Atlanta Falcons: Birds Squeak by Raiders to 6-0

Another Win with a Sloppy Effort

Falcons defensive end John Abraham forces a fumble with a hit on Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer during the third quarter Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards recovered the fumble and advanced it to just short of the end zone.

Thank Goodness for Abe (AJC)

The Atlanta Falcons are the only undefeated team in the NFL, so why do fans feel so nervous or unfulfilled? After roaring out of the gates to a 3-0 start and looking excellent in all phases of the game, the Birds have come back to Earth a bit and looking pedestrian in all areas of the game, especially on offense. On one hand, the team is showing mettle, heart, and determination in finding ways to win, even if very ugly. However, if it continues for several weeks, a disturbing trend begins to take shape and what once was a strength starts to become a weakness because the team is putting itself in positions to have to win at the last minute due to the overall poor play. The fact is that the Falcons are 6-0, even though they’ve not looked very good lately. But isn’t getting a win, however you attain it, better than losing? Many teams thought to be “dominant” by the media elite talking heads have suffered losses to teams believed to be at the bottom. That speaks to NFL’s parity and winning the first 6 games, however it’s done, is a testament to the Falcons, their coaches, and their players. Whether or not it will serve to benefit or harm in the future is yet to be determined, but the reality is that the Falcons are undefeated and 31 other teams are not. A look at the Raiders game……….

Once a Strength is Becoming a Weakness

At first, it was a great strength showing determination, mettle, and finding a way to win at the last second. The Falcons didn’t play great against an inspired Panthers team coming off a bye week. They willed themselves to a win with less than a minute. Then came a Redskins game that was filled with major mistakes, slogging around, until they finally put together a TD drive and subsequent defensive stand to win the game. OK, it’s on the road and the Redskins have shown a lot of promise. A third week in a row of not playing good is a disturbing trend and is now becoming a weakness. Fact is, the Falcons are putting themselves in these situations where they must scratch and claw from behind to win the game. No other series identifies it better: Asante Samuel makes a beautiful pick six to seemingly put the game away. Then the Raiders offense commences to go right down the field to score with two minutes and not needing any of their 3 timeouts. Once a great strength of character and will is simply becoming a product a weak and sloppy play.

Matt Ryan’s Bad, Bad Day

Quarterback Matt Ryan picks up yardage on a quarterback keeper, escaping the pressure from Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour during the second half.

This is About Right (AJC)

Let’s all hope it was just one of those days because it was a really bad one. Ryan threw 3 interceptions (all weren’t necessarily his fault), but some were. He seemed to have happy feet due to poor offensive line play. Not all was on him, but he had plenty of bad throws and misfires all on his own. He missed open receivers, threw the ball high, and generally had an awful day all around. Maybe it was just a bad day against a well-schemed defense. Perhaps the play-calling didn’t help any. The lack of running game surely isn’t helping and neither are the drops. Ryan’s had an excellent year to date, but he needs a game like he had vs. San Diego to erase the Raiders performance.

Abraham the Ageless Wonder

Thank goodness the Falcons found a way to keep John Abraham. The guy is a complete stud and is warming up his Ring of Honor flag as we speak. We as fans always mention Tony Gonzalez when discussing a Falcon that defies age. But Abraham deserves that praise too. He turned 34 this year and many (including this author) wondered how much he had left in the tank. Well, he’s proving once and for all just how awesome he is and by default how anemic our pass rush is without him. He notched 3 sacks, forced a fumble at a crucial time, and got several holding calls against him. In short, he was unblockable. Already, he has 6 sacks in 6 games. Abraham is the man.

Does the Offensive Line Need a Shakeup?

No, it wasn’t the worst performance of the year (that would be Carolina with 7 sacks in one game), but this offensive line is causing heartburn for Falcons fans looking forward on the schedule when they play really good defensive lines. They weren’t outright terrible in pass blocking in the beginning of the season, but now they’re looking as bad as last year. And run blocking is another nightmare altogether. But really, how much should have been expected with the EXACT SAME starting offensive line as last year?

Baker is a little better, but not dominant. Blalock is the only rock on the team. Todd McClure is on the downside of 35. Garrett Reynolds is only slightly better than last year and that’s saying very little and many think he would be better at his natural position of tackle anyway. And then there’s Tyson Clabo. He has had an absolutely atrocious year. They’re just not getting it done and it shows. Sure, Michael Turner and the running backs aren’t making plays and the play-calling seems mediocre at best recently, but this is what most fans expected when literally no changes were made. Thomas Dimitroff deserves some criticism for the past of the this line, but he used his first two picks (2nd on Peter Konz, 3rd on Lamar Holmes) on offensive linemen. Why not try these guys out for a few series and see what happens? Why not mix it up some and move some of these guys around? Is one of the best overall linemen in the entire draft (Konz) really not good enough to start somewhere on this offensive line? Of all the issues that’s most maddening fans: Mike Smith and the coaching staff’s refusal to try anything different regarding the offensive line two years running.

Speed Needed at Running Back

This may just be an excuse in trying to make up reasons why the offense has been doing so poorly, but here goes: the Falcons need more speed in the backfield. It’s been well documented here in The Cage about Michael Turner and his slowing down or not fitting in this new offense among many other things. The Falcons coaching staff decided to go with Turner as their feature back this year and, even though a few times he’s done OK, mostly he’s looked completely out of sorts with this new offense. Gone are the days of one of the best lead blocking (and highest paid) fullbacks in the league clearing holes, the days of a power-run first offense, and offensive line opening “garage-sized holes” as Cage member SOMEBODY said. The best running backs in the league simply slow down as they approach 30 years old and especially with Turner having so many carries in such a short amount of time.

Falcons running back Michael Turner is brought down by Raiders safety Tyvon Branch, right, for short yardage during the second half Sunday.

