Something in Falcons’ season has gone horribly wrong

The look on Matt Ryan's face speaks volumes about his toe injury -- and the Falcons' season. (AP photo)

The look on Matt Ryan's face speaks volumes about his toe injury -- and the Falcons' season. (AP photo)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Mike Smith admits he doesn’t play poker. So when the Falcons’ coach said Monday, “You have to deal with the hand that you’re dealt,” he chose not to expand on that thought with, “Do I have to ante twice for new cards, or is this where I bluff?”

The Falcons went 11-5 last season. What went wrong? They added  Tony Gonzalez and Mike Peterson and Peria Jerry to a team that went to the playoffs with a rookie quarterback who only figured to get better in season two. What happened? Are twos, fours and sixes wild? Because if so, they’ll be fine.

The Philadelphia Eagles and a well-known second-string quarterback come to the Georgia Dome Sunday. This game conceivably could determine the Falcons’ playoff fate. But they will be missing their starting quarterback (Matt Ryan) and almost certainly their starting running back (Michael Turner) and maybe a few others, because that’s how this season has unraveled.

Referring to Chris Redman,  Ryan’s replacement, Smith said, “I don’t anticipate there’s going to be a significant dropoff in the effectiveness of our offense.”

And then he rode off on his Unicorn.

There are two ways to spin the Falcons’ season: 1) They’re 6-5 with five games left, three against losing teams, and therefore still in the thick of the NFC wild card race; or 2) They required a last-second touchdown to defeat arguably the worst team in football, the 1-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and they played their first home game in three weeks Sunday before over 15,000 empty seats in the Georgia Dome.

In other words, they’re average, they’re desperate and the bandwagon still has plenty of room to stretch out and recline.

Were we so wrong about the possibilities with this team? Or did injuries simply wreck the season before things could get going?

Harry Douglas, the No. 3 receiver, punt returner and speed burner, suffered a torn knee ligament in the first week of training camp. There also have been season-ending injuries to the No. 1 pick (defensive tackle Peria Jerry), the No. 2 pick (safety William Moore) and the replacement veteran cornerback (Brian Williams). Running backs Turner (one and a half games) and Jerious Norwood (six games) also have missed time, making Jason Snelling relevant, which was neither the plan nor the desire.

John Abraham is invisible. Jason Elam may soon be.

This season was supposed to be special. It’s not. The Falcons’ playoff fortunes now rest on the arm of a guy who was selling insurance three years ago and the legs of the 244th pick in the NFL draft. Not Matt Ryan, who is out at least this week with turf toe. Not Michael Turner, who aggravated a high ankle sprain. Neither chose quick-healing injuries.

Last season, nobody expected much. But after a 4-3 start, the Falcons won consecutive games against Oakland and New Orleans and blasted off. They went 7-2 down the stretch and made the playoffs. It was a needed, post-Michael Vick, post-Bobby Petrino franchise cleansing.

But they’ve never really gotten into a rhythm this season. Even the 4-1 start included hiccups by Ryan and Turner, and certainly the defense. Then came the beat down in Dallas and the loss in New Orleans. The Falcons could’ve survived that. But losing to a mediocre team at Carolina two weeks later left little room for error.

Big problem: They have errors.

When asked about the way things have unfolded, Smith said only: “The big thing is you have to be able to improvise and adjust because the dynamics are changing all the time in this league.”

Dynamics: I believe they call that a euphemism. This hand is dangerously close to over.

233 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly Deluxe

November 30th, 2009
5:38 pm

What went wrong is that they are weak on defense and they need help on the offensive line. Every game where they’ve played a good team this year, they’ve lost the battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball. They’re headed in the right direction but they’re still a year or two away from being a serious contender.

uga_b

November 30th, 2009
5:42 pm

Just win 3 games and end the stupid back to back winning seasons talk.

Manny

November 30th, 2009
5:43 pm

The Eagles game may be the last Falcons game I watch this season. I expected more, but turf toe does hurt. I had it before in high school (even though I played.) Anyway, this game is the deciding game of the season and the franchise QB and the franchise RB will be on the sidelines.

