Atlanta Falcons: Birds Embarrassed by Panthers

One of Worst Losses in Smith Era

Carolina Panthers' DeAngelo Williams (34) runs for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. The Panthers won 30-20. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

No Falcon in Sight (Chuck Burton)

>>>>>NOTE<<<<<<<

Some Cage members are having a hard time finding The Bird Cage through normal channels, so make sure to bookmark the following in your favorites:

http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-falcons-fans

It’s hard to know where to start on this one. To be blunt, this was one of the worst losses in the entire time that Mike Smith has been head coach. This team has serious problems and they just proved to all the doubters and skeptics that they may be right after all. The Falcons may not always win while under Smith’s reign, but they usually always play hard and fight until the end. Well, that appeared not to happen on Sunday in Charlotte. The Falcons were not only beaten, but flat out embarrassed. Fans likely started getting that same sick feeling in the back of their throats the way they did the last two years in the playoffs, because that’s how bad they looked. A look at the horror show that was:

Offense Just Pitiful

Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones (11) leaps into the end zone past Carolina Panthers' Haruki Nakamura (43) for a touchdown as Falcons' Harry Douglas (83) watches during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

One Bright Spot (Chuck Burton)

15 yards in the first quarter. 40 total yards in the first half. Michael Turner 2 carries for 3 yards. Do those stats strike you as a team ready to make waves in the postseason? Sure, they turned it on when they decided to start playing, but by that point it was entirely too late. When they were well behind, they decided to start playing a little offense and looked pretty good in the no-huddle which bogged back down when they needed points. The running game was non-existent, the line was horrible, and Matt Ryan was off yet again. Most of us tried to chalk up the poor offensive game vs. the Saints as just a blip, but they actually looked worse against the Panthers.

Rodgers Should Get Bulk of Carries

That’s putting it nicely. The fact has long been that Jacquizz Rodgers has shown way more upside and the ability to carry the bulk of carries in the backfield. All Falcons fans appreciate what Michael Turner has done for this franchise and he’ll likely have a banner hung in his name when it’s all said and done, but he’s just not getting it done. It’s hard to part with players who have meant so much to the franchise, but the time has come. Mike Smith obviously hasn’t got that memo. The entire offense played terrible so it’s unfair to scapegoat just one player, but Jacquizz Rodgers is just better and the facts don’t lie. Rodgers had 21 yards on 4 carries and Michael Turner carried the ball 7 times for 14 yards.

Just a Blip or Playoff Preview?

Carolina Panthers' DeAngelo Williams (34) leaps high as he is hit by Atlanta Falcons' Stephen Nicholas (54) and Dunta Robinson (23) during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Yuck (Chuck Burton)

This game had trap written all over it. The Falcons clinched the NFC South and were playing a 3-9 team with the Giants coming up next week. Fans are trying their best to chalk it up as just a blip, but there’s a growing fear that we’re starting to see an eerily similar storyline. In 2010, the Falcons won a lot of close games en route to a 13-3 season and the NFC #1 seed. The rest, of course, is history seeing the Birds have a complete meltdown catastrophe vs. the Packers. Being completely objective, the Falcons are still 11-2, have already won their division, and are still leading the NFC, but the nightmare scenarios are getting worse and not better with the Falcons seemingly playing their best football at the beginning of the season and playing their worst football closer to the playoffs. There’s still 3 games left and all 3 teams will be good tests for the playoffs. This one can be chalked up to a trap game, but we’ll know everything we need to about this team the next three weeks, starting with the Giants at home in a one week.

Ryan is Trending Downward

Yes, he threw for 325 yards and one touchdown, but he also does not look the same quarterback that he did in the first half of the season. He missed throws, looked jittery in the pocket, and just didn’t seem to be in a good rhythm. Maybe it’s playing behind a weak offensive line, maybe he’s suffering from a weak running game, or maybe his coordinator is not helping him at all. Who knows why, but the results say that Ryan is going in the opposite direction. He looks the most comfortable in an open, no-huddle type offense, but for whatever reason, the coaching staff seems to avoid it except when they are 23 points down. Here’s to hoping Ryan gets it figured out and quickly.

