Falcons Show Guts in Win Over Panthers

A Rallying Point?

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…….

1) Refused to Lose

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.

Bounce-back for Ryan (AP)

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.

2) Julio Jones Redeems

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.

3) Ryan’s Big Bounce-Back Day

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.

Roddy's Nice TD Catch (AP)

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.

4) More Quizz Please!

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.

5) Franks Good Day

Nice Rookie Contributions (AP)

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.

6) Pressure Works

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.

7) Is the Sam Baker Experiment Over?

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.

Nice Grit by Coach Smith (AP)

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.

8.) Could This Be a Rallying Point?

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.

Bonus

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.

Your Turn

-Take a spin at analyzing the big road win in Charlotte…….

609 comments Add your comment

R Brown

December 11th, 2011
9:44 pm

Sounds kinda Cinemax but 4) More Quizz Please!

Get JQ Rogers the ball Mike Smith

R Brown

December 11th, 2011
9:48 pm

D3 – Great report. Sam Baker may very well have sealed his fate with the Falcons. Coaching staff adjusted and the adjustments worked. By the way, did I say….

Get JQ Rogers the ball.

D3

December 11th, 2011
9:53 pm

D@mn R.B., you had to go there…. :lol: . Well, I completely agree on getting Jacquizz Rodgers the ball. The guy is a stud and has done nothing short of excellent in his touches as a rookie. That catch today was awesome. Over the shoulder, having to stay in bounds, etc. As much as I love Snelling, Quizz should be getting all his carries and, to be honest, the RB split should go to around 60/40 Turner/Quizz. While I don’t think it will happen, I could see us cutting or trading Turner while keeping Snelling and Quizz if we were to go to a west coast offense. Again, I know it won’t happen, but just saying. Yeah, ol’ Sam Baker I think is probably done. He may get a few more shots at right guard, but he will be cut if he’s no longer a starter. The Falcons have got to clear some cap room and I think Ovie and Baker are first on the list. That would net about $5 million right there (I think).

DJ Sniper

December 11th, 2011
9:55 pm

D3, you and I are on the same page regarding Quizz Rogers. Everytime #22 gets in the game, something positive happens. He’s picked up key first downs to ice a couple of games, and his TD catch was a thing of beauty. If we can get an OC who will actually incorporate the screen pass, Quizz will be quite a weapon to deal with. If Mike Mularkey actually used the screen pass, Matt Ryan probably wouldn’t have been under as much pressure as he was today.

snacktastic

December 11th, 2011
9:58 pm

What up. Been lurking around this blog since close to the beginning of the season, and I just had to post after this game. Let me first say that I follow you guys like I used to follow 24 when it was on the air. Good to have a blog with as many insightful posters as this one.

I was taking a test last week and couldn’t catch the Texans game, but as soon as I checked the score afterwards, I knew something had to have gone seriously wrong. Sure enough, I checked this blog and found more disappointment in the comments than at any other time this season.

But I think this game is the one that proves this team can be who we believe they can be, inept coaching staff or not. If they were REALLY as bad as their worst performances this season would indicate, it would have been over in the third quarter and we’d be looking at the Jags the same way we looked at the Panthers coming into today.

I’ll leave the detailed discussions about this team to everyone else, but from where I’m standing, the main problem with this team is consistency in execution. Since the beginning of the season, we’ve seen just about every player make incredible plays at one moment, and mind-boggling mistakes the next. When enough of those incredible plays happen close together, it becomes easy to write off the mistakes. And when mistakes start to jeopardize your season, you begin to forget the awesome performances. But the truth is that we’ve had both, even to the point of seeing players pull complete 180s in the same 60 minutes.

So I’m going to try and be moderate. I’m not ready to give up on this team yet. I’m not even ready to give up on the coaching staff. I was about to pull my hair out today, and I have yet to see these Falcons play a complete game, but the second-half effort by this team shows me that they have what it takes.

Stay cool, Cage. Looking forward to Thursday.

R Brown

December 11th, 2011
9:59 pm

The two biggest things that happened in my opinion was the Falcons getting behind and coming back and the coaching staff finally making the adjustments at half time to bring this team back, I said earlier this week about Mike Smith: I know he’s talking to the team about their shortcomings but was anyone listening. Seems they did today.

R Brown

December 11th, 2011
10:08 pm

PS D3 – “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”.

I second that sentiment. With the way that guy was kicking early on, he’d have to be related to TD to have his job. But,the last three games or so, he’s turned out to be what TD thought he’d be. If Baker flames out, then Bosher should soften the blow for years to come.

