Falcons Get Back on Track vs. Panthers

Birds Show Grit Against Division Enemy

Huge Day for Turner (C.Compton/AJC)

In a hard fought game with an upstart divisional foe, the Falcons got back to doing what they do best with a gritty win over the Panthers. It wasn’t the prettiest victory in the world, but it showed the Falcons still have potential to achieve some of their original goals for 2011.

Obviously, beating a team that was 1-15 in 2010 and were 1-4 before the game started won’t get you much attention from the talking heads confederation, but this was a big one to regain some much needed confidence and hopefully be the first step in a new winning streak. The Birds still have some issues to correct, but they did what they had to do to win the game.

1) Has Lower Playing Level Led to a Depressed Fanbase?

It’s not something that Arthur Blank or Rich McKay would want to hear, but the few empty seats might be a product of the way this team has played this season. Atlanta fans are usually late-comers anyway, but this one seemed particularly evident.

Perhaps it was just due to the Falcons hosting the 1-4 Panthers, but only a week ago the Dome was packed to see the Packers on Sunday Night Football. The fanbase needed this win almost as much as the team. Several players talked about this victory as a “morale booster,” and the same can be said of the fans.

2) Back to Falcons Football

Spoon Continues to Impress (C.Compton/AJC)

The Falcons got back to their old identity which has worked so well for them in the past. They played ball-control, run-heavy offense with Turner leading the way for 139 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Matt Ryan was very accurate in a limited pass game going 14-22 with 1 touchdown and a QB rating over 100. The defense yielded their yards, but came up big when it counted, especially in the turnover department, picking off Cam Newton three times.

For those wishing that the offense would open up and let Matt Ryan run a wide-open attack, yesterday’s victory was your answer, at least in terms of this season. When the Falcons can run the football, they usually win. As we’ve seen lately, though, the problem comes when they play good defenses that have no issue stopping the run.

3) Good Run Defense

The Falcons returned to one of their hallmarks in the Mike Smith Era on Sunday, shutting down the running game. With two very talented backs in Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, the Carolina Panthers tried to run the ball effectively on the Falcons, but the Birds were having none of it. Even though Stewart did have a 7+ yard rush average and Cam Newton ran for 50 yards and a score, they were able to stifle the rush overall and put the pressure on the passing game.

4) Worst in the NFL on 3rd Down Stops

There’s really not too much more to say here, because this has been a major issue over and over again and is evidently just a staple of the Atlanta Falcons defense under Head Coach Smith and DC Brian Van Gorder. It doesn’t matter who they play, the opposing team will have success on 3rd down. The Panthers were 8 for 12 on 3rd down conversions and many were even long third downs.

Ryan and Ovie Celebrate (C.Compton/AJC)

It doesn’t help when they play their jumbo jet, soft cheese zone defense and stick with the fetish of rushing only 3 defensive linemen on 3rd down plays. And here’s some proof in the stats: the Atlanta Falcons defense is officially the WORST IN THE NFL in 3rd down conversions. They rank 32nd out of 32 teams with a 49% conversion rate. This has been ongoing since Smith and Van Gorder took over the defense and now they’re officially the worst at stopping 3rd downs. No news to Falcons fans on this one.

5) More Quizz Please

Once again, fans see a great burst from rookie running back Jacquizz Rodgers (1 rush, 8 yards), only to never see him get the ball the rest of the way. He also hauled in a reception which went for 6 yards. After only getting 15 carries so far this year, he’s already averaging 4.5 yards a rush, but an even better stat has him averaging 9.7 yards a reception.

It’s hard to complain too much when Turner goes for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns, but every time Rodgers touches the ball he gets positive yardage. Rodgers gives the Falcons a burst on the outside and legitimate threat in the passing game, but the Birds are still giving Jason Snelling carries and receptions, which is cutting down Rodgers chances.

6) Did Falcons Play Better Without Julio?

This seems like a silly and ridiculous question, but the Falcons offense seemed more efficient without Julio Jones in the game. Just to be sure, this isn’t any knock against Jones, who is having an excellent rookie season, has just missed on several deep passes, and is one of the best young receivers in the game.

Huge Pick by Grimey (C.Compton/AJC)

This goes more to the offensive coaching staff of maybe not knowing how to incorporate Jones into the offense. Have they been trying to force Julio the ball too much, which has had an effect on the offensive rhythm? As mentioned before, this could be an example of the disconnect between Smith and Dimitroff on the direction of the team and their respective philosophies.

7) Bosher a Little Better

One of the most reviled players in the 2011 season has been punter and kickoff specialist Matt Bosher. He still has some work to do, but he did have a little better day yesterday. He’s still not booming kickoffs out of the end zone as many other kickers are doing, but he’s getting it deep enough for most returners to take a knee. While his overall yards-per-punt average remains pretty low (37.1), he hit two inside the twenty yard line on Sunday. Again, he’s got a long ways to go, but there are some signs of promise.

8.) Defensive Accolades

Even though the scheme continues to give fans heartburn, several players had an excellent day on defense. Brent Grimes, Thomas DeCoud, and Big Corey Peters all had huge interceptions of Cam Newton on Sunday, leading him to his worst day as a QB in the NFL (44.6 Passer Rating). Ray Edwards notched his 2nd sack of the season. Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Babineaux, and John Abraham all put good pressure on Newton. Sean Weatherspoon continues to live up to his expectations both in pressure and in coverage. And Stephen Nicholas got his first sack of the year as well. Just to mention once again, this defense has the talent.