Paul H

November 30th, 2009
5:43 pm

Injuries, injuries and more injuries. And Jason Elam.

DREW DOWN

November 30th, 2009
5:45 pm

GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!

Matt

November 30th, 2009
5:47 pm

They have lost the battle up front, there receivers are not getting any separation, the corners are horrible and the d-line cant pressure. And they still have a chance at the playoffs, not to bad. They’re schedule was much harder this year. Every throw Ryan makes is contested you hardly every see him get “easy” throws like he did last year, and there are always guys around his feet. They are missing Douglas more then anyone knows. They need an impact DB in the draft, and a real right tackle.

joe cox really did not turn out fine

November 30th, 2009
5:48 pm

hillbilly hit it-progress slowed-injuries- qb dropoff- slow start by turner then he gets hurt. Coons were really bad 2 years ago and 2 years from now they might be really good.

TMAC

November 30th, 2009
5:49 pm

Keith Brooking has 90 tackles and the same number of sacks as abraham and he’s on a 7-3 team… where are the brooking bashers now? Probably shouldn’t have dumped 5 starters off defense. That’s the problem.

Extremus

November 30th, 2009
5:53 pm

Regardless of the outcome of the Eagles game, I wouldn’t rush getting Ryan or Turner back out there, especially with an ineffective offensive line that could easily get their injuries aggravated all the more. Even if this season ends up being a wash, we have to consider the long-term health of these players whom we’re depending on to carry this team through future campaigns. Frustrating, yes, but necessary.

But I won’t give up on this year just yet. Hopefully Redman and whomever else we can throw together can hold their own and keep the Falcons in the race until the starters are sufficiently healthy enough to return.

Go Falcons!!!!!

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 30th, 2009
5:54 pm

RYAN RULED OUT FOR SUNDAY’S GAME:

This is a bunch of garbage!

This was pre-planned. Smitty was looking for an exit strategy for the CHOKE’s bad play this season. By faking an injury, it would look like Smith was not benching the CHOKE but just because of injury.

It’s quite a coincident that the CHOKE would walk off the field by himself and Smith, who would list Norwood as questionable for the past 4-6 weeks and traditionally not release injuries until Thursday or game day, but he is listing the CHOKE on a Monday afternoon?

Come on guys, this is so obvious!

Remember last week, he would not reveal Turner’s injury, because he did not want the opposing team to have an unfair advantage during the week’s practice sessions and film reviewing.

So now he is being courteous by letting the opposing team know their starting qb is ruled out already?

Yeah give me a break!

This is a coverup, so that the CHOKE would not look like the LOSER that he is and they can play Redman, without it looking like a benching.

“DUMP THE CHUMP”

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 30th, 2009
5:55 pm

Special in what way Jeff? Huge offensive output to overcome a young D?

Chance to get the consecutive thingy off the back?

Deep into the playoffs?

Win this week, you’re almost back in the driver’s seat for a WC.

For the record, I said before the season started that they would go 9-7 and not make the playoffs.

Thingy removed.

bass stringerfish

November 30th, 2009
6:03 pm

Go back and look at our most recent loses and see how the games would have come out differently had Elam hit his makeable kicks…even this last second win against the Bucs would have been over said and done had he made his kick. We would not have had to have that miracle TD at the end of the game. Right there, one could argue that we lost 3 games because of our kicker…
Now I agree 100% that we are getting beat on the O line and our running game has not been as stout as last year. BOTH these equate to our QB not having the success he had last year…and the DB and pass rush situation speaks for itself. I am not a fair weather fan…I am with this team all the way and look forward to making the playoffs and getting better via the draft, Free Agency and trades.

ATL

November 30th, 2009
6:07 pm

Falcon problem = Matt Ryan. Rather have Redmon anyway less turnovers and no media luv affair with him. We just need a win not a another Matt Ryan excuse story please.