DJ Sniper

December 11th, 2011
10:09 pm

Oh snap. I’m watching the halftime show for SNF and they just said that Mike Smith was taken off the team’s flight back to Atlanta and rushed to the hospital with chest pains. They say he’s ok and will be back to normal though.

JB FALCON

December 11th, 2011
10:09 pm

D3, Sam grew up playing RG, the CS tried to make him something that he wasn’t. There is a strong possibility that he may be the answer to losing Dahl.

Guts over glamor

December 11th, 2011
10:11 pm

It wasn’t pretty (unless you include phrases like pretty scary, pretty frustrating, and so on) but the Birds escaped with a W.

I wonder, based on Coach Smitty’s post game comments, if they weren’t looking past the Panthers a bit and spending too much attention on the short turnaround to the Thursday night game?? They shouldn’t, since the Panthers have been improving this year, and they ARE a division rival, but I still wonder.

At any rate, they showed they have guts when they need ‘em, and Houston showed today that their win over the Falcons last week with a third string QB may not have been such a failure on the Falcons part after all (losing to the potential #1 AFC seed, best record in AFC, at their place).

Falcons Vs. Fouxboys first round playoff game in Dallas??

R Brown

December 11th, 2011
10:15 pm

DJ Sniper – Probably shows MS was feeling a whole lot of pressure this game. It was a MUST WIN and we did. Hope it’s not serious.

Guts over glamor

December 11th, 2011
10:18 pm

Baker – hoping he isn’t our best option next season. The “experts said his short arms would give leverage problems when he was drafted if I remember correctly, and his arms don’t seem to have grown over the years.

Best of luck to Smitty – chest pains after the game, taken to the hospital off the plane.

Quizz – could be another Warrick Dunn (with the pass catching skills of Hines Ward??) before all is said and done. Wishful thinking I know, but tis the season, soooo – santa?? Please??

JJ – Still not sure I would have pulled the trigger on that trade, but what is done is done. The long pass for the clinching TD was nice, but it made me remember Ryan’s first pass to Jenkins – I hope 4 draft picks to move up over 2 years was worth the difference between the two.

stendek

December 11th, 2011
10:20 pm

Falcon D lit fire Dawson! This was to be the obituary of the 2011 Falcon season. I had absolutely no confidence that the birdies were going to rally from an abysmal double digit deficit against the Panthers in a hostile environment. I figured a drop to 7-6 would put all suffering fans into another wait until next decade frame of mind. Customary since 1966. I witnessed a first half of disastrous proportions. Blown assignments, dropped passes, defensive breakdowns plus an indefensible safety by one Matthew Ryan. Nothing in sports angers me more than having a braindead QB tackled for a safety. Premiere NFL QBs know when they are two inches inside the EZ or two inches outside of it. So much for the status of Falcon QB. The defense would refuse to lose this one. Key Falcon takeaways gave the offense short fields to work with in the second half. The Falcon D went from a first half sieve to super stingy over the last 30 minutes. The Panthers had a whiff on one short missed FG. The relentless stand by the Falcon D allowed the team to rally for a highly unlikely eight point triumph. Long Julio Jones catch and run finished comeback on one of passes he did not drop. Falcons can afford no more slipups in wild card quest. A loss to Saints might be unavoidable but a 10-6 mark is mandatory for playoffs in my opinion. I thought Jim Mora had lost his mind when he kept saying that game would come down to wire even after Falcons attempted to give it away in first two quarters. Guy was correct after all. Way to go Jimbo.

Mr Charlie

December 11th, 2011
10:29 pm

Smitty having chest pains….All else is insignificant that this point… Regardless of our opinion on him, I believe he is universally respected, and deserves our prayers/thoughts.

Wabe

December 11th, 2011
10:32 pm

Hopefully Smitty’s alright.

Happy to be reporting here after a win.

I was pretty much done with this season at halftime. Call me whatever kinda fan you wanna call me, but I really thought that with the hole we had dug for ourselves, our season was pretty much done. I didn’t think a 9-win team would get into the playoffs, and that’s what we were potentially looking at with a loss here.

With that said, the Falcons showed some serious resiliency and battled back. It seems this team is only capable of putting together one good half of football. Luckily, the 2nd half they put together was good enough to save our season.

Julio Jones a bust? Relaxxxx. Dude’s just a freak athlete.

Happy to see Quizz get into the endzone. That play was a thing of beauty.

