LIVE: Falcons seeking a bounce-back (and some offense)

Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey need