Andy said about their defense… you know, the one that supposedly makes other teams punt and what we should model ourselves after, according to some people… ? How do you atone for a defense that struggles? Offense.

The Packers are 4-0. Why? Offense, offense, offense, offense, offense….OFFENSE.

It’s just one reason why TD traded up for Julio, though nothing Julio does on his own standing will ever justify the price, and I understand why draft purists feel that way. As for denying Julio’s ability…that’s plain hatred or extreme ignorance.

Back to the Packers…they believe in themselves. Their coaching staff is experienced and knows how to adjust to the injuries of players, or to the problems a team can experience when it’s scheme is not working.

Best of all, their coaching staff adjusted on the side of the ball that’s responsible for scoring points. Our guys would be well-served by taking notes.

Defenses make a difference, but its the teams that keep their offenses working and primarily through the air that are winning. Plain and simple.

Big Ray

October 7th, 2011
1:49 am

Again…on defense…yes it’s very important. But again, look at the top teams in the League right now…

Most of them are not playing up to par…but is it scheme or personnel?

Should the fact that the Packers have a worse defense than us point to their scheme or their personnel? They can’t get to the QB…does that mean that Desmond Bishop, AJ Hawk, and Mighty Casey suck? How about the GM that picked them? I mean….Thompson didn’t trade away picks, so what’s the deal? Might their scheme not be working to the best ability? How about injuries? I’ll bet some of us who praise the Packers every day as if they are Packer fans would be very quick to point out the injuries that the Packers have suffered on that side of the ball.

But they will quickly dismiss our own injuries as a factor. Hypocrisy, but whatever.

I actually like the players we have for the most part. The scheme? Not so much.

In the meantime, I think we can win this game. I know the players will be up for it. Will the coaching staff?

Mr. Blank will be prowling the sidelines….I need say no more.


October 7th, 2011
2:03 am

Clearly the problem is that the Falcons haven’t fired enough people. Teams do well when they constantly have new coordinators and new coaches. Unless we fire all the coaches and the 59 men squad we can never expect results. Receiver should never drop balls. No one should miss tackles. Unless we FIRE everyone we can never compete for Championships. Great teams FIRE everyone.

Until Arthur Blank is willing to fire 9 probowlers, bloggers will never be happy. I love our team but how much more would I love firing everybody. You think Green Bay wouldn’t FIRE everyone. Get gone Rodgers, Mathews, and Finley!

Let’s FIRE everybody after every game. Go Falcons. Fire Up Atlanta!!!!


October 7th, 2011
2:52 am

I am not really that All of Nothing but let’’s give the most successful coaching staff we have ever had a chance. I would rather a Championship like the Giants than this crap. This team is in good hands. Let us try to enjoy it for a few games.


October 7th, 2011
2:57 am

Sorry if I yelled. :-)

Screen Pass

October 7th, 2011
3:20 am

” McCarthy’s scheme mixes in a lot of short passes and screens that essentially replace the run, and while I’d like to see us be a bit more balanced on principle, I don’t think it hurts the offense much if at all.” – Packer Guy

Isnt there some guy round here that keeps saying we need to do stuff like this? I forget his name but I’m sure MM can’t spell it much less do it.

