LIVE: Falcons look to avoid 0-2 start (and deep hole)

The Falcons' future is all in your hands, Matt Ryan.

The Falcons' future is all in your hands, Matt Ryan.

Welcome to Week 2 for the Falcons. Can it be must-win week already?

Maybe so. I just thumbed through the franchise’s mostly inglorious history. Since their birth in 1966, the Falc0ns have started a season at least 0-2 15 times. They made the playoffs only twice in those 15 years: 1) the 1991 season under Jerry Glanville, finishing 10-6 and then beating the New Orleans Saints in the wild card game, before losing the division playoff in Washington; 2) the 2002 season, when they went 9-6-1 in Michael Vick’s first season as starter and upset the Green Bay Packers in the wild card game, before losing at Philadelphia.

So, after opening with the loud thud of a 15-9 overtime loss at Pittsburgh, is the season over if they fall to Arizona today in the Georgia Dome? No. But given that next week’s game is in New Orleans — and the Falcons still must play Philadelphia and Cincinnati in the first seven games before the bye week — losing to the Cards would dig a very deep hole.

By now, you’re familiar with the story lines surrounding the Falcons. But here are the big ones:

♦ Quarterback Matt Ryan wasn’t awful in Pittsburgh (27 for 44, 252 yards, zero TDs, one interception), but he failed to get his team into the end zone and was outplayed by a would-be third-string quarterback (the Steelers’ Dennis Dixon). This follows a preseason during which the first-string offense struggled (one touchdown in 13 possessions).

Whether more blame falls on Ryan or offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey isn’t certain. But let’s just say both need a strong showing today to inspire some confidence.

♦ Running back Michael Turner lost weight in the offseason and seemed primed to bounce back from a disappointing 2009 season. But he was stuffed for only 42 yards on 19 carries (2.2 average). The Steelers have one of the league’s strongest defenses, but Turner didn’t show the burst or power he had in 2008. He needs to be better.

♦ Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux returns from a one-game suspension for his marijuana arrest last December. He seems motivated, saying earlier in the week: “I’m not taking things for granted anymore. I want to have fun every moment and play my hardest.” His presence should strengthen the interior of the defensive front and possibly open things up on the outside for John Abraham and Kroy Biermann to help get pressure on Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson.

One final thought: Being back home should help. The Falcons are 13-3 in the Georgia Dome in Mike Smith’s two seasons, and 13-1 with Ryan starting (both home losses last season, to Philadelphia and New Orleans, came with Ryan injured and Chris Redman starting.) Ryan’s only Dome loss was to Denver in 2008.

So there’s your primer. I’ll be live blogging through the game but if you have some early thought now, let’s hear them. How crucial would you rate today’s game?

Instant repost

Georgia is showing problems are deep and widespread

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705 comments Add your comment

uga_b

September 19th, 2010
11:25 am

Jeff, two words:

Derek Anderson

uga_b

September 19th, 2010
11:25 am

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 19th, 2010
11:25 am

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 19th, 2010
11:26 am

Babs being back will be huge. An O’fer to Gonzo would be too.

cattle dawg

September 19th, 2010
11:29 am

Dunta gets to earn his money today.

Ted M

September 19th, 2010
11:30 am

Welcome to Week 2 for the Falcons. Can it be must-win week already?

Abso-freeakin-lutely because they are not going to win next week in NO.

ejj

September 19th, 2010
11:34 am

Too close to call, haven’t seen anything to get excited about. Picked falcons at home, no turn-over, with Anderson starting, will see what defense is average or worse.

Ted M

September 19th, 2010
11:35 am

Mike Smith dropped the ball by not playing the starters in the last preseason game when the offense clearly showed they were NOT ready for the season.

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2010
11:41 am

The Falcons’ inactives are John Parker Wilson (3rd QB), Michael Jenkins (shoulder), Erik Coleman (knee), Antone Smith, Spencer Adkins, Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson and Trey Lewis.

dz

September 19th, 2010
11:44 am

Go Falcons!

Defense is going to have a huge day. Weatherspoon with his first Sack

Arno

September 19th, 2010
11:49 am

Crucial. The vaunted chemistry of training camp did not pan out in the pre-season game with New England, nor in Pittsburgh.

mountain_jim

September 19th, 2010
11:49 am

Was Trey Lewis hurt? Or just returned to the bottom of rotation with Babs back?