Defensive Line Must Improve

It’s been common knowledge that John Abraham has been the Falcons only pass rush for a long time. Problem is, when he’s not completely on his game, the Falcons have nothing else. Biermann has great hustle, but is more of a linebacker playing as a defensive end. No one has taken advantage of Ray Edwards absence whatsoever. In particular, the defensive tackle position appears particularly weak. Peria Jerry has never turned that mythical corner, Corey Peters is likely not 100%, Vance Walker is a good rotational player, and Jonathan Babineaux is playing more defensive end and on the downside of his career. The Falcons were gashed by the run yet again and it allowed Cam Newton be precise in his passing. All considering, the defense did pretty decent since the offense didn’t help whatsoever until entirely too late.

Where’s the No-Huddle?

Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan (2) hands the ball off to Michael Turner (33) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

This is Done (Chuck Burton)

Matt Ryan always does best in an open, no-huddle type of offense. If you think about some of Ryan’s best games, they have come from those type of gameplans going all the way back to the Ravens game in 2010. This offense is more in sync, has more rhythm, and it masks some of the weaknesses on the offensive line. The Falcons were at their best early in the season with many of the no-huddle type of looks and yet they are going away from it with diminishing results. Even the run game seems more productive in the no-huddle. Do they have to stay in all the time? No, but why not go with what works best. They only implemented it when they were down 23 points and, sure enough, they went right down the field. The great mystery remains.

Bad Calls

This may come off as sour grapes and ultimately it likely didn’t matter with how poor the Falcons played, but there were several questionable calls at a very critical juncture in the game. The first was one of the worst calls of the entire season. The Falcons scored a touchdown and converted a two point conversion. Even the line judge ruled the 2 point conversion good and was evidently overruled. The ref said that Roddy White bobbled the ball, but the replay clearly showed he never bobbled the ball whatsoever. It was only two points, but it seemed to cut down some of the Falcons building momentum. Another play showed a critical catch by a Panthers receiver who appeared to drop the ball, the play was ruled incomplete, but the refs overturned that call. Finally, Dunta Robinson was called for holding a play where the defense seemed to get a stop. He was holding and it was the right call, but there were tons of times when Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and John Abraham were being held to no avail.

Tackling Still an Issue

Carolina Panthers' Mike Tolbert (35) runs as Atlanta Falcons' Chris Owens (21), Stephen Nicholas (54), and Thomas DeCoud (28) defend during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Weak Tackling (Chuck Burton)

This is an issue that was supposed to get fixed earlier in the season, but the Falcons are still having issues bringing down their opponents. Corey Peters couldn’t bring down Cam Newton for a sack (but also got no help at all either) and there were several other instances where the Panthers running back or quarterback got extra yards after the first hit. At best, they’re simply inconsistent. Some weeks they’ll tackle well and others, they won’t. If they don’t get it fixed in a hurry, they won’t be going far in the playoffs.

Bird Cage Painkillers Turn

1) Simple missed tackle – how awful was this game?

2) Does this rank as one of the worst under Smith?

3) Is it panic time with the offense?

4) What’s most to blame on offense (besides the OL)?

5) When will the Turner Era end? Should it end?

6) Was this just a blip or playoff preview?

7) What is wrong with Matt Ryan?

8.) Which is worse: offensive or defensive line?

9) Why do the coaches refuse to run no-huddle, open attack?

10) Bad calls or sour grapes?

11) Will tackling ever get consistent?

12) Are you terrified of upcoming Giants game?

1,438 comments Add your comment

SOMEBODY NEEDS TO TELL THE TRUTH

December 10th, 2012
4:44 pm

Big Ray, I concur on the Ravens. If I can add, they’ve got a very astute GM. OZ is a football guy through and through…can’t pee on his head, tell him its raining. He’s in-tuned with that franchise.

Big Ray

December 10th, 2012
5:07 pm

Chop Buster ,

Good point on the missed sack by Corey Peters. I will say that a healthy Peters makes that play (and a whole lot more…he was good last season).

But the total lack of “gang tackling” mentality is just crazy. But you know who? That only highlights just how underwhelming our DL is.