John

November 30th, 2009
6:07 pm

“Matt Choke Ryan” you are one pathetic loser. Go move to Philly so you can stock your thug lover Vick,

ff

November 30th, 2009
6:09 pm

still waiting for the ‘Elam released, Coutu signed’ headline… Hopefully tomorrow?

BugKiller

November 30th, 2009
6:12 pm

I’d love to see “Choke” go into the Pittsburgh Steeler bar in town and call Jack Lambert, the TOUGHEST man in NFL history who retired because of TURF TOE, a chump.

I’d love to see the before and after pictures. Because, you know, staying in the game with an injury to your non-throwing shoulder is analogous to not being able to put any weight on your PLANT FOOT as a QB.

Does “Choke” even know ANYTHING about football? Or human anatomy? I guess his brain bone ain’t connected to his mouth bone, huh?

This year is disappointing.

But let me give y’all a history lesson:

The year after winning the Super Bowl, Tom Brady had his worst year as a starting QB, his SECOND YEAR as a starting QB.

The defending Super Bowl Champs went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Their Super Bowl year, they went 11-5. They had a lot of injuries, especially on defense.

This is the NFL people.

Matt Ryan will be fine, both health wise, AND playing wise.

I don’t believe Thomas Dimitroff is going to make the hubris-filled mistake again next year during free agency that he made this past year.

He will sign an actual corner who can cover in the NFL. He will sign a DE. Then he will draft some new offensive lineman, because let’s be honest, Baker belongs at RT and Claybo belongs on the bench.

It’s all good. 9-7 this year breaks a 44 year-old curse. Seems to me, that’s a pretty darn good year.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 30th, 2009
6:13 pm

John

November 30th, 2009
6:07 pm
“Matt Choke Ryan” you are one pathetic loser. Go move to Philly so you can stock your thug lover Vick,

“Sorry, I don’t take requests”…. Do you have an ouchie big toe too :)

poppa falcon

November 30th, 2009
6:14 pm

McNabb is set too have a FIELD DAY against our secondary. At the same time, If we can provide ANY protection for Redman, he is CAPABLE of picking apart the Eagles secondary as well. Just ask Seattle a couple of yrs ago when they came to Atlanta NEEDING a win to secure a better standing in the playoffs.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 30th, 2009
6:15 pm

ART BLANK………….

Finally you listened to me by BENCHING THE LOSER

“DUMP THE CHUMP” :)

J-MAN

November 30th, 2009
6:15 pm

We want Brandon Cotou!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 30th, 2009
6:16 pm

poppa falcon

November 30th, 2009
6:14 pm
McNabb is set too have a FIELD DAY against our secondary. At the same time, If we can provide ANY protection for Redman, he is CAPABLE of picking apart the Eagles secondary as well. Just ask Seattle a couple of yrs ago when they came to Atlanta NEEDING a win to secure a better standing in the playoffs.

“Have you heard of” Asante (7 PICKS) Samuel :)

John

November 30th, 2009
6:22 pm

“Matt Choke Ryan” when you sleep with Vick, who’s on top?

Falconian

November 30th, 2009
6:22 pm

I wonder if Samantha Baker will be over his period before Sunday?

poppa falcon

November 30th, 2009
6:23 pm

That’s true about Asante, “Choke”, but I feel that Redman won’t have the “happy feet” or indecision in the pocket as I’ve been accustomed to seeing as of late.

MIKE

November 30th, 2009
6:26 pm

INJURIES ARE FRUSTRATING but you do have to overcome them through the year . I remember New england a few years ago players were playing both sides of the ball and if I remember they won the Superbowl . Play through it no excuses and WIN WIN WIN .

Coach Mike Smith

November 30th, 2009
6:27 pm

No back to back winning seasons. AGAIN?????? Always something. Murphy’s Falcon Law. What goes up must come down!

Falconian

November 30th, 2009
6:28 pm

I saw John Abraham on the Walmart Missing Persons board. Should I call the police?

Gamer

November 30th, 2009
6:34 pm

All three phases of the Falcons defensive unit(Front Four, Linebackers and Secondary) better show-up for the next three games and play big.