Running Game is Anemic (AJC)

The issues go beyond Turner, however. Jacquizz Rodgers was thought to be somewhat of an answer and may even contend for close to 40-50% of Turner’s touches, but that surely has not been the case. Maybe it’s play-calling or just lack of playing time, but Rodgers has not turned into the player many fans expected. On the 3rd and 1 toss play to Rodgers, he had room to get the first down, but was easily caught and dropped for a loss. Even his specialty of catching the ball in space had issues when he bobbled a well-timed screen that could have gone for many yards. The odd man out has definitely been Jason Snelling. Many ream the call to give Snelling the ball on 3rd and short, but many times he tends to run just as hard as Turner and does a better job of hitting the hole. The cold truth is that the Falcon simply don’t have speed at running back and haven’t for quite some time. Antone Smith has shown some serious speed in pre-season only to never get touches in a game. What could it hurt? Look no further than Alfred Morris of the Redskins and Andre Brown of the Giants (filling in for Ahmad Bradshaw) tearing it up this year alone. Like the OL issue, that’s a major thorn for fans as well, a refusal to mix it up and give some guys a few chances. From where it stands now, running back surely could be a candidate for a 1st or 2nd round pick in 2013.

Defensive Tackle Could Use a Corey Peters Boost

Peria Jerry, Jonathan Babineaux, and Vance Walker have done a good job getting penetration in the backfield so far this season. Thought to be a possible weakness, they’ve done an admirable job overall. But they sure could use a boost, especially in the run game from a guy by the name of Corey Peters. Believed to be the best overall defensive tackle for the Falcons by many fans, Peters has been out the entire season going all the way back to training camp. He may not be ready for the Eagles game, but getting him back on a defense that could tighten up will be a nice shot in the arm.

More Issues at LB

Not having Stephen Nicholas at full strength really has shown just how fragile the Falcons linebacking corps is. Akeem Dent and Mike Peterson were on the field at the same time many times throughout the game, with Dent playing the entire game. Dent occasionally shows some promise as a very young player in the run game, but he’s just as lost as Curtis Lofton was in pass coverage. As the season wears on, the decision to not sign a linebacker for backup purposes may end up biting the Birds at some point.

Why is the Offense Digressing?

Falcons fans cheer as wide receiver Roddy White (right) celebrates his touchdown catch from Matt Ryan  with Harry Douglas for a 7-3 lead over the Raiders during the second quarter.

Happening Much Less than it Used to (AJC)

Is it the anemic run game? Is it the offensive line? Is Matt Ryan simply coming off his hot start? Are defenses figuring out what the Falcons want to do? Is it just execution, or is it bad play-calling? Who knows exactly why the Falcons have continued to devolve on offense the last three weeks, but this much is certain: it definitely has. The Falcons looked unstoppable against a pretty good San Diego defense, but has hit a wall of sorts since. They left many points on the board vs. Carolina and gave up 7 sacks. They played 3 quarters of weak offensive football in DC before finally getting it together. And they looked as bad as they ever have against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Whatever the reason, the coaching staff and offense better get some things figured out before a tough part of the schedule starts coming up.

Harry Douglas Needs More Snaps

This is nothing new and it has nothing to do with that spectacular off-the-helmet catch he made on the ground, but Harry Douglas should get not only more snaps on offense, but more touches as well. The idea is that it’s impossible to cover all of the Falcons aerial weapons, but despite only a few occurrences, Douglas just doesn’t get that many looks. Either that or Dirk Koetter doesn’t know how to use him correctly. Seemingly, it would be a coordinators dream to have such an explosive slot man (and to his credit, he’s giving him more looks than Mularkey did), but he never seems to get chances to do what he does best which is to catch and run in space. Perhaps this is more of a critique on formations (3 receiver, 1 TE, single back) sets than anything else, but if you’re going to be an explosive passing team, you have to maximize all your weapons and the slot doesn’t seem to be getting enough snaps or targets. No disrespect intended, but do we really want to see Mike Johnson / Joe Hawley as a 3rd TE, Lousaka Polite, or Tommy Gallarda get on the field instead of HD?

The Tight End Cupboard is Bare After Gonzalez

This is really more about going forward than this year, but Sunday’s game brought to light just how bare the tight end cupboard will be when Gonzalez does finally hang up his cleats. Michael Palmer is hurt and there’s a belief that he can at least bridge a gap until a new tight end is developed, but after that, there’s not much. Tommy Gallarda is about exactly what he was coming out of college: an undrafted free agent. And this is really more on Dimitroff than anyone. He’s not invested any consequential draft picks on tight ends since 2008. In fact, the only tight end he’s ever drafted was Keith Zinger in the 7th round. Palmer may can get it done, but the position as a whole looks to be getting a huge hit when Gonzalez leaves.

Falcons Must Develop Another Defensive End

Matt Bryant kicks the game-winning field goal with the Raiders bench looking on with only a second or two to go in Sunday's game.

Bryant Makes Another Late Save (AJC)

As mentioned above, thank goodness for John Abraham, because without him, the Falcons wouldn’t have much of any pass rush from the DE spot. As with tight end, the Falcons have failed to develop any significant production or player from the defensive end spot not named John Abraham. This is year 5 of the Mike Smith / Thomas Dimitroff regime and despite all the supposed talent at DE, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of promise. Ray Edwards appears to be looking more and more like a weak free agent move (as many fans, including this author admit through gritted teeth). Kroy Biermann should move permanently to linebacker, his natural position, most fans believe and is too light to make an impact at DE. Then there’s Lawrence Sidbury who some thought may see an increased role under Mike Nolan, only to continue his disappearing act in 2012. Jonathan Massaquoi and Cliff Matthews may hold some talent, but they’re always ending up on the inactive list every Sunday. The Falcons signed Abraham to a 3 year contract, so theoretically they have a few more years, but they’ve already had 5.