9) Momentum Starter?

It was only Carolina, who despite all their promise has still only won 2 games in their last 21, but the Falcons players, coaches, and fans, feel like this has potential of getting the team’s mojo back. Even though they continue to have issues needing correction, the Falcons played their most complete game of the year in the win over the Panthers.

If they can steal a tough win from the Lions in Detroit, they will then head to a bye week and play the winless and Peyton Manning-less Colts. Those two victories would put them at 5-3 and hosting a newly vulnerable New Orleans Saints team with a soft patch of the schedule after that. All of it is null and void if they don’t win in Detroit, though.

Your Turn

Analyze the division win against the Panthers……….

-Dawson Devitt; The Bird Cage, Atlanta Falcons Fan Blog

991 comments Add your comment

John Waynesworld

October 17th, 2011
2:11 pm

Great win. One game out of first place. Let’s get it on in Motown!

Ken Strickland

October 17th, 2011
2:15 pm

I’m with you JOHN WAYNESWORLD.

rollow lawson

October 17th, 2011
2:25 pm

Brian Van Gorder is the problem with this defense, not the talent. This soft zone scheme is the reason we lost the Tampa Bay and Chicago games, I am convinced. How many times will this guy keep rushing 3 men? Try a delayed blitz up the middle once in a while, it might work dummy. No QB likes pressure right in his face. Eliminates the option of stepping up in the pocket. Use William Moore as a blitzer. This guy is going to get Mike Smith fired.

rollow lawson

October 17th, 2011
2:29 pm

And you are right D3. Too much talent on this defense for these results. Same for the offense. Neither coordinator knows how to use the talent given to them by the GM.

teamguy

October 17th, 2011
2:31 pm

Did you notice how well the deep ball was thrown on the play to White in the end zone? Right on the money. .in fact, it should have been caught. Of course, the penalty was welcome. I thought there were some deep throws that showed a pretty good touch by Ryan. And the two that were “overthrown” to Douglas, probably would have been run down by Jones or White. .but the defense certainly changed in the second half, and I think shows some promise.

D3

October 17th, 2011
2:39 pm

JWW — Yep. HUGE game in Detroit.

rollo — Great point. I mean I counted at least twice yesterday when there was LITERALLY no Falcons defender 20 yards around on a 360 degree radius. We have the talent to pressure with Spoon, Moore, DeCoud, Nicholas, and Lofton, but just refuse to do it.

teamguy — I was thinking the exact same thing. That was a perfect throw to Roddy and the guy knew he had to maul him for it not to be a score. He also threw a frozen rope to HD on that critical long out pattern, that was 3rd down I think. He looked much better in deep game yesterday.

rollow lawson

October 17th, 2011
2:44 pm

Mike Zimmer’s defense in 2007 played better than this with half the talent. I know they were more aggressive. This team needs a real NFL caliber defensive coordinator quick, fast and in a hurry. Van Gorder is not the answer.

JB FALCON

October 17th, 2011
2:49 pm

D3, going backwards in your post, the Lions are our next test. The 9ers used F Gore to amass 141 rushing yds for a 9.4 avg. If they’re that soft on run D, then MT should have no problem. 100 yds-Win!
I though both coordinators put forth some more effort to be a little more explosive but we stil got a lot of improvement to make. Rollow nailed it, they are both still learning how to use the talent they have.

Paddy O

October 17th, 2011
3:06 pm

This is a nice post. Not too excited. However, Carolina has played their previous opponents pretty tight. We forced turnovers, exceptional play (read & execute) by Peters on the interception; other interception off the tip by Mr. Moore was another fantastic defensive play. If we would blitz 1 LB every other down, from different points – we’d have the makings of a dynamic defense. Say what you like about the deep ball, it got us 2 very long PI penalties, which while they don’t show up as a beneficial stat for WR or QB, really helps the ball move. Roddy could have been a TD. The HD throw, with the blitzer in Matty Ices grill, was a thing of beauty. I still would prefer us to look at Roddy 1st, then go down our progression. If our O line will hold blocks a moment longer, Ryan could work on his pump fake, from sideline to sideline. D3 – I actually saw Meier on the field – although he was just blocking! Unless we had 12 guys on the field and no one notices (Carolina tried it at least twice!)

ANTMAN

October 17th, 2011
3:08 pm

The Falcons are one of the most taltnted teams in the league with the worst coaches. With all the weapontry we have on offence it shoiuld never be hard to put up 25 to 30 points a game. They just don’t know how to use these weapons. Weams, Douglas, Gonzalas, White, Jones, Rodgers.C’mon man. And the line must be at least decent to get openings for Turner a slow as he is. Dunta as bad as he looks is really a good corner, but he’s a bump knock-um sock-um cover guy. not a soft cover let him play and you’ll see. Demitroff please fire these coaches, or the stadium will soon be empty we’re tired of this nonsence

ryan

October 17th, 2011
3:21 pm

Glad we won we need go back to running the football and stop forcing throws to Jones he is a great athlete but he forced us from what the Falcons do best play the clock and run the ball .

LRD

October 17th, 2011
3:23 pm

For Mo-Town.. a little Wilson Pickett
We gotta bring it all down, we gotta start getting it right
We gotta stop messin around, and keep the thing up tight
Yes we do now.

And then Turner can sing the Chorus:
Oh! got to have a hundred!
Got to have a hundred!
Oh! got to have a hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hundred, too right.
Got to have a hundred, now. oh!

