Atlanta Falcons Fall Short in Super Bowl Bid

Second Half Collapse Finally Dooms

Cool Cage Poster by Arno!

***Super Cool Cage Poster that Fellow Cage Member Arno Created!***

Sure, it was a good year and it will be an even tougher road back for many fans after this one had the feeling that it could finally be “the year,” but alas it was not in the cards yet again. It was a good year that saw the Falcons starting to take a step further and they did finally rid themselves of the playoff albatross (although no one really cares about that now). Even though it may seem as though it’s the end of the world, it really isn’t. There are a ton of teams that would gladly trade places with our current franchise in being competitive every year and giving themselves a chance every season. It should be acknowledged that this regime has reached heights never before seen in it’s history (they only had back-to-back winning seasons back in 2008 and 2009). But it should be a wakeup call to everyone involved, including Arthur Blank, that changes will need to be made and all apart of the Falcons organization will have to work even harder to finally get to that next level. A look at the game and a peek ahead to the off-season……..

Total Team Loss

Total Team Loss, Not All Ryan (AJC)

The sensationalist, craven writer and pundit crowd have been waiting for this moment since the kickoff of the 2012 NFL season. Most writers love nothing more than to beat up on a franchise with a terrible history and a known penchant for falling short. The biggest line that is out there is that it’s all Matt Ryan’s fault and he’ll never win the big, never win a Super Bowl, he regularly plays the Grinch at Christmas, and is solely responsible for everything wrong in the world. Sure, he picked a bad time to make a fumble and threw an interception in the second half, even though Roddy White took full responsibility for tripping and that’s exactly what happened on replay. The fact is that this was a complete team loss from top to bottom, including General Manager Thomas Dimitroff as well.

All involved are to blame. The coaches got outcoached halfway into the 2nd quarter and completely overwhelmed in the second half. There literally seemed to be no adjustments to either side after their initial schemes were figured out. The defense had another epic failure, having no answer for really any of the offensive players, particularly Vernon Davis. Seems like the TE was an issue in the Seattle game also, right? The running game stalled. The play-calling became more predictable and less aggressive. Julio Jones was dominant, only to never to be seen from in second half. Roddy White trips on a route, leading to an interception. Harry Douglas trips on a wide open route that would have seen him walk into the endzone. The defense was exposed as being weak and the largest indictment on this regime of all, lack of pass rush, was finally taken advantage of.

Emotional Loss (AJC)

And yes, Matt Ryan isn’t doing himself any favors with his mistakes in the postseason, but in case you haven’t noticed, even the super-elite QBs (Brady, Manning, Rodgers) couldn’t do it all by themselves this year either. There was a reason that the vast majority of pundits picked the Niners, because in almost all aspects save quarterback and wide receiver, the 49ers had better players and more depth. Still, after finding a way to win at the end, the Falcons found a way to lose. It’s not the end of the world, but the Falcons have some big, and perhaps painful, decisions to make if they want to take the whole thing.

Defensive Epic Fail

Yes, there were two second half turnovers and a stall in the red zone to end the game, but as fellow Cage Member Coop said, being up 17-0 in the first half, playing at home with the crowd going nuts, and allowing the Niners to literally do whatever they want for 3 quarters has epic fail written all over it. In was a mirror repeat of the Seattle game where once the defense seemed to be “figured out” there were no answer to be had. The only problem was that instead of one quarter against the Seahawks, it was essentially 3 quarters vs. a more talented and battle-hardened team in the 49ers. The easy and obvious place to go is to Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. He’s the one designing the scheme and calling the plays, so he gets much deserved criticism and rightly so.

Mike Smith gets some as well for being a defensive minded head coach working with an excellent DC, only to get completely exposed two weeks in a row on defense. The defensive players get some blame too. There was literally no pass rush (see below) and a less-than 100% John Abraham wasn’t to be found. Of course no one assisted him whatsoever in rushing the passer, but what else is new. The defensive tackles weren’t good either after doing a decent job of keeping Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick in check early on. They, along with the linebackers, allowed the Niners run game to get on track somewhat and it opened up the pass. Speaking of the linebackers, they were terrible in coverage all night. Coverage was atrocious including all cornerbacks and safeties. Kaepernick had a great second half, but the receivers were so wide open that a high school QB may have completed them.

Tough Way for Gonzo to End It (AJC)

The net was cast wide and far, this was a defensive collapse from top to bottom. Frankly, you don’t deserve to win any championships when you play defense that poorly. Last but not least, Thomas Dimitroff deserves some blame as well. We can talk about schemes and missed assignments all day long, but it was painfully obvious in the second half that this defense simply was overmatched personnel wise, especially along the defensive line. He’s missed on some draft picks on defense and will have to find a way to rectify it both through the draft and free agency if the Falcons will ever take the last step.

Motivation or Nose Dive Ahead?

The Falcons can take some solace in looking at the team that just beat them to advance to the Super Bowl. The 49ers hosted the Giants just last year and came up just short in their bid to go to the big dance right at the end. They dedicated themselves to pushing through, building themselves up during the regular season vs. good opponents, making some moves in free agency, and using that experience to push down that final barrier. The same can be said of the Packers when they lost the NFC championship at home in 2007 in OT. 3 years later, they were Champs. The Eagles actually lost three straight NFC Title games (two of them at home) before they finally went to the Super Bowl, albeit falling short. Maybe those teams made tweaks, maybe they made overhauls, but they fixed what went wrong in the NFC Title game.