Brother John

October 7th, 2011
5:19 am

Thanks for someone at the AJC finally pinning the tail on the donkey’s you know what by placing the blame directly where it belongs. On this lame, un-creative, boring, non-agressive coaching staff! These people are clueless. Surprised Dimitroff hasn’t commited suicide by now. Where is Blank? You trade for a pure “cover” corner — Dunta — then drop him back in zone coverage 30 yards from the line of scrimmage. Idiotic. You get a a good, young defensive end — Ray — and rush 3 guys with no linebacker blitzes to help out. Stupid. You draft the collegiately great Sean Weatherspoon — whose sole job seems to be chasing down wide receivers from sideline to sideline — after they’ve gained a good eight yards or more. Moronic. With this coaching staff, there’s no “there” there. To a man, they are living in the past and coaching a style of football out of the 1950s. This game has changed for the better in the last 60 years. Better athletes. Better schemes. Yes, more EXPLOSIVENESS on both sides of the ball. Heck, Norm Van Broklin put up 62 points against New Orleans with a team of nobodies. This team is loaded with talented players. I’ve been a fan since day one and I honestly would like to see this team lose the next three games if that’s what it takes to get this entire coaching staff fired. A one year turn around is so possible here because the players are already in place. It’s the coaching. Pure and simple. They have no propensity to change so Arthur should make a change for them. Take their antiquidated style somewhere else and lose there. Mike Smith is a dinosaur and stuck in a defensive mind set. I’d like to get an offense guy as the head coach. Are you listening Arthur? Tom? Who’s McCarthy’s offensive coordinator? Get him. Who is Sean Payton’s offensive coordinator? He’d do. Who is “rookie” Cam Newton’s OC? Cam’s passing for over 400 yards a game — is that guy available? Is Bill Walsh still alive?? Fans, we’ve got one guy in the media on our side (Thanks, D3!!) and the cries for change need to be loud and long…

DC Dirty Bird

October 7th, 2011
6:46 am

Concur with Brother John, with the talent we have on offense, we should be putting immense pressure on opposing defenses. Cam Newton throws for 400 against the Bears defense including two deep balls to Steve Smith, but we come out of the game talking about how its hard to stretch a cover 2? We have the most athletic trio of backers the team has ever seen yet blitz packages for them are a rarity. Good defenses put playmakers in position to make plays. That’s why you see Charles Woodson lined up as a safety in the box, Revis assigned to the side of the field with the best WR, Dakota Watson a LB lined up at DE on 3rd and long.

D3 thanks for the blog, its refreshing to see someone examine the Falcons on a micro level and incorporate other teams perspective of our schemes. I’m as happy as the next fan that we’ve had 3 straight winning seasons, but the goal every year is to win the Super Bowl. Right now, I don’t see how our current style of football can get us to the Show.

OC/DC Dinosaurs

October 7th, 2011
7:06 am

Amen Brother John!! You have summarized about two years of concerns that D3’s blog has expressed.

I am trying to be positive about the Sunday game and wishing that we will see just a few new concepts that make the game winnable.

My dream is the offense lines up for the first series with JRogers at running back and JSnelling at fullback.


October 7th, 2011
7:21 am

I think short term it is difficult to analyze whether we gave up to much to get JJ or not. I think down the road none of us will care, we will just be happy that he is lined up on our side, and not someone else’s. I know the move was made to get us over the hump now, and it is still a work in process. Come April 2012 it will be clear whether it was a good move or not. If we are clamoring, because we are missing a 1st round pick to address a glaring weakness that we have not been able to overcome, then many fans will begin to believe though JJ is a great player, that it was a bit of an over reach.

I think this 3 game stretch will determine which way our season will swing. If we go 1-2 or 0-3 in that stretch, I have a hard time seing us make it into the playoffs with two games against New Orleans, Houston, and Tampa on the second half schedule. Also Tennesee although I think are over achieving right now and at Carolina could be dangerous games as well.

I think many of us fans are over looking that this team really doe not have issues moving the ball between the 20’s. I think between the 20’s we are well balanced, and not real predictable. However inside the 20 on either side of the field it is run, run, and pass on third and long (which usually ends with Ryan having to throw the ball away). If I am on my couch or in the stands, and they get the ball inside of the 20, and I know what is coming I am sure most DC’s across the league know as well. I would like to see more screen instituted, and run where the def lets the d-line go, puts a hat on a hat against lb’s, and have Rodgers (not Turner or Snelling) take the screen. Watch the Eagles, Saints, and Colts (before this season) to see how to make it work. I also would like to see more routes where the receivers get the ball in stride. It is much easier to exploit defenses with routes across the middle due to new NFL rules. Take advantage of it like every other team is doing to us.