LRD

October 17th, 2011
3:24 pm

cuz Ninety-Nine and a half just wont do

waynester

October 17th, 2011
3:25 pm

D3
Point 4 is the one in most need of immediate action. Dead last in the NFL on 3rd down—and the type of conversions we’re giving up—3rd and very long— is nothing short of disastrous. Forget everything else and GET THIS FIXED!
ps
we stink pretty bad on the other side of the ball on 3rd, also…..

LRD

October 17th, 2011
3:32 pm

One point keeping in mind heading up to Detroit… can we PLEASE insure we have a healthy QB after this game. We need to dance the no sack jig to insure that Suh doesnt face plant Ryan into Ford Field. Seriously….

Paddy O

October 17th, 2011
3:37 pm

wayne – one 3rd & long was like 3 & 15 – Carolina got 12 of the 15 yards, but luckily still punted. So, what we need to do is get teams in 3 & over 15, and we’ll prevent most conversions (QB cant sneak out for 8 or so yards).

Paddy O

October 17th, 2011
3:38 pm

Anybody know – do our intrepid sportwriters query Mike Smith or anybody about our 3rd down conversion prevention ineptitude? Like the soft zone MIGHT BE RESPONSIBLE for this manure?

ryan

October 17th, 2011
3:47 pm

I agree Paddy O we had this problem against Green Bay we had them on some 3rd and long situations and they still able to convert we have got figure out how control these mobile QB’s which is hard to do .

LRD

October 17th, 2011
3:47 pm

And we didn;t force Carolina to punt until the 3rd qrtr… that is just a ridiculous stat

LRD

October 17th, 2011
3:57 pm

But against GB did we not use Stephen Nicholas almost as a monster back to shade Rodgers?
It seemed we did that on and off during the game.

**Frederick (Bailey) Douglass**

October 17th, 2011
4:18 pm

Great analysis D3…I like your analyses. Good stuff.

1) I’m sad to say that the problem with the offense starts with #2. It has taken Ryan 6 games to realize that he MUST throw the ball deep, even if the chances of actual completion are slim. The eye in the sky around the NFL has decided that Ryan will NOT challenge DBs down the field. Opposing coaches are telling DBs to squat on all routes until you get beat deep. “Ryan wont even throw the ball.” He threw a few yesterday and got a) two pass interference calls and b) DBs to move back so Turner can run. He has GOT TO KEEP GOING DEEP!

2) The pass rush is horrible. Babs must still be hurt, because he is normally better than this. With #23 at the corner (who couldn’t really care less) you need people running up the field. I think its scheme but also motivation. People need to be chewing these guys out…see Tampa Bucs yesterday and bill belicheck.

3) Roddy White needs to grow up. He is a veteran, but every week he gets unsportsmanlike penalties. Dude is a veteran now. I would be more impressed if he used that energy to chew Sam Baker out or get in Ryan’s face when he checks down again or simply throws the ball out of ball on key second downs.

4) I’m beginning to believe in #56. Athletic and confidence. Dude is ready TO EAT!!! On third downs dumb Van Gorder should play him at middle linebacker and let him flow to the ball. He is a MUCH BETTER PASS DEFENDER THAN #50. Small changes like this would get the birds off the field on 3rd down. Like you said D3, the talent is there…

5) Have not seen Turner run like that all year. Good game by the line (except #72 of course). I like what I see in Rodgers, but we are just not innovative enough to use him the right way. I’m rooting for Philly to lose because I would like for us to hire Andy Reid as OC next year…and have Smitty leave the offense to him. A pipe dream, but…

On to Detroit, where their corners are suspect. We should throw deep early to open up the run and the crossing and come back routes…but its going to take Ryan to actually pull the trigger.

FBD

Great Falconi

October 17th, 2011
4:59 pm

As bad as we were on third down for most of the game, it’s pretty obvious that we got after it on third down when the game was on the line. Like everybody else, I want to see that kind of effort on every third down.

Barry

October 17th, 2011
5:24 pm

Hey Y’all:

ONE GAME AT A TIME! ONE WIN AT A TIME!! This is a “MARATHON” and not a “SPRINT”. OUR FALCONS have to PREPARE AND “PLAY” ONE GAME AT A TIME.

Yesterday’s victory shows our FALCONS are clicking in “ONE HEARTBEAT!!” mode again. I feel sorry for the rest of the NFL with Turner “BLASTING through “HOLES” made by the OFFENSIVE LINE and “BLOCKS” made my the FULLBACK and THE RECEIVERS. Our passing game was AGGRESSIVE in ATTACKING the DEFENSE. THIS IS THE WAY IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE. JULIO IS NOT OUR ONLY OPTION IN GOING DEEP. RODDY, HARRY AND TONY ARE ALSO OPTIONS. We JUST HAVE TO HAVE PLAYS TO GET IT TO THEM. MAKE THE DEFENSIVE BACKS STOP IT OR “COMMIT A PENALTY.” OUR RECEIVERS ARE TOO FAST. AND YES, “MATTY ICE” CAN THROW IT!!! THE MORE HE DOE IT, THE BETTER HE WILL GET AT DOING IT.