I have nothing against Biermann and Abe. Abe’s got some serious miles on him and still does well against the pass and run most of the time. Biermann….let’s be honest here…nobody else is forcing a LB to be a DE as much as we are…Even Nolan said every DE on our roster would be a LB in his 3-4 system. I think that said it all right there…

But beyond that, we have no idea what we’ve got with any of the other DEs and our DTs are not cutting the mustard most games.

Babineaux – older. We saw him play DE in a 3-4 hybrid…and it worked. Haven’t seen it since. He’s not what he once was – a playmaking undertackle. He’s still got a little left in the tank. But for this DL to be effective, we need a lot more than a little. He just can’t do it.

Peters – not healthy.

Travian Robertson – Apprenticeship Program. Just forget it. Then again, maybe he also struggles with learning the play book. But we wouldn’t know because he hardly ever plays.

Peria Jerry – A bust.

Vance Walker – good rotation guy who makes more plays per snap than the starting DTs.

And there we are.

D3

December 10th, 2012
5:15 pm

Big Ray — Looks like what we talked about a few months back is happening. Nowhere to be found anywhere on the AJC website.

Big Ray

December 10th, 2012
5:22 pm

D3 – Don’t be surprised. The Ravens have weapons. Better ones than we do at some positions (RB) and was it not you who said we might have not traded all those picks off for JJ and went with Torrey Smith instead?

They’ve scored gobs of points in a few games, struggled like hell in others (and not necessarily against good defenses). They apparently figured they’ve had enough of the defense bailing the offense out, because that won’t get you past the Patriots.

Take a look at the facts. We, with all of our offensive issues and what not….still are 7th in total offense (yards). The Ravens are 18th. That means they are behind Philly, Carolina, Oakland, Tampa Bay….although they are only behind us by one spot in points per game.

So even with a nasty defense, they need to score better and more consistently than they are. Do you think a team that’s worse on offense than us is going to win out against the Texans, Patriots, Broncos?

I’ll bet the Ravens don’t think so with the way things were going under the former OC. Like you said, that’s even with playoff success.

It’s called a higher standard.

I’d like to see us get there some day.

Big Ray

December 10th, 2012
5:22 pm

Somebody – yep!

Big Lou

December 10th, 2012
5:24 pm

Big Ray

December 10th, 2012
5:26 pm

D3 – it sucks, but we knew it might happen. I don’t know what’s going on for sure, but this is ridiculous. Still able to get on, but not through the AJC.

Big Ray

December 10th, 2012
5:26 pm

D3 – I hope not, but we knew this could happen. Glad we can still find our way on. Hope it’s just a Tech glitch.

Paddy O

December 10th, 2012
5:29 pm

changing OC’s at this point would be tough. I agreed with keeping the basic tenets and terminology of the MM playbook. But, are we waying Welcome Back did not revamp play design or add more plays? If he did not, no wonder we still look to predictable – screen passes are the only thing we’ve really added.

BobbyDawg

December 10th, 2012
5:31 pm

I had to get here through Google. Thought you guys were trying to hide from me. I hope they don’t take the Cage off the AJC. Between the Cage and DOL there is no better info on the Birds.

D3

December 10th, 2012
5:42 pm

********************BIRD CAGE FAMILY!!!!************************

Not sure what’s going on, but it doesn’t look particularly good at this very moment. The Cage is nowhere to be found anywhere on the AJC website. I emailed the guy over me and said he’d pass it along, but not sure what to think to be honest.

For now, just make sure to bookmark the RSS feed…………

http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-falcons-fans/

falcon21

December 10th, 2012
5:47 pm

D3, I found it in the AJC blogs section.

D3

December 10th, 2012
5:59 pm

falcon21 — You might want to check again because I’m not seeing it anywhere.

falcon21

December 10th, 2012
5:59 pm

That was a stupid thing to say with the link right above me!

falcon21

December 10th, 2012
6:00 pm

Arno

December 10th, 2012
6:03 pm

JB Falcon

December 10th, 2012
6:06 pm

21, I couldn’t even find the blogs section! Just happened to have the cage on favorites.

falcon21

December 10th, 2012
6:19 pm

It was there when I first got home JB, it is gone now.

The Time is NOW

December 10th, 2012
6:26 pm

This has been discussed since 1pm. See Arno above.

