The Falcons did what they had to do to get a much needed victory in a very tight wild card race. It wasn’t the prettiest win in the world, which seems to be a recurring theme, but the Birds took care of business against another inferior opponent during this stretch run for the playoffs. They played pretty darn good in the first half and not very much at all in the second half. Any win in the NFL is huge, but fans are still waiting on them to play that elusive complete game and we’re on game 11. A look at the Birds win……..
As mentioned above, it wasn’t the prettiest and surely another case of extreme inconsistency, but the Birds found a way to win the game and have put them in contention for a potential playoff run. If they lost here, it certainly would have been a fatal blow to any talk of making the postseason. There was some good plays and performances by a lot of individual players, such as Chris Owens potential game-saving tackle and another outstanding performance by Sean Weatherspoon.
Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Harry Douglas, and Roddy White all had good days at the Dome, but once again there was a lot left on the field in terms of points and looking for a complete game as they get ready for a stretch run. The Falcons should have won and they did, even if it wasn’t beautiful.
Add this game as yet another notch on a team known for they extreme inconsistency. The Falcons couldn’t do much wrong in the first half as they completely shut down an Adrian Peterson-less Vikings and actually made a rookie quarterback look like a rookie. They put together some impressive and long touchdown drives where they spread the ball around and used a ton of different personnel seemingly on each play. Matt Ryan looked comfortable in the no-huddle and got almost everyone involved in the game. They stormed to a 17-0 lead in the first half and looked as if they finally would put together a complete game…….wrong.
They came out after halftime and got a quick stop on defense, but the rest of the way it’s almost as if the Falcons were TRYING to let the Vikings back in the game. The offense went into it’s typical shell, where all the momentum and rhythm from the 1st half evaporated. The no-huddle offense was seen no more and they achieved just one first down through most of the second half.
The special teams had a total collapse, the defense let off the gas and let the rookie QB Ponder get in a rhythm. Ponder threw a touchdown pass to Percy Harvin when he appeared double-covered, and the defense had one of its worst plays of the entire season when they let the Vikings score on a 4th and 13 from mid-field where there was an inexcusable blown coverage. After scoring to go up 24-14, Percy Harvin broke free for a 104 yard kickoff return before being tackled by Chris Owens. Enough can’t be said that these Falcons under Coach Smith almost always find a way to win the games they should, but will they ever get a complete game put together this year?
Overall, the Falcons have stayed pretty healthy throughout the year especially when compared with other teams, but some the injuries are starting to pile up. William Moore didn’t play yet again and the Birds lost Brent Grimes very early in the game. Stephen Nicholas was injured in the game as well and had to be replaced by Mike Peterson. The Falcons have been without Kelvin Hayden and Sam Baker for some time now and lost Ovie Mughelli for the year early on in the season. As mentioned before, the Falcons are very lucky when compared to other teams, but the injuries are starting to pile up, especially in the secondary.
The Falcons officially opened the game with Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas all listed as starters and it appeared to be the base formation for the offensive scheme. And most fans say to that: thank you. Fans have clamored forever to get White, Jones, Douglas, and Gonzalez on the field at the same time more often and inhibit the defense from keying on any one player. The results seem to be paying off. Harry Douglas caught a nice drag, broke a tackle, and scored a touchdown.
Tony Gonzalez played a prominent role, Roddy White seems to be getting back to his old self, and even Michael Turner is still very important in the run game. Even though Julio Jones didn’t get involved as much today, his talent provides the defense to pick their poison and not many around can cover all the weapons that the Falcons have. Matt Ryan seems most at ease not only when he’s running the no-huddle offense, but also when the offense is more spread out with at least 3 receivers on the field at all times. It was awful losing Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli to a season ending injury, but this could be a very large positive to a seemingly big negative.
The special teams have had their issues for sure, but nothing on the scale that was witnessed today. Two enormous mistakes on special teams alone very nearly cost the Falcons their lead. It can be said that the ball hitting Dominique Franks could be a fluke, but that’s something that is practiced all the time from the youngest of ages of football on getting out of the way when the returner calls for a clearance. For the most part, the defense did their part until a repulsive 4th down and 13 went for a touchdown from midfield.
One major mistake might could be stomached, but a second one very nearly cost them the game. After the Birds offense takes a nice long drive down the field for a touchdown with less than 5 minutes remaining, the kickoff return allows Percy Harvin, one of the best return men in the game, to take it 104 yards nearly for another touchdown. If not for Chris Owens heroic play running down Harvin, the game could’ve easily gone a different way.
Just a few weeks ago, Coach Smith was lambasted by many for choosing to go for it on 4th down on their own 30 yard line in overtime, which ended up losing the game when they didn’t get it. Even though the media were considerably hard on the call, most fans felt the call to go for it was a good idea even if the play chosen was a terrible choice. The hard thing to understand is when he decides to go for it sometimes, but others he doesn’t it. With everything on the line and all the risk in the world, Smith went for it and lost the game when they didn’t get it. On the flip side was a decision not to go for it today.
The Falcons were in heavy command of the game and were up 17-0. They were around mid-field and had a 4th and 1 in the 3rd quarter. It was a very low-risk decision where the offense actually stayed out on the field thinking they were going to go for it. The defense had held the Vikings to minimal gains and hardly any positive yardage and he offense had been doing very well. The worst that could have happened was the Vikings get a short field and even if they score, the offense gets the ball right back. The best that could have happened was the offense gets the 1st down, go down and score, and essentially end the game.
First of all, it should be said that the Falcons usually find ways to win games they should win including victories against the Seahawks, Panthers, Titans, and Vikings (it could be argued they should have beat the Bucs, but at the time the Bucs were doing well). This has been an issue during most of Mike Smith’s reign as head coach of the Birds: his teams just can not put teams away, regardless of how inferior they are….plain and simple. It’s almost as if the Falcons literally try to find ways to let their opponents get back in the game.
No one else can get the blame anymore than Smith himself. The coaches, coordinators, and players all take on the attitude of the head coach and for whatever reason, the Falcons just can not put anyone away. Most of this can go back to Smith’s hyper-conservative philosophy in trying to sit on leads. Again, to their credit, they haven’t slipped up and lost one so far, but if you play with fire long enough…….
The Falcons have moved into the #6 wild-card spot and would make the playoffs if the postseason were to start today. They mostly control their own destiny with five games remaining and they should be favored in all but 4 with the Houston Texans quarterback woes. They have the 4th easiest strength of schedule in the NFL with the remaining games, but nothing should be taken for granted.
The game at the Texans was considered one of their toughest when the schedule was released, but they have to take care of business and can’t afford any slip-ups on this stretch run. To put themselves in a good position, the Birds need to go 4-1 over the final 5 games to put them at 11-5. The NFC South division is even still in reach if they find a way to win in New Orleans. In other words, the road to the playoffs has eased up a little bit, but not very much.
-Take a spin at reviewing the Falcons win over the Vikings