OUR DEFENSE WAS “SUPERB” IN THE SECOND HALF. YOU COULD SEE THE DEFENSIVE ENDS CRASHING AND PUSHING THAT POCKET, MAKING SACKS, AND TACKLING RUNNERS. THEY BROUGHT SOME “PAIN” TO CAM NEWTON. HE was not the same after more than a couple of “HITS”. We “POPPED” in “ONE HEARTBEAT!!” The LINE BACKERS and SECONDARY played “TENACIOUSLY”. They played together, “COMMUNICATING AND POPPING” in “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”. Detroit have to be very comcerned with this bunch coming to town. This is a young, veteran bunch that is really “TICKED OFF” in slow start they had this season. I see everything going up especially with “SACKS for ABRAHAM and EDWARDS. It looks like they are starting to get into their “GROOVE”. THIS IS GOING TO BE “SCARY” AND IT AIN’T EVEN HALLOWEEN! LET’s DO THIS. LET’s DO THIS IN “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”

GO FALCONS!!!

THE “PROCESS” CONTINUES- “ONE GAME AT A TIME” IN “ONE HEARTBEAT!!:

WE AIN’T PLAYING!!!!! NFL BEWARE!!!!!!!!!!

“WE RISE UP!” in “ONE HEARTBEAT!!”

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is a SECRET from a FALCON FAN. TELL EVERYBODY!!

…………….”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!”……………

SG

October 17th, 2011
5:43 pm

Same game plan against the Lions considering 49’s Gore’s success w/ the run and the D’s pressure on Stafford. And Best will probably miss due to Q4 concussion. His running hasn’t been a big deal but he has about 270 in receiving.
Loved seeing the deep ball starting to come back – it’s been there – even at times in ‘08 – just not used.

Now regarding the D: I have great respect for former Buc pro bowler John Lynch, but twice yesterday he commented on BVG’s scheme – referencing that the Falcons were doing “a great job” keeping the play in front of them. That is a cornerstone of Kiffen’s Tampa 2 that Lynch played under. While he didn’t mind giving up some yards, I don’t think that giving receivers a 10-15 yard cushion off the line is something Monte would approve of.

That said, I can’t understand how we can got the Packers and the Cats into several 3rd and longs then consistently hand over a first and 10. Thoughts on that anyone?

stendek

October 17th, 2011
5:43 pm

Hello Dawson. Win was definitely needed. Made all the more important by Bucs. Thanks Tampa Bay guys. I am still tremendously depressed over general no pressure zone defensive scheme. Kudos for Falcons on takeaways. Well done fellows. Dropping seven or eight into coverage is not generally a good idea in NFL. Most QBs at this level will locate a receiver if allowed enough time. Do not want big plays? If a team drives down the field with several completions for 80 yards or one strike of 80 yards which is worse? Both count the same in points and yardage. I prefer a quick death over a slow one. I get so frustrated watching the Falcons opt for coverage over pressure as teams consistently convert third and long yardage plays. Bring the heat! I guarantee it will be more successful than not. Still not sold on Matthew Ryan. I am convinced that Roddy White wants out. Evident in his play or lack thereof. Oh well. On to Michigan. Need to best Matthew Stafford and his Lions. Hate that Lions had to lose last week. Will make em doubly hungry. If Falcons opt coverage over pressure then former Dawg QB may well pass for over 400 yards. But… :)

JJ

October 17th, 2011
6:07 pm

Barf, ok 1 heartbeat.

D3, nice post do not think were out of the woods. Very happy that we won and the effort our boys put into this game. Sick to death of MM playcalling and BVG/Smitty’s defensive soft zone shiiittee!

So I dont want to regurgitate what Ken stated but hes right. We may get into the playoffs, very doughtfull. If we do, well get blown away again in the first playoff game. Love my falcons and dream of walkind down ptree with SW, WR, D3, f21 and many many others. But even with the win, the same problems are present. Wont hash thru them because we all know what they are.

D3, did you even acknowledge winning ffl last yr? Love you like a brother but you suk at ffl only because your a silent player, no smack no nothing. Come on you dawsonville coward and give us some smack math teacher!!! lol, just proding you son!

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
6:56 pm

I’ll just post some of what I posted on the last blog:

Few thoughts on the offensive side of things :

1) Committing to the run was the right call. I can’t fault Smitty and Mularkey for that. Without Julio, our offense wasn’t much different in appearance and ability than last season. Best to play to our strengths and be determined to do so, in a regular season game. Trying to go vertical without Julio would have been foolhardy, as we don’t really know how to do that yet.

2) Having said that, when does JacQuizz Rodgers become more than a mere cameo appearance? It’s not like he fails when he’s out there. JacQuizz = positive yardage. More on this later, however….

3) Ryan is averaging 260 yds per game going into this game. His yards per attempt are less than 7, but that’s as much a product of our passing offense as anything else. However, look at Matt Stafford and his passing offense – roughly 1.04 yards per pass attempt and 27 yards more per game, about 130 yards more total. Yes, he has more TDs than Ryan easily…but he’s also playing in a scheme that depends on the pass.

I know Ryan has warts. He has things to work on. But he’s not averaging 163 yards per game, and not nearly as bad as some of us are implying he is.

To say he’s a game manager is a fallacy, I’m sorry. The guy can manage a game, but no “game manager” can bail you out when nothing else is working. If you think he’s simply a game manager, then you have a very short memory – he bailed us out the last two seasons several times, and there is nothing more effective than the no huddle with Ryan at the helm and in a rhythm. Sorry, but game managers aren’t capable of that.

And yes, once again…he does need to work on his deep passes. But I also think it was good that he fired some out there. Two would have been caught and completed possibly for scores were it not for pass interference. Let’s not forget that.

4) Better blocking all the way around from the O-line and anybody else asked to block. Fewer break-downs and penalties.