Will Falcons Learn from Niners? (AJC)

This will be discussed at length from now to free agency to the draft and training camp, but the Falcons do have some serious, and perhaps painful decisions to make. The question is whether they have the willpower to make those decisions, which has a mixed history at best the past 4 off-seasons. The opposite is obviously also possible as well. If the Dimitroff, Smith, and Co. feel as though they don’t need to make many fixes and were just a play away from the big dance or make the wrong choices than they could be in for a nosedive. The Bears, Cardinals, Eagles, and Seahawks are all examples of teams that were one game away from the Super Bowl and either did too much, didn’t do enough, or simply made the wrong choices and fell back to playoff obscurity. Coincidentally, all four teams got rid of their coaches soon thereafter.

Wide Indictment on Pass Rush

Every single person associated with the Falcons defensive side of the ball deserves blame on this one, save John Abraham. For the past five years, no one in the organization has been able to muster ANY pass rush whatsoever other than Abraham. That is simply inexcusable on all levels. Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith deserve the most blame because, ultimately, they’re the heads of the ship. Dimitroff has drafted Lawrence Sidbury, Peria Jerry, Jonathan Massaquoi, Cliff Matthews, Travian Roberston, and signed Ray Edwards. Rich McKay isn’t absolved either because the Jamaal Anderson pick at #8 overall set this franchise back years. Dimtroff may have the best intentions and picks skill players pretty well, but he has been abysmal on both sides of the trenches. Matthews and Massaquoi have shown some potential, but that hasn’t translated into results. Which leads into the next point.

Tough Day, but Good Ones Ahead (AJC)

If Dimitroff has failed at drafting defensive lineman, than Mike Smith has failed equally bad with his “Witness Protection Program” (see below). It would be one thing if every single defensive linemen drafted by Dimitroff showed absolutely no potential whatsoever, but that simply isn’t the case either. Sidbury showed some flashes in his very limited time as a Falcon (seemingly coming to an end). They can’t figure out what to do with Kroy Biermann and is a little too light for an every down DE. Robertson showed flashes during preseason only to never be heard from again. Matthews and Massaquoi never saw the field until Abraham got hurt and that’s only a handful examples. They have drafted extremely light defensive tackles that never draw double teams and allow every DE drafted to not see single coverage blocking and only

The fact remains that whatever the issue, the Falcons have failed miserably at all levels to address the pass rush situation. The defensive coordinators have been part of the problem, but they haven’t had a ton to work with for whatever reason. Nolan did a pretty good job early on to generate a pass rush, only to see it submarine yet again towards the end and in the playoffs. If the Falcons organization can’t find some way, any way, to fix it than the Falcons will either be in for a bad year or will not take the next step anyway.

Complete-Game Fatal Flaw

Tony's Great Run in Atlanta (AJC)

This one goes to no one other than Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith. We can talk about the coordinators, schemes, players, and personnel all day long, but the truth is that this is Smith’s problem and his alone. The Falcons have long been good for a quarter, a half, or even 3 quarters, but just cannot find ways to put teams away. Sure enough, it came back to finally bite them big time at the worst moment imaginable. Fans knew it was just a matter of time. It’s true that sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way and other times teams make good adjustments, but this is not only a trend, but an every game certainty. There was one exception with the Giants shutout, but that was about the only one in memory of the last five years.

Some refer to it as a killer instinct. That’s a part of it for sure. Smith has presided over teams with two different sets of coordinators that exemplify the exact same thing of letting teams back in the game. Most times Smith has found a way to win anyway, but that luck finally ran out in the playoffs, as many thought it would. Many times its becoming hyper-conservative with a decent lead. Others it’s trying to run out the clock and others it’s just becoming undisciplined and tensing up. If Smith can somehow find a way to fix this, it could be the final piece in getting over the hump. If he can’t, he might be looking for a new job in the near future.

Can Falcons Make the Needed Changes?

Plenty of Long Faces (AJC)

The Falcons and Mike Smith could take a cue from Jim Harbaugh, whose on his way to his first Super Bowl. Harbaugh took a lot of heat for changing quarterbacks very late into the season and it’s paid off. Meanwhile, Smith and Co. either can’t make the tough decisions or their changes are at a glacial pace. This will obviously be discussed a ton over the next several months, but there there is some doubt that Smith and, to a lesser extent, Dimitroff that they are unable or unwilling to make the needed changes necessary to take the Falcons to the next level. And Arthur Blank needs to be honest about what he wants as well. He pronounces that only championships will be accepted, but the cold fact is that Mike Smith has led a franchise out of the abyss, but also is 1-4 in the playoffs, has been the #1 seed in the NFC two out of three years, and has yet to grace the Super Bowl. Is Blank prepared to make a hard decision himself if the Falcons have hit a plateau?