What I would like to see today:

I want touchdowns, not FGs.

I want to see MM call some running plays that are a little less obvious.

I want shots down the field taken.

I want to see the head coach and staff show some cojones this week and not playing to avoid losing.

I want to see Norwood catch the **** ball when its thrown his way.

I want to see the defense catch the **** ball when its right in their hands.

I want to see screens, slants, and routes other than the sideline out hit on. (Ryan had the other receiver wide open while he keeps focusing on Roddy going to the sidelines more than once.)

I want to see snap-count adjustments and Ryan drawing them offsides (easier to do at home)

Matt

September 19th, 2010
11:50 am

This is a game you MUST win if you are going to have any sort of championship hopes. Same went for last week’s game and they absolutely blew that game. Ryan has got to show something today. Turner needs to hit the hole (and the line need to open them) fast.

Bob Horner

September 19th, 2010
11:51 am

Falcons win and cover today…last week was bad a match-up for us…our O-line vs the Steelers D-line…..this is a different week…we can handle Arizona….and we will 31-17…and the Braves sweep the Mets and the Phillies lose…it’s gonna be a great Sunday….

Hamp

September 19th, 2010
11:54 am

YEAH! what Mountain Jim said!!!

Kurdt Kobain

September 19th, 2010
11:58 am

“and the Falcons still must play Philadelphia and Cincinnati in the first seven games before the bye week”

I’m not sure either of those two teams, at this point, are all that good. Especially Philly.

UGABugKiller

September 19th, 2010
12:00 pm

Jeff, you’re absolutely right.

This game is MUST win for the Falcons.

And much like yesterday afternoon’s EPIC FAIL was a test of Mike Bobo’s ability to call a consistent offensive game that took advantage of his QB’s ability (not one run-pass option rollout, only ONE designed play designed to get Murray outside the pocket, and NO check-down outlet receivers on most of the pass plays, including that ridiculous 3rd and 4 where he had the receivers all go 10 yards or more down the field… for a 3RD AND FOUR!), today is a test of Mike Mularkey.

Will Mularkey epic fail, much like Bobo yesterday? Will he continue to be unimaginative, refuse to take what the defense gives him, and refuse to take advantage of an NFL which BEGS you to pass the damn ball, especially downfield where flags are thrown at an unbelievable rate?

My gut says yes. Falcons should still win, but I have no faith that Mularkey will suddenly understand that the way he runs an offense hasn’t evolved with the modern NFL, that he refuses to join the 21st century NFL.

Unless Mike Smith decided to do the right thing and give Ryan, like Manning and Brady, the reins in the no-huddle attack, this offense is sunk.

The facts are, the offense MOVES with Ryan at the helm in the no huddle, and bogs down with Mularkey calling the plays.

ryan

September 19th, 2010
12:02 pm

Sydney Rice could be cut at some point if the Vikes get V Jax i think Falcons should look at Rice would good money wise as well .

Najeh Davenpoop

September 19th, 2010
12:04 pm

The 2nd game of a season is never a “must win”. Maybe it’s a “must win” for the fans to not panic, but it’s definitely not a “must win” to keep playoff hopes alive.

Enrico Palazzo

September 19th, 2010
12:05 pm

Jeff,
Do we know who is singing the National Anthem today?

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 19th, 2010
12:09 pm

Glad to see Jeff is here today. I was worried that Petrino win yesterday, might cause him to do something rash.

deezcoons

September 19th, 2010
12:10 pm

too many times i have watched the falcons fall on their face. i won’t believe in the coons until i see consistent play.

JP

September 19th, 2010
12:14 pm

Today’s games promises to set the tone for the future of Matt Ryan, Mike Mularkey, Mike Smith and Thomas Demitroff. In past blogs I have been critical of Matt Ryan for I feel he was not worthy of 3rd pick overall due to his average abilities at best. Hopefully I’m wrong and today’s game will demonstrate what so many have promise.

Key things to watch in today’s game.

1.Matt Ryan’s foot work in the pocket………doesn’t seem to know how to make the subtle movements in the pocket with his feet (see.. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) to give himself the one additional second needed to be efficient.