Fans Seem to Be Pretty Evenly Split

Here in The Cage, it appears to be pretty evenly split among fans and their beliefs / opinions. Some feel that the NFL is the most parity-driven sport in the entire world and that “Any Given Sunday” is a true reality in that each win is special in the National Football League. Hard to argue when you see teams like the Patriots, Packers, 49ers, and Steelers losing games many think they shouldn’t. The Falcons may not be flawless, but they’re finding ways to win and are, so far, the only undefeated team in the NFL. It’s hard to argue against that belief.

On the other hand, fans rightly point to similarities to 2010 when the Falcons were “finding ways to win” as they are now, while not playing great football, went 13-3, and got downright embarrassed in the Debacle in the Dome. In other words, not only losing in back-to-back playoff appearances, but getting blown out and humiliated has corroded the idea of “getting the benefit of the doubt.” There’s nothing the Falcons can do about the postseason right now but win and get there, but those 2010 Falcons seemed to be getting worse as the postseason approached, not better. It’s also hard to argue that point as well.

The Bird Cage Faithful’s Turn

1) Simple Kickoff – where’s your confidence level after week 6?

2) Are the come-from-behind wins still a strength or are they now a weakness?

3) What was up with Matt Ryan’s bad day: one awful game or disturbing trend?

4) Is John Abraham nearing potential Ring of Honor status soon? Can he keep up this pace all season?

5) Is the Falcons offensive line finally due for a shakeup? What would your starting 5 be at Philly?

6) What should the Birds do @ RB? Is more speed desperately needed?

7) What’s your thoughts on the DT play?

8.) Are the LB issues keeping you up at night? Thoughts on Dent?

9) It’s an impossible question, but why is the offense digressing so bad?

10) Should Harry Douglas or others get more touches?

11) What should the Falcons do about TE after Gonzalez retires?

12) What is the deal with the Falcons failure to develop ANY OTHER defensive end?

13) What side do you fall on: happy to 6-0 and plenty of time to correct problems or seriously worried about what the future holds?

468 comments Add your comment

D3

October 15th, 2012
11:18 pm

Just a funny little note………..here’s the adjectives and verbs used to describe the first 3 games and their titles for posts here in the Cage……..

Week 1 – Falcons Rip Chiefs

Week 2 – Falcons Beat Broncos on Big Stage

Week 3 – Falcons Crush Chargers

………and since………..

Week 4 – Falcons Escape vs. Panthers

Week 5 – Falcons Edge Redskins

Week 6 – Falcons Squeak by Raiders

Just thought that was pretty telling.

Have a good night ‘all. See you in the morn’!

Matty Bicep

October 15th, 2012
11:25 pm

And for all the people who were moaning about the Falcons “almost” blowing the game against Denver, I hope you are watching what “Bad” is.

Matty Bicep

October 15th, 2012
11:27 pm

I think if the Falcons played in the AFC, not only would we have notched a few playoff games, we would have had a few SB appearances.

Slant Pattern

October 15th, 2012
11:44 pm

P. Rivers is no M. Ryan, thats for sure.

Nice post D3. I suspect you will get some homer rage tho!! It’s late, will try to do questions tommorrow.

Matty Bicep

October 15th, 2012
11:49 pm

1. On scale of 1-10, I am a 9 that we make the playoffs. a 1 that we go 16-0. What happens after that is too far in the future to tell.

2. They are a sign that….well, won’t have the lead every second of the season. But it is also a sign that we have great clock management, a cool headed QB, a rock solid kicker, and a great 2 minute scheme. Hardly a weakness.

3. Where Ryan goes, the Falcons go. I do think teams are adjusting and taking things away… QB in the NFL is hard, ask Philip Rivers, but Ryan is a hell of a 2 minute guy, and he will rebound.

4. Defensive MVP…A credit to Smitty to know how to use an guy with a rep of being injury prone and malaigned, and have so much respect that for Smitty that he left money on the table to sign. A guy like that wants to be here, need I say more?

5. I expect a lot of time to be spend on the oline over the next 2 weeks.

6. RB is a concern. MT is kinda it. Need to draft here.

7. Will be glad to see Peters get back in the rotation.

8. Concerned about LB, hope that Dent starts to show some serious improvement. Where is Bear Woods?

9. Why did GB look human, only to explode on Texas? Offenses are funny that way, I keep waiting for that been explosion, hopefully it comes in the playoffs.

10. I have not seen anything our of HD when to do go to him to think he is the answer. Ryan can go to him if he likes, they just don’t have that mojo, I did not blame MM, and I don’t blame Koetter.

11. Frightening thought.

12. Good question, they just don’t grow on trees. We took a few late rounders, but they are hard to find.

13. I predict we will win some and lose some (god forbid). In the end, I expect to be in the playoffs, but it is impossible to predict how we are playing then, who we play, who is injured, etc.

Surg the Urge

October 15th, 2012
11:49 pm

The Falcons are 6-0, but who cares?

~ ESPN

Matty Bicep

October 15th, 2012
11:50 pm

And Norv Turner ain’t no Smitty.

Creaky

October 15th, 2012
11:59 pm

Smoke and mirrors

watchforbird.. ish

October 15th, 2012
11:59 pm

These fans are not loyal.. these fans don’t deserve explanations, these fans just need to spectate and enjoy the Sunday hangouts in town.. the falcons are fine, do you go all out on a average looking girl?? I wonder how deep they went into the playbook.. last three games were somewhat experimental .. like linemen catching passes wtf.. but really, when you know how strong you are why flex.. NFL is a business so blowing teams out every weak would be boring and setup for failure come playoff time when there’s no secret sauce left .. so Smith is working on things we didn’t do well in the first 3 weeks.. how many teams can score in 40 seconds? Falcons are constant work towards perfection and those in the locker room have bought in .. Be a loyal fan or cheer for another team.. Go Falcons!

Creaky

October 16th, 2012
12:02 am

However i will take it over losing any time.