“Witness Protection” Must Go

Fellow Cage Member Big Ray came up with one of the most poignant, and funny, descriptions of Mike Smith’s Player Development System: Witness Protection Program. Their inability to develop draft picks and get them meaningful playing time is deftly abhorrent. Maybe it’s all on Thomas Dimitroff for drafting poorly, but when fans see players do well at training camp in Flowery Branch and in preseason only never to be seen or heard from again, it’s supremely frustrating. On the surface, it seems that it’s simply Smith’s conservative nature taking hold in every aspect of this team. The list is infinite on seeing potential and never to be seen again: Antone Smith, Drew Davis, Kevin Cone, Lawrence Sidbury, Chris Owens, Dominique Franks, Travian Robertson, Mike Johnson, Lamar Holmes, Dominque Davis, Kerry Meier, Jonathan Massaquoi, Cliff Matthews, Charles Mitchell, and there’s likely plenty more.

Major Changes Needed on D (AJC)

Some of these listed maybe unfair since they were likely just bad picks (Johnson), but others have shown flashes and never seen the field. Not only that, but other players must “wait their turn” and be an apprentice before earning their chance (DeCoud, Moore) or only seeing the field when someone gets hurt (Peter Konz, Matthews, Massaquoi). This is not saying that these players would have necessarily made a difference in the grand scheme of things, but unless you’re a 1st round draft pick, you’re likely to be placed firmly in the Witness Protection Program. As Big Ray has said many times, either keep them, develop them, and let them play or cut them loose.

Full Scale Audit Needed

There can’t be that many things wrong with a team that goes 13-3, gets the #1 seed in the NFC, and is only a play or two away from going to the Super Bowl, right? Well, they had to do something right, but at the same time, his team has some major areas to address in the off-season and it will take an honest, objective, and sometimes difficult look at every single aspect of this team. Successful organizations do it on a regular basis and this is no different. The Falcons are seemingly good in several areas including quarterback, wide receiver, maybe safety, and perhaps cornerback. Even in those areas, the window is either quickly closing (Roddy White, Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson over 30) or needs another look (is Harry Douglas a legitimate slot receiver? How big of a contract should Ryan get? What happed to the safeties in playoffs?). Those are the best case scenarios. The others, not so much.

One of like 3 Good Plays on D (AJC)

Like mentioned several times above, this will get a long and detailed look in the off-season, but everything else is up for debate. Defensive tackle needs a major overhaul. The Falcons must do something, anything, to solve the defensive end problems. The linebackers, once thought to be a strong area, looked awful in the playoffs. The offensive line played well in the playoffs, but weren’t a Super Bowl caliber unit in the regular season and needs some strength, youth, beef, and overall change to the unit. The running back situation is one of the biggest areas of need. Tony Gonzalez is likely retiring and leaving an enormous void on offense. Punt returner was a joke the entire season and the list goes on and on. Some areas may need tweaks, while others will require major overhauls, and still others will face difficult and sometimes painful decisions. This has been a great run for this franchise, the best in it’s history, but loyalties cannot get in the way of finding the best 53 man roster to make another run, especially on defense. This looks to be the most critical of all the off-seasons to date, seeing the Falcons getting so close, but now looking so far away if some things aren’t fixed in a major way.

First Window Closing

We’ve discussed this before in The Cage many times the past several seasons in that the Falcons are reaching one part of a phase where the window is closing for many players that have helped to reach this level of success. Tony Gonzalez is likely retiring. Todd McClure will be 36 in February. Roddy White will be 32 next November. Asante Samuel just turned 32. John Abraham will be 35 in May. Dunta Robinson will be 31 in April. Jonathan Babineaux will be 32 in October. Michael Turner will be 31 in February. The list goes on and on.

Turner's Last Game? (AJC)

This is not to say that the Falcons don’t have a few good years left and some (White, Samuel) have shown no signs of decline while most of the others have. Will the Falcons organization try to go piecemeal and only tinker for one more year or will they make some fairly dramatic changes to set themselves up for the future? It would be tempting to go with the former, but the Falcons are at a point where some major changes are needed in certain areas. This will be a big point in the off-season.

MTV Sports Detox May Help

If you are masochist or glutton for punishment than this is your Christmas and Birthday all wrapped into one. You won’t have to venture very far to see that there are literally hundreds of hatchet jobs, gleeful revenge, “I told you so’s,” and “Same Old Falcons” as an ESPN writer said. Matt Ryan is the worst QB to ever grace the playoffs. This is worst franchise to ever play professional sports and should be burned at the stake for even attempting to win. They should have gone 3-13 like those true “same old Falcons.”

Sure, some of the points they make are valid and some major questions will take hold this off-season and some major weaknesses must be addressed, but these are the times why most Falcons fans (and many non-darling team fans) despise national, sensationalistic, and even sometimes, downright hateful sports media. The fact is, these AREN’T the same old Falcons. This regime hasn’t taken the final step, but it has pulled a broken and historically terrible franchise from the ashes to being an annual contender. They completed back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in it’s 40+ year history. They have made the playoffs 4 out of 5 years. They are only second to the New England Patriots in regular season wins (who, by the way, aren’t doing that great themselves in the posteason lately). They finally won a playoff game after everyone said they couldn’t and were a play away from going to the Super Bowl. Sure, this sounds like complete justification and rationalization and, to an extent, it is.