I co-sign D3’s comments about Franks. I think he’s got the makings to be a pretty good one. What I’m liking out of him is he’s playing the ball really well. He just has to learn to trust what he sees a bit more. This is back to back weeks now where a slight hesitation in judgement caused him to break on routes a tad too late to come away with huge picks. I remember he did it last week @ Houston and almost came away with a pick 6 again this week, but was just slightly off. Hopefully he continues to develop.

All in all, I’m really hoping the Falcons can carry that ’swagger’ we saw in the 2nd half moving forward. Watching those guys as amped as they were coming back, that group looked inspired and united. That’s what the 2011-2012 Falcons are lacking, swagger…

Hopefully we got some of it back.

D3

December 11th, 2011
10:34 pm

stendek — Agreed. I was getting ready to write of this season after the first half. They showed some serious guts today and I was very proud of their effort. Reminded a lot of the teams Smith fielded since he got here, especially last year.

Sam Baker sounds like a man on the way out if you want to read a lot into this snippett………..

Baker, a former first-round pick, was not in a talkative mood on his walk to the team bus.

“Yeah, I guess,” Baker said after being asked if he was pleased to get some playing time.

He clearly wasn’t too happy about his situation.

“Sorry, I really don’t know what I can tell you right now,” Baker said.

Mr Charlie

December 11th, 2011
10:41 pm

Yea, I am eating a little crow in JJ, and hope I eat a lot more….maybe he saw my comments and it motivated him…but probably not.

Anyway, if today shows anything, it shows that we cannot predict what will happen from one half to the other, that our 3rd quarter concerns were overblown, let alone try and project how what happens in week 12 will mean to our playoff success. just gotta get in the tournament, and today was a big step. We showed some guts.

D3

December 11th, 2011
10:51 pm

I know a lot of us are probably worried about our OL situation going forward (next year and beyond), especially not having a first round pick, but a few things to consider…………

1) Hawley has proven this year that he can be a future starter for us at either center when McClure retires or stay at RG. He’s had his trial by fire lessons and appears that he’ll only get better.

2) Look for Svitek to get some dough as our immediate future at LT. He may not be Jake Long or Joe Thomas, but he’s done a d@mn fine job taking over for Baker and since his arrival as starter our protection has gotten much better. He’s done well against Dwight Freeney, Jared Allen, Kyle Van den Bosch, and now Charles Johnson. And he’s only 29.

3) Don’t be shocked to see some big names be cut in the off-season. We’re pushing right up against the cap as is and will need some dough to sign Grimes, Svitek, HD, and Lofton for certain. DeCoud may be on the bubble, but I think he gets the benefit of the doubt. Not having a 1st round pick kind of limits us. We can only fix so many things with a 2nd rounder, and two 3rd rounders (likely getting one compensatory from Harvey Dahl), maybe another for Koenen, especially with his contract. Chief among those names are Ovie and Baker if we go to a new offensive system. Doubtful we’ll re-ink Kelvin Hayden with the play of Dominique Franks, Owens @ #4, and Darrin Walls comes in as our #5 CB.

4) Even though he didn’t do much this year, mainly due to an early concussion in training camp and then he went on IR, Mike Johnson could still be a factor going forward. The guy was a stud at Alabama and paved the way for Mark Ingram’s Heisman. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but I still think he may end up being our RG with Hawley going back to C when McClure retires.

5) TD may have also snagged a diamond in the rough with Andrew Jackson. He is able to develop well on the practice squad and earn his stripes playing either tackle or guard.

6) Maybe Jose Valdez can finally make the jump, the same way that Dahl, Clabo, and now Svitek all did under Coach Boudreau.

7) Garrett Reynolds may have lost the G spot, but he was never meant to be one. He was always limited to being a RT. That’s all he ever played in HS and @ North Carolina. When we re-upped Clabo, it meant that Reynolds would likely just be a backup. The fact that he even made a run at the guard spot speaks volumes about his desire and attitude.

8.) We’re locked up at LT with Svitek, LG with Blalock, and RT with Clabo for a long while.

Depending on what the coaching staff and front office thinks, I would say that our top priorities are Guard, Tight End, and Safety in no particular order.

A little off topic, but it was on my mind, so I thought I’d share.

StillDirtyBirdin

December 11th, 2011
10:57 pm

D3 (or whoever),

Didn’t get a chance to see the game since I live out-of-market, but in looking at the boxscore, Spoon lead in tackles, had a sack, and a pass deflected. Did he have as big an impact on the game as the stats indicate? I know it has been highlighted previously, but I think he is coming on and could be fighting for a Pro Bowl spot of late.

