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)

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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

Coop

December 10th, 2012
9:30 pm

JJ – No sweat.

JB Falcon

December 10th, 2012
9:31 pm

LRD, some talking head predicted the Falcons and Texans in the SB. 21-0 already?

Wabe

December 10th, 2012
9:43 pm

You see what the Pats are doing to the Texans on MNF?

When the Falcons can play a game like that, a game where they send a statement, that’s when I’ll say they’re ‘official’.

They had their opportunity against the Saints, and it turned into the usual grinder type game where we went a good 2 to 2 1/2 quarters of the game being outplayed.

The Giants have put together a couple games like that this season.

The Packers did it to the Texans earlier in the year.

When there’s a big game, the big boy teams stand up and flex their muscle.

Wabe

December 10th, 2012
9:48 pm

You want a situation that we’ve had to put up with all season long that pretty much summarizes Smitty?

Dominique Franks.

This guy has been the most average [and often times, less than that] punt returner. Rather than trying someone else back there to help possibly make our special teams more of a factor, Smitty just keeps trotting Franks out there. Why?

Well, on one hand, yeah, he ain’t doing ish with punts. Sometimes, his decision making kills field position. But, he ain’t fumbling the ball either.

Just another example of Smitty playing ‘not to lose’ rather than changing things up to actually ‘improve’.

The Time is NOW

December 10th, 2012
9:49 pm

I can’t wait to see it Wabe. I just can’t predict when its going to be.

The Time is NOW

December 10th, 2012
9:51 pm

I still think if this team can get over the “never won a playoff game” hump, we will see their confidence blossom which could lead to becoming a big game team.

The Time is NOW

December 10th, 2012
9:53 pm

Both of my comments relate to the 9:43 post.

JB Falcon

December 10th, 2012
10:02 pm

Wabe, don’t want to admit it but your are correct! Will we ever get there? I dunno.

Big Ray

December 10th, 2012
10:36 pm

Wabe ,

You’re dead on the money once again.

Time is Now ,

Thanks. Wish I didn’t feel the way I do, though. Had a lot to get off my mind in regard to this team. Been positive for so long…it’s all slipping now. Not gone, but slipping, slipping, slipping…

Big Ray

December 10th, 2012
10:38 pm

Watching this game tonight…and thinking we MIGHT could compete with the Texans…maybe .

But the Patriots? Negative. No chance in hell.

Even Smitty’s lawyer (where is he by the way….huh…) would be a damned fool to say otherwise. New England looks like they are ready to avenge last season’s SB loss.

Slant Pattern

December 10th, 2012
10:47 pm

“Watching this game tonight…and thinking we MIGHT could compete with the Texans…maybe .” – BR

Agree. If Smitty isn’t on the sidelines and we go no-huddle agressive from the start we could get Texans down enough to put them in the same position they are now. Trying to “out-man” them Smitty style with Turner would result in the same level of embarrassing loss we have been forced to endure so far.
Also agree on your good posting earlier. I’m not even mad anymore after watching the Pats. One bead of Bellichecks sweat contains more winning coaching knowledge than 1 billion Smitty clones…just the way it is.

LRD

December 10th, 2012
11:00 pm

Before hitting the pillow…
Wabe: The Giants game , for us, is the statement game. We lay an egg in that one, then the last tire comes off the bandwagon for many and all the doubters can say told you so.. and then you know what happens.. The Birds come back , rise up if you may, and we win our first playoff game in the Smitty era and then we see the Texans in New Orleans…
To speculate, there would be nothing finer to be in Nola, win the big game and have Tony G grab the mike and plainly say We Dat. ( I must already be dreaming)
Night yall.

Matty Bicep

December 10th, 2012
11:07 pm

Since you brought it up…..SINce 2008, Smitty is 54-22…Belchek is 58-18.

Also, since 2008, both have been to the playoffs 3 times, twice the Pats were one and done, then last year they went 2-1….I hink we know Smittys record.

Also, Belchecks record was 36-44 in his first 5 years at a HC, and 1-1 in his only visit to the playoffs.

Just fact, draw your own conclusions.

SOMEBODY NEEDS TO TELL THE TRUTH

December 10th, 2012
11:10 pm

I can almost invision Smith at home, sitting on the sofa, wearing a onesie…franticly jotting down notes of Belichecks offense.