Redman didn’t play scared, even after taken hits and sacks. He played with a lot of poise.

He utilize all his weapons. If he can perform like that for the remainder of the season then the Falcons will be fine.

Falcons can still go 10-6, if they win the next three games, I like their chances of finishing 11-5. Definitely playoff bound!! Control your own destiny.

Manny

November 30th, 2009
6:36 pm

Matt “Choke” Ryan is hilarious!

I mean, he’ll put something on these blogs and people just respond! LOL! I mean, dude’s out there hammering about how he think Matt Ryan is terrible, and people respond in droves to either talk disparagingly against him, or defend Ryan.

And he’s been doing this for 2 YEARS! And he’s GUARANTEED a response!

Matt “Choke” Ryan- say something else. I like your entertainment!

(Personally, for the record- I don’t think Matt Ryan is terrible. I don’t think he’s as good as a lot of people think he is. And he’s not the franchise, to me. But he’s OK. I’m looking at this turf toe thing as an excuse, though.)

Andre "Pulpwood" Smith

November 30th, 2009
6:38 pm

There’s really only one thing the Falcons can do to save the season: hire Super Genius Coach Paul Johnson.

BugKiller

November 30th, 2009
6:45 pm

Manny, have you ever had turf tow or known someone who has?

It means you’ve torn LIGAMENTS inside your toe. You can’t put weight on your foot. And this is his PLANT FOOT.

You can’t plant, you can’t throw the ball with any kind of accuracy or velocity.

Please, because we’d like to know, explain how Ryan is using this as an excuse not to play.

Because that’s a pretty dumb kinda thing to say.

Again… JACK LAMBERT RETIRED BECAUSE OF TURF TOE.

Go to Pittsburgh and call Jack Lambert an excuse maker. See how they treat you.

jerry

November 30th, 2009
6:46 pm

I hate to bring this up, but could there have been any anti-semitism involved in the case of the 4 bye opponents. I only bring this up because I just read a book about the history of the Boston Red Sox and the author claimed that the owner of the early Red Sox, who was Jewish, was discriminated against.

JSS

November 30th, 2009
6:46 pm

BugKiller, what happened to all of that “high minded, take the high road talk” you put out there last night on Bradley’s blog?

Manny…
Well put by the way, what was it that W.C. Fields said? A what “_ _ _ _ _ _ is born every minute!”

jerry

November 30th, 2009
6:50 pm

Supposedly on W.C. Field’s tombstone: ” Better here than Philadelphia.”

dawgma

November 30th, 2009
6:56 pm

Falcons…Matt Ryan will workout to be a winner in the long run.

Gee…wonder how it would feel to have M Vick playing backup to Ryan this Sunday! Maybe like a chance to have back to back winners. Ownership should have ate their pride and settled with Vick to return to Atlanta.

BugKiller

November 30th, 2009
6:56 pm

JSS, again, I’m flattered at your obession with me.

But it’s getting to be a little creepy.

As to “high-minded”… where exactly did I go “low-brow?”

I thought making my pun was kinda clever.

But I guess, as the saying goes, everyone’s a critic.

Was it because I said making the assumption that Matt Ryan is using his injury as an “excuse” not to play is kinda dumb? Really? ‘Cause isn’t that kind of ridiculous insinuation kinda dumb?

Oh well.

It is kinda neat that I have a blog stalker. :)

JSS

November 30th, 2009
6:56 pm

“Anti-semitism!” Are you kidding me? Only thing the NFL League Office has ever done is to prop up this beleaguered franchise… Who can ever forget when they let the late Rankin Smith present the George Halas NFC championship trophy that one year, and they had to pry it out of his vise gripped hands! JINXED!!!

Reid Adair

November 30th, 2009
6:57 pm

No one can possibly account for injuries in the pre-season, and there have been plenty for the Falcons. Everyone knew that the defense was young, and it was going to have its ups and downs. That has certainly happened. The schedule was going to be tougher as a result of last year’s success.