Great Game by JJ (AJC)

The Falcons haven’t figured out how to get over the final hump and Mike Smith and Co. will start entering a much more critical mode this off-season and coming regular season. And if they don’t make certain fixes and tough decisions they could slip right back into mediocrity, but they aren’t those “same old Falcons.” Those would be the ones that never even sniff the playoffs. This is a long-winded way of saying that getting rid of the hateful, virile, infantile, and sensationalistic national sports media may help getting past this loss.

Some great resources Atlanta Falcons news instead of biased, Entertainment Sports News:

http://www.thefalcoholic.com

http://bloggingdirty.com

http://falconsgab.com

http://gritsblitz.com

Stay With Us!

For those of you who are new to The Cage, we ask that you stay with us because even though it won’t have as much to talk about in terms of games, wins, and losses, it can be just as much fun to discuss about all the possibilities for free agency, the draft, off-season questions, and the upcoming 2013 season. The Cage already has a ton of topics ready to roll for the off-season.

Bird Cage Faithful’s Turn

No questions, just let it go on the crushing loss, your thoughts on the season that was, a look ahead to the off-season, and anything else about your favorite team………..

706 comments Add your comment

JB Falcon

January 21st, 2013
6:29 pm

Well, my picture didn’t show up.

Saints R.E.A.M.

January 21st, 2013
6:32 pm

Nice season guys….you will be back.

falcon21

January 21st, 2013
6:33 pm

Same here JB.

D3

January 21st, 2013
6:38 pm

Try it now guys, it should work.

Paddy O

January 21st, 2013
6:42 pm

this is way too negative. we could have won. as stated, the Ryan snap fumble is the key odd/out of character play that ultimately cost us the game. Plus, playing zone – whose idea do we think that was? We SUCK at zone coverage – did under BVG – saw NO difference with Nolan. We still do phantom hand offs. I liked Nolan’s earlier coverage where we only had a couple of LB’s and a slew of nickel guys. We could have won. We are an elite team.

Paddy O

January 21st, 2013
6:44 pm

I thought Nicholas did not play that well. WE appeared to miss curtis lofton in run support -and we got zero extra benefit out of pass protection. but, we could have won. that is really all you can ask for.

Paddy O

January 21st, 2013
6:48 pm

I’m hopeful we get another 3 years out of Roddy; and still hope Tony G can be coaxed into a return. We need a kick returner – I thought letting Weems go was a bad idea, and our problem the whole season seems to reinforce it. I still think DeCoud is too erratic – and for a safety – he has LOUSY tackling habits. I’d like to see us sign ANOTHER CB – grimes, if he can still play – and move Dunta to safety. Moore still seems injury prone. We MUST draft a fast LB – MIke Pete is just about done. I still like our line – especially with the guys in the apprentice program. We need a RB upgrade – or simply hand it over to Quizz/Snelling. It will be an interesting off season – but, TD usually handles this well.

Wabe

January 21st, 2013
6:53 pm

Ok, so I said I’d reserve judgment on Mike Smith until after the season, and I got something I need to get off my chest…

I think, at this point, it’s evident, that if the Falcons do win a Superbowl with Mike Smith, it will be in spite of Mike Smith. That’s right, in spite of him. This team will win more so because of the talent of the team than on anything that Mike Smith brings to the table. I understand dude does some good things. I’m not saying he’s a complete bum. But, he’s not a transcendent type coach.

You look at Jim Harbaugh in SF or Sean Payton in NOLA, those teams have had the success they’ve had, and in large part due to what their coaches bring to the table. The Niners being in the Superbowl has a lot more to do with Jim Harbaugh and what he brought to that organization than it does on pure talent. I understand, they’re loaded with talent, but they were talented prior to his arrival. He’s doing it with a lot of the same pieces that were already in place prior to his arrival. The same applies for Sean Payton. Dude’s attitude and the intangibles he brings as a head coach have a lot to do with why they won the big game.

With Mike Smith, we’ve gradually surrounded him with more and more talent, only to constantly fall short. Now we’re talking about the lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball. I understand we’re not a juggernaut defense, but, it’s hard for me to believe that the Saints had that much more talent in their Superbowl run than we have here now. I thought the talent level was enough. We had more than enough. There’s simply something about Smitty that screams that he doesn’t got ”it”.

Just my 2 cents. Not even sure I made sense with what I said. But, to reiterate, if we ever win a big game, it’ll have more to do with the level of talent on our roster than what Smitty brings as a head coach.

cb795

January 21st, 2013
7:09 pm

Tough season coming next year, Falcons need play makers on the D side. Good draft and off season, Falcons should be around next year.

The Time is NOW

January 21st, 2013
7:11 pm

Thanks for the thought provoking read, D3. Your perspective has helped me enjoy this season more than the vast majority of seasons past. Thank you for all the time and hard work you put into making this blog what it is.

Thanks also to all the long time Cagers for your contributions. It has been fun hanging out with you.

