That old and familiar scenario came once again with this Mike Smith-led football team: get an early lead and, for whatever reason, lets any and every opponent back in the football game, and must make a last gasp push to either win the game outright or pad the lead just enough. Fans are tiring of this identity. The Rams are a dang good football team and nothing should be taken away from them. But when one team is clearly the superior football squad on a given Sunday like this, it is maddening and supremely frustrating for fans to see this breakdown time and time again. It happens all the time and every single year often throughout the season.
Hardly anyone, even the most rabid fan, expects their team to go out and completely dominate every single week, especially in the parity-driven NFL. That’s not the issue here, though. Fans are sick of seeing the Falcons being the clearly dominate team (see Falcons 27 – Seahawks 7; Falcons 17 – Niners 0; Falcons 24 – Rams 3 among just a few) and then completely falling apart in some form or fashion in one quarter, one full half or 3 out of 4 quarters. A win’s a win and it’s one the Falcons needed, so that shouldn’t be discounted, but everyone knows that can’t and won’t last if they want to be champions. A look at the up and down win………
The Falcons had one of the worst halves in terms of injuries to main starters and major players. Early in the game, the Falcons lost Asante Samuel, Sean Weatherspoon, Bradie Ewing, Steven Jackson, and Kroy Biermann in a very short timespan. Add that to some players that were already nicked up (Samuel, Stephen Nicholas, Roddy White, among others) and this is a really rough start to the 2013 campaign. It happens to every team and maybe it’s simply the Falcons turn after a 2012 years saw very minimal injuries in a 18 game span (22 including the preseason).
News became even tougher today when fans found out that both Kroy Biermann and Bradie Ewing are both out for the year and will be placed on the injured reserve. This hurts pretty bad. After having a very solid start to the campaign, especially in the pass game, the former Wisconsin Badger has his second major injury in his first two years. Unfortunately, this puts his entire future in doubt moving forward. The Falcons aren’t completely helpless as Jason Snelling is ready to assume the new spot and the Falcons also kept FB Patrick Dimarco on the practice squad. Biermann hurts a little more since he was the most versatile defensive player on the Falcons defense and the main key to Nolan’s amoeba defense. It will be tough finding a replacement for Biermann since he did so much. Perhaps Jonathan Massaquoi or Stansly Maponga could fill that role, even though it’s unlikely with the latter considering Maponga has been inactive for the first two games. As long as the Falcons can start getting some of these nagging injuries shored up and don’t suffer any more major hits, they should be OK, but it’s been a very tough start to the year.
The former New York Giant definitely isn’t JJ Watt, but he had a fantastic play with his pick 6 for a touchdown that showed he’s got plenty in the tank, at least for now. He hasn’t garnered the sacks so far, but he’s been getting decent pressure in the backfield and showed his versatility Sunday, something that will be called on more now that Biermann is lost for the year. Jonathan Massaquoi had one of the best preseasons of any Falcon and showed why fans are so high on him. He got very good pressure most game and gives fans hopes about finally, mercifully, perhaps actually developing a pass rusher of our own. He also may be called to play more of a joker type role since Biermann hits the IR. While far from perfect, the defense has shown a little better ability to create pressure without always blitzing.
Fans can’t even pretend that this doesn’t exist anymore. Furthermore, it can’t be wrapped in good feelings because “we won the game.” Those tend to go away when you lose these type of big games for ones that matter (see NFC Championship game and New Orleans). Some may try to defend Smith, but at a bare minimum, where does the buck stop for a team doing the same thing over and over and over again? The Falcons have assumed this identity for the last 5 years (excluding the first year since it was his inaugural campaign and a great comeback). They play down to any and every opponent and will literally let any team back into any game.
There’s way more games like yesterday than there are ones like they put on display vs. the Giants last year. Some can make excuses all they want, but ultimately the buck stops at the head coach who prepares and runs the product on the field. The team absolutely assumes their coach’s style and philosophy. He may not even realize he does it, but there is simply to much evidence to suggest otherwise. After fantastic starts, something takes a hold of this team and they grind to dead-still halt. If you can’t put that on the head coach, who else then?
With Asante Samuel exiting early once again, the trio of Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, and Robert McClain stepped in and stepped up in their second game together. It’s definitely been one of the brightest spots to the early returns on the year. The Rams receiving corps won’t soon be confused with Denver’s high-powered arsenal, but it’s two weeks in a row that the young DB’s have stepped up. They will certainly get more and more tests as the season goes along, but it’s good knowing they are getting action early and often as the Falcons can depend less and less on the oft-injured Asante Samuel.
Similar to the Saints game, the Falcons offensive line started pretty well against the much heralded Rams defensive line. They protected Matt Ryan fairly decently in the early going and the running game showed some signs of life before an early injury to Steven Jackson. And like the Saints game, the offensive line both wore down and also suffered from an insanely weak set of offensive playcalling in the second half. To be sure, there are still major issues on the offensive line and it may need some type of shakeup at some point, but they showing some potential of just maybe getting better. If they can find a way to put 4 quarters together, they may be onto something.
From his very first stop where he tracked the running back out of the backfield for an early 3 and out to his overall play, undrafted free agent LB Joplo Bartu is making it impossible to keep him off the field. He may not be perfect, but he’s showing that he’s every bit as good as any linebacker the Falcons have, including 1st round draft Sean Weatherspoon at times. It may be because all the others are getting injured, but it’s very refreshing seeing a young player with tons of talent get playing time that aren’t a 1st or 2nd round draft pick. It’s very early, but Bartu is making it really hard to keep him on the sideline.
They say that when one door closes that another one opens or whatever analogy you choose. One potentially positive side of the mounting injury list is the possible tearing away of the infamous “Witness Protection Program” that has seen many young players show promise in camp and preseason, only to never been heard or seen from again (hence Big Ray’s WPP name). Joplo Bartu played a ton of snaps and played well. After only getting 12 snaps in week one, Jonathan Massaquoi played a lot more and got good pressure. Drew Davis and Kevin Cone both got in the game a good bit as well. Fans were hoping to possibly see preseason stud RB Josh Vaughan, but that was asking a little too much since he was already on the inactive list. Could the Falcons finally be developing and actually playing some of their own, lesser known talent? It’s too early to tell, but just maybe. If you see Paul Worrilow or the aforementioned Vaughan next week, you may want to pinch yourself.
Rest of post on it’s way…………honestly