I am also curious about Sidbury and Edwards (had a sack).

I appreciate the help.

uga_b

December 11th, 2011
11:01 pm

D3, I am just glad you threw in the kudos for Papa Lion.

What’s sad is that this game may have had our best and worst half of football. Like the Green Bay game, they happened in one day. On to the next and with a good shot at postseason football.

StillDirtyBirdin

December 11th, 2011
11:05 pm

Also in the “what utility does Mike Mularkey have” watch, how effective was the no-huddle vs scripted play calling today?

Thanks again.

LRD

December 11th, 2011
11:15 pm

Dang, go fishing for an afternoon and miss that comeback. Cant wait to DVR watch this game
Plus Chicago getting tebowed helps… ( is tebowed now a verb or an adjective?)

Hope Smitty is A Ok!!!

Short week and we have MJD coming to town. HOping the dome is rockin Thursday!

LRD

December 11th, 2011
11:21 pm

FFL Alert.. Thank you Dez B.. you just got me a win over the #1 ranked Team Makers.. yeah, we had tied previously this year.. but the Owls they are a howling now….

D3

December 11th, 2011
11:23 pm

LRD — Just skip the first half. It was U-G-L-Y! Looked like a contender in the second half.

StillDirty — Welcome to the Cage! Yes, Spoon absolutely did have a great game. Meant to put that in there as well. He really is becoming one of our best all-around players. Jim Mora announcing the game said that Spoon’s deflection on a big 3rd down was the turning point for the Falcons getting back in the game. Edwards had a very nice day as well. The entire defensive line did a really nice job. They came within inches several times of getting sacks on Cam Newton. Their OL was holding a lot and we rarely got any calls.

snacktastic — Welcome to the Cage my friend! Jump on in and join the conversation. We’d love to have your insights and feelings about our Beloved Birds.

DHunt

December 11th, 2011
11:36 pm

In deference to Coach Smith’s chest pains, I suggest we all refrain from any references to all the myriad physical and mental ailments that we anticipate due to watching Falcons games. Hopefully they will endeavor to make the remaining games, shall we say less stressful. Seriously, happy he is apparently fine, and gets a quiet first class flight home. That team plane was probably a bit rowdy.

The Panthers had one good drive, and two big plays in the first half. We couldn’t make anything work after one early drive that was a thing of beauty. Yet I still believed, because it looked like the team still believed. In hindsight, this may have been just the right tone to set before a short week game against another dangerous opponent.

S. Weatherspoon also deserves a lot of credit for picking the team up with his spirit and high impact play. That young man is going to be a serious star in this league, as long as he is put in good positions to do so by the coaches. After the two big plays we gave up in the first half, Spoon literally took it upon himself to stop the Panthers offense. I don’t think D. Franks is playing at full speed yet. He has another gear that we may start seeing if he gets comfortable with more playing time. One thing the entire secondary is doing for the most part is sticking with receivers, and keeping the YAC down to minimum. That’s a major improvement, and due to letting them play man more often. Willie Mo came back strong, and Abe should get some credit for that interception because he hit Cam’s arm right at the release. Dunta may be the weakest link now (and yes, I’m including Owens). But in fairness, Smith pushed off on that big catch late, and Smith made some great grabs like he always does.

While we’re praising defense, let’s not forget Peterson, who evidently hasn’t lost a step, and has fresh legs when we need them most. Superb linebacker depth, with Lofton becoming as much a beast in pass coverage as he is blasting the run. Still quietly the most consistent player on the team. And the defensive line should get extra credit, because they got held all day long. And still got a lot of pressure on Cam. (Any other QB but Cam and we have at least 4 more sacks today. Dude is just hard to take down. Not going to be fun going against him twice a year). And we have good depth on the line as well. No real letdown when Jerry, Sid, and Bierman are on the field.

Defensive effort stopped the bleeding in the first half, and then kept the clamps on a prolific Panthers offense (Cam is about to set the rookie record for passing yards and they lead the league in big plays) for an entire half. On the road. After taking a one-two shot to the body and head. Before the season started, I predicted that the defense would take a big step forward this year. They’ve taken big steps in some areas, and baby steps in others. But this defense can compete against any team in the league. With a healthy Grimes, we can lock up all of the GB and NO receivers. Very few teams are going to run well against us. Defense has kept us in every game this year except the first one. We may have the best defense of all the NFC playoff teams.

And I hate to say this, but Jim Mora Jr. actually called it right at the start of the 3rd quarter. He said don’t turn off your television, because it’s about to get good. One of the few times he’s made the right call about the Falcons, in any capacity. It’s not over. It’s now a six game run to the Superbowl, and I still like our chances.