The Time is NOW

January 21st, 2013
7:16 pm

Paddy O – you are right. We could have won. We should have won. We had enough talent to win it all. But we didn’t. We don’t have to rebuild from a disastrous season, but we do have to re-load. Today I am concerned about how much re-loading will be required for next season. Maybe its just the season ending loss blues. Probably time for me to take some time off from thinking about it.

JB Falcon

January 21st, 2013
7:16 pm

D3, I just tried to post a compliment and even went to the trouble to try to offer some ideas on the questions you brought up. Even though my answer required some foul language, I did not use any, and my hated friend, Mr. Blog Monster ate the whole thing. I truly hope he gets sick from eating the whole thing. BTW, the picture still didn’t show up.

The Time is NOW

January 21st, 2013
7:19 pm

JB – I haven’t seen the picture yet, either.

D3

January 21st, 2013
7:21 pm

Paddy — Not meant to be overly negative, but when you barely escape with a win vs. a team you’re playing at home after being up 20-0 and then blowing a 17-0 lead at home again and end up losing, there are problems that need to be addressed. It couldn’t have set up more perfectly than it did for us and we couldn’t get it done. I understand that we’re a fumble away, but it should have never gotten to that point. We had a chance to put the game with some distance and our defense was just atrocious. We can agree to disagree I guess.

Wabe — You make a d@mn fine point. I don’t think that’s irrational at all. That’s a very good assessment about the Saints D when they won it. They weren’t great, but they were opportunistic and they knew their strength (their O) and absolutely buried teams when they had the chance. Smith is to blame for that. This is Smitty’s put-up or shut-up year in my opinion, because I agree that TD is doing a good job, and give someone else a crack with this talent. Our first window (Abe, Roddy, Asante, etc) is quickly closing.

“I can’t go out like this” — Todd McClure. The quote that waynester put from the last blog is a perfect start to this postseason and determine whether we sink or swim, IMO. First, we all love Todd McClure and he’ll probably get a Ring of Honor banner, but it’s not up to him. Yeah, it sucks that we lost, especially in this manner, but McClure is turning 36 in a few weeks and showed major wear and tear, arguably the weakest link on the OL many times. I would say that he could come back as a backup, but we know what Smitty will do and that’s start him because it’s comfortable for Smith.

And that’s the crux that will define this off-season and, ultimately, 2013. Will the Falcons make changes that are needed to take the next step (such as getting bigger, stronger, and tougher on the OL) or will they make minor changes and expect a different result?

LRD

January 21st, 2013
7:22 pm

Standing in line at the Marta.. talking to a Niners fan, he stated to us that he was shocked at how good our Offense was. He was surprised how explosive they really were.. …

Now to me, thanks for the compliment for our team, but where was that explosiveness in the 2nd half?
But again, where was our D?
Wabe, see your point and kinda agreeing.. and i am sure that Blank will consider every option available..(and have feeling smitty aint going any where) As I was discussing with D3,who could you replace him with?
all the teams that didnt make the playoffs have gone after most of the talent out there…and I know, that Smitty was a darkhorse when he was picked.. but who would we go after?

D3 and Arno.. cant see the poster…

Birdman

January 21st, 2013
7:37 pm

Well its over for the season But our Birds went further than 29 other teams and I give them a Congratulation for that .

I wish they could have made it but not this time . Maybe next year.

Cage don’t be upset we went a lot further than some and we still have the draft . We may have 2 teams from the South next year because our Div is getting stronger all around .

Cage I lost my Dog last week she was 12 years old . A little lap Dog she was about 5 pounds and was always in my lap and by my side even when I was asleep. Never knew that a person could be so close to an animal but she was just like one of my own kids to me. If Snibbles had been alive she would have been there with me watching the Game . I truly miss her and I hope our Lord has a place for such a companion. She also was there with me when the Falcons played every game I watched until then . May sound silly to some of you but I miss her and loved her just the same

GO FALCONS 2013 !!!!

GOD BLESS ..

Arno

January 21st, 2013
7:38 pm

Here’s the image. It’s my thank-you note to D3 and everybody in the Cage.
http://www.thewrightsgallery.com/The_Cage.html

D3

January 21st, 2013
7:47 pm

Poster that Arno made should be working now guys.

JB Falcon

January 21st, 2013
7:47 pm

Good work Arno!

The Time is NOW

January 21st, 2013
7:50 pm

Great poster Arno!

LRD

January 21st, 2013
7:50 pm

Arno, that is awesome!!

The Time is NOW

January 21st, 2013
7:52 pm

Sorry for your loss Birdman. Companionship is a valuable experience.

78dawg

January 21st, 2013
7:59 pm

Smith is way too laid back with players…he needs to get some fire in his belly and make the underachievers step it up. As for TD…he makes really bad player personnel decisions and if I”m Blank he’d be the first out the door. He is in way over his head.

falcon21

January 21st, 2013
8:02 pm

Arno, that is sooo cool, good job man, thank you and thank you D3 for the job you do!!!

Matty Bicep

January 21st, 2013
8:07 pm

Bill Belchek said “There is no soft landing, it’s sudden, and it is over, for all but 1 team, the season ends in a thud, that is life in the NFL, onto next year”.

It sux, but we got to the top 4, got to go back and try again next year.