Surg the Urge

October 16th, 2012
12:06 am

Falcons fought hard to beat two teams coming off their bye week. We played terrible both those games and barely beat the Redskins. No team is perfect, and we can’t demolish every opponent we face, but Matt Ryan played terrible that last game against a team that struggled with turnovers before us. We didn’t get the run game going, Quizz is looking like a bust, the O-Line is regressing, the defense played terrible. Can’t wait to get Corey Peters back, and I hope a week’s worth of rest does the team well. Hopefully we come back rejuvenated and not fall off like the teams we played coming off the bye.

P Little

October 16th, 2012
12:14 am

If the Falcons want to contend with teams like the Giants, Packers, and the 49ers. They better do something with the offensive line. They need to atleast try the rookies any thing would be better than what they’ve done the last two games.

Wings

October 16th, 2012
12:36 am

Wabe in previous blog – “Also, I’m curious, when is this ‘honeymoon’ period for this regime gonna end? A lot of folks get tied up into this notion that because they’re the ‘best regime this franchise has ever had’ and ‘they came in here when we were at rock bottom and pulled us out of it’, criticism against them is blasphemy, or that firing them would be inconceivable. ”

My opinion it will end when the regime doesn’t use the talents of the current gifted players to win a Super Bowl. There is a “window” of opportunity to harness the talents of a specific number of the players who are above the rest.

Loyalfalconfrmthemississippi

October 16th, 2012
12:49 am

1. Im quite confident in this team 1-10 id say 10 i kno they might not go undefeated but they will play hard all four quarters.
2. Definately still a strength because they havent failed with it
3. Just a bad day, id blame it mostly on the o line, he was just pressured all game
4. Abe is a beast and will continue that trend all season with the rest he gets each game.
5. Yes, my five would be baker, blalock, hawley, konz, and try reynolds at right tackle if clabo continues his downward spiral
6. Give antone smith some playing time and give rodgers more snaps and let snelling run on 3rd and shorts, but ultimately give antone smith a chance turner is a no show nearly every game, we need someone to make some plays at RB
7. The DTs are playing pretty good although cory peters will be a welcome improvement on the line
8. Stephen nicholas needs to stay at 100 percent im glad they let him get the extra rest during the raiders game, i think picking up a big MLB during free agency may be our best course of action, i like akeem but hes just not showing the potetial we all hoped he had.
9. They are just getting tired, our running game is absent nearly every game so matt ryan gets too much pressure because defenses can pin their ears back and bull rush us i credit matt for being able to do what he has in spite of the circumstances
10. HD definatley needs more targets to draw some more pressure off our other recievers, a tripple WR threat is much more threatening than just a duo, just sayin
11. THEY NEED TO DRAFT A BIG TIME TIGHT END. They had chances to pick up some nice prospects last year to develope under gonzo and passed that up, lets hope gonzo sticks around for another year and we draft somebody maybe tyler eiffert, we need somebody soon!!!!!!
12. Simple answer: good seasons. Atlanta hasnt had a chance to make a top pick in any draft since 2008 aside from that id just put it on poor scouting and not giving your other guys chances to make plays ive seen sidburry make plays with limited chances yet hes barely seen the field this year, masoqui why not give this guy some chances, see if he can make some plays, he made alot of big plays and sacks in college lets see if he can bring that to the table in ray edwards place, heck that might even give ray edwards some motivation to play better
13. Very happy to be 6-0 and anxious to see what this team does to change for the better in our upcoming games!!!

Go falcons bring the heat

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PapaK

October 16th, 2012
6:47 am

I share the same concerns as the rest of you. We all want the Falcons to win 38 – 0. Run for 200 yds., Ryan throwing 3TD passes and sac the opposing quarterbacks 5x’s a game. Unless they do that, we are concerned they aren’t good enough. But 6-0 is pretty damn good. I predict they’ll have a couple of games described above. Let’s hope it’s in the playoffs.

JJ

October 16th, 2012
7:17 am

FFL
Fock you Rivers, you sukk!!!

SG

October 16th, 2012
7:37 am

Huge, huge props to Smitty’s Jekyll and Hyde Falcons on the 6-0 start and tying Coach Reeves win total.

Going forward, I’d like to see Antone Smith finally get a shot at RB, MR2 helming more of the no-huddle as I’m not feeling good about the OC’s ability to adjust to opposing D’s adjustments in real-time, and can we give some of the rookies some snaps on the softer side of our O line?

Singletary

October 16th, 2012
7:55 am

I’m going to be killed by UGA alums, but why are we pampering Dent? Two penalties, was it? We have to fix the Oline or Turner will again have no shot for a scamper into the endzone. I don’t rag on the D too much for the Raiders game because they were on the field so long that they were existing only on fumes. Maybe Clabo is hurt or maybe he’s feeling protected as the player representative, but until he becomes a wall, that is not his “highest, noblest purpose.” We are ripe to lose to PHI, dang it, if we don’t get some fixes. (Losing to another team would not be as painful.) That being said, it is nice to be 6-0.

Mary Gochenauer

October 16th, 2012
8:27 am

It seems like most people don’t even notice the falcons let alone know that they are 6-0. The only thing that matters to me (in my mind, my gut and my heart) is that the Falcons are winning. Go ahead say your negative comments about them, I would rather have them under the radar anyways. A win is a win no matter how they got it. At least they didn’t cheat like the patriots did and do to win games. Big Falcon fan living in Denver Colorado Mary

snacktastic

October 16th, 2012
8:45 am

“Split down the middle” is right. I’m happy about 6-0, but not as happy as I’d be if it didn’t look like the team was about to fall apart.

Philly may have their issues, but they’re not to be underestimated. I’ll look at that game to see if any more worry is justified. Let’s hope the Birds get the most out of the bye week.

Falcondawg

October 16th, 2012
8:49 am

Our offense would be not just fine, but great, if the offensive line could run block! D-lines are in our backfield when the rb gets the ball. This is not to take the onus off Turner (he looks slow hitting what hole he may get from time to time) or Rogers (he can’t seem to run inside at all). But defenses are playing against the pass because they seem to know we can’t run.