OC/DC Dinosaurs

October 7th, 2011
7:34 am

Andy said “, the defense has figuratively lived and died by the big play this year. We’re 31st in passing yardage given up, but we’re only 18th in points given up,”.

I immediately thought of the capability of the offense to amass running and passing yardage but then not able to score a touchdown. That Packers scenario would confine the offense exactly as it has played and probably more so since out tendencies are well known. The one negative about JJones’s passing yardage is he has scored zero touchdowns. The offense must find a way to get the ball into the end zone at the end of the wide receiver receptions. Let’s don’t get into the struggles to score that we always see with the ball in the red zone.


October 7th, 2011
7:35 am

Robinson is back so far because of his so called speed . It ant working . MM could not call his kids to come eat lunch ,let alone a play for our Birds . Let Ryan do the no huddle all the game . Where are these two guys we got in free agent .the CB and Safety . how long does it take to learn our scheme . Rogers will torch our corners once again. D Robinson reminds me of the Braves pitcher Lowe ,just how many games will they play him to help us lose . R White has a case of the drop’s as if he is nevus of the new star across the field . Unless things change we are doomed Sunday night . You all might not like what I say but thats the way I see it


October 7th, 2011
8:32 am

That was fun, D3. Do this as often as you can with other teams’ bloggers or reporters. And good to hear you articulate your view on the Falcons to the other guys. Good job.


October 7th, 2011
8:47 am

I keep hoping that the Falcons can get it together by mid-season like the Packers did last year. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but all hope is not lost and it’s a long and winding season.
Love the new format and would enjoy seeing it again. Thanks again for a very informative article.

[...] rookie WR Julio Jones preps for his strongest NFL test yet as Packers …Washington PostAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 362 news [...]


October 7th, 2011
9:20 am

It will be interesting to see the play calling by Mike Mularky in this game. He comes across as arrogant and above reproach. Now Vangorder might be guilty of his scheme, sometimes the guys seem out of position. At some point you want to see a big jump in the right direction, when it comes to the defense. Julio Jones is going to be a great player. He keeps his mouth shut and continues to make big plays. I still waitting to see what Dimitroff saw in Ray Edwards. How can you line up from week to week with no sacks. Why are you here? Also Matt Ryan has to have a complete game, these are the type of games that if you win the league takes notice. Especially when you can beat a hot Aaron Rodgers. I’m going label Dunta Robinson as a enforcer, because he clearly is no ball hawk. He needs to give some of his money to Brent Grimes. Who is clearly the better corner. Joe Hawley, Sam Baker and Reynolds have to play better. Their collectively are killing Matt Ryan. How come we can’t get Rodgers and Douglas out in space, where they will be most effective? This is a good football team now go out and prove it.

[...] rookie WR Julio Jones preps for his strongest NFL test yet as Packers …Washington PostAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Fantasy Football Jungleall 367 news [...]

Jack B

October 7th, 2011
9:26 am

Best blog format I’ve ever seen. Outstanding. Please keep this coming!!!


October 7th, 2011
9:33 am

d3… Dude.. DUDE… great post up for this week. WOW!! Very nice indeed.

[...] rookie WR Julio Jones preps for his strongest NFL test yet as Packers …Washington PostAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 368 news [...]


October 7th, 2011
10:16 am

Good job, D3.

On question #1
The league is all about star power and money.
J. Jones is a young bright star in the making.
A team has to really reach to over pay for that kind of commodity.
It`s just going to take some time to reap the dividends of that investment as, the team is also paying in differed cost.
So, IMO his selection should equal out as a long term plus gain.

On question #2
Hopefully, the team will improve each week and IF they can manage winning 2 of 3?
They will be in decent shape going into the bye.

More later…


October 7th, 2011
10:20 am

I think the lock-out did more harm to the team than what we know. Even though they were supposed to be staying in shape on their own they were still without the supervision of their coaches and trainers not to mention being locked out of the Flowery Branch facility. NOT GOOD! I understand that all of the teams had to face the same thing, and it;s looking like the Falcons may not have put out as much effort as some of the others. This is just one theory. I’m sure there are many many theories. I have read several in this post, and they all make sense. For the first time this season we saw the Falcons that we want to see in the first half of the Seattle game. Lets all hope that same team shows up and plays the full game Sunday night. “GO FALCONS”!