5) Still not impressed with some of the routes our WRs are running. Oh, the guys are running their routes. But the routes themselves are reminiscent of times past – they don’t seem designed to try and strike for greater yardage. I guess that’s because they aren’t. We’re a possession/ball-control offense. That is good, but it won’t (and hasn’t) worked against better defenses.

More to come….

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
7:00 pm

More offensive thoughts….

1) Notice how Harry Douglas’ two good catches were when he was on routes that are really slot routes? Douglas is a slot guy, not an outside guy. He’s not a #1 or a #2.

And for those who said we would have been just fine taking a Randall Cobb or a Torrey Smith instead of Julio…I’m not saying this justifies the trade up, Lord knows I’m sick of hearing that whole argument…but Cobb is a slot/speed guy and Smith…we would have had to take him in the 1st…aside from one very good game, Smith has done nothing of note.

2) This is my vote for the single sharpest observation all game long, from either blogger or commentator:

Paddy O

October 16th, 2011
5:32 pm

Here is the 2cent drill: This was a lot closer to Falcon football. Interesting HOW SUCCESSFUL Turner was running outside the tackles. We do not have the beef in the middle to run b/w the tackles. Maybe some game in the future MM will discover this.

Why? Because it’s so very damn true. Thinking back, I’m wondering why we didn’t notice this earlier. Baker and Clabo have both regressed, but nowhere can it be better proven just how much we miss Harvy Dahl than in the running game. Dahl opened a lot of holes. Reynolds/Johnson is a struggle at that position. Seen a lot of good blocking by Blalock, but it hasn’t been enough for us.

And as a result, the pass blocking has been worse. Again, thinking back, when we’ve successfully run Turner up the middle, it’s usually been off of Blalock. I’ve yet to hear an announcer call Reynolds or Johnson’s name on a nice Turner run. Can you remember it? I’ve heard Blalock’s name 7 or 8 times in games.

But running Turner outside the tackles worked today, and I think it’s because Baker and Clabo then get to push their man towards the middle, where everyone is already stacked as it is…because they’re waiting on Turner. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Way to go, Paddy O . And I hope the CS recognized this as well, and will utilize it more. It would seem that they have, according to D. Ledd’s latest article….

3) Someone said that Julio being out of this game might be a good thing, forcing the CS to re-evaluate how to better integrate him. Let me say something on this :

CHANGES ARE HARD

We’ve been watching this team struggle, and maybe we should know why already. We’ve tried running Turner, but it hasn’t always happened the way it should. We tried passing the ball more, but that has failed on some levels. Why?

A) We were used to running Turner up the middle off of either guard. Not re-signing Dahl nixed that. We couldn’t see it coming, but Reynolds and Johnson weren’t up to the task. They still aren’t.

B) This is the first year that we’ve tried to get away from a simple run, then dink and dunk in the passing game type of offense. Mularkey might be Inspector Gadget, but he’s a very strange version. I see the gadgetry sometimes, other times I see the same damn 15 plays. That’s got to change. We need new plays, more plays. We have new personnel in Quizz and Julio, but we don’t quite know how to use them yet.

One main obstacle to all of this is personnel. We need a better O-line, but that’s for my next point. The other obstacle? Mike Smith. The man is a former DC with what looks like not a whole lot of offensive creativity. He likes simple, smash-mouth football. Well, that doesn’t win playoff games, much less SuperBowls. These days, smashing has given way to slicing, at least on offense. Slicing happens through the air. I’m betting that if it ain’t Mularkey’s weirdness, it’s Smith’s slow, grudging, reluctant, and maybe even stubborn resistance to change.

I think Smith sees Quizz as a guy to throw in on third downs here and there, and not much more. I also think Smith sees Julio as somebody to plug into Michael Jenkins’ old spot and….simply be faster.

Well, that’s just wrong, although it’s just my humble opinion. You don’t trade that far up to simply have a faster Michael Jenkins. You start doing new things, expanding what you have. You start putting pressure on opposing defenses. You CHANGE.

I think Smitty has a hard time with this. Maybe he ought to harken back to why they keep saying (in print, no less) they went up and got Julio. Why they wanted to be able to keep up with the best offenses, since the best teams simply can’t be stopped. The idea was not to do the same old thing. But to do newer things, better things, greater things.

Having said that change is also hard, particularly when you have a shortened offseason due to a lockout. Maybe I’m not being fair. Maybe the CS has simply not had the time to try different things like they would during a normal offseason, and work through the new plays and ideas. Same goes for the players. Maybe this lockout had more of an effect than we want to admit to…and this CS is being affected by the changes that MUST come, but don’t come easy. Maybe they don’t deserve as much of our ire as they’re getting…or maybe they do. Either way, it’s possible that we are witnessing the growing pains in games, that should have been going on in the offseason and preseason.

C) I think we seriously need to draft OT in the next draft. I’m talking with our highest pick. Find another LT. Please. Sam Baker has gone back to being “okay” for the moment, but still has breakdowns and shows absolutely NO signs of being more than “okay”. Clabo might be money not so well spent. He’s so far from being Pro-Bowl this season, it’s not even funny.

So…draft OT first thing. Trade up to get one if we can. This time…trade up on a big’un with no “short arm” issues. Even if the guy looks like a project like Nate Solder (who looks fabulous right now). Just do it.