Zoomie

October 16th, 2012
9:03 am

MR2’s play has digressed over the last three games. The OL is terrible in the run game. Clabo has become a turnstile in pass protection. Turner isn’t effective until he gets to the second level and I don’t see what Quizz brings to the table. The D is soft against the run and gets burned by their aggressive play at times.

Having said all that, the Falcons are 6-0. Withoiut question the coaching staff sees the same weaknesses we do and I’m sure it will all be addressed (with the exception of the OL; if history is a guide, the Falcons will stubbornly sink or swim with the current OL set-up).

Proud of the 6-0 start, but have the “hinky” feeling I had back in 2010 when we eaked out numerous nail-biters . . .

Wabe

October 16th, 2012
9:15 am

Great write up D3.

It’s good to be 6-0. Yeah, we may not be playing the best football in the league, but there isn’t another team in the league that sits prettier than the Falcons do at this point. At 6-0, the Falcons seem to be running away with this division and are positioned well to contend for homefield/1st round bye.

Regarding the play, even if you’re the most optimistic of fans, there’s a noticeable difference between the way we opened the season and the way we’ve played the last 3 weeks. We blow out the Chiefs, Chargers, and Broncos (despite that 4th quarter scare), and then we look somewhat mediocre against the Panthers, Skins, and Raiders. The Panthers and Skins, fine. But then, for a 3rd straight week, against a depleted Raiders defense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in pass defense, that hadn’t had an INT all season, puts our offense in shackles?

Trust me, even Smitty and Koetter will be lookin’ at that tape. No way to sugarcoat that performance. Yeah, they’re happy, as all of us are, to get the win. But, if you ask Smitty himself if he’s pleased with the way the Falcons are playing, do you honestly think he’ll say, “hey, we’re 6-0 so we’re obviously playin’ great football…”

No way Smitty believes that in his heart of hearts. He knows that the Falcons haven’t been playin’ good football, and I’m sure he’ll be looking at our past 2-3 games to see what it is that needs to get worked on. Just ask yourselves, do you think Smitty’s happy/satisfied with the way we’ve been playing?

And if you don’t think he is, and you think he’ll be ripping into these guys, why are fans out of bounds for doing the same?

Paddy O

October 16th, 2012
9:42 am

Our D won the game, despite the last quarter yard gobbling by Oakland – Palmer is still an above average QB. Last post somebody indicated that our new coordinators were “proven”. I agree on Nolan; Welcome Back proved exactly what last year? He has shown a tendancy to call plays in the stupid cute universe. So, unless we have vastly overrated our talent, I blame Welcome Back for misdirected play calling and game planning. However, whose idea do you think it was to make Mike Turner a receiver? He is not good at it. Plus, HD and Quizz have dropped passes – those errors must be cleaned up. Our O line was good against Denver – who as you saw last night can excel. So the question is, why is our O line failing now? The O line was pure awful against Carolina – I hoped it was a peculiar aberration – but of course, every D coordinator we play against is looking at what worked for Carolina. Yes, the Skins have a great coaching pedigree, and RG3 – but Oakland? Only excuse – and it is an excuse – is that they were coming off their bye. We need to dominate the lesser teams. I smell 2010 all over again.

Big Lou

October 16th, 2012
9:46 am

Philly just fired their defensive coordinator. The game the Falcons are gonna have with them just got more difficult. Dude was a BVG clone.

Paddy O

October 16th, 2012
9:46 am

Good moniker for the 2012 Falcons: Smitty’s Jekyll and Hyde Team. But, I do suspect they were running some offensive experiments against lesser teams – stupid cute. Almost cost them 2 games. Luckily for Smitty & Co, Ryan continues to pull his butt out of the fryer.

Big Lou

October 16th, 2012
9:51 am

SG

Atione Smith has been injured the past couple games.

Robert James

October 16th, 2012
10:09 am

It’s too easy after a game like the Raiders to comment about the Falcons’ performance. A kid could have offered up a close resembling list of “what we need”… The Falcons had a bad day and Smitty, DT and DK already know what the weaknesses were and are prior to going into the game. We have needs and this year some were addressed and next year others will be. Coining a popular phrase these days, “Are we better off than a year ago?”…. A couple of standout remarks imho were just ill informed. Regarding the TE position we have the best all time receiving TE ever and he may very well stay around another year. Only he knows. He is mentoring Palmer and Gallarda, both of whom are better blockers than TG. Both of them and particularly Gallarda are good receiving TEs. They just have not been given the opportunity in games – because we have TG. So yes to your question , “Would we really like to see Hawley and or Gallarda on the field more as a TE – not Hawley but Gallarda for certain. The PI called on him in the end zone in the Carolina game was just BS and he was open. He doesn’t dop footballs and neither does Palmer. We have a number of talented WRs and Ryan is spreading the ball around. Not a bad problem to have. If TG retires TD will draft a top ranked receiving TE and we’ll continue on. So D3 come back after the season is over and revisit this article…..

SOMEBODY NEEDS TO TELL THE TRUTH

October 16th, 2012
10:13 am

Good Stuff as usual D3. Thanks for the SHOUT-OUT!

Big Lou

October 16th, 2012
10:19 am

As the glass half-full guy, I will answer your questions and be the homer of the franchise’s first 6-0 start.

1) Simple Kickoff – where’s your confidence level after week 6?

Highest it has been since the Falcons went on that Super Bowl run years ago.

2) Are the come-from-behind wins still a strength or are they now a weakness?

Against Carolina, it was a strength. Redskins wasn’t really a comeback… Raiders was a bunch of self-inflicted wounds. Still, it takes a lot of heart and resiliency to drive down the field to kick the field goal to prevent overtime.

3) What was up with Matt Ryan’s bad day: one awful game or disturbing trend?

