Many of us feared the worst after the atrocious first half display by the Falcons. It seemed as though the season was headed down the drain after seeing the Birds go down 23-7 while making the Panthers look like world beaters. They couldn’t catch. They couldn’t tackle. They couldn’t move the ball and Matt Ryan even suffered his first safety of his career.
But as critical as many of us have been, these Falcons deserve the same amount of praise in refusing to give up and literally willing themselves back to win the game. It wasn’t the Packers or Saints, but beating a very solid NFC South opponent on the road in the fashion they did speaks volumes of the character of this team. Does this now mean they are destined for Super Bowl glory? Of course not, but it was great to see that fight that has been a trademark of Smith-led teams. A look at the 8th win of the season…….
As mentioned above, the season seemed all but lost after watching the Panthers rip off 23 unanswered points in a miserable first half. They looked pretty pitiful and all those expectations appeared to be circling the drain. Add to that the Falcons propensity to be sluggish after halftime and fans were edging closer to jumping off the cliff.
The Falcons willed themselves back in the game, where their defense came up big and made Superman Cam Newton look more like Clark Kent (the announcers were childishly insistent on calling him as such). They forced two turnovers on defense and appeared to rattle Newton. The Falcons offense finally got in gear and Matt Ryan had an excellent 2nd half hooking up with Julio Jones for two touchdowns. After a late scare, the Falcons did what was needed to put the game on ice. Sure, it was the 4-8 Panthers, but the Birds showed grit and resolve to win a hard fought division game on the road after trailing by 16 points.
It went from bad to worse for Julio Jones. After having the worst game of his career against Houston, where he had several drops and blew a chance to push the game to overtime, he appeared to have yet another bad game where he dropped like 3 passes in a row early on in the first half. Fans were piling on (including this author) about how the trade was a huge mistake and the Birds were doomed for the near future because of it. And then we were reminded of this guy’s immense potential.
He ended up with over 100 yards receiving, hauling in a 17 yard TD catch, but the best was a beautiful catch over the middle where he broke a tackle, stayed on his feet, and zoomed 75 yards for a touchdown where no one was anywhere close. The rookie still has a ways to go and he did have some more drops, but his enormous potential can’t be denied and if the coaching staff can incorporate him more into the offense, the sky’s the limit.
After one of his worst days as a pro in the loss to the Texans, the Falcons franchise QB stepped up with a huge second half and put up some of his best numbers of his career. He was hurried, sacked, and even suffered his first ever safety in the first half. He seemed to be getting those happy feet and the Birds offense halted to a standstill. The Falcons couldn’t muster even as much as a first down towards halftime. Some of it was lack of protection, but he deserved much blame for failing to read coverage and holding onto the ball too long.
The second half was a thing of beauty. He willed his team back and had some excellent passes and drives to secure yet another comeback victory. He had an amazing 31 yard throw to rookie Jacquizz Rodgers that ended with an excellent catch for a long touchdown. He had some huge 3rd down conversions and took control when the run game couldn’t garner much. The comeback QB capped off the win with a 17 yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones and threw a beautiful ball to Jones again, connecting for a masterful 75 yard touchdown strike. Even though his official QB rating hasn’t come out yet, if he went over 100 in the rating, the Falcons are 21-0 when his rating is that high. Ryan obviously still has some serious improvements to make, especially on his deep game, but games like this remind us why most believe he can be the guy to eventually lead us to the big dance.
This was a post quite awhile ago and it remains the same now as it was then. Jacquizz Rodgers finally got his first touchdown and it was a beautiful play. It’s well known the Falcons are at the bottom of the league of getting their backs involved in the passing game and they got some nice production today when they finally decided to do it. Rodgers has been a hit as a rookie, running hard, and proving he can do great things in the pass game. Problem is, the coaching staff has seemingly refused to get him involved. Surely, that’s probably a little too critical, but the point remains that the guy has an element to his game that both Turner and Snelling lack. He can catch extremely well and can make people miss.