And while you’re at it, work hard developing Andrew Jackson…and draft another OT. Yes, this is me saying this is where TD has whiffed – trading up for Baker, not signing Dahl, and not going to some higher picks on the O-line in years past. But knowing him, he won’t let the grass grow under his feet. Probably is scouting even as we speak…

uga_b

October 17th, 2011
7:21 pm

Big Ray, the Falcons customarily start installing the playbook in OTAs so it definitely hinders a complete overhaul of the playbook. I am starting to believe that we did not have much spread system plays so players were working from last year’s offense. That may be why they are installing in piecemeal instead of having 20 players try to learn a brand new playbook in the shortened time. At least that is my hope. Also, it seems like we are still feeling our way on defense and we are doing a great job with turnovers. Peters was on one of those hated drop a DE fronts and Grimes was on a zero blitz.

I can forgive Ryan’s deep passes in this game (not the others as much) because he was throwing a Julio route to Harry. HD is quick and shifty but not a 4.3 guy.

BTW, Ryan lead the league in QBR this last weekend ahead of Rodgers. It means he managed the game well and made good decisions. He also made a brilliant throw to HD so it is hard to be down on him for the last game.

Overall, I think EVERYONE took a big step forward for the first time this year. Maybe they are getting on the same page.

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
7:22 pm

To say that the offense is more efficient without Julio Jones in the game is to ignore several facts all at once. Of course, if you don’t like Julio and/or didn’t like the fact that we traded up for him, you might be tempted to buy wholesale into such a flawed premise. Here’s why:

1) Yes, we did witness a lot of “forcing” the ball to Julio. Again, I point to the lack of offseason preparation, along with perhaps both a real and perceived need to involve him.

Julio’s presence so radically changes the offense from both a potential and real standpoint, that I think this team and coaching staff really weren’t ready for it. Think about it…have they been trying, really trying to change the nature of the offense since they’ve been here? No. It’s always been run first, run always, play action off the run. Then one day last season, they realized that Matt Ryan could run the no huddle like nobody’s business, and even carry the team to wins like that. That was the only change.

That did not change the way the offense ran, did not change routes for WRs, etc.

2) Julio changes all of the above. If you’ve seen him play, you already know he can do things that even Pro-Bowler Roddy White can’t do. This is NOT Michael Jenkins, but we have him in Michael’s spot. Which means, for the most part…he’s running Michael’s old routes…a bunch of “possession” routes and sideline routes designed to get enough yardage for a first down.

Don’t tell me different…if you’ve been watching, you know it’s true. Thing is, Julio can do so much more. Now…we’ve seen some different routes, different plays run with Julio. But you have to understand…those plays are “new.” We’ve never used them before. With ANYBODY. Like I said before – “change is hard.” I’m inclined to think that change is both SLOW and hard for Mike Smith, who would rather play conservative football anyhow. But even he has to know WHY… really why Julio was obtained….right? Right Mike? Hello? Here’s a hint – it’s not so we can block better for Turner. If that was the case, we’d have traded up for an OT or OG!

Is there a disconnect between Dimitroff and Smith on this? I hope not, or there will eventually be a disconnect between Smith and a Falcons paycheck. Somebody please tell me – Smith knows you can’t run your way to the SB. You have to be more explosive through the air to keep up with high scoring playoff teams. Because you’re not going to “stop” them.

3) Julio’s absence didn’t “allow” the team to get back to what they do well. It FORCED them to. The Falcons need to run the ball, and do it well. We all know that. But the presence of a WR, any WR, does not change that. If you can’t run the ball for some reason, it’s an O-line issue…blaming a WR…a fallacy. But it seems the Falcons DID discover why/how they could not run the ball, and how to change that:

http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-falcons/jones-goes-through-rehab-1203697.html

Turner on the edge

The Falcons thought they would be able to exploit the Panthers defense by running the ball. According to Smith, getting Turner to the outside was part of the game plan.

Turner ran for 139 yards on 27 carries (5.1 yard average) with two touchdowns. Several of his runs came on the perimeter.

“When people try to defend us, they are going to tell us where we are going to run the football,” Smith said. “We felt like we were going to be able to get to the second level on the perimeter. When you have Michael coming around the corner at 245 pounds, there are some guys that don’t necessarily want to take a clean shot at him.”

Smith said establishing the run was one of the Falcons’ pre-game priorities. He also credited the blocking of the team’s wide receivers in helping Turner get yardage on the edge.

falcon21

October 17th, 2011
7:26 pm

JJ, them backwoods boys don’t talk smack, I know, I be one myself. Anyway, that walk down peachtree is coming. Gotta believe!!!

Ken Strickland

October 17th, 2011
7:27 pm

Watching us be more innovative offensively of late, like using pitchouts, throwing to our RBs, and incorporating plays for our FB, makes me wonder if these are recently designed plays, or plays we’ve always had and just chose to ignore.

It has taken Mularkey/Smitty 3 full seasons, and 6gms into the 4th, to finally realize and/or accept that DEFs have made adjustments, and it’s way past the time for us to realize that adjustments to our OFF approach are desperately needed. Unfortunately when it comes to our DEF, it looks like VanGorder/Smitty are more DEFENSIVE than DEFENSIVE MINDED.

They both seem perfectly willing to field a bottom of the league DEF, especially pass DEF, rather than admit that their zones and zone comcepts are a doggone joke. Hell, what Smitty and VanGorder have come up with over the last 3+ seasons hasn’t fooled or confused anyone, not even the backup QBs we’ve faced.

The rediculous idea that the zones we’ve played, and the way we’ve played them for the past 3+ seasons, is somehow better than playing man to man shows a total lack of comprehension.