Kirk Turner

January 21st, 2013
8:08 pm

Wow! What a roller coaster ride this year! I never thought the Falcons were a dominant team, they clearly had issues all year, but I thought that somehow they would squeak past the Niners and get into the big game. I’ve been a fan for going on 44 years (went by fast too), and I have seen some AWFUL teams. I remember Randy Johnson, the Grits Blitz, Claude Humphrey – all those guys. But since the Smiths, thank God, sold the Falcons, they have been a solid team.

My opinion is that we are light on both lines. I think everywhere else we’re good with a few free agent pickups. I was shocked at how well the Oline protected Ryan against the Niners; I thought they would eat the Oline up. If you protect Ryan, he is world class, but once he gets hit, he gets squirrely.

The Dline was exposed a little. But they were facing a top-shelf run offense. We were torched mainly with the throws. Our dbacks, particularly Decoud, looked lost. Seems like they were never there contesting a reception, always showing up late in the chase position.

We are only a couple of moves away. A thick middle Dline guy, and most importantly, a big, fast linebacker would help. Lofton/Whitherspoon was MUCH BETTER than Witherspoon/Nicholas. We are weak there.

I just know I’m sick about them losing, and I hope that the Falcon’s brass will make the moves that are needed to make the Falcons the team they can be. They always talk about doing it for Tony or doing it for Abraham, and I’m fine with that. Tony Gonzales and John Abraham are the kind of guys we never used to get in Atlanta before. But how about doing it for the tens of thousands of guys like me who have supported the Falcons through more years than we care of admit, and have gotten very little in return? Blank is a winner, and he will force something. I know it.

All I know is that it is a long time to another Falcon’s kickoff; I was hoping for one more.

The Time is NOW

January 21st, 2013
8:13 pm

Good post, Kirk. Welcome to the Cage.

JJ

January 21st, 2013
8:18 pm

Thoughts on game: devestaded, way too emotional too put in words for now.

Arno, great job, need to add WR too it unless I missed it.

Birdman, sorry for your loss, many know of my dog Rocky n I cherish him more than anything.
Read several pet grief books when his brother dies a few yrs ago, made it only worse. Big believer in getting a new puppy whenever you can. God bless buddy.

Arno

January 21st, 2013
8:22 pm

Sorry WR– you’re behind the E in “the”

JJ

January 21st, 2013
8:24 pm

Time, was afraid smitty would hogtie D3.
Sure one of BR guys would have better result but in the end it wouldnt have mattered.
Biggest bonehead smitty move was playing starters in wk 17.

Wabe

January 21st, 2013
8:34 pm

D3,

Valid point on McClure too. I personally think he’ll be right back here again next season. I don’t see these guys being ambitious enough to just let him walk. And if he’s on the squad, best believe he’ll be playing the same role he is now.

Regarding the necessary upgrades, we know where we need the help, but how will the acquire the help needed? I don’t see us having any more talent next season when this time rolls around than we already have on the roster. We’ll have some additions and subtractions, but the overall makeup of the team will be pretty much the same. Both lines need work, but it’s hard to see us acquiring any talent in the draft that’ll really do much to instantly upgrade the play of our line. I just don’t see it. Those type of players are hard to come by, and anybody we do get will take time to really develop into the force that we need in the interiors of either line.

So again, I think we’re left back where we were this season. The only thing I see us acquiring really is depth. Picking up quality skill position players that can make an impact? Yeah, I definitely see us having the ability to do that. I think we can find us a back and possibly a TE through the draft that can be impactful immediately. But, unless they throw big money at a FA DT like Henry Melton or someone of that caliber, I don’t see us being all that much better on either side of the line than we already are. And, it’s hard for me to see us throwing big bucks at an impactful linemen after striking out with Ray Edwards.

Birdman

January 21st, 2013
8:34 pm

Great poster Amo..

D3 You are the Man .Thank you for another year super well done.!!!

Thank you all Cage . May Blessing pour out for you all

JB Falcon

January 21st, 2013
8:43 pm

Wabe, the BM ate my post earlier but yours was an example of my thoughts exactly. We’re running on re-treads and one new tire will not make me comfortable at high speeds.

D3

January 21st, 2013
8:44 pm

Great article from Schultz (which BTW, he and Bradley have really been spot on pretty much all year, but especially during the playoffs). They are very objective, but understand Atlanta sports better than anyone outside the city. They give the Falcons guff if needed, but they also praise as well. I couldn’t agree more with what Schultz is saying here.

http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/jeff-schultz/2013/jan/21/falcons-need-make-some-noise-offseason/

Not time to blow the whole d-mn thing up, but it’s surely not time to keep most everything the same and “hope” for a different outcome. As I call it, it’s time for a few key dynamite tosses this off-season. We’ll know everything we need to know about 2013 and Smitty’s future by how this off-season goes.

BY THE WAY ——– WE’RE OFFICIALLY CHANGING THE BLOG TO JUST “THE CAGE”

The name has changed on the RSS and the title of it, but you’ll still see it on the banner.

New Season, New Name!

Geo

January 21st, 2013
8:51 pm

[First off, condolences Birdman, and to all the Cagers who suffered losses this year. Hope you find peace and blessings]

Thanks for another great post, D3. Thanks for the poster, Arno. It’s an honor to have a place on it and in The Cage.

