The Atlanta Falcons weren’t pretty, but they got the job done yet again on the road, coming from behind, and finding a way to win. The offense looked out of sync for almost the entire game, the defense had major problems with the run and even gave up a first career touchdown pass to a brand new rookie in Kirk Cousins, but nonetheless, the Falcons found a way to win the game and got it done when it really counted. And by the way, the Atlanta Falcons are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history and they have plenty areas for improvement. They may have “sucked” as Roddy White jokingly said after the game, but they’re also undefeated. A look at the Birds road win in DC………
It marks the second week the Falcons have looked less than stellar and had to make a comeback in the 4th quarter to win the game, but an ugly win beats a pretty loss, or as some call them “moral victories,” every day of the week. The offense slogged around the first half, throwing a pick-six in the process, and the defense got gashed by the run and torched by a brand new rookie QB, but the Falcons buckled down when they had to. Matt Ryan led the offense to score 17 points in the 4th quarter and the defense came back from their awful blown coverage TD to Cousins to steal two interceptions in a row to close out the game. If they Falcons continue their overall subpar performances, than it’ll be a cause for concern, but for now their finding ways to win, and they’re only one of two teams that are undefeated, by the way.
Cam Newton almost racks up 100 yards himself and 6th round draft pick rookie steams to 114 rushing on Sunday. The Birds are doing a great job in the pass game and takeways, but are showing some weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the run game. The Falcons are currently ranked 27th against the run and will face plenty of strong running teams as the season goes along. In particular, the defensive tackles and middle linebacker play seem to be giving up large amounts of yards. Jerry, Babineaux, and Walker are excellent getting penetration against the pass, but seem to be wearing some vs. the run. Akeem Dent is having major issues at middle linebacker (more below) and that’s putting more and more pressure on the outside linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks. It should be said that the Falcons are 7th against the pass, but they need to stiffen up against the run a little bit.
Did someone say Tony Gonzalez is supposedly retiring this year? It appears that the 36 year old is on track for one of his best seasons yet. Gonzo hauled in 123 yards with a touchdown and is tied for 3rd overall with 4 touchdowns (among all wide receivers) and 15th in yards including all wide receivers (1st among tight ends). He is surely benefitting from teams trying their best to keep both Julio Jones and Roddy White in check and Koetter is happy to oblige him with the targets. Many teams have talented receiving corps, but few have the additional talent at tight end to occupy the middle with authority the way Gonzalez does. No one is surprised at what he does anymore and he’s playing like he just came into the league. Looking forward, the Falcons and their fans are starting to realize how big the hole will be at TE when he leaves.
Fans and the Bird Cage faithful were ready to toss anything they could get their hands on at the TV seeing Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson, and Garrett Reynolds go out for passes, line up as a 3rd tight end, or doing anything other than blocking on the line (Reynolds illegal man downfield was an accident, but still). What in the Hades is going on here? Some thought the first pass to Joe Hawley (he’s a center remember?) was just an accident, but when it happened again, it bordered somewhere in between being nauseous and bewilderment. Seeing Hawley trying to catch the ball was akin to seeing him in a tutu on a highwire.
The Falcons are struggling at fullback in losing Bradie Ewing in the first preseason game and not having Lousaka Polite active this week, but having Hawley or others go out for passes with all the talent available is just criminal. Mike Johnson has been playing a lot of 3rd tight end roles lately which brings up another point: if Tyson Clabo is needing that much extra help in blocking, why is he still in there? Every time Johnson or Hawley are in as an extra lineman, that’s taking out guys like Harry Douglas, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling, or even Kevin Cone and Drew Davis. Very, very puzzling and strange.
Another game, another big drop early in the game. The Falcons had a huge play drawn up where Ryan hit Julio Jones on a nice deep ball right at the end zone only to see him drop another big one. Fans were starting to get anxious after seeing Jones struggle the last few games, mainly with drops. Could so much talent not explode as everyone thought? The good news is that Ryan and Koetter kept feeding Jones the ball and he looked like the stud we’ve all come to know in the very short time he’s been in red and black. He helped the offense drive down the field with excellent routes, good catches, and his signature extra effort to get more yards. He capped it off with a dazzling touchdown catch where he adjusted to a sidline pass, snagged it, and kept his feet in for the score. Great to have you back JJ!
Akeem Dent is struggling mightily at middle linebacker. There’s really no other way to spin it. He looked lost, had weak instincts, overran plays, missed tackles, and was blocked with ease. Even though some are bringing up the B word already after many thought he was a big reach for the 3rd round, it may be a little premature for that. To be fair, Dent hasn’t had a ton of snaps since Nolan is a fan of the big nickel and he’s only a few games into his first starting year. Sean Weatherspoon didn’t look that great as a rookie himself. Dent also has undergone some serious changes the last 4 years, going from a 4-3 defense under Willie Martinez as a junior at UGA to the 3-4 as a senior under Todd Grantham back to a 4-3 under Brian Van Gorder and finally to a new scheme, more of a hybrid, under Mike Nolan. He is, after all, from a Mark Richt led Georgia team well-known for under-developing their players (see that Justin Houston is top 5 in sacks and Blair Walsh is on fire in Minnesota). Also, Dimitroff did sign Lofa Tatupu in a great low-risk, potentially high-reward move before he was injured.
However, defending Dent can only go so far and he can only get so much time to improve. At what point will Mike Peterson get brought back in or Kroy Biermann get a permanent move to LB (a very popular idea here in the Cage). This much is a lock: linebacker moves to the top of the 2013 draft board.
On one hand, the Falcons have had two performances that are easy to forget, playing an opponent that is decent-to-good, but surely not great or elite. However, the Falcons have proven the last two weeks that they can find ways to win even if they’re not playing their best. At some point, this will start being an issue instead of a strength, but for now, they’ve won two games in a row down at various points in the game.
The drops are starting to add up and it’s not that big of deal just yet, but something to be looking out for moving forward. Julio dropped a potential long touchdown catch, Quizz dropped an easy screen/dump-off, and then there was Joe Hawley dropping two catches….oh wait, he’s a center running passing routes like a receiver, but surely that can’t be right? In all seriousness, the Falcons need to start locking up the easy catches when they get a chance and eliminate as many drops as possible.
Even though it wasn’t as much as expected, there are surely some who think that the game may have been different if RG3 hadn’t got injured and left the game, but just like forcing Peyton Manning into his interceptions, the Falcons defense brought the wood to him when he pulled the ball down and started to run. Also, the Birds did an excellent job keeping him hemmed up even before the injury. The Falcons defense held him to 91yards passing and only 7 yards rushing in the 3rd quarter. Overall, the Falcons defense pretty much shut down the rookie QB.
Mike Smith, Thomas Dimitroff, and Arthur Blank just keep on knocking down those walls. The newest one is getting to 5-0 for the first time in franchise history, which doesn’t mean too awful much to being so early in the season, but it’s been a great start to the campaign and bodes well for the Falcons and their fans going forward.
1) Opening Kickoff: what’s your overall thoughts on the Falcons win?
2) How concerned over rush defense?
3) Do you think Gonzalez is rethinking his retirement after all?
4) What object were readying to throw after the Hawley passes?
5) Please explain the “Extra OL as 3rd TE” mess, if you can.
6) Is Julio back after a few missteps in games?
7) What’s your thoughts on Akeem Dent, MLB overall?
8.) Are the comeback wins a sign of mettle or slowing down?
9) Are the drops starting to worry you?
10) What do you like about your 5-0 Falcons?
11) What worries you most about your 5-0 Falcons?