OC/DC Dinosaurs

October 17th, 2011
7:42 pm

1) Has Lower Playing Level Led to a Depressed Fanbase?
Early this moring, I was reading one of the other articles in the AJC.com, and came across this sentence from one of the bloggers:

I have lost my enthusiasm.

When I read it, I had a funny feeling because I felt IT during the game. I was not as excited as last year. I want to feel better about this team, but I am not optimistic for this year and with the OC/DC’s. I usually record the games and watch them one or more times to enjoy, but the excitement is not there. I think there are two sets of fans. Most of the newer (and maybe younger) fans are willing to let incompetence slide because they have not been exposed to years of nothing by the Falcons. We who know this team has lots of talent are more critical and expect better.

6) Did Falcons Play Better Without Julio?
The talk that the team is better “doing” its old school stuff infuriates me. It is the wrong message to send to this player. Personally, I don’t think from game one forward we have made enough effort to involve JJ11 in the games. We have a bunch of really dumb coaches that cannot recognize the talent that this team has.

Wabe

October 17th, 2011
7:42 pm

“Falcons last in league in third-down defense”

JJ

October 17th, 2011
7:42 pm

f21, oh come on, thats half the fun, no one goes on our ffl page and the cromaterie (sp..sorry prose..dik) makes it more exciting. For ex., last week when I was in the nc mtns, LRD and I were smacking about our match which made it more exciting for both of us. This last weekend, I get the silent D3 who wont even acknowledge hes in the league?

Come on and inject some fun in the no fun league. I understand why SW and WR havent been smaclking cause they suck this yr BUT they both are showing some signs of life. Even great grandpa Unca Bob is showing some rebirth…but still no smack!!!

Come on, Sarah B loved smack talk and FFL!!!

uga_b

October 17th, 2011
7:43 pm

Big Ray/Ken S., great minds think alike. We had time to design plays after drafting JJ, but we still have to install new plays and blocking schemes, which is why we have been in semi-pre-season mode.

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
7:50 pm

uga b ,

I think you’ve nailed it. And for what it’s worth…I really believe BVG is getting it done. I still don’t like the nature of our zone defense, or rather how much we use it, but Smitty is a former DC and endorses it and the one fact that we can’t get past is that of our D-line. And, you were right about that D-line needing to be dominant.

I like our D-line, they are good and solid….. when healthy .

1) Edwards never admitted to being a less than 100% healthy until a couple games ago. We should have known this, considering the fact that he was held out of most of the preseason after having offseason surgery. Now, he’s rounding into the form we need him to be. Sacks in back-to-back games is a good indication of more to come.

2) Abe hasn’t been healthy all season, either. The usual cracks/chinks in his armor have shown up. I hope he can maintain health throughout this season, and hopefully a postseason for us.

3) Losing Babineaux hurt. Now he’s back, but is he 100%? No way to know for sure, but my guess is that he’s healthy enough to play, but not at full strength.

4) Kroy Biermann – disappointment. When Abe was out, Kroy showed why we went and got Edwards. I hope Kroy can get better, but he’s not playing better than Sidbury (when it comes to sacks), despite getting more snaps.

5) Peria Jerry – apparently can’t stay healthy, or something. This is one where you have to fault Dimitroff on picking him. I didn’t like the pick to begin with, but what are you gonna do? When healthy, Jerry gives the push up the middle alongside Babineaux that collapses the pocket. When not…you get nothing.

6) Corey Peters – like him, but like Biermann, we need more from him. Peters may yet get better, but by how much?

7) Vance walker – should he be getting more snaps?

OC/DC Dinosaurs

October 17th, 2011
7:55 pm

I don’t think there are any excuses that hold up for the coaching staff regarding new plays. I saw the Panthers yesterday with an entirely new coaching regime and philosophy from last year and they ran their offense pretty well. Also, look at San Francisco, they have put in a new coaching staff and offense.

DHunt

October 17th, 2011
7:56 pm

Quick points

I am not a Matt Ryan hater. He earned that QBR yesterday. I just wish he would do some things a bit better. Like lead his receivers, make quicker/better decisions, get rid of the ball faster, and find some touch on the deep ball. You will notice that at no time did I say, get a stronger arm. The good news is he seems to be continuing to improve. Big Ray that is an excellent premise about why the Falcons WR routes are so stale. But I think the clock needs to be ticking a little faster. How hard is it to learn a crossing route, a halfback pass, or a screen? At one point yesterday, I saw four receivers, run 10-15 yard stop routes. Not surprisingly all four were well covered. A drag or crossing route would have been wide open. Instead, Ryan takes a sack.

56 needs to be turned loose on the QB, If it’s an obvious passing down, that man needs to be blitzing. Off the edges and up the middle, while the QB is pointing out the Mike, Spoon should be hammering him. Something like what GB does with Matthews. Especially if we aren’t going to do anything special with the front four to get pressure. It’s like we don’t know what a stunt is, and since we supposedly have smaller quicker linemen, that’s how you overcome a size discrepancy. Seems like we used to be better at jumping gaps, but even that aspect has disappeared. having said all that they were being held all night and got maybe two calls. Still, the good news is, they seem to be improving.

Gotta get pizza. More later.

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
7:58 pm

And having said all that, I would still take a long, hard look at drafting a DT in next year’s draft. Sure, give Peters time to win the spot. The fact that Jerry won it over him gave me pause, but maybe Jerry’s continued off-again, on-again issues will give Peters that much more opportunity to get better. I think he would have benefitted from a normal offseason as well. But still….look at DT in the draft. Look HARD.

