ARLINGTON, Texas – After a performance that saw them commit three turnovers, allow four sacks, have their running back again look like he was trying to move with bricks tied to his ankles, allow a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown and generally get slam-danced Sunday by a Dallas team that struggled to defeat Kansas City, we can safely say this about the Falcons:
They’re probably not this bad.
But do you know what they have been?
After weeks of tiptoeing over hot coals with a scrambled secondary, they finally watched an opponent turn yards into touchdowns. After weeks of skating on offense despite mediocre performances from a sluggish-looking Michael Turner, having only half of a well-functioning offense finally came back to bite them.
That’s how a 4-1 start turns into a 37-21 loss. That’s how a charmed existence suddenly blows like a Peep in a microwave.
“I felt like we did some uncharacteristic things,” coach Mike Smith said.
And folks, rest assured that his analysis in a team film session Monday will not be put so delicately.
Matt Ryan hadn’t been sacked in four games. Against Dallas, he was sacked four times and pounded often. His offensive linemen resembled milk bottles being knocked over by a softball. Protection was weak. Run-blocking was weaker.
“We got whipped,” tackle Tyson Clabo said.
Acceptance is wonderful thing. It’s the first step toward fixing a problem.
Michael Turner might want to try that.
The field was covered with enough Falcons’ dread Sunday that to pin the loss on one player wouldn’t be right. But Turner is a good place to start. Bottom line: He hasn’t been the same running back he was a year ago. He averaged only 2.8 yards per carry Sunday (18 for 50). He is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry and has gone over 100 yards once in six games, after breaking 100 eight times last season (all wins).
Now, we can sit here and bang on the Falcons’ defense in general and the secondary in particular. But the defense wasn’t expected to be great this season, and it took a big hit when it lost defensive tackle Peria Jerry for the season. The secondary wasn’t expected to be great, and an already suspect group suffered a huge loss when Brian Williams was knocked out for the year last week.
And yes, Brent Grimes was awarded the Charles Dimry Trophy posthumously Sunday, after he was largely responsible for Miles Austin looking like Crazy Legs Hirsch (six catches, 171 yards, two touchdowns). A pile of ashes sat in front of Grimes’ locker after the game.
But Turner was supposed to be a constant. Nothing against Jason Snelling. But when he’s leaving Turner in the dust (seven for 68, including a 31-yarder) on this team, there’s a problem.
Turner carried 376 times last season. The obvious question: Did that take something out of him?
“Physically, I feel the same,” he said. “I’m still healthy. It’s not about 300 and some carries last year.”
Here’s the problem: Turner seems to not be accepting much (or any) responsibility for what’s going on. You don’t hear comments like, “I have to be better.”
When asked what he believed the problem was — be it a lack of holes up front, him not being able to get into a rhythm or something else — he said: “I don’t know. It seems like there’s always guys we can’t get to, we can’t block.”
The offense opened the game with a 16-play, 80-yard, eight-minute touchdown drive. But that turned out to be an aberration. In their next five possessions, the Falcons committed two turnovers (a Ryan interception and fumble) and had three three-and-outs.
You know it’s bad when even Keith Brooking is trash-talking. The ex-Falcon taunted his teammates with his words and, at one point even broke into a bird-like arm flap.
He apologized later for the trash-talking. But the arm flap?
“I ain’t apologizing to anybody,” he said.
The bitterness about being let go following last season finally flowed. Good timing. The Falcons made it easy on an opponent. Too much caught up with them.