D3

December 11th, 2011
11:42 pm

Well said DHunt. Excellent post! That was one of the most excited and happiest I’ve been all season in that second half. Reminded a lot of last year’s team. Never quit and pumped up. The belief that we would find a way to win.

Now its off to bed. Gonna be tired tomorrow.

Have a good night Cage Fam, and GO D@MN FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wabe

December 12th, 2011
12:38 am

That’s a good post @ 11:36 Dhunt.

I will say I remain cautiously optimistic though. The 2nd half was great. But the game in general was yet another example of how the team is such a rollercoaster. From highs to lows and vice versa.

I do agree if they could ever put it together, they’d be a force in the playoffs. But, that’s the big if.

Box

December 12th, 2011
1:09 am

Hello Late Night. Have not seen the game, being out of market.There was talk in the off season because of FA issues of kicking Clabo inside to his natural guard position and moving Baker to RT, making a formidable right side tandem, albeit at an inflated price. Has Baker fallen out of favor, skills, or injury to utilize such a scenario, or is Baker being labeled a JA98? Go Team.

mckalk

December 12th, 2011
1:13 am

Quizz can do it all. He can and should get a lot more touches in the near future. When he was a sophomore at OSU he led the nation in receptions for a RB with over 70. He can run inside and out and he just does not fumble the football. I’m not sure if Falcons fans realize it, but he never fumbled once on a carry in his entire college career. His only credited fumble was a crappy backwards pass from the QB. Quizz is the man, Atlanta got a steal in the draft.

trademark

December 12th, 2011
4:07 am

I really only have one enthusiasm to express after that one…

Wow.

THAT was the fire and hunger that we’ve been craving to see from this team all season long. (Feels good, don’t it?)

Scenario: Season circling drain. Tough game against a division rival on the road, on grass, and the we spotted 16 points and two quarters. Let’s put this in perspective, this is only the second win in Falcon’s HISTORY when trailing on the road over 16 points. The last one came over 30 YEARS AGO. They upped the difficulty level to the damned limit in this one….and here’s what happened…

They finally WOKE THE HELL UP.

There’s a whole week to go into the statistics of this one, some of the good calls, some of the questionable ones, the whole no-huddle, O-Line thing, but for right now there is only one important thing, OK, two, the first and foremost being that I hope Coach Smith is OK and healthy for many, many more years to come, but the other is this, we got to see the Falcons we’ve been dying to see this year. Backs to the wall, and they woke up, executed and focused at the task at hand, and won against the most difficult of circumstances.

That shows CHARACTER.

That shows RESOLVE.

That shows FIRE.

That shows HUNGER.

This is what champions are made of.

About damned time.

GO FALCONS!!!!

Big Ray

December 12th, 2011
6:36 am

Sure hope Smitty is okay. This is nothing to play with….

In the meantime, if you need a bit more positivity….

http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcsouth/post/_/id/28699/julio-jones-provides-explosiveness

Chop Buster

December 12th, 2011
6:59 am

It was a great showing in the second half. This team showed that they still have comeback ability when the coaches call the right plays. I was happy to see they atopped the three man fronts and pressured Cam. Ryan came out in rhythm the second half as well and finished strong. Let’s have another good showing Thursday night.

Big Ray

December 12th, 2011
7:08 am

1) The NFC South is a tough place. The Panthers are a losing team, but they’re not an easy win. Our team did show some resiliency after a terrible first half.

Now here’s a question for you – was it more important for the Falcons to see that they could get focused in the second half and win a game out, or that they can’t have a first half like that against better teams? From a sentimental and emotional standpoint, I’d go with the former idea. But then reality hits and (as I suspect Smitty and Co already knows), the fact is that we can’t have first halfs like that going forward. Not against better teams. All the same, a rally can be a spark for good play. We shall see.

2) One fact can’t be gotten past – Julio is a rookie who wasn’t the most polished receiver in the draft. But….his potential may well outshine all others…as long as he can reach it. Having the up-and-down year he’s had may prove more valuable than we think. Here’s another thought – you know a guy is that damn good when the team realizes they must keep going to him (rookie or not) for success, and for scores (even moreso than their Pro Bowl WR). You can like that or you can not like it, but the Falcons knew it, and it paid off. Redemption is not yet complete, but it’s damn sure on the way.

