Atlanta Falcons: Birds Win! One Away from Super Bowl

Falcons Heavy Underdogs vs. 49ers

No Caption Needed! (AJC)

Our cardiac Falcons couldn’t make it easy on themselves or their fans could they? What a game, a thrilling finish, and the amazing death of the “playoff curse,” or whatever you want to call it. The Falcons came roaring out of the gates behind a huge crowd who were in their seats and loud from the first moment. The first half was a thing of beauty that saw the Falcons surge to a 20-0 lead, and even responding with their own touchdown on their first possession after the Seahawks took the opening drive down for a TD. Then, the wheels came completely off. Maybe a better analogy would be that they absolutely shut down in all phases of the game, seeing the Seahawks score 21 unanswered points. However, the Falcons found a way to win the game, needing only 31 seconds to do it. Kudos to the entire organization, from the players and coaches to Thomas Dimitroff and Arthur Blank and all the way to the support staff. It was a wonderful win in so many ways, even if it did almost send many of us into cardiac arrest. A look at the huge playoff win………….

Goodbye Playoff Albatross

Right Up There w/ Morten Anderson in '99 (AJC)

No two people on the planet are likely happier today than Mike Smith and Matt Ryan. For the past 5 seasons, all that has been said has been Smith and Ryan’s inability to win the playoffs. The 0-3 playoff record has been stated so many times by so many media members that it was not only annoying, but just complete overkill. It literally has been repeated thousands of times as an excuse to denigrate or outright ignore the success the Falcons have had. Some of it may have been a little justified, but using it as an excuse to trash them in week 3 of the regular season? It wasn’t pretty at the end and Smith darn near tried to give it away, but it’s done once and for all. The media elite will have to come up with another excuse to slam the Falcons because the “can’t win in the playoffs” garbage is gone forever.

Running Game was Thing of Beauty

Turner Big Day (AJC)

Where did that come from? The Atlanta Falcons have been one of the worst rushing football teams in the league the whole year and most of the times only ran enough to keep the defense at least somewhat honest. That was not the case on Sunday. Michael Turner ran for 98 yards on 14 carries with a long of 33 and Jacquizz Rodgers put on a highlight show when he trucked All-Pro safety Earl Thomas as if he were playing Madden. The offensive line was a big part of the running success and hats go way off to them. After being criticized so often and so heavily over the season, they showed up ready to play on Sunday and the running game was on track for most of the game because of it. The success on the ground also opened up the passing and play-action game, which was also a big reason for the win.

What Happened to the Defense?

Fans are still trying to figure out what happened that precipitated a complete defensive meltdown in the 4th quarter, that darn nearly cost them the game after being up 27-7 in the final quarter. It may not have been one thing in particular, but a slew of really awful performances, from the players to the coaching. The defensive pass rush was non-existent, as Russell Wilson had enough time to do his taxes in the backfield. It literally seemed on one play that he almost 10 full seconds to try and find someone, without nary a Falcon even close. Some of it was losing John Abraham, but it seemed as though the scheme wasn’t even that concerned on pressuring Wilson. One of the main reasons that Brian VanGorder “found another job” was his insanely soft zones where QBs could just sit back and pick them apart with ease. That fourth quarter zone was as bad a zone / scheme as any of those the previous 4 years, with maybe the exception of the loss to the Packers in 2011 in the playoffs.

Best Catch of All (AJC)

The Falcons also picked a terrible time to stop tackling well, after they had done such a good job of it in the previous 3 quarters. Maybe it was just a case of being way too confident with a 3 score lead with a quarter to go. Perhaps Coach Smith or Mike Nolan decided to just sit back in the zone and hope that the Seahawks wouldn’t have enough time or that the rookie QB would finally make a mistake (even though he gave no reason for them to think that). Zach Miller was made to look like Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe, and Kellen Winslow Sr. rolled into one. It was shameful how wide open Miller, Golden Tate, and Sidney Rice were in that fourth quarter. As fellow Cage member SOMEBODY said, it was like they were playing catch in the backyard. Maybe the entire team tightened up as the game was falling apart (the offense literally stopped doing anything, the coaches submarined, and even the special teams participated in the collapse). In hindsight, the fact is that the defense did a good enough job to keep them to 7 points for 3 quarters and decided to have a really bad last quarter. The Birds shouldn’t have that issue vs. the 49ers, since it projects to be closer for all 4 quarters rather than just 1.