October 7th, 2011
10:36 am

Short and to the point. Any team in the NFL can be beaten on any given Sunday. Packers lost here last year (and spanked us when it counted). If we take advantage of secondary mistakes and keep Ryan off the turf this is our game. The DOME will be extremely loud. Their line will have some difficulty getting signals etc. Not a difficult or complex response.

Michael M.

October 7th, 2011
10:44 am

Falcons going to beat them like a Drum !


October 7th, 2011
10:55 am

I was hoping that Andy would elaborate on an NFL film spot where the Packers’ ‘10 mid-season turnaround was attributed to weekly private meetings between McCarthy and Rodgers. The coach felt like Aaron wasn’t buying into their schemes and thought a little after practice tutoring and male bonding might be the answer. Seems he was right.
Could the Falcon coordinators benefit from a little of the same or does their arrogance place them beyond approach?

Paddy O

October 7th, 2011
10:57 am

D3 – I hope you don’t take that “too long” comment with any seriousness. The comments from the Packers fan were exceptionally useful – their trepidation going into the game was interested, and not surprising at all – we looked like world beaters, and despite the final score, that game was close the first half – plus we played GB tough just a few weeks prior. Other than DeCoud & Mughelli (who can’t catch a pass despite his assertions), I have very little problems with our team. I still hope to see the I formation with Quizz & Turner – Turner is a great blocker, and Quizz should provide the D with some hesitation. My entire problems are with hour coordinators thus far this year – however, the flat game against Chicago – which was an extension of a sloppy preseason – despite folks saying the preseason does not count in the regular season – is the game that really bugs the crap out of me – Chicago is NOT that good.

Paddy O

October 7th, 2011
10:59 am

D3- I know we respect Packer fans, and loathe Saints fans – but if you could find a Saints fan like Andy, it would be really interesting to get a rationale impression of the Saints – along with Carolina & TB).


October 7th, 2011
11:24 am

Great post! Very informative! To the person who complained it was too long. And who exactly forced you to read all of it? Would enjoy see this format again. Nice play calling!


October 7th, 2011
11:46 am

Greetings Cagers!!!

D3, keep on doing what you are doing brah. This was a great blog and it provided us with an insight into what our opponents think of us. If you are a fan of football you all appreciated this blog.

On to Sunday. I have no doubt we have what it takes to upset Green Bay. I know they are real good now but for the upset to happen, our coaching staff will have to be at it’s best. Will it be good enought to outscheme Capers and McCarthy? We’ll see. On paper it does not appear so but we can be a tough out at home notwithstanding the last whipping we got from GB. However, I’m expecting us to be the “Seahawks-1st-half” version of Falcon Football for both halves come Sunday night.

As far as Julio is concerned, he is the real deal. I love his temperament. All he does is play football, no gimmicks, no statements, just bringing his lunch pail to work each and every Sunday. The fact is however, his value will be inextricably linked to the success of our Birds. The value of that trade made by TD is all wrapped up in W’s & L’s. Right now to the so-called experts and the talking heads, he is average because that is the type of season we are currently having. Run off a streak of 5 or 6, especially with the schedule of the next few weeks and he will be the 2nd coming of Jerry Rice.

I am optimistic and think we can pull off the upset. The good thing is that not many people, including a vast majority of our own fans, are giving us any chance and I hope we approach this game with a large chip on our shoulders and play accordingly. I hope they also heard the snippet of Donald Driver’s comments on NFL Network, about them coming in here last year and embarrassing us. I just hope that is on every wall in our locker room and it serves as the right motivation.

Oh by the way in case you missed it Deon Sanders said this time we will get to punt twice. He was overly sarcastic when he said it too, on NFL Network during their “No Huddle” discussion.