There has been a trend on him throwing an INT(bone headed ones, too) the past four games, so he needs to be more aware when he is surveying the field. If we are going to get on the Oline after a couple bad games, then we need to do the same with the Ice man. Make him run more no huddles, create more play action, or do whatever you need to do to make Ryan more comfortable in the pocket. But, at the end of the day, we can only blame the Oline for so long. Out of Matt’s 6 INT this year, 4 have been on him, and two on the offensive line. I doubt he will have another bad game–expect a bounce back.

4) Is John Abraham nearing potential Ring of Honor status soon? Can he keep up this pace all season?

Mike Nolan is doing good on limiting his snaps and putting him a position to make plays. So, I think he will keep up the pace.

5) Is the Falcons offensive line finally due for a shakeup? What would your starting 5 be at Philly?

I would wait till after the Philly game–that’s just me. Oline cohesiveness is very important. Replacing people would make that game even worse, imo. A bye week does not equate full speed games. I would wait till we play a team with a weaker dline.

6) What should the Birds do @ RB? Is more speed desperately needed?

Until next year, they need to scheme better around the RBs they have. It just looks like they are trying to make Turner/Quizz adapt to their scheme, which doesn’t fit their strengths. Screen passes, and dink/dunk passing would help open things up for Tuner, though.

Fired-up Falcon Fan in a Fall Football Frenzy (F6)

October 16th, 2012
10:33 am

1) Simple Kickoff – where’s your confidence level after week 6?

Still high.

I suspected after the preseason that OL and the running game were weaknesses, and yet again those holes that appeared to be problems in preseason carry into the regular season.

We had injuries to overcome (as all teams do, see Green Bay during their superbowl run) but WE DID.

Losing Grimes was a blow, contract nonwithstanding. He was a key in the secondary.

Cutting Ovie (coming off an injury) to free money for Samuels seemed a no brainer at the time, but when his replacement went down with a season (Career) ending injury, it hurt.

Throw in Peters, and our FA mike LB that didn’t make it into the regular season, there were hurdles.

Which the team and coaching staff overcame just enough to win EVERY game.

So, yeah, I am feeling pretty good at this stage.

Fired-up Falcon Fan in a Fall Football Frenzy (F6)

October 16th, 2012
10:35 am

2) Are the come-from-behind wins still a strength or are they now a weakness?

Strength. We won. GETTING behind is a weakness.

3) What was up with Matt Ryan’s bad day: one awful game or disturbing trend?

Disturbing trend, which I blame on Pass Blocking. He DOES need to start releasing quicker again. Wonder if he is hurt from all those blows he has been taking? Wouldn’t be surprised, and would explain a lot.

4) Is John Abraham nearing potential Ring of Honor status soon? Can he keep up this pace all season?

Yes, Yes, depending on the competition (he is stronger against average teams)

Fired-up Falcon Fan in a Fall Football Frenzy (F6)

October 16th, 2012
10:36 am

5) Is the Falcons offensive line finally due for a shakeup? What would your starting 5 be at Philly?

Starters, the same – BUT I would bring Holmes onto the active list and see what he can do in the line of fire if his foot is really good enough to contribute.

6) What should the Birds do @ RB? Is more speed desperately needed?

Yes. High pick or a good low mileage FA signing like Turner was,

7) What’s your thoughts on the DT play?

Ok, Walker had a good game.

Fired-up Falcon Fan in a Fall Football Frenzy (F6)

October 16th, 2012
10:37 am

8.) Are the LB issues keeping you up at night? Thoughts on Dent?

Not so much (on staying up at night). Many packages will employ 2 LB’s anyway. Injuries are hurting us because injuries made us so thin there.

8) It’s an impossible question, but why is the offense digressing so bad?

OL Digressing, aging, No FB, Matty may be hurt after taking so much punishment.

9) Should Harry Douglas or others get more touches?

Yes. He is supposed to be a speed guy, why don’t I see him in positions that we can use it?

10) What should the Falcons do about TE after Gonzalez retires?

Draft. High. Next year there will be a few good TE’s coming out of college, maybe the best in a while.

Fired-up Falcon Fan in a Fall Football Frenzy (F6)

October 16th, 2012
10:38 am

11) What is the deal with the Falcons failure to develop ANY OTHER defensive end?

A question for the ages. I thought defensive schemes before, but maybe there is more to it?

12) What side do you fall on: happy to 6-0 and plenty of time to correct problems or seriously worried about what the future holds?

Happy.

The Falcons go into the bye week wondering if they can win more convincingly, and how long they can stay undefeated.

The Bulldogs went into their bye week wondering why the dreams turned into a nightmare (with Steve Spurrier playing the feature role of Freddy Kruger), and what was the license of the bus that just ran them over.

The Yellow Jackets went into their bye week wondering if they can go to any bowl at all, and firing their DC in the middle of the season. Middle Tennessee??

Perspective makes me a very happy Falcons fan.

Big Lou

October 16th, 2012
10:41 am

7) What’s your thoughts on the DT play?

Good against the pass, and stout IF they run through the middle. They are absolutely God awful if they run to the edges. Luckily, we have decent CBs/LBs to plug up the holes. THEY NEED TO WRAP UP, THOUGH!

8.) Are the LB issues keeping you up at night? Thoughts on Dent?

No. I will give Dent at least 10 games before feeling a bit worried.

9) It’s an impossible question, but why is the offense digressing so bad?

I am not going to act like I am a coach in the NFL, or somebody in the locker room. Yet, I do think the Falcons are just trying to play perfect. Matt is trying to make plays and making ill-advised throws, receivers are dropping easy passes due to over-thinking. I just think they need to calm down and just go have fun. Do not worry about being perfect. As for the digressing comment, which is a bad one, it was one bad offensive game. I do not count the Redskins, because it was poor execution. They threw up points against Carolina. Offense will adjust and bounce back.

10) Should Harry Douglas or others get more touches?