This was one of the most hearbreaking losses I’ve ever experienced as a fan. We were so close, the game was ours to win, everything was lining up for this to be our year. And then it wasn’t.

I know there are many ways to slice and dice the team and its shortcomings, but I really think there is some sort of crisis of confidence on the team. The slip, the bobble, the stumble. All in the second half. All too familiar. I don’t know if it’s more Smith or Ryan, but it’s a characteristic of a Smith-Ryan team in the big games. Some may call it a lack of a killer instinct, yet I’ve seen this team put away the opposition much more often than not. But in the big games, doubt just seems to creep in, doubt that they belong with the best, the elite, the champs. Suddenly they are making mistakes, the game plan looks shaky, they forget who they are and how they got there. I think the team needs a good psychiatrist more than anything else.

LRD

January 21st, 2013
9:00 pm

Well Moore and DeCoud are going to the Pro Bowl now…
This leading up to contract year for Moore too…

The Monger

January 21st, 2013
9:02 pm

The Falcons 2nd half choke will go as another epic atlanta sports failure, you can’t get around it. After the first minute of the 2nd quarter the Falcons should have been outscored 38-7, and would have been if Akers didnt miss a chip shot field goal and Crabtree didn’t fumble on the one yard line. This team is nowhere near championship caliber, everyone on here blames the refs, which is really stupid, because in this game I actually thought the refs did great, and I am a Falcons fan. You guys just see what you wanna see, not seeing holding calls costing the 49ers 25 yard gains, and missed face mask calls the Falcons commited, you only see one or 2 questionable calls that go against the Falcons and claim terrible officiating. You do this because of denial that the Falcons just aren’t there. They get lucky with one yard line fumbles, but then can’t produce. They had 4 downs to get 10 yards with the right to go to the Super Bowl likely on the line, and only got 6. Matt Ryan fumbled and threw a devestating interception, 2 huges mistakes that Kaepernick did not commit all game. And who is the 2nd year quarterback again? SF made big time adjustments on defense at halftime, and Mike Nolan can’t and they get gashed for 3 or the 4 quarters. Mike Smith plays again not to lose. Everyone that blew this game has to be held accountable. I would have to think Matt Ryan’s contract should be hugely deducted after this game, it really exposed him. Not only committing 2nd half turnovers, but then not atoning for them with a touchdown on that last drive. Mike Smith should be shown the door (1-4 in the playoffs), and in that one win, he needed a 31 second comeback. He is not a big game coach. Tony G, unfortunately will likely retire now, so Dimitroff has some big decisions to make, and he must come to terms with some of the mistakes he has made. He needs another good O-Lineman, 2 defensive end’s, another Pro Bowl type linebacker, a high-quality and fast running back, and I would give DeCoud a long talking to about his playoff performance. Too poor for a player who played Pro Bowl caliber in the regular season.

The Monger

January 21st, 2013
9:11 pm

I will say MAD Props to Julio Jones… 2 touchdowns and 100 yards in the first quarter alone. Can’t help if Matt won’t throw him the ball in the entire 2nd half.

Geo

January 21st, 2013
9:19 pm

Get over yourself, Monger. No one here is blaming the refs. And “nowhere near championship caliber” is a laughable statement, considering we’re debating a go ahead drive in the waning seconds of the NFC Championship.

D3

January 21st, 2013
9:21 pm

Geo — You’re right about the big game tightness. I admit that I’m less than objective regarding Ryan, but I truly believe that is all Smith and has rubbed off on Ryan. I still have a hard time blaming him solely for the loss. With no running game and a really awful defense, he gave us yet another chance to win.

The Monger — I understand your frustration, but trying to compare this loss to “all the chokes in Atlanta sports history” is a major reach and misses the mark. The Braves, Hawks, or previous Falcons failures have nothing to do with witches, fairies, and pixie dust curses, and everything to do with terrible ownership, management, and coaching. This team is annual contender. The Falcons of yore would never even sniff the postseason or consistent success. You’re right in that the Falcons aren’t as good as we thought they were, but trying to say that Kaep is that much better than Ryan also misses the mark. One has a helluva running game, great OL, and great defense (like 6 Pro Bowlers I think) and the other has no running game, a weak OL, and a terrible defense.

LRD — Thanks again for the game. It was a blast, even though we didn’t pull it out. It made the crash landing much more bearable. I think, or at least hope, that Smitty is more on the hot seat than we all think. Too much talent that aging rapidly to just “trust in Smith year after year after year.” Bet Jon Gruden would like a shot with Matt Ryan.

D3

January 21st, 2013
9:38 pm

Schultz said that the Falcons need to make some big noise this off-season and I couldn’t agree more. He lists the following as the top 5 needs heading into off-season:

1) Defensive End
2) Strong Side Linebacker
3) Tight End
4) Offensive Line
5) Running Back

I agree with the most part, but it’s all about the lines, period……….