Chop Buster

December 10th, 2012
6:27 pm

BR (4:19) – You’re right. I thought we had fixed this issue defending option QBs before. I guess it did go out the window with all the other successful plays we’ve called in the past, never to be seen again. There is some Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde stuff going on with the Falcons.

Chop Buster

December 10th, 2012
6:32 pm

BR (5:07) – “Even Nolan said every DE on our roster would be a LB in his 3-4 system. I think that said it all right there…” Makes you wonder whatever happened to the 3-4 defenses we were suppose to see this year. We’ve all said the same thing…we have guys that are better suited on this team to be OLBs than DEs. I guess we were still missing our Vince Wilfork and two other big boys on each side of him.

falcon21

December 10th, 2012
6:40 pm

Time Now, all I know is I went to Blogs about news and sports around 4p and the The Bird Cage was there.

D3

December 10th, 2012
6:46 pm

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens I guess…….

Welcome Back Koetter — Someone just mentioned the fact about Smith and Koetter keeping 80% of the calls the same. We all remember thinking “why in the hell would you do that?” That should have been a bad omen than. The Panthers finally ripped the mask off of our team after all those close finishes that we all tried our very best to rationalize and justify. This is all on Smith. He’s been a winner and best coach in franchise history, so he’ll get another year even if we’re one and done. But if can’t change this year, what makes us think he’ll change next year?

LRD

December 10th, 2012
6:51 pm

D3… then what is the other 20%? Is that the stuff we have been holding back waiting for the playoffs? The 20% we do not have the talent to run? The 20% the O Line cannot do?
hmmmm.

Slant Pattern

December 10th, 2012
6:55 pm

Hey all. Storms today knocked out power, had a response earlier wiped out. Cage removed from AJC but shows up with Google still. This has happened before to me and been fixed within a couple days. I’ll try to get some posts up here in a min.

BobbyDawg

December 10th, 2012
6:57 pm

Thanks Arno — I sent my 2 cents worth in for what it’s worth. Whether I leave a post or not I’ve got to have my daily Cage fix.

Arno

December 10th, 2012
7:13 pm

Smith, in today’s Q&A, talks about failures in all three phases, but actually puts most of the blame on the D not getting the Panthers off the field. The Panthers chew up most of the first quarter on their first drive, so I’m thinking Panthers want to control the clock. I’m thinking the Falcons will surely come out with something aggressive. What do we get? Turner up the middle for two. So now Smith says the O is not executing on 3rd down?? Does Ryan have to bail out a poorly called series AGAIN?? As long as Ryan continues to bail out a poor game plan, then Smith (or should I say Smoetter) will keep up the same schemes week after week. For most of the season he has made Smith look good. Problem is, Ryan’s third down numbers are declining. If we run the no huddle, Ryan gets to make his own mistakes and fix them himself, not have to slog through play calling mire. He stays more focused, and the whole offense responds. Ryan can’t be the scheme redeemer forever.

JB Falcon

December 10th, 2012
7:46 pm

Arno, at the risk of skinning my ignorance, let’s say that there are only so many basic, practical plays a team can call. This figure has been proven over many years of many teams playing many games. This proven figure will be 1000. I’m guessing here. So MS & DK keep 800 of the plays in MM’s book and also in evry other coaches book. These are all standard, proven plays used by all teams. Now, maybe the other 20% are a variance of some of the plays that could be executed better by the players on our team than any other team, based on individual player capabilites.
Coaching, to me, is being able to call the correct play at any given time based on the above scenerio coupled with what we know about the other team. Or, maybe, what we “should” know about the other team. The smartest coach in the world would not be able to call all plays perfectly. He would have to have the ability to change, or make adjustments, as the play was being executed.
This is the way I interpreted your 7:13 post that makes sense to me. Given I’m not a complete idiot, I don’t understand why the hell we don’t let MR be his own coach. Let DK & MS make “suggestions.” The no-huddle has proven to be a scoring machine. Now, why are we forcing MR to try to execute stupidly called plays when he can see from the start that they are not going to work? Maybe I am an idiot.

Slant Pattern

December 10th, 2012
7:52 pm

Missed alot of activity today it seem. Props to Wings and BR regarding watching other teams offenses and noting the differences. Questions regarding our schemes and playcalling get easier to answer when you see how much better even average rated teams use theirs, especially in the run game.