Easier said than done. I feel they have been spreading the love extremely well so far.

11) What should the Falcons do about TE after Gonzalez retires?

Draft, coach one up… target HD more. Who knows? Let’s focus on this year and enjoy it.

12) What is the deal with the Falcons failure to develop ANY OTHER defensive end?

Ray Edwards hasn’t pulled his weight, but I expect them to mold Johnathan Mas. just fine. You only have so many draft picks and money to do things…

13) What side do you fall on: happy to 6-0 and plenty of time to correct problems or seriously worried about what the future holds?

I am the happy to be 6-0 because my job as a fan is to support my team and enjoy the good times. People are entitled to their opinions, and I am okay with that. But, at the end of the day, every fan wants the same thing. It’s easy for me to feel comfortable because we have new coaches. I am willing to give them a chance. Comparing 2010 to this year just seems… off to me. You go from heavy Turner play(MM offense), and soft zone(BVG defense), to a more Matt Ryan heavy offense(DK), and attacking defense(Mike Nolan). The offense is molding Matt Ryan to carry his team when it matters, and the defense is getting molded into a team that makes the opposing QB lose sleep at night. Apples and Oranges, I refuse to live in the past. I do not care how we are beating teams… the Falcons have a different attitude, different leadership, better secondary play and Julio Jones.

Coop

October 16th, 2012
11:02 am

Morning Cage – First, my thoughts and prayers go out to Birdman!

Second, before I even read the post, the news of the DC firing in Philly is VERY concerning. This sort of thing can galvanize or fracture a team. Based on the complaints from the players, I think this will have a galvanizing effect. Further, I don’t know what G2 we have on Boles (new DC), but game planning probably got a lot harder.

That said, the game plan for our D should be to get after Vick and hit him and hit him and hit him. They have a double backup LT and a shaky OC. Based on what I’ve seen the first few games, I’d start Vance Walker at DT. He has gotten a ton of push up the middle. I know forcing Vick to the outside and running is scary, but I think him running up the middle is worse. When he goes to the outside he protects the ball even worse than between the tackles. I think that gives us more opportunity for Spoon, Decoud, Robinson, Moore, and Samuel to lay the wood to him and get some fumbles.

On O I’d expect Philly to come after Ryan hard with this DC change.

Wabe

October 16th, 2012
11:10 am

Hahaha Asante Samuel’s tweeting about the Iggles firing Juan Castillo.

“Sometimes you gotta blame yourself, you can’t point the finger at everybody else…ain’t no decline here…rise up”

Gotta love the dude’s swag.

D3

October 16th, 2012
11:13 am

Robert James — Thanks for joining the Cage. We’ll have to just agree to disagree on Gallarda. One main reason I said that is that he dropped a very easy ball in the game and offers nothing in terms of receiving. He is a blocking TE by trade, at least he is for us Falcons @ 6′5, 262. He has struggled mightily to even make the squad, was undrafted. Made the practice squad and was cut by the Jaguars. Made it on as our #3 TE. I like Palmer a lot, but my point was that we will have nowhere near the production that or targets or command coverage the way that Gonzalez has for many years. You can only get by on Undrafted Free Agents for so long. JMHO

Fired-up Falcon Fan in a Fall Football Frenzy (F6)

October 16th, 2012
11:17 am

Big Lou – Excellent points about the differences between Falcons 2010 and 2012.

I don’t see a huge difference with the DC being fired in Philly, the replacement is coming from the staff, and they can’t shift schemes in a bye week. Maybe some motivational impetus, but not sure which way.

D wasn’t their problem, anyway.-

They lost the Detroit game at the last minute on a FG, gave up 26
Steelers beat them but only scored 16
Giants only managed 17 (and look what they did to the 49ers)
Cardinals scored 27, but their O only managed 6 points, so hang that one on the O.
Flacco and the Ravens scored 23, and the Browns scored 16. Both Philly Wins.

Their problem is turnovers by the O, Vick in particular, and changing D coordinators won’t fix that.

I surfed for some stats, and found this:

Philly is 12th in points allowed
while they’re 31st in points scored.

They’ve turned it over 17 times,

( http://www.businessinsider.com/philadelphia-eagles-fire-juan-castillo-2012-10#ixzz29TX8Iynh)

Arno

October 16th, 2012
11:17 am

The criticisms of the Falcons not winning in the playoff game are inflated. Come on– getting to the playoffs three out of four years gives a team a slightly better chance of winning in the playoffs than not getting to the playoffs at all.

The criticisms of the Falcons being a very flawed 6-0 team are inflated. The Falcons know their flaws. Matt Ryan leading the team to wins after sputtering for three games is outstanding. Just ask Romo or Rivers.

SOMEBODY NEEDS TO TELL THE TRUTH

October 16th, 2012
11:24 am

It’s very fascinating to hear some of the concerns (debates) about our 6-0 Falcons, they are errily simular to last seasons.

I will list some concerns I’ve heard here in the cage…and some simularities that I personally see in this team, compared to last years squad.

1). The offense is beginning to show they have trouble moving the ball with our offensive coord. calling plays. (We scored the first TD on Sunday in the hurry-up, with Matt calling the plays) GOT RHYTHM?!?!

2). Faltering running game.

3). Inadequate use of Harry Doughlas.

4). Offensive Line play…

5). Suspect play calling on offense…………………………..^^^^^^^^^^^^ see #1.

6). Anemic pass-rush.

7). Player development: Sidbury, Antone, Mattews, Maasaquio. if these guys can contribute…give’em
a SHOT!

8). Know identity on offense or defense.

9). Lack of urgency.

The above ^^^^^ are just a few, I could go further indept…but I digress.

If we could form a template of this years team, place it over top of last years, it would start to fit.

We’ve added new coordinators, why are we seeing these simularities rear their ugly head again? All I know is the only two constants are Smith and TD (players not withstanding).