2. Matt Ryan’s ability to run for 2-3 yards to pick up the first down or additional yardage…..Matt has a history of throwing the ball out of bounds on broken plays when there is a clear path to positive yardage which will help to move the chains.

3. Matt Ryan’s check downs….as you all know now Matt has not used the pump fake effectively or at all and stares down his intended receiver with excessive premeditation.

4. Matt Ryan’s cadence at the line of scrimmage…..this could have cost us a playoff win last year against this very team and some believe this was problem in last week’s game against Pittsburgh. This should be an easy fix, one would think.

5. Matt Ryan vs. Mike Mularkey….some feel as if Matt Ryan will be the franchise QB many hope/hoped he could be if the OC would open the play book for more deep plays etc….Well here’s my take, the plays are there to dial up however the OC doesn’t have the confidence in Matt to be productive in those situations. They are designing the game plan primarily around what they believe to be his strengths – not his weaknesses.

6.Thomas Dimitroff vs Mike Turner…..Turner appears to be a one season wonder – no improvement today may mean Dimitroff and Mike Turner are next to be disparaged in the blogs…

If I’m wrong about Matt Ryan, please let it be today….!!!!

Jinxed

September 19th, 2010
12:14 pm

Chris Mortenson just said that Harry Douglas will have a big game today.

Hey what am I watching that guy for? Where’s the clicker?

Kyle

September 19th, 2010
12:17 pm

Bobby Dicks – I will agree Georgia needs a new coach with the go for the throat personality you need in football but Smitty is fine. He just needs players with some balls (nothing personal Bobby).

UGABugKiller

September 19th, 2010
12:19 pm

JP, every single one of your points of critique against Ryan are invalidated by the fact that the offense moves when HE, and NOT Mularkey is calling the offensive plays.

Your critiques of Ryan are biased based on your belief that you did not agree with the Falcons picking him 3rd three years ago.

So it is kinda obvious why you’ve come to the conclusions you’ve come to.

Now, I’m not saying that Ryan is Brady and Ryan hasn’t made mistakes and Ryan is super-duper.

I’m saying that the offense MOVES with rhythm and purpose when HE and NOT Mularkey is calling the plays.

Until you can find an answer to refute that fact, your views on Ryan are invalidated.

Sorry, buddy. :-)

Bleeding Eyes

September 19th, 2010
12:24 pm

Oh no! Not that guy again who writes 5 paragraphs every post. Nooooooo!

Reid Adair

September 19th, 2010
12:26 pm

Jeff, I wholeheartedly disagree with your statement that Matt Ryan was “outplayed” by Dennis Dixon last week.Dixon didn’t throw any touchdowns, threw one interception and rushed for four yards – just like Ryan.

The Dome will be rocking today.

The Dome

September 19th, 2010
12:28 pm

don’t come knockin’.

uga_b

September 19th, 2010
12:32 pm

I expect Turner to come out mean today. I am not sold he will maintain that this season but I like him today.

mountain_jim

September 19th, 2010
12:32 pm

I rewatched last week’s game and realized Ryan played better than I thought. On one series his throws were off, the rest he was accuracte. I hope he learned about looking at his receivers and going to the well once to often from that interception.

I really think Mularkey killed those drives last week by going to the same uncreative running plays which just were not there, on first or second down, over and over again, putting too much pressure on Ryan to get the 3rd down completions, which he mostly did. If Roddy had been able to stretch out another yard on that 3rd down final drive in regulation we would have won that game I feel.

Or is the snap count was not jumped and Baker does not get that hold we would have won in overtime, instead of punting it away. So many close things were not made, interception drops and Norwood could have had 40 yards if he had no slipped and dropped that screen.

Go Falcons!

mountain_jim

September 19th, 2010
12:34 pm

too many typo’s sheesh I appear illiterate. :)

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2010
12:35 pm

Mountain Jim — Trey Lewis isn’t injured.

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2010
12:37 pm

UGABugKiller — The no-huddle thing has been addressed before. Not sure why the Falcons don’t use it more often.

uga_b

September 19th, 2010
12:37 pm

Coach Fisher is dropping F-bombs all over the place: Friendship, Fortitude, Fulfillment, Fiddlefaddle.