All that said, who deemed that this “season was supposed to be special”? Really? Most of the fans I talk to (those who sit around me at the games and that I work with) were hoping for two things: 1) back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in the franchise’s history and 2) a playoff bid. Both of those goals are still attainable, despite the injuries.

I would also argue that Tampa Bay is NOT the worst team in the NFL this year.

reality

November 30th, 2009
7:05 pm

Anyone who thinks the injury was faked, is a hopeless idiot that is incapable of rational thought. It’s the same type of idiot that is also a “truther”.

Saint Simons has to get a life

November 30th, 2009
7:09 pm

You sir are a godless communist infidel. Was it over when the germans bombed pearl harbor…

MIKE

November 30th, 2009
7:12 pm

REID I APPRECIATE YOUR COMMENTS

Tech Buzz

November 30th, 2009
7:13 pm

First of all, all you Matt Ryan haters out there kill me!!! He is FAR from the problem. Yes, he needs to improve, but hell, who DOESN’T on this team!!!!! It is possible to go 10-6 this year, though with the stock pill of bodies on the injury reports right now, that will be a daunting task.

Allow me to speak on the main issues the Falcons have, as of RIGHT NOW–in order!!

1. Sorry Secondary….I counted three times Erik Coleman was late coming over on pass coverage yesterday. We have absolutely NO shut down Corners AT ALL!!! If I were the coach, they ALL would’ve been cut five games ago. Grimes, is too small, Tye Hill, as we have seen, can’t cover anyone, and Chris Houston…well why waste a second talking about his sorry ars? We haven’t had solid shut down CB’s since Deion and Scott Case, which was about 15 years ago, roughly.

2. We have gotten absolutely NO pass rush this year. granted, Peria Jerry got hurt, and I’ll give you that one; however, other than Abraham and maybe Bierman, we have no pass rush.

3. Our O-Line has NOT been the O-Line it was last year, for whatever reason? Sam baker, for the love of pete, can’t stay healthy for a damn six game stretch, let a lone a season, yet.

4. Our running is quite suspect, b/c Turner has adopted the “Duckett Dance” syndrome. Jerious Norwood, although he was good yesterday, can’t stay healthy either. He missed the last five games. The ONLY solid runner we have right now is Snelling.

5. Our receiver corps has been a little above average. Jenkins still needs to catch more than he drops. All in all, for a change, the receivers are o.k. I don’t think Finneran will be back next year though. They won’t take a chance resigning him while he is out with an injury right now.

6. The only part of special teams that has hurt is Elam. Ironically, my family goes to the same church he attends, so I feel bad for him when he does miss a chip shot or extra point. However, and I know Elam knows this, this is a business and if you can’t produce on a consistent level, then your out-plain and simple. I still think Elam is a great kicker but maybe age is starting to creep up on him? He’s only a year and a half older than I am..haha.

7. The coaching has been a bit so-so this year. I was pissed when we didn’t go for it on that 4th and 5 at Dallas being down by 10, but then DID go for it on a 4th and 10, down by 20, when it didn’t matter? My biggest grip about the coaching is not pulling Chris Houston out of the game when it damn well needs to happen. Maybe they feel that since they don’t have anyone else to play that position, then they are stuck with him. If so, then Thomas Dimitroff needs to do some SERIOUS Free Agent shopping for serious shut down corners before next season, b/c Houston and Grimes are NOT the answers. They are barely 2nd stringers at BEST!!! I don’t want rookie draft picks for the CB spots. We need VETERANS at these positions. We can’t afford anymore seasons with CB’s who get burned on every play, especially, on 3rd and long situations. We don’t need to spend 4 or 5 more years “grooming” and building up help at the CB position–we need help NOW!!!

This is my list of issues with the Falcons. I am sad to say, however, that even if we do slip into the playoffs, then we will have an early exit. With our injuries mounting, we will NOT be able to sustain any momentum. And unfortunately, I don’t have much confidence an many people stepping up, b/c it HASN’T HAPPENED YET!!!! Just break the back to back winning season curse and I’ll be happy!!!