The most glaring simularity from last year, the year before and the year before that, are Coach Smiths stale (redundant) word speak, game after game, year after year ” WE HAVE ALOT OF CORRECTIONS TO MAKE” Hey, don’t get me wrong, I am not calling for anyones Job…some things just gets old over a period of time. Just my opinions…

Fired-up Falcon Fan in a Fall Football Frenzy (F6)

October 16th, 2012
11:26 am

Question -
Who scores first against the Eagles?
A) Samuels
B) Biermann
C) Jerry
D) HD
E) Turner

Wabe

October 16th, 2012
11:26 am

I will go ahead and say this to sing a more positive tune.

There are legitimate questions about teams like the Texans and Niners, whether they can handle adversity, or play from behind. Both of those teams seem built more like the Falcons were in 2010. Pound the ball, but not enough offensive firepower to play from behind if they get into the type of game that doesn’t suit their style. I think the Falcons actually now more than ever could actually play from behind if need be. We have the weapons, and we’ve become a more passing oriented offense.

Another note, the Falcons haven’t played their best football, we all know that. But, the last two Superbowl Champions, the Packers and Giants, both had rocky regular seasons until they finally clicked. I remember the Giants lost twice to the Redskins last season. So, yeah, I get that sometimes you’re not playing your best football and teams can certainly catch you any week. But, both of those teams evolved through the season, and found themselves at the right times.

Winning is always good. My only worry is that winning in the fashion we have may result in Smitty and company overlooking the things that need to be looked at, things that’d definitely be looked at if we lost any of those games. I’m not saying they will overlook them, I’m just unsure how much attention they’ll pay to the areas of concern (IE – the O-Line, Run Defense). I know that if those things actually *cost us a game*, Smitty would dedicate all of his time and effort to correct those areas. But, nobody knows exactly how much time he’s been spending working on things like the run defense, because it hasn’t really gotten better from week to week. It’s been consistently bad.

Hopefully we see improvement in these areas coming out of the bye.

SeminoleWarrior

October 16th, 2012
11:35 am

Cage Family

Been a while since my last appearance here and a hell of a lot has been going on; trying to balance a life with the realities of life. In the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of time rolling south to spend special time with my beloved Angel Josephine. During this time, the Cage always had a kind word, a thought, and a series of prayers that provided comfort. Well, friends, I need them more than ever.

At 9:10am, this morning, surrounding by family, the Angel I cherish, was received into the arms of her loving and everlasting God. The TeePee is devastated, the heart is crushed. Human emotion will do that to you. We never want to surrender that which is so damned special and treasured.

I know she is in a better place. I know that God is too great to make a mistake. I understand that He needed her more than I do at this moment. But it still hurts. I feel a sense of joy because she is no longer suffering in pain. But my pain, my selfish love-inspired pain, is crushing at this time.

The TeePee mourns her loss physically. But in the spirit of all that is the Warrior, I acknowledge that there was simply none finer than mine. All that I am I owe to her. All that I will ever be is a testament to the foundation she helped to mold.

Pray for us, Cage. Pray with us, family. But most of all, I beg of you, please, PLEASE, pray for me.
At this moment, the strong is seriously weakened. And I am asking a lot of questions not of heart but of the pain the heart feels.

God bless you all…keep me (us) close in this emotional time. May be a while before I return but I will keep you all close to me.

You (we) are the Cage, I love you all, and your Warrior, your brother, shall return when the time is right. Again, keep us in prayer and thoughts. God bless.

JJ

October 16th, 2012
11:40 am

SW, god bless you and your family!

waynester

October 16th, 2012
11:41 am

Seminole–
You’re being lifted up right this moment–and when the grieving finally relents, you’ll no longer hurt with questions but be filled with joy and gratitude for all the extra time you had together on this side and all the time yet to come on the other!

Fired-up Falcon Fan in a Fall Football Frenzy (F6)

October 16th, 2012
11:46 am

SeminoleWarrior – You, your new angel, and all your family of course are in the prayers of all.

At 9:11 this morning, the Lord received a gift of a kindred spirit, who was lifted into his arms by not only her deeds (which from your comments I am sure were substantial) but also by the prayers of all those lives she touched on her journey thru our little realm here on Earth.

We, all of us, are ultimately judged not only by our actions, but by the actions of those whose lives we touched inspired, influenced. Your Josephine appears to have made such a mighty wake of bettered lives that it could surely be seen all the way to heaven!

God Bless you and your entire family, and please try to dwell more on her life and absence of pain instead of your grief, loss and pain. She would surely encourage you to do so.

Coop

October 16th, 2012
11:49 am

From Grantland:

“Just because a team has the best record — especially in a sample as tiny as six games — doesn’t mean that they’re the best team in football. It’s actually pretty easy to poke holes in the Falcons’ résumé. Their six games have included matchups against the Redskins, the Panthers, and the entire AFC West; when they’re not playing the Falcons, those six teams have gone a combined 11-15, and that’s not going to suddenly start looking much better as the season goes along. Atlanta has won those six games by a combined 58 points; only seven 6-0 teams in NFL history have had a worse point differential during their 6-0 start than Atlanta has. They’re already 4-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less, and that includes the stunning benevolence of Ron Rivera that led to their razor-thin win over the 1-4 Panthers in Atlanta. If Cam Newton doesn’t fumble and Carson Palmer doesn’t throw that pick-six during Oakland’s crucial drive in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the Falcons are 4-2 while having played at a virtually identical level of football. You don’t just get to write those plays off the board and pretend they didn’t happen, but it’s also naive to suggest that every win is of equal value in projecting the future once they hit the board.

The gentle section of the Atlanta schedule ends with their bye this upcoming week. After the week off, the Falcons get games against the three best teams in the NFC East, five of their six NFC South matchups, and tilts versus the Lions and Cardinals. If they don’t raise their game — especially both running the ball and stopping the run — they won’t be undefeated for much longer.”