3) Ryan owned up to the safety being his fault. At least he knows. The guy is not a whiner, and the fact is that he was throwing fairly well even when the pass blocking was awful. His second half was a thing of pure beauty though. Never got rattled, settled right down, and with some solid blocking, he marched us up and down the field and delivered one TD pass after another. And those three TD passes were to our two rookies. ‘Nuff said. Ye ol’ tough Irishman is a franchise QB. Don’t wanna hear nothing about the deep ball, we did it the way we are supposed to – intermediate pass plays that go explosive.

4) Finding more than a niche role for this young man is paramount. He’s a rookie, but if you ask me, he’s shown more poise than Julio has…and that’s with far less reps and far less plays called for him. I don’t know how else to say this other than to echo what others say – get him the freakin’ ball.

5) I think Franks is ready. When the Panthers tried to pick on him, he made plays. Guys, the key to learning to be a good CB is to always “be right there” when the ball is in play. Franks did this last week as well. Even when a pass was completed he was “right there.” As a CB grows, he learns how to turn “being right there” into making plays on the ball. If you don’t believe me, hit rewind on your mind’s DVR….there was this other guy who was always “right there” when the ball came, and after a couple of years, he was making plays on the ball all the time. Some dude named Brent Grimes….

Being “right there” is the start of it. Right place, right time. Next step is making plays on the ball. Franks is there. He needs to be in a starting role next season.

6) Much better effort by the defensive line as a whole, particularly against a highly mobile and strong QB. Cam hurt us early and we looked like we were stunned, but then we started taking his lunch money and we stopped waiting for the officials to start calling all the holding the Panthers were doing. I think that’s a big key. I think sometimes our guys get tired of being held by the offense, and then not getting the call. And so we wait for it to get called, and then the call doesn’t come. This time, our guys were relentless in the second half, just when you’d think a defense was tired. And guess what? So much of it was sparked by none other than Sean Weatherspoon, who came through for a sack when the team was down. Some scorned him for celebrating, but look what it started! Our defense really got after Newton in the second half and made him pay for all of those Superman poses. We still missed some sacks, but we were all over his ass and he knew it, and started making mistakes (it only takes one…and William Moore came up with the ball). Pressure is pressure, and that’s the kind of pressure we needed. Great second half adjustments by the CS, great effort by the defense.

7) I’d personally not like to see any more of Sam Baker, but I know we are limited with the number of offensive linemen that can play. He doesn’t seem happy at guard, and he flat out CANNOT play left tackle. That’s a position I’d be looking to address in the draft come the offseason, and as far as Baker goes….geez, I sure hope Mike Johnson can come back strong, along with Garrett Reynolds. I’ll say this – if Baker shows he can play another position, then fine….I’ll trust TD and Smitty on a decision to keep him. But NOT as a LT. Never again. I know why TD reached up to grab him, but yeah…that’s already a black eye.

8) A rallying point? No. A point of realization and re-focus? Quite possibly. The team will be challenged with the early Thursday game, and there might be some soreness/injuries that cause some issues, so some caution is in order for practice this week. But this will be a test of whether or not these guys are truly re-focused and ready to finish things out the way they should. Again, hope Smitty is well…because he’s the guy who takes things a week at a time and would like to keep his team ready for Jax, not looking past them to New Orleans.

Shout-outs:

When’s the last time we had a veteran LB who was past his prime and past being a starter…but happily accepted his role (and his paycheck) and was able to come in and play great for us when needed? Enter Mike Peterson….papa Lion has been awesome with Stephen Nicholas out. Not being a starter has definitely kept him fresh, and one would be hard-pressed to find as capable of a backup as he’s been.

Matt Bosher – the much-maligned rookie punter stymied the Panthers all day long with decent kickoffs and a punting averaging of roughly 48 yards per. The rook has finally found his leg and has made folks forget all about all of the guys we could have picked instead, who surely would have turned into starters at whatever position (sarcasm alert)….

Knievel

December 12th, 2011
7:19 am

Wow!! I thought the game was done at the half. Dang glad I kept my eyes open and didn’t take my normal nap. Wrapping presents and watching the Birds totally dominate the second half of the game was a great thrill. Those guys truly deserve to be applauded for coming outta the locker room and pulling that game out. Looked like a completely different team took the field in third qtr. The Titans almost took out the Saints. That would’ve made the day complete. Great job Falcons, now put together a full game and become world beaters!! Goo Falcons!!