He doesn’t have the top-flight speed to take many to the house, but Rodgers has proven time and again that he can be a superb asset to the run and pass game. The 31 yard touchdown catch he snagged today was an amazing over-the-shoulder catch. He showed a great route-running ability and exceptional talent at making the difficult catch. He even stayed in bounds long enough to get the touchdown. The Falcons coaching staff would be wise to incorporate Rodgers into the game more and more.
Maybe it’s due to Dunta Robinson having such a poor showing, but Dominique Franks had a very good day in his second start. He showed good cover skills and an ability to close on the ball when it was in the air. It’s true he had a much easier time not having to cover Steve Smith, but he showed why the coaches and so many fans were so high on his potential. Franks good day was incredibly encouraging going forwards. Surely, he’ll have much tougher tasks down the road, but if today was any indication, Franks projects as a potential future starter at cornerback. When Grimes comes back from injury, Franks likely will be the undisputed starter at nickel back.
Coach Smith said they simplified the defense down and took out the blitzes and that’s what led to success. Whatever they did surely worked, but one of the main components in the second half success against Cam Newton was getting consistent pressure on him. It’s usually a well-known theory that the Falcons love their soft-cheese zone and although it worked some today, it also backfired as it usually does.
There were several 3rd and longs the Panthers converted with ease, one of them coming with the game in the balance and they completed a 48 yard pass to Steve Smith. Abraham, Babineaux, Peters, and Ray Edwards got some good pressure on Newton, as did Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton. The Falcons always seem to do the best when they get good pressure on the quarterback, but sometimes they just can’t do it with their front four, and the linebackers have proven they can get after the QB just fine.
This is probably a little unfair to be honest, for this was Baker’s first game back from injury and his first action at right guard in his professional career, so this question may be a little premature. The results on the field today weren’t pretty, though. Many fans have long said that Baker could be a big help to an ailing right guard spot that has been an issue all year long. Garrett Reynolds proved he wasn’t the answer after winning the job in camp and Joe Hawley took over the spot after being projected to be the Falcons center-in-waiting. Mike Johnson was lost for the year to injured reserve and never got back on track after an early concussion in training camp.
Baker seemed to be the perfect answer to the right guard spot that’s seen so much trouble, but if today was any indication, Baker may be fighting for a spot on the Falcons roster going forward. Will Svitek has taken over the left tackle spot and it has seen a major improvement since. Baker has one more year on his contract and is set to get almost $2 million dollars next year on a team that will be looking to clear some major space under the salary cap. If Baker can’t stick at right guard, than it appears that his days in Atlanta will probably be numbered, and that certainly will go down as one of Dimitroff’s black eyes in terms of drafting.
Yes, it was a comeback victory against an inferior opponent who was 4-8, but you never know when a team could get a spark that sends them on a winning streak and above all gives them immense confidence. Maybe the point ought to be that the Falcons should have never put themselves in the position to have to make a comeback. However, with the season hanging in the balance, the Birds found a way to will themselves to victory after a horrid first half against a team that was starting to get really hot and were playing really hard at home.
Major credit goes out to Coach Smith, all the coaches, and the players for refusing to give up and finding a way, any way, to get back in the game and ultimately win it. A loss today would have been disastrous and likely spelled the end to any postseason hopes. Perhaps this may not be the turning point we all hope it could be, but you just never know when a team can get on a roll. If nothing else, the Falcons stared down adversity with everything on the line and proved to themselves they could find a way back from a deep hole. We’ll know in a few days when we play Jacksonville on Thursday Night Football.
Kudos to Mike Peterson on his superb play filling in for the injured Stephen Nicholas. Amazingly, Peterson has shown he’s still got gas in the tank and should have had two interceptions the last two weeks, one of them going for a touchdown before getting nullified.
Another shout out to Matt Bosher who took his lumps early on and has come back to be a very solid punter and kickoff specialist as a rookie.