Geo

December 10th, 2012
11:14 pm

Gonna answer D3s questions for a change, for the hell of it

Bird Cage Painkillers Turn
1) Simple missed tackle – how awful was this game?
Mind blowing.

2) Does this rank as one of the worst under Smith?
No, because they were looking past it. Not a big game for them, only for the Panthers.

3) Is it panic time with the offense?
Yes. I liked some things I saw in the Tampa game regarding the running game. It was a mix of some Mularkey, but more Quizz and Snell and Turner on sweeps instead of up the middle. It worked, at least enough to win. Since then it’s been a disturbing regression to Mularkey era offense.

4) What’s most to blame on offense (besides the OL)?
Those GD Turner up the middle plays. Also, notice Ryan grimacing as he hands the ball to Turner. It shows he doesn’t even feel comfortable on a running play.

5) When will the Turner Era end? Should it end?
It should have ended last year.

6) Was this just a blip or playoff preview?
We’re rounding into playoff form /snark

7) What is wrong with Matt Ryan?
Good question. I think he is feeling the pressure already, from the drumbeat all season of never winning a playoff game. Plus, he doesnt’ get any help. Teams are gameplanning to stop us by going all out to get in his face and/or slam him to the ground, and the coaching staff has not answer, doesn’t even seem to care.

8.) Which is worse: offensive or defensive line?
Oline. But they have shown ability to play when the playcalling is smart enough (no huddle, decent script to open).

9) Why do the coaches refuse to run no-huddle, open attack?
Smith can manage a group on a happy productive workplace level, but has no feel or ability to manage a game.

10) Bad calls or sour grapes?
Sour grapes. Still don’t get going for two anyway.

11) Will tackling ever get consistent?
Why? Doesn’t seem to be any accountability.

12) Are you terrified of upcoming Giants game?
Yes.

Matty Bicep

December 10th, 2012
11:19 pm

Teams are gameplanning to stop us by going all out to get in his face and/or slam him to the ground, and the coaching staff has not answer, doesn’t even seem to care.

Ryan was sacked once and hit 6 times yesterday. Brady was sacked once and hit more times can I can count tonight. As much as everyone loves Ryan, we go as far as he takes us. If we expect him to have a nice clean pocket, it ain’t gonna happen, Tom Brady does not even get that as we see tonight.

Greg Mendel

December 10th, 2012
11:19 pm

Carolina humiliates team. Cage blog disappears from Falcons page. Mike Smith seen whispering to Jack Ruby behind Grassy Knoll.

G’night, Cage.

snacktastic

December 10th, 2012
11:20 pm

At least we’ll still be tied for the best record in the league. I don’t know if that actually counts as a silver lining, but I’m treating it like one.

Matty Bicep

December 10th, 2012
11:21 pm

And as for the Carolina game, it was a division game against a team playing for its entire season. It appeared we thought we could just turn it on and pull it out in the end, but Carolina did not make any critical mistakes, and we got jobbed on a 2pt call that changes the complexion of everything.

But, it was an overall piss poor effort all the way around, hope it serves as a wake up call.

Geo

December 10th, 2012
11:23 pm

MB, Brady has much better protection than Ryan. Sack and hit stats don’t tell the whole story.

Wabe

December 10th, 2012
11:25 pm

The stats ain’t ever gonna tell you the whole story…

Yeah, Ryan only took 1 sack and 6 QB hits.

Don’t mean Ryan was clean. Dude was far from it. And that alone, IMO, is what’s derailing this offense.

If they’d go no huddle and speed up the tempo of the game, it’d help slow down that pass rush.

Mike Smith can rack up all the regular season wins he wants. Don’t mean ish. There are definitely things that can be done right now to help alleviate some of the pressure Ryan’s taking. Problem is, they’re not doing them, and that’s why the coaching will continue to be under fire.

Slant Pattern

December 10th, 2012
11:25 pm

Like a moth to flame.

Matty Bicep

December 10th, 2012
11:25 pm

As for the cage disappearing, I am flattered that some think I might be behind it, but it appears that the AJC just did a new deployment, and the Cage was probably not in the initial scope for I am sure it is a lower priority than paid features.

My guess is they add it in later once they get all the defects from the initial deployment fixed. Or maybe they do axe it due to the behavior of some of the members.