“Just a Mere Formality”

Should Spoon & Co. Even Show UP? (AJC)

Yes, that is actually what a writer for the San Francisco Examiner wrote in one of the most blatant, poorly written articles about the Atlanta Falcons, maybe ever. According to this writer, if that’s what we’re calling him, his vaunted San Francisco 49ers are the best team to ever grace the field in this game we call football. They have the best RB’s, OL, DL, LB’s, and overall team in the history of the NFL. David and Goliath? No, this is more like Goliath vs. an ant. Should the Falcons even show up or just forfeit to the greatest ever? In all seriousness, there’s nothing wrong with saying the Niners are better on paper and likely should be favored and may even win the game, but this is something altogether different. When the 49ers got blown out by the Seahawks, Giants, lost the Rams (and tied them), and even the Vikings, it’s all good to discard. But when the Falcons WIN the games that were close with bad teams, that’s a sign it’s a mere formality. Not to pick on this writer too much, because really he’s just representing what pretty much everyone in the media (including hometown media) are saying: these Falcons have no shot whatsoever. Luckily, we get to actually play the games. That David kid was pretty small, right?

Can Defense Contain Kaepernick?

Can Willy Mo & Crew Contain the Great QB? (AJC)

First of all, Kaepernick is not a rookie. He was taken in last year’s draft in 2011. So, even though it’s his first year playing, he’s not fresh out of college. After the Niners QB ran rings around the Packers and their poor gameplan, all involved are crowning him the next superhero of the NFL. And if the Falcons play as they did vs. Russell Wilson in the 4th quarter or Cam Newton in the second game, than he very well could set records rushing and passing. There simply is no denying that he is a special talent, but he’s not the first mobile quarterback that has been stopped, nor is he the first mobile QB that the Falcons have played this year. In fact, the Birds are 4-1 vs. all mobile QBs they’ve faced this year. Yes, they haven’t always done particularly well vs. mobile QBs, but they have found ways to win 80% of those games.

The defensive line is definitely undermanned and undersized against the Niners big and burly OL and the linebackers could surely use a touch more speed as well. First of all, you can’t imagine that Nolan will be running much type of man coverage the way the Packers got torched on and one benefit of running the 4-3 defense is it’s ability to plug gaps better and stop mobile QBs. Fellow Cage Member trademark detailed it best when describing how the old Tampa 2 defense used to not only contain, but downright destroy Michael Vick in his heyday here in Atlanta. Much like shutting down Marshawn Lynch vs. Seattle, Nolan will likely either use some type of QB Spy on Kaepernick, make the QB beat him with his arm, make Frank Gore carry the load, or some combination of them all. One idea might be to replace one of the LBs or nickel backs with William Moore, insert Chris Hope in as strong safety, and let William Moore track Kaepernick all over the field, having the speed and the hitting ability to slow down the talented QB.

How Should Falcons O Approach Niners Great D?

What a Catch! (AJC)

Even though they don’t have as good a secondary as the Seahawks, the 49ers have one of the very best front seven in all of football. Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, and Navorro Bowman make up a nightmare for any team because they stop the run so well, but especially get after the quarterback as good or better than anyone in the league. Are the Falcons doomed vs. the great Niners defense? As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend!” Yes, it will be a major challenge, but if you feel as though you can’t get it done vs. the best, what makes you think you have any shot at the Lombardi Trophy?