1) DT – Big DT, no one under 320
2) OL – specifically OG. Move Konz to C. Draft RG or move Clabo inside, Baker to RT, Holmes to LT
3) DE
4) Agree on LB, RB, but TE is a red herring I think

We’ll obviously be getting a ton into this very soon, but we can’t fix everything all at once and I think taking a TE early would be a major mistake. I think we may see something like a Palmer / Coffman combo and allow HD to take up a lot of Gonzo’s touches (goodness let’s hope that he turns some kind of corner this year).

Here’s something that really bothers me on Smitty………

John Abraham played 69 snaps in the playoffs and had zero tackles. He was more invisible than Manti Te’o’s girlfriend. That’s on Smith. Abraham, the team’s sack leader, never should have played in the final regular season game against Tampa Bay, when he suffered an ankle sprain. Smith: “You can’t second-guess yourself as a coach.”

If that doesn’t reek of rank stubborn Smittyball, than I don’t know what does. Of course you can second guess yourself, because that’s how you learn from your mistakes. I’m starting to get a sinking feeling that we have plateaued under Smitty. Love the guy and hope I’m wrong, but not getting the warm and fuzzies anymore w/ Smitty. We’ll know all we need to know this off-season. Big moves = hope. Minor to No moves = despair.

falcon21

January 21st, 2013
9:39 pm

Still at a loss for words here, still very depressed. Sad thing is I was more comfortable with a 7-0 lead than I was with a 17-0 lead. I guess it is because I knew we would keep pooring it on at that point. My biggest fear happened, we got a big lead and got comfortable. If that makes any sense at all.

Julius the Kicker

January 21st, 2013
9:51 pm

What a day! We had victory in our hand, and slowly slip a way.
I don’t know why, but I wasn’t mad as last game that we almost blow a way.
Maybe I saw the hope……..
I would like to thank you D3 for great post all years, and all cage members for educate myself and fun.
Without you guys, I wouldn’t enjoy this season as much as I had.
I will keep reading this post until next season start.
Thanks again cage members & keep the hope alive until the SUPER BOWL WIN….
GO FALCON!

JB Falcon

January 21st, 2013
9:56 pm

There’s a whole lot of things that happened in our last game that folks have pointed out, that, if they didn’t happen, we would have won the game. They happened, we lost. If we had won everyone would be saying how good we are and overlooking the faults that we are now pointing out. The faults would still be there, even if we made it to the SB. We’re back to building a team, earlier than we wanted, and you can’t improve on something if you can find no faults in it. Let’s get ‘em fixed and if I may borrow his name, The Time is Now!

ATL Observer

January 21st, 2013
9:56 pm

Falcons did the best they could to jump out as far as they could in the early stages. As most predicted, over the long haul, the Niners outtoughed them. Even still, one different playcall decision in the final drive and we could all be sitting here talking about the Super Bowl.

The defense just isn’t tough enough right now, but Nolan did a great job with what he had. Hoping for a good offseason…

Wings

January 21st, 2013
10:02 pm

D3 thanks for your dedication in making the Cage important and meaningful to all of us. It is fun.

Now, there is one question if answered would tell us what the problem is. I would like to know if the defensive schemes used in the Seattle and San Francisco games were based on the work and knowledge of Mike Nolan or developed because of guidelines HC Smith provided to Mike Nolan.

If HC Smith had nothing to do with the schemes, then we have a player talent problem. If HC Smith told Mike Nolan how to play both of these games, then the problem is HC Smith. I do not believe the defenses in the two play off games resembled the schemes we saw in the Denver game and others at the beginning of the season.

Wings

January 21st, 2013
10:08 pm

Arno great job on the logo. It would make a great t-shirt front and/or cap emblem.

D3

January 21st, 2013
10:18 pm

Julius / Wings / and Others — Thanks for the all the thanks and kudos. It genuinely is a pleasure to rap Falcons football with all of you. Trust me, I enjoy it as much as you all do. Especially now that I’m taking an official block of all MTV Sports websites and writers.

Early look at our Free Agents…..

Unrestricted Free Agents
William Moore
Sam Baker
Brent Grimes
Mike Cox
Mike Peterson
Todd McClure
Chris Hope
Tony Gonzalez
Chris Owens
Luke McCown
Garrett Reynolds
Lawrence Sidbury
Antone Smith
Vance Walker

Restricted Free Agents
Robert McClain
Michael Palmer
Antone Smith

snacktastic

January 21st, 2013
10:29 pm

We had a good run. Perhaps we’ll have a better one next time.

Go Falcons.

E43

January 21st, 2013
10:33 pm

Nicholas was a pro bowl candidate this year. But….Nicholas was torched by Graham in the first Saints game. Adjustments after that game seemed to be find the TE and put Nicholas as far away from him as possible. Could it be that Nicholas was spying the QB? Sure. Could it be that Nicholas is concentrating on stopping the run?…….Sure. They did go in favor of the nickel defense and still got burned for even more passing yards compared to last year. Long story short, I don’t think Stephen Nicholas should be receiving snaps on obvious passing situations. Dent has an excuse. James(29) saw the field for the first time since 2008. Peterson is too old to cover TE’s. Just like that, the Falcons are extremely thin at LB. At least we can rotate guys at DT and DE. But LB pass coverage is nonexistent outside of Spoon.