Wabe

December 10th, 2012
11:27 pm

Folks can mention all the Pro-bowl caliber skill position players the Falcons have offensively.

They always say how the Falcons have Roddy, and Julio, and Tony G., and Michael Turner [even though he don't belong]. They say we shouldn’t have any trouble scoring points with that cast of Pro-bowl talent.

Problem is, how many Pro-bowl caliber players can you name on the Falcons O-Line? None. All average *at best* talents.

No Huddle

Matty Bicep

December 10th, 2012
11:30 pm

Brady has Welker. We don’t have that, that is what kills us. It is either play design, HD, or Ryan, or a mixture of all of it. But I just don’t see Brady pumping, looking confused.

Wabe

December 10th, 2012
11:31 pm

Name one thing the Falcons do ‘great’?

The Falcons haven’t shown to be a great running team…

And they’re not a great passing team. Good? Maybe. Great? Haven’t shown to be.

You don’t throw the ball great, you don’t run it great, your defense ain’t great…

But, we’re supposed to buy into them being ‘great’? Because it’ll take ‘greatness’ to beat 3 teams and win a Superbowl…

Wabe

December 10th, 2012
11:37 pm

Regarding the Texans-Pats…

I think that’s just a bad matchup for the Texans. I actually think we’d matchup better with the Pats than the Texans do.

The Texans offense is predicated on running the football and setting up the playaction game. They don’t have the explosive passing game that the Falcons ‘could have’ should they adjust some things [NO HUDDLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE]. The Pats are actually decent stopping the run, but aren’t all that great stopping the pass.

Matty Bicep

December 10th, 2012
11:39 pm

Texans just got a smackdown by da man, Pats are the kings, what can ya say? Really, going up to Foxboro on MNF in December? Who did not see that coming?

Zoomie

December 11th, 2012
5:35 am

Wow. Watching the Patriots really shows how high the bar is set. They are a finely-honed execution machine at this point in the season. The Falcons are still struggling to install an offense with 3 regular season games left to play.

Not good . . .

trademark

December 11th, 2012
5:51 am

Have faith in my team. This is the low point, and we’re still 11-2. I remember when low points used to be followed by more low points, week after week. It seems the doom and gloom is a bit much, yeah, they deserve to be harangued for losing to the Panthers, but at the end of the day, this was a pumped up division foe on the road with nothing else to play for. It isn’t the first this has happened to good or even great teams in the NFL, and it won’t be the last.

What matters is, what the big question is, is will the Falcons be playing their best football when the playoffs (FINALLY) get here. That’s the biggest issue to settle right now, that’s what’s got to be firing up in the Falcons’ minds. The Giants game is a proving ground, even if it’s a loss, they HAVE to learn from it. What doesn’t work, FIX IT. Don’t keep repeating the same system (Smith…Turner, I’m looking at you).

Funny to say this, but yeah, if the Falcons lose in the first round again, I don’t care how many games they managed to win, it’s time for Mr- Smith to leave. Not to say he hasn’t done an amazing and even at times miraculous job with this team, BUT a fourth playoff loss in the first round is just Marty Schottenheimer syndrome, and it’s best not to keep torturing everyone.

BobbyDawg

December 11th, 2012
6:54 am

The Falcons DID NOT play their hearts out as we all know they can do. Did they just relax and let one go by? I hate to think so but that’s what it looks like to me. I still have faith, always have had even in the REAL bad years. We’ll know more after the Giants game. Then we’ve got Tampa Bay and the Lions. They let the engine stall. It’s time to crank it back up and get going. GO FALCONS

Wings

December 11th, 2012
7:53 am

I really hate to say this but for the good of the team:

If it is obvious the Giants are going to win the game, I hope they beat the crap out of us. There has to be ANOTHER wake up call for the HC Mike Smith and the FO.

Chop Buster

December 11th, 2012
9:07 am

Wings (7:53) – if the Giants do beat the crap out of the Falcons, I believe the conversation with Arthur and Dimitroff doubting Smitty’s leadership would begin.

CjdAtl

December 11th, 2012
9:21 am

Long time reader, first time poster.

@D3; regarding the penalty on Dunta, I think it was hillarious in a depressing way, hearing the commentator describing why Matt was sacked on the previous drive and you could you could clearly see the holds on the receivers. As did the commentator who thus trailed off his analysis.