No team had scored higher than 17 points since around week 7 this season until the Falcons scored 20 points on them in the first half and then 27 in the third quarter. Even though the media elite will gush and rave over the Niners being the best defense since the 2000 Ravens, they can be scored on to. The question is how. The natural inclination would be to keep rolling with the hot hand of running the football. Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers put on a show on Sunday and racked up some major yards, most of them coming in just 3 quarters. Can the Birds do the same against a tougher defensive front 7? It sure would be nice, but the Niners will likely plan to stop the run anyway they can and surely not let Turner and Rodgers do what they did to the Seahawks defense. If the run fails, how long should they stick with it, and further, does playing clock control offense play into the Niners hands?

Beautiful Play! (AJC)

One clue from the past that might could work is Falcons vs. Ravens, Thursday Night Football in 2010. Matt Ryan ran the no-huddle offense virtually the entire game and tore the stellar Ravens defense to shreds. He was 32 for 50 passing, with 316 yards, 3 TDs, and no INTs. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s probably a good idea to have Matt Ryan throw the ball 50 times against such a great defense, but the Niners defense have many similarities to that Ravens. They have a great DL, great LB’s, studs at safety, but decent-at-best corners. The no-huddle is unpredictable and can not only help a blitizing team at bay, but also allows Matt Ryan to do what he does best which is call the shots, change the play if needed, and run the offense. In addition, it can also help wear out the strength of their team (LBs and Big DL). Maybe the Ravens game was just an element of surprise and maybe the Ravens depended heavily on substitutions, which the Niners do not. But it’s something that may help counter a tough, tough defense.

Bird Cagers Playoff Turn

Short and simple – will the Birds get it done on Sunday and be in the Super Bowl?

854 comments Add your comment

Big Ray

January 16th, 2013
4:38 pm

Nice work, D3

Jeff B

January 16th, 2013
4:40 pm

Not so fast, my friend!

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
4:45 pm

Running Game……Remember the Giants!

Julius the Kicker

January 16th, 2013
4:48 pm

Nice post as always, D3.
Yes. Falcons will make to Super bowl someway shomehow.
We have great coordinator in offense & defense. It’s not easy, but we are talent enough to win Sunday as long as 100% effort from players.
GO FALCONS!!!

Arno

January 16th, 2013
4:50 pm

Well balanced, D3.

SOMEBODY NEED TO TELL THE TRUTH

January 16th, 2013
5:26 pm

Great Post D3! Thanks for the SHOUT- OUT!

Media have pried their lips from Russell Willson azz, and planted them firmly on Kaepernicks. Just don’t understand the love fest? Kaepernick is a superb youg talent, the media make him out to be supernatural (cyborg), if it bleeds, we can….

I like the mention in your post of replacing one of the LB’s with a safety ( William Moore) D3. I would like to suggest speed being part of our defensive scheme (game plan). IMO, Dent should sit this one out, start Chris Owens (Spy), let him roam the secondary, boudaries of line of scrimmage. Chris will provide much needed speed to match Kaepernicks…if he chooses to take flight.

Chris will also aid in coverage of the 9 er’s agil, athletic and speedy Tightends.

SOMEBODY NEED TO TELL THE TRUTH

January 16th, 2013
5:38 pm

On a lighter note…I see why Turners been so difficult to run off. That ^^^^^ picture speaks volumes. If Arthur had a 3rd hand, it’ll be on Turners azz.

bigslow

January 16th, 2013
5:48 pm

Anytime u close your eyes when u hug someone U IN LOVE

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
6:04 pm

Hey , Turner has given an awful lot to this franchise. He lead us out of the dark ages, and while he has lost a step and has taken some abuse here, he is still a guy I respect. Carrying the ball 300+ times a year takes it toll.

falcon21

January 16th, 2013
6:08 pm

Truth @ 5:26, darn good idea, Owens has the speed but will he be ready to go?

snacktastic

January 16th, 2013
6:11 pm

Good post, D3.