OL, you know this week is on you!! Get your blocking schemes right because Matty will need all the time he can get. I also hope we can see the resurrection of HD and it will be dejavue for Wems on a kick or punt (last time we had none) return!! We need all the weapons we can get our hands on.

Go Falcons!!!

[...] (4-0) at Atlanta (2-2) (ET)Kansas City StarHere's what else is on tap for Friday:NFL News (blog)Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Indiana Statesman -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (blog)all 495 news [...]


October 7th, 2011
12:57 pm

Just got caught up from last night. A lot of good stuff. D3, I agree with those who like the idea of chatting with other teams and getting their outlook. The concensus on this blog is very optimistic and, as they say, “on any given Sunday.” I’m ready for a win.
I did see something somewhat disappointing in M Bradley’s article whereas he had a place to vote on who you thought would win this upcoming game. The total when I vote was 58% for the Packer, on an Atlanta Falcon blog?? Looks like all of the optimist hang out here.

[...] at Atlanta (2-2) (ET)Kansas City StarGreen Bay QB Rodgers rules NFL at quarter poleMiamiHerald.comAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Indiana Statesman -NFL Newsall 508 news [...]

[...] Can Shaky Falcons Upset Streaking Packers? While he may have missed on some picks, by and large Thomas Dimitroff has done an amazing job reshaping this team in such a short time after the Michael Vick nightmare destroyed our team, roster, and franchise in so many ways. … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

[...] Can Shaky Falcons Upset Streaking Packers? You will be hard-pressed to find any Atlanta fans who aren't ecstatic to have Jones as a Falcon. The player himself was never questioned, because most of us also follow college football, specifically the SEC, and anyone who had seen him play knew he … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]


October 7th, 2011
2:25 pm

Is anyone else tired of Aaron Rodgers? Brett Farve slighted him by saying he was good enough to win sooner. Roddy bugged him by saying he thought the Falcons didn’t play their game.

Now he will probably use this post as motivation.

Keeping it Real

October 7th, 2011
2:57 pm

Really enjoyed the blog. My concerns. Ray Edwards has been Jamal Anderson light so far. Fair against the run, no pass rush. Just another guy.

Matt Bosher was mediocre with the U and is mediocre with the Falcons. They replace inept field goal kickers all the time. Why not get someone who can punt and reach the end zone on the kickoff off the street. There must be a few out there.

How long do they let Dunta mess up? Never thought I would miss Chris Houston.


October 7th, 2011
3:43 pm

From Pat Y’s chat…this was pretty great

D. Walker (Atlanta, GA)
Pat – I’ve kept up with the stats, and this year, when the Falcons have used the no-huddle offense, they: 1) tend to run a more balanced offense of run vs pass 2) gain more yards per rush 3) gain more yards per pass 4) have given up no sacks.Given that, what possible reason could you see that the Falcons haven’t gone to the no-huddle more, if not permanently?

Pat Yasinskas
I’ve been saying for a couple years that Falcons should go no-huddle all the time. Either that or take the batteries out of Mularkey’s headset.


October 7th, 2011
3:46 pm

Also fun:

John (Salisbury NC)
Bosher is the only punter in league that has yet to have a punt over 50 Yards, feel free to share.

Pat Yasinskas


October 7th, 2011
3:55 pm

excellent blog D3, great comments DHunt….this is the type of info you enjoy reading, hope this type of blogging continues, great insights from both perspectives (home team v visitors)….just wondering if TD will follow Frank Wren’s footsteps and fire an assistant coach if Smitty doesn’t?


October 7th, 2011
4:01 pm

Remove the batteries from MM`s head set, humm.
Good idea, it might work!


October 7th, 2011
4:18 pm

Hmmm. Accuscore has the Packers with a 70% chance of winning, but what do the know. Do they measure desire?


October 7th, 2011
4:23 pm

Here’s some ammo for those wanting man coverage.
“the big question in Philadelphia is what the coaches are doing with cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Both corners specialize in man-to-man. The Eagles play zone, and it’s not working.” John Clayton on ESPN