Terrell

December 12th, 2011
8:00 am

People keep saying our OC needs to incoroporate the screen pass. That wouldn’t be a problem if our o-line was consistent enough to do that. The times we have attempted the screen pass it gets blown up. Why can’t people give credit to our OC. The TD catch by Rodgers was set up by the previous play call on first down. They ran the ball with Quizz and got 6 yards. The defense had to respect that on the next play and Ryan took advantage of the play action pass and it worked. The no huddle may be ran by Matt Ryan but the plays are created by our own OC. Ryan doesn’t make them up. While you may knock our OC for play calling during the game, the plays that are ran during the no huddle were created by him.

honest_abe

December 12th, 2011
8:05 am

heckuva 2nd half. have to be impressed with the energy the falcons came out with after halftime.

just like i say after every loss you have to take things in perspective.

julio has amazing potential and boy is he fast but it was against the panthers … plus the debate isn’t over whether or not he will be a good player it’s was he worth the price.

quizz definitely deserves more pt. he just makes big plays.

was there a ray edwards sighting yesterday? he looked to be around the ball.

couldn’t have come back at a better time william moore. welcome back.

this offense just needs to plug some holes on that o-line and things could get scary. look out!

Screen Pass

December 12th, 2011
8:07 am

“Ryan owned up to the safety being his fault. At least he knows” – M Ryan

Maybe he is not the type of guy to point out the obvious and throw his team mates under the bus. S Baker needs a good showing at least once so we can get an extra 6th or 7th in a trade. If he doesn’t show some level of ability to play in the NFL then he will end up a pure bust..yikes. I would prefer to put him in when Ryan is out with a big lead and we are letting a back up get reps. The last thing we need is Ryan getting injured because of the breadmaker.

Geo

December 12th, 2011
8:14 am

Good morning, Cage!

I just want to say one thing: Thank you defense! Without a second half shut out, or near shut out, there is no way we win that game. We were down by three scores. We go down by four and it’s over. In addition to the usual excellent LB corp, our D-Line flat got after Cam. And proved that, mobile or not, if you pressure a QB, he is going to struggle.

I sure would like to know who said what at halftime. Whever the inspiration came from, if you could bottle it, you’d be a millionaire.

As much as I appreciate everything Matt Ryan has done in 3 and 3/4 seasons, I was about ready to give Redman a try. Too many three-yard passes, especially on third and long. Again, I don’t know where the magical transformation came from, but the Ryan of the second half is the one that has been key to so many victories. If he plays like that for four quarters, we are unbeatable. Especially with our improved defense (shout out to Dominque Franks; how encouraging is his emergence?).

It’s still a victory against a 4-8 team. And not to look past Jacksonville, but I think we’ll roll into New Orleans and play our best game of the season. Time will tell.

Finally, get well soon, Mike Smith!

Screen Pass

December 12th, 2011
8:25 am

“Finally, get well soon, Mike Smith!” – Geo

“As much as I appreciate everything Matt Ryan has done in 3 and 3/4 seasons, I was about ready to give Redman a try” – Geo

When we went to the no huddle and let Ryan run things we score 3 TD’s. Smitty controls the no huddle being called so I guess we better hope he is ok lol. The amount of complaining and nit-picking over a guy that threw 4 TDs and 0 INTs is frankly unbelievable. I read some guy trying to give credit for this win to Turner since he had 21 carries lol.

Samuel

December 12th, 2011
8:27 am

The first half mirrored what we seen from this team all year. The second half was a show case of a big play offense that we had longed for. I hope going forward with this win, it can inspire the team when the playoffs start. I think the Falcons can devise a system- where all three backs can be an important part of this team. Hence all of them bring their own unique talents.

Geo

December 12th, 2011
8:32 am

Screen, absolutely about the no-huddle. It’s like night and day. It kinda back-fired on us in Houston, but we clearly were not prepared for the extremely loud crowd. Solution: just let Ryan call the game, huddle and at the line.

Screen Pass

December 12th, 2011
8:42 am

“Screen, absolutely about the no-huddle” – Geo

The difference in plays being called and the formations we were using was as big a part of the success as the tempo change of the no huddle. We won, thus I’m not gonna be complaining. I do however hope that yet another exhibition of what works will maybe stick with our CS. I like the rookies being used and them stepping up. If we are to succeed in the playoffs, we must get them integrated and a solid part of our plan.

FrontRow

December 12th, 2011
8:52 am

Nice post D3. I keep up with the Cage and the Birds but rarely post anymore and really don’t care about anything else NFL. Why? For years, I had to worry about whether my team will finish even .500 or better or not.

Those worries are gone; therefore I will be able to sit back and watch good football and a good team for many years.

Just a couple comments on the specifics. Baker WAS lost in pass coverage (a surprise move from LT to RG is a big step) but he was “road grading” on the running plays so get off his back.