Falcons will win it. They’ve proven over the regular season and last week that they are the most clutch team in football, so if they have to pull out another two-point nail-biter, they will. However, I don’t think it will come to that. The strategy they tried last week nearly cost them, allowing Wilson to make a ton of intermediate throws while keeping Lynch contained. They’ll tweak the scheme to make sure receivers are covered, and will fare just as well as last week stopping the run. On offense, Ryan will test the deep ball early and will probably make enough completions to give us an early lead. They’ll stay on point in the second half and switch to Turner and Rodgers to run out the clock.

That’s my take, at least. The key will be to force Kaepernick into some mistakes and to limit the chunk yardage gained by the 49ers. A loud Dome and some tricky looks on defense will help.

GO FALCONS.

SOMEBODY NEED TO TELL THE TRUTH

January 16th, 2013
6:13 pm

Thanks 21. Your guess, as good as mine? I will be looking for the injury updates coming out here shortly.

JB Falcon

January 16th, 2013
6:32 pm

Well, for what it’s worth, the 9ers have lost every third game this year and they won the last two! Works for me.

Mike

January 16th, 2013
6:47 pm

I would love to see Babineaux, Walker, and Jerry have a huge game. I think if they can prevent the lines through the middle of the line that can contain Kaeprenick. Not as easy as it sounds vs San Fran’s line. Excellent idea of lining W Moore up as a lb… I think he would help contain Kaeprenick, and also match up with V Davis.

Sis-Boom-Bah Humbug

January 16th, 2013
6:56 pm

Regarding the utter lack of a pass rush later in the game, I got the impression the Falcons’ linemen were holding back some – trying to maintain a perimeter around Wilson to contain his running. Meanwhile, the defensive backs all seemed to be laying waaaaay back – maybe expecting a quick kick. In all, it seemed like a paranoid prevent defense.

Nevertheless, you have to give Wilson a lot of credit for taking advantage of what the Falcons GAVE him.

[...] News here – Atlanta Falcons: Bird Cage ← Atlanta’s homeless registry starts tomorrow Cancel [...]

Arno

January 16th, 2013
7:16 pm

The high-water marks of our franchise history have suffered painful endings, notably in the past few years. The importance of getting a W with Seattle, we all knew. For three quarters, the long history of painful endings was being lifted from our shoulders. Then came the 4th quarter, when we stared in horror at execution failures, in every phase, of such humongous folly – extending to a stranger-than-fiction ‘onside’ kick – that I can’t get my head around it. As I’m still recovering and barely able to think straight. I do have this one idea: the Seattle game was the perfect game for the Falcons at this juncture. It showed us brilliant achievement when we are on, and it showed us catastrophe when we slip into a daze. I think the lessons well serve us well come Sunday.

SOMEBODY NEED TO TELL THE TRUTH

January 16th, 2013
7:23 pm

I don’t really know what all the fuss about? We’re playing an inexperienced QB, with hellacious wheels, can’t read a defense…and stares his receivers down like nobody’s business.

We win by 10.

Paddy O

January 16th, 2013
7:40 pm

sorry – but or pass rush was non-existent the entire game – until we blitzed a little in the last quarter – watching on TV, the SEattle O line was holding – seriously holding out guys bad – even when they tried to back up and disengage. From watching, this was the design. Don’t over pursue (did happen on a blitz by Spoon), keep contain on Wilson. And, Lynch – who most here like a lot for good reason. If we can keep Ryan upright, we should do well – run or no run. MB- I was thinking the same thing – Giants run game STUNK in the regular season – come playoffs, it was oiled. I would not mind seeing more of Massaquo – he moved his guy around pretty well while playing. We really need to replace Mike Pete with a faster guy. Dent at this point is NOT a cover LB. It would be sweet for Asante to get a pick or two. We need a repeat start of the Seattle game. Score and hold.

Paddy O

January 16th, 2013
7:41 pm

TRUTH – i really hope you are correct. IN some ways, we got lucky with 2 rookie QB’s. Plus, all the fawning over by the national sports “journalists” should put more pressure on them to whoop us.