JSS

November 30th, 2009
7:13 pm

Jerry… You’ll only hear me say three good things about the City of Brotherly Love… Benjamin Franklin (the one of the two true greatest Americans to ever live), the Philadelphia Art Institute (the American Louvre), and the Penn Relays!!! 5 reasons to hate Philly: Frank Rizzo (John Kincade with real power), Philly sports fans (enough said), South Philly (minorities are safer at a Klan or Taliban rally), Bucks County (think Forsyth Co. in 1988), and last but not least John Kincade… If Vick is supposedly going to hell, then guess who will be 2 steps in front of him?

Manny

November 30th, 2009
7:14 pm

I had turf toe playing football in high school. And turf toe can be a tear or sprain of the ligaments of your big toe. And it hurts not just your big toe, but the ball of your foot. I can feel it just thinking about it!

But I played the next game. They iced it and they taped my entire foot. And I wore a bigger shoe. But I played.

Here’s my thought: if Matt Ryan requires surgery for his turf toe (like in Jack Lambert’s case), then I will think twice. If he comes back and plays that next week? I’m suspecting something else about Matt Ryan.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 30th, 2009
7:17 pm

I wonder why, for the first time since he has been the coach, Smith has released his injury report on a Monday.

Now my question is:

Did he rule out Turner yet?

Did he rule out Baker yet?

Did he rule out Dahl yet?

Why oh why did he make an exception to his rule to make it known that the CHOKE is ruled out on a Monday? What is his leverage in doing so, when he could have held out until game time, listing him as questionable.

I smell fish and this aint Long John Silvers :)

Gary

November 30th, 2009
7:17 pm

What happened to our 2 minute offense we ran sooo well last year? It worked great and we abandoned it this year. And on to the defense. Why is it we look soft? I watch the Ravens and Steelers and they play tough. We’re slow off the snap and our guys just aren’t playing aggressive. The difference between us and them isn’t experience or talent, because both those teams are young for the most part, its attitude. Those defenses play angry.

bob horner stayed hurt

November 30th, 2009
7:17 pm

2 words…bad luck…..if we can somehow beat Philly we’re 7-5…and alive in the wild card picture…have faith….I feel like this blog is full of jaded Falcons fans..???

FalconUGAFan

November 30th, 2009
7:23 pm

So Choke. The guy you hated and blamed for ALL the Falcons problems will not be playing this weekend. You stated in one of your posts that you are a Falcons fan, so does that mean you will be rooting for the Falcons now? Great, good to have you on board…..What are your 5 keys to the game?…from a Falcons fan perspective, of course…..

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 30th, 2009
7:26 pm

Okay guys, I remember reading the blogs during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, and “YOU” people were as usual blaming Vick for the losses and rewarding everyone else for the wins and I recall “YOU” people saying………..

“The team will be better with a traditional (code word for you know what)………. Saying Vick is holding the team back and that any quarterback could have taken the team to the Championship game, which was the first in the previous 6 seasons.

Well 4 quarterbacks later, the team has ZERO playoff wins and NO Championship Games.

I mean, surely a so-called “glorified running back” who took the last team to the Championship game, can’t be that hard.

Hell, they even spent 72-million, a weak schedule and damn they even robbed Joe “wrap up my ankle and put me back in coach” Flacco of the ROY award, because let’s face it, image is nothing but playoff wins earn the respect of the team and the league.

So, I say to “YOU” people, why is it so hard to duplicate what a glorified running back did without…………….

- 1st round offensive linemen

- Hall of Fame Tight end and pro bowler

- Pro Bowl Receiver

- Pro Bowl back

- New Head Coach

- New GM

I mean what more could they do for the CHOKE to make him IMPERSONATE an NFL qb……………….

“DUMP THE CHUMP”

JB

November 30th, 2009
7:29 pm

I know it’s easy to get down right now, but we still have some major threats on offense:

- Gonzales, White, Jenkins, an emerging Weems
- Norwood and Snelling have proven to be threats
- Solid coaching we’ve never had before

Sure, Philly SHOULD and WILL be favored…but if KC, Detroit, etc. can pull upsets we certainly could as well.