JB Falcon

December 10th, 2012
7:56 pm

Actually, my 7:46 post came about after reading D3, LRD, and Arno. I’m open for answers.

Arno

December 10th, 2012
8:02 pm

JB– It’s only my idiot theory that Ryan has bailed out some deficient play calling. Because he has been able to continue to do bail them out in a bunch of close wins, it has “enabled” the “process” to perpetuate itself. Maybe if Ryan weren’t so good, things would change??

Wngs

December 10th, 2012
8:06 pm

Smoetter is good Arno

Paddy O

December 10th, 2012
8:07 pm

our coaching staff are offensive morons. we’ve stopped trying to stretch the field. we are trying to force Turner to run the ball between the tackles. when our o line is asked to pass block and run block, they do neither very well. when concentrating on just pass blocking, they do OK. We have SERIOUS coaching problems. Why run such short routes? maybe the hot read guy, yeah – but all the other receivers? dumb & dumber. Smoetter Ball may be the new key moniker for this boondoggle. Other teams appear to specifically scheme for their opponent. we seem to trot out the same vanilla game plan and hope we execute. crummy.

Paddy O

December 10th, 2012
8:08 pm

very disappointing game. shut out for a half. with all this talent? folks should get terminated for this crap, IMHO.

Sportaree

December 10th, 2012
8:17 pm

JJ….Thank you!

JJ

December 10th, 2012
8:33 pm

Sportaree was trapped on DOL’s with no way to get to the cage. We need to daily leave links on DOL’s until this gets fixed. I’m a early riser so Ill do the am’s if some others want to leave a link at lunch, and maybe one at diner? Just wondering if some powers to be dont like our criticism or if some other fish wrapper “journalist” (lmao) are envious of D3 and the cage. This has happend before so hopefully its just a tech prob.
Regardless it smells fishy but they dont call it the fish wrapper for nothin!

JJ

December 10th, 2012
8:35 pm

frickin keyboard!

falcon21

December 10th, 2012
8:40 pm

JJ, kinda makes you wonder if some of the threats made by someone not long ago has a little something to do with this.

The Time is NOW

December 10th, 2012
8:42 pm

Big Ray, you were on a roll today. I enjoyed reading it all.

Coop

December 10th, 2012
8:42 pm

Smitty trying to shut down the Cage for telling the truth.

If you spit in a snake’s face long enough, that sumbitch is gone bite.

If Smitty won’t change, we WILL lose first game of playoffs.

Sadly, I just don’t believe he can. Another wasted year of amazing talent.

JJ

December 10th, 2012
8:44 pm

f21, crossed my mind and we havent seen much of him lately…hmmmm.

JJ

December 10th, 2012
8:47 pm

Coop, my apologies yesterday, I was pretty pissed at our falcons and feeling no pain. Were good and your team(ffl) is fine.

The Time is NOW

December 10th, 2012
8:47 pm

JB Falcon (7:46) – you are not an idiot. Good post.

The Time is NOW

December 10th, 2012
8:50 pm

Paddy O (8:07) – Can’t argue with you on that.

The Time is NOW

December 10th, 2012
8:53 pm

When I have looked, I haven’t been able to find any of the other fans blogs either.

The Time is NOW

December 10th, 2012
9:04 pm

Correction – the Junkyard Blawg is still on the GA page.

LRD

December 10th, 2012
9:11 pm

Well… it looks like we are not the only team “with the best team in football” that is just looking horrendous in the first half

LRD

December 10th, 2012
9:12 pm

Meant to say “best record in football”..

Slant Pattern

December 10th, 2012
9:20 pm

The difference LRD is that the Pats are a good and well coached football team instead of dysfunctional rejects like Scam, Hardy and the rest of the rookie Panthers team. We got beat by a collection of less than broze medal winners in the Special Olympics and outcoached by the equivalent of a coma patient. Huge difference.
If you want to see how good coaching, offensive strategy, and a decent O-line come together by all means keep watching the Pats. They are dismantling the Texans the way we should have destroyed the Panty’s with our 3rd stringers playing. I would take one of the Pats towel boys as HC over Smitty at this point :) .

Arno

December 10th, 2012
9:27 pm

“tempo and play selection” –Gruden