Paddy O

January 16th, 2013
7:43 pm

arno – even the D late in the game was having problems setting themselves. Can’t get Bosher – 2 bad punts and the blown last kick off. Nerves have a way of unnerving a guy. I can remember pressure when you knew you had to do something fast and well – even something you’ve done repeatedly – Seattles punter stunk too. And, the Dome was loud, very, very loud.

D

January 16th, 2013
7:47 pm

I watched some highlights of him and, oddly, his favorite target in college was number 15, too. I hope we shut Crabtree down and put lots of pressure on him the qb. I don’t think he’s as slippery as Wilson but I also hope we have a plan to stop the read option.

D

January 16th, 2013
7:54 pm

Amoeba, too.

Arno

January 16th, 2013
8:10 pm

Kaepernick does stare at his one receiver. Not sure about our chances jumping routes with his flat trajectory, high-velocity throws. To my eye, he doesn’t rely on timing. He paddles around for a while until he can find a way to jam one to Crabtree. If not, he’ll take off running. How does a guy like that get to the Super Bowl?! We got to put a stop to it.

The Time is NOW

January 16th, 2013
8:18 pm

Birds win against worthy opponent. And it ain’t likely to be easy.

Back to the Super Bowl.

Wings

January 16th, 2013
8:21 pm

D3 great article and did you attend the game on Sunday?

The Time is NOW

January 16th, 2013
8:22 pm

Yet another good read D3. Thanks!

Wabe

January 16th, 2013
8:30 pm

Based on what I’ve seen of Kaepernick [and my brother's a SF fan so I've seen a few games this season], dude seems to struggle going through his progressions. He tends to look at this first read, and if it ain’t there, he’s already looking to escape. I’m curious to see how they attack them. Send a lot of heat or stick to the 3 to 4 man rushes and keep everything in front of us?

Ken Strickland

January 16th, 2013
9:01 pm

DAMN D3-I realize I haven’t posted much in a while, but in my absence it seems that the best got better, congradulations my friend for a great article. The 49ers secondary is highly rated, but a lot of their accomplishments is due primarily to their solid pass rush.

If we can keep their pass rushers at bay, MRyan and our receiving core will carve them up. And if our passing attack is successful and they have to give their secondary more help, our rushing OFF will take over. I honestly believe their DEF fears JRogers far more than MTurner.

Rogers might be a lot smaller than Turner, but he’s proven to have more speed, quickness, mobility and has shown himself to be a better receiver and stronger runner. Rogers would definitely give the 49er DEF 1 more thing to focus on stopping besides Gonzo, Roddy, Julio and Matty Ice.

The key to us beating the 49ers is keeping them out of the endzone, rather than trying to shut down their QB and RBs. Other than WR Crabtree and TE Davis, they don’t have receiver’s capable of consistently beating our CBs.

Their passing attack is almost totally dependent on their ability to run the ball which sets up their play action. While Kaepernick seems to have more straight line speed than Seattle’s QB RWilson, he seems to lack his overall athleticism, mobility, and ability to escape pass rushers.

A lot of people, including so called experts, don’t give the Falcons much chance against the 49ers. But I don’t believe they gave us much chance against the now defeated Sea Hawks.

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
9:04 pm

Ck on the cover of SI. Not that it means anything, but if the SI curse has ever proven anything, it is that just when you think guys at the top of their game are unstoppable, they prove to be quite human.

Ken Strickland

January 16th, 2013
9:10 pm

CAGERS-After 4yrs of VanGorder and his 1 dimensional cream puff DEF approach, isn’t it just amazing and exciting to have a DC that’s capable of implimenting multiple schemes and adjustments?

Coop

January 16th, 2013
9:33 pm

I would be so confident that we were going to win by 17, if I hadn’t see what I saw last week. Dear God let us survive Smitty. There is no reason to lose to these @ssclowns!