Personally, if I were to choose right now who I’d keep on the line at DT, it would be Babineaux, Peters, and Walker. The others would be looking for a new job. Didn’t like the pick of Jerry to begin with (wanted the Steelers’ Evander “Ziggy” Hood), but it is what it is. I see Jerry going the way of Trey Lewis, as I predicted a year or more ago, as being entirely possible. Carlton Powell is nobody to me, I don’t know a thing about him and his position on the depth chart does not impress me.

OC/DC Dinosaurs

October 17th, 2011
8:00 pm

DHUNT, that is a good idea re 56. He is fast and anticipates better than most of the other rushers. We need some one who can step forward and make plays. How long will it take for our coaching staff to think of it? No one has

JJ

October 17th, 2011
8:03 pm

The only good thing out of the NBA lockout is we get more time of our fav super trooper…Big Ray.

Keep it coming buddy!!!

PS- can you send one of your patrol men to arrest clock/crapabble joe???

J/k joe, relax your son is coming home after this yr in dallas.

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
8:03 pm

Dhunt ,

Enjoy that pizza…then get back at us. You’re bringing very good heat.

I totally get what you’re saying about the WR routes. I can only point to coaching on that part. You can’t preach what you don’t practice, and though we have NO CLUES about what goes on in practice, I really must stick to my assertion that such changes are being made SLOWLY. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the CS sucks and should have gotten all this done already.

I’m just trying to call it the way I’m guessing it, and my guesses are only observation of what I see in games, not “educated” guesses, if you will.

But I am anxious to hear further commentary from you on this matter. Lord knows I could use more insight my own self….I get tunnel vision sometimes. But again…I feel you on the needed changes to the passing game, including those on the part of Matt Ryan. Needs to show more touch in the newer passing schemes. He seemed to have plenty of touch a year or two ago. But those were more simple routes that were never meant to amount to much. And it showed. Time to elevate his game.

As you say, clock is ticking…

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
8:05 pm

JJ ,

‘Preciate ya!

Naw, I ain’t tryin’ to mess with ol’ crabappleclockwork. He’s out nursing his wounds after a Falcons win…wait…I thought he was a fan of this team? :twisted:

Strange…nothing to say after a fairly convincing win….need I say more…NOPE!

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
8:07 pm

Dhunt ,

Also, excellent point on Weatherspoon. No doubt, we could turn him loose on the QB with his speed and growing instincts. The article recently by D. Ledd on Spoon’s awareness and recognition certainly indicates some ability to do this. The trick will be disguising it.

It may not be a bad idea to send Nicholas, either (though not at the same time, all the time). He showed some quickness as well and has a sack to show for it. Lofton is the only guy I wouldn’t send. He doesn’t have the speed. Maybe he’s a tad slower from offseason knee surgery? Or is that his normal speed?

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
8:09 pm

JJ ,

‘Preciate ya, man!

Nah, I’ll leave ol’ clockwork alone. He’s been sad since Kroy did nothing to show he should be a starter against the ‘Pack and we won yesterday in fairly convincing fashion. Let a man lick his wounds….;)

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
8:09 pm

Big Ray

October 17th, 2011
8:11 pm

Two in a row for Edwards

Ray Edwards, the Falcons’ big offseason free-agent acquisition, has a sack in each of the past two games. The defensive end dropped Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday for an eight-yard loss.

“I really think Ray is becoming more comfortable in our scheme,” Smith said. “His get-off the last couple of games has been very impressive. He’s been able to win the snap. His first snap has been very quick and he’s been able to get on some edges.”

Can only hope to see more and more of this from Edwards.

I also enjoyed seeing Mike Smith barking at his D-line on the sidelines during the game, demanding that they get more pressure on the QB. Good stuff, Smitty. Good stuff.

Ken Strickland

October 17th, 2011
8:12 pm

HC MSmith is married to his run 1st style OFF because, for whatever reason, he doesn’t want to address his defensive problems. Now that’s very odd approach for a former DC turned HC to take. His motive is to use his run 1st ball control style to try and keep opposing OFFs, and his own DEF, off the field as much as possible.

He’d rather do that than put forth the effort to fix what’s wrong with his DEF, or change the type of DEF he prefers to run. TD keeps acquiring younger, quicker, faster, and more athletic players, while Smitty’s overall approach to playing OFF and DEF doesn’t rely on any of those things.

Smitty is so OLD SCHOOL and conservative, if he had his way, I believe he’d rather have OLB MPeterson as his starting OLB in place of either SWeatherspoon or SNicholas. One last thing. I’m still waiting for all of you, MRYAN’S WEAK ARM IS OUR #1 OFFENSIVE PROBLEM, proponents to tell me how a so called weak armed QB can be critized for overthrowing his 2 fastest WRs, and on several occasions at that.

He certainly hasn’t don’t anything differ

D3

October 17th, 2011
8:13 pm

JJ — Well my friend, as REIGNING BIRD CAGE FANTASY FOOTBALL CHAMPION!!!!, I feel as though a player such as yourself, who hasn’t won a title is just beneath me in terms of smack talk. Is that good? Hahahahahahaha.

Big Ray — You are THE MAN! I surely don’t believe that we are better without Julio (that’s the farthest from my thoughts). But only that our wonderfully innovative coaching staff (pun and sarcasm intended here) can’t figure out ways to use them.