And regarding the OL; for the love of god do something, I am sick and tired watching Matt Ryan being chased around like something taken from a Benny Hill episode and the yakety sax playing in the background. I’m even tempted to make a youtube video…

BobbyDawg

December 11th, 2012
9:34 am

I think Koetter will go away before Smitty. Maybe it’s just me but it looks we’re running less no-huddle and shotgun since Koetter came on board. The defense definitly didn’t look the same without WillieMo and Samuel.

Chop Buster

December 11th, 2012
9:51 am

BobbyDawg – “Maybe it’s just me but it looks we’re running less no-huddle and shotgun since Koetter came on board.” It’s not just you, we have been running less no-huddle and Ryan is under center more. Which is crazy based on the play of the OL. You’d think we’d be doing everything possible to get Ryan in a rhythm and more time to get rid of the ball. I just baffled and don’t know if it’s really Koetter the problem or the playbook we’re using from the 1970s (I’m guessing the latter).

Chop Buster

December 11th, 2012
10:18 am

You know one thing that happened in the Carolina game I see no one talking about is the inclusion of Antone Smith and Chase Coffman. Ryan missed on the screen to Smith, but Coffman caught a ball and looked real fast for a TE. I wonder if we could see these guys integrated into the game plan more down the road? I can see Coffman streaking down the middle of the field against the Giants and Smith getting loose on the edges. If we EVER use all of our weapons we’d be one DANGEROUS offense–of course when we fix the OL issues.

Wings

December 11th, 2012
10:28 am

Chop Buster I looked at the number of plays and A Smith was in on offense for that one play only. I was shocked when I saw him.

Geo

December 11th, 2012
10:29 am

I hate watching other teams (like the Pats last night) and seeing all these no-name running backs coming in and contributing with great energy. They are invariably young, a rookie or second- or third-year man. We have a third-year (!) man name Antoine Smith who never plays. Why did we draft him and why keep him if you won’t play him? It makes no sense.

The Time is NOW

December 11th, 2012
10:31 am

One big run where Antone turns the corner and teams have something new to game plan for. Just sayin…

Chop Buster

December 11th, 2012
10:40 am

Coffman is actually healthy now and the guy was a beast in college. If we could integrate him into the game with Tony, Julio and Roddy how would teams defend that? We need to start coming out of our bag on these teams and get them on their heels early. What better game to use my above suggestion than agaginst the Giants–who are weak up the middle and in their secondary. They can’t defend them all. Yet, it all comes down to giving Ryan time to do something with the ball.

Chop Buster

December 11th, 2012
10:41 am

Wings, there have been a number of one-time plays or players in games never to be seen again. I often wonder if they are experimenting with certain things?

Wings

December 11th, 2012
10:43 am

From AJC DLED article:

“We need better production on first and second down so that third down is manageable,” running back Michael Turner said. “So guys won’t have the ears pinned back, going after Matt (Ryan) and teeing off on him. We just have to get the ball rolling and keep it moving.”

I find Turner’s statement really ironic since he either looses or rarely gains more than one yard on first down.

Geo

December 11th, 2012
10:45 am

Time, not buying the theory that they are saving Antoine for just the right moment, his third year in the league and then only as a secret weapon for the playoff push/playoffs. And yet I wouldn’t care at this point if it meant Turner sitting and Antoine playing.

Wings

December 11th, 2012
10:46 am

A Smith is a really good special teams player. He is usually first down field because of his speed. He, Snelling, and Bierman are around the ball most of the time on punts.

Geo

December 11th, 2012
10:47 am

Wings, mark it down. Falcons first play from scrimmage Sunday will be Turner up the middle for no gain. Ironic indeed.

Geo

December 11th, 2012
10:50 am

Wings, exactly. Smith is great on special teams. Glad he can contribute there, but that just tells me his talent is being wasted.

Big Lou

December 11th, 2012
10:50 am

Wings

I agree.

I only except a blowout either way–Falcons or Giants.

Shut us up, or change it up.

Big Lou

December 11th, 2012
10:53 am

Wabe

Great point. Why the f!ck is Franks still punt returning? Shouldn’t they use the reg. season to fix these issues?

Smith is a stubborn idiot. Period.

It will cost another playoff season.

Geo

December 11th, 2012
10:54 am

Time, I may have misunderstood your comment. Giving teams something else to worry about and plan for is also a good thing, depending on how you look at it.