Mike

January 16th, 2013
9:45 pm

KS you hit on one thing no one else has, keep them from scoring TD’s. contrary to popular belief their is not that one team in the NFL that is totally dominating, honestly I think with the new CBA those days are gone. I see this game being tight, and very closely contested. It could very well come down to a game winning FG. Of every match up that has been under the microscope, if it comes down to kickers who do we like? Bryant or Akers?

Mike

January 16th, 2013
9:52 pm

KS- I was there Sunday, and no kidding there was a point in the 4th qtr I asked the guy beside me if we had brought BVG back. The umbrella coverage that they were using giving the middle of the field (guess the intent was to burn time) was driving me crazy. I guess it would have worked ok if they were conceding 5-8 yards a play, but they were yielding 15-20.

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
10:43 pm

Interesting, watching “turning point” where they review NFL games…..they showed the Lynch fumble. When they go to the sideline, Smitty says “Great job, he switched that ball between hands just like we talked about, way to watch for that and knock that ball out”.

So, the ML fumble was more than just the ball getting knocked out, looks like the Falcons watched tape and saw where Lynch exposes the ball as he breaks out a run, and they know to look for it….preparation and details.

Big Lou

January 16th, 2013
10:43 pm

Big Lou

January 16th, 2013
10:47 pm

Mike Smith said:

“Oooh, that’s aggressive… I like it.”

I laughed so hard and thought of SP on the video.

Big Lou

January 16th, 2013
10:51 pm

I wonder why Roddy was pouting so much during the Seahawks game.

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
10:57 pm

Interesting, on the first pick, they ran the exact same blitz they ran on the final pass to Tony.

The first time they ran it, it was the ONLY time they touched Ryan the entire day, Quizz was left to block 2 players, and he threw a pick. When they ran it the 2nd time, we made the O line adjustment, and Quizz only had one to block.

Now, we have posted about 500 post since that play, and nobody said that the blitz Seattle ran on the 1st pick led to a hit on Ryan, and the pick. The 2nd time, we made Oline adjustments, and hit TG for the winner.

Big Lou

January 16th, 2013
11:04 pm

Actually MB, the hit didn’t lead to the INT, it was miscommunication with Tony. Matt thought Tony was going to run to his left, and he stopped. He was hit AFTER the throw.

Big Lou

January 16th, 2013
11:06 pm

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
11:07 pm

BL, sure, but it was the ONLY time they touched Ryan, the blitzer was untouched. The final result was a pick. Coincidence? maybe, but when they ran it on the last play, we made the adjustment…That is good coaching, no ands, ifs or buts.

Big Lou

January 16th, 2013
11:07 pm

D3

Link post I made is awaiting moderation…

Big Lou

January 16th, 2013
11:11 pm

Not trying to argue the adjustment. Just pointing out the hit was after the pass and the INT was because of miscommunication.

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
11:15 pm

Not trying to argue that blitz led to the pick, BUT, it was the only time they got a hand on Ryan, Trufant came in untouched…. in the most important play in Smittys-Ryans career, we made the adjustment and picked it up….Credit where credit is due.

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
11:17 pm

They are replaying it on NBCSP, channel 44 for me….They will show it again in a few minutes. Just watch it, it is pretty cool.

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
11:19 pm

I picked up 2 things watching the show, the fumble by ML was the result of scouting, and the adjustment we made on the last pass to TG, how we corrected a screw up earlier in the game.

birdluver

January 16th, 2013
11:19 pm

Falcons are getting it done, but Matt Ryan is still good throwing pansy boy. How are you only averaging 25 points with all those weapons? Matt hit the weigh room, eat more, & juice up!

Matty Bicep

January 16th, 2013
11:23 pm

Why are the Falcons only averaging 26 pts a game? They is all they need.

Pale Rider

January 16th, 2013
11:27 pm

Can we stick with Falcons instead of “birds”. We are in the brand building business here in Atlanta