It was an ugly, ugly win, but the Atlanta Falcons stayed perfect with their come from behind win against the division rival Panthers. Even though it wasn’t pretty, the Falcons showed some serious resolve in finding a way to win when they weren’t playing their best. The bottom line is that the Falcons are 4-0 and they beat a division rival primed for a good game after being embarrassed on Thursday Night Football and having 10 days to prepare for them. A look at the miraculous win…………
It’s been said a million times over, but the cool-as-ice quarterback willed his team to win against absolutely impossible odds. Having to drive 99 yards in less than a minute with no timeouts is the stuff legends are made of. Backing up to the end of his endzone, he chunked the ball 60-65 yards in the air and Roddy White made a huge catch. He engineered the drive against impossible odds and this one has to rank up there with one of the best. The guy is taking the step before our eyes and did all this despite getting beat to death and sacked 7 times.
Julio Jones has gotten a lot of the hype about the next great wide receiver, but Roddy White is the one who to turn to when you need to make a play. Julio Jones has gotten the TD catches to date, but Roddy finally got both the yards, touchdowns, and huge plays. Not only did he help rescue the game with his amazing catch, he also had a fantastic touchdown catch where he had to adjust mid-air to haul in the pass. Jones may be the future,
Enough can’t be said about someone who may get overlooked on an offense loaded with weapons and that’s Matt Bryant. Matt Ryan already has the Matty Ice nickname, but Matt Bryant has been absolutely money in clutch situations since he’s been here. Luckily, he hasn’t been needed for a game-winning field goal until Sunday, but making those unbelievable comeback drives mean nothing if your kicker can’t finish the deal.
Was it just a mirage or was there some credence to the offensive line actually looking better in the first 3 games? Right now, statistics have to fall on the side of it being just one bad game against a very hungry defense. And maybe it had something to do with the Panthers scheme seeing something in their 10 days of preparation to confuse Ryan and the offense. But this much is certain: it was a complete nightmare on Sunday, leading to 7 sacks and bringing all those bad feelings about the offensive line roaring back in terrible fashion. Ryan was sacked almost double in one game (7 sacks) that he had in the first three (4).
Sam Baker has always been the lightning rod of criticism, but the left side of the line is doing OK with Baker having a good year and Blalock always being the solid rock with little to no issues. The problem, as many all knew, was the right side of the OL. It comes from a somewhat surprising place in Tyson Clabo. To be sure, Garrett Reynolds is getting the job done but is surely not dominant in the least and still doesn’t project as a long-term option. Clabo has given up a majority of the sacks this year all on his own and has looked downright terrible all year, going back to preseason. Maybe it’s his age catching up or maybe he’s just missing a solid force next to him at right guard, but he’s simply not getting the job done. They made a change with Sam Baker last year, how long will they give Clabo? Lamar Holmes looked just fine in preseason and many Cage members would love to see Clabo move inside to RG (where his size could potentially dominate) and Reynolds move back to his old natural position of right tackle. Todd McClure hasn’t been the worst, but he had some problems on Sunday, as many fans thought would happen as the season wore on. Is the nightmare here to stay or was it just one bad game?
As mentioned above, the offensive line has to get the benefit of the doubt so far in that they did a pretty good job in the first three weeks (even though their run blocking was weak). However, how long will the coaching staff give this OL before a change is made? Last year, Sam Baker got some opportunities in different spots but was yanked in favor of Will Svitek and Joe Hawley, respectively. Same goes for Garrett Reynolds. As fans discussed in the preseason, the likelihood was very great that the same offensive line with so many problems in 2011, would start exactly the same in 2012, with literally no changes made. Sure enough, that’s been the case. If this becomes a trend, fans will at least want to see something change on the OL, including getting looks at Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes, and maybe moving Clabo inside to right guard?
The Panthers exploited one of the Falcons biggest weaknesses in defending the run. The option-give that Newton did was hard for the Birds to stop. Their outside linebackers, Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas, have been outstanding, but they’ve operated mostly in the nickel defense. The base 4-3 defense include middle linebacker Akeem Dent and he didn’t have the best of days on Sunday. It’s way too early to make a call on Dent and his future since he’s basically a rookie getting his first live snaps, but it does need to be addressed. Throw in the fact that the Falcons are razor thin at linebacker anyway and it may be time to take a look at one of the defensive ends, like Kroy Biermann, at OLB, allowing Spoon or Nicholas to move inside.
This game had trap written all over it. The Falcons were flying high. The Panthers were humiliated on national TV. Their sophomore Super(interception)Man was called out. The Panthers had 10 full days to prepare for the Falcons. The Birds had a short week in traveling back from the west coast. It may not have been a trap game, but the Falcons surely weren’t at their best and the Panthers knew the importance. On the positive side, the Falcons won a game ugly and that’s all that matters.
However, potentially on the negative side, as longtime Bird Cage member Unca’ Bob said, we may be benefitting from a pretty easy spot of the schedule. We’ve played and won 4 games, but 3 of them have been against the roundly considered weak AFC West. The other was against an NFC South team with 2 losses to show, one of them being a blowout. You can’t control your schedule and the Falcons have won the only games they’ve played, but this game brought many fans back to Earth a little bit and realized there are a ton of areas to improve upon.
Often beleaguered Falcons running back is showing an rebirth the last two weeks with excellent performances against San Diego and Carolina Panthers. Turner has made some fans (heavily including this author) to eat some major crow. And it will happily be done. Turner may not be the best fit for the offense going forward, but he’s still a major cog on this team filled with explosive offensive weapons.
The title says it all and an ugly win is better than the prettiest of losses or as some call them “moral victories.” The Falcons played their worst football of the year in all aspects and they met a team playing with a major hunger knowing the importance and having plenty of time to prepare. The Falcons found a way to win and that’s a testament to this team’s character in finding ways to win and special seasons are made up of those.