Best Mayne Event yet.

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2010
12:38 pm

Enrico — There’s still time for you to if you get here.

JP

September 19th, 2010
12:38 pm

@Bug Killer, Matt is not calling his own plays in the no huddle, he has already be given the plays in which he can call to keep the same defense on the field.

This is not a result of his abilities just a product of keeping the same defense on the field and not allowing substitutions. If you believe otherwise, then “divulge the amount of your down payment before you confirm the sales price on your next car purchase” or better yet “tell the car salesman the desired payment you want prior to securing the purchase price and rate you want”…..

My post are for those who actually watch the game – not feel the game, thats what women do.

The things I have highlighted are present in the QB’s who have lead their teams in consistent playoff runs or Super Bowl Wins…..or maybe your in the “pest control” profession and haven’t developed these type of analytical skills yet….

Check your emotions prior to post – “Winning is for Winners- Emotions are for girls”

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2010
12:38 pm

Hillbilly Deluxe — I couldn’t find a high enough rooftop in Athens.

uga_b

September 19th, 2010
12:39 pm

Jeff, you will have to look up Coach Fisher’s Soft Knocks that just came on ESPN when you get time. I assume youtube will catch it.

Jamaal Anderson (not the cocaine one)

September 19th, 2010
12:41 pm

Can I play today?

JP

September 19th, 2010
12:42 pm

@ BugKiller …save your the excuses for loses for the UGA blogs, this blog is for Falcon fans who will uphold accountability in hopes of turning the franchise around…..

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2010
12:43 pm

Reid:
Dixon (third stringer): 18/26 (69.2 percent), 9.1 yard average, rating: 81.6.
Ryan (starter): 27/44 (61.4 percent), 5.7 yard average, rating: 67.6

JP's English teacher

September 19th, 2010
12:44 pm

“losses,” not “loses,” JP.

crackbaby

September 19th, 2010
12:45 pm

Today is the day for the Falcons D to be ultra-agressive – D Anderson does not perform well under stress.

Also, the snap count thing. Two years ago in the playoffs, the Cardinals appeared to exploit a “tell” in Mattie Ice’s hands or snap count. They jumped the snap perfectly on critical plays. Last week, the Steelers seemed to have a jump on the snap also.

If Ryan and the Falcons staff haven’t fixed that by now, it’s a telling indicator of the quality of the franchise.

Despite the negative vibe, the dirty birds should rock today. 35+ points. Go Falcons!

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2010
12:46 pm

UGA_b — I’ll do that. I like Kenny Mayne.

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2010
12:47 pm

Jamaal Anderson: You’re suited up.

Samuel L. Jackson's agent

September 19th, 2010
12:48 pm

C’mon, Sam…rise up!
This thing could still turn out to be a decent gig.

JP

September 19th, 2010
12:48 pm

@ JP’s Eng teacher ….I thought you loss your certification after your child porn scandal….wow !!! another one falls through the craks…..spell check that….

UGABugKiller

September 19th, 2010
12:50 pm

JP, in the no huddle, Ryan is given a set with a choice of plays to run.

THAT IS CALLING THE PLAYS.

I personally believe Ryan should be given Kelly-like carte blanche with the offense.

When Mularkey is calling the plays in the huddle he has NO FEEL FOR THE OFFENSIVE FLOW OF THE GAME.

Mularkey’s play calls stall drives.

When Ryan goes no-huddle, he is given 3 plays to run. 1 pass, 2 runs, or 2 pass, 1 run. He will then get to the line, read the defense, call the play, then call an audible or hot route as needed.

And when Ryan does so, the offense MOVES.

You STILL cannot provide an rebuttle for why this is so.

You simply want to justify your hating the Falcons using the 3rd pick in the draft on Ryan. So you twist the facts to fit that view point.

You’d make a good politician, but a lousy scout.

Serenity Now

September 19th, 2010
12:51 pm

Just a general question here:

is everyone else shocked at all of the knee-jerk reactions from all the football pundits after one week of football? apparently, every team predicted to be good is now in “jeopardy.” i can’t remember a season where this much stock has been taken from one game?

just me?