Julio is a rookie, so much so he seems lost at times (last week). Give him a break too. Answer this question – do you want to see Julio on the Saints, Panthers, or Bucs?

One more – quietly the team is now learning how to win on the road. Further, MR still has many areas of improvement (can’t throw a fade, lousy screen setup, others) and showed progress today.

Bottom line: this team is very good and will continue to entertain for many years. Take it from a multi-decade season ticket holder – lighten up and enjoy, you can’t win them all (hopefully the Pack will prove me correct vs the Birds in the playoffs!).

Geo

December 12th, 2011
8:58 am

“I do however hope that yet another exhibition of what works will maybe stick with our CS.”

So do the players and the fans! We’ve seen all we can take of Turner up the middle or left side and the five yard curl to White.

trademark

December 12th, 2011
9:00 am

Ah, can’t stay away, too proud of my team!

Grades: Offense A. Solid mix of run and pass. It was pretty obvious what the Panthers worked on this past week, keying on stopping the run, sniffing out the attempted screen passes (that EVERYONE in the media wrote about) and seeing if they could make Ryan beat them with his arm and attempt to make the adjustments Houston made against the No-Huddle.. Oops.

Defense: B-…the first half drags this grade down….let’s be fair, we need them to play the WHOLE game like they played in the 2nd half.

Coaches: Offense: C-. The offense works when MM isn’t calling the plays, and just as predicted, the moron tries to force the screen pass into the game. Insecure, much, Mularkey? The reason they were ineffective is BECAUSE CAROLINA READS THE NEWS TOO!!! They knew it was coming and blew them up. But the dumb-a&/ tries to call them anyway. And people wonder why I call him maddeningly predictable. *sigh* Dumb play calling stalls our offense. Again. Thank heavens that only lasted the first half.
Defense: B. Nice job getting after Cam in the second half and making him play like a rookie. Needs to work on the contain from those slot patterns. Unfortunately, it’s also as predicted, BVG dialed up the linebackers for putting pressure on Cam, but that means more lanes for the rushers. Unavoidable side-effect, but in this particular instance, it works in the second half and shuts them down. Nice adjustment.

Special teams: B. No meltdowns, solid punting by the rookie, I liked it.

Intangibles:A+. Toughest situation imaginable and serious gut-check time, down 16 on the road with the season on the line and two quarters to play and they rose to the occasion. THAT’S playing like Champions.

John B.

December 12th, 2011
9:09 am

They did good in the second half. They still aren’t at the same level as the ‘Aints and the Pack. They have actually went down from last year. However, if (and that’s a big IF) they can play the rest of the way like they did in the second half, they might have a chance to go a long way in the playoffs. Matty Ice doesn’t look like the same QB as last year. Too tentative,etc. He needs to play his game and have some fun! He appears too worried about making a bad throw/decision and it’s hurting him.

D man

December 12th, 2011
9:09 am

Falcons looked like Green Bay in the second half. They need to finish the season like they played yesterday, (in the second half of course). This team is capable of winning it all if we play like that. That’s why the experts picked them to win the SB at the beginning of the season. Boy, they really played great D in the second half. Franks looked good and the defense was swarming.

JeanE

December 12th, 2011
9:14 am

Totally agree about Alligator Arms Baker, Svitek is a keeper. Big shout out to Mike Petersen for his awesome interception, love it!! He never complained about being a backup and provides great depth and guidance to these linebackers. I’ll reserve further judgement on Julio, still not sold on the need for him but he is blindingly fast! Got to integrate Quizz more into the game, what a weapon. Franks looked really good! Dunta is our worst DB and way overpaid. I like Spoon and his enthusiam but that celebration of his, I don’t care for. Good to see them fight back and show some fire. Great game for Matty, with the exeption of the safety, Ouch. Let’s keep it up this Thursday…

R Brown

December 12th, 2011
9:15 am

The Falcons looked good. Held the Carolina kid in check, had some takeaways, hit some people. Whatever MS said to the team at halftime stuck this time. The fans love it when the team plays like the give a darn. We love even more when we win.

D man

December 12th, 2011
9:17 am

I agree that the Falcons are the 3rd best team right now in the NFC behind the Pack and Saints. But, I believe we can beat both of those teams. Especially the Saints. I don’t believe the Niners are as good as their record. If the first round started today, we would travel to NY to play the inconsistent Giants. I see that as a win. Then, we would more than likely go to San Fransisco because I believe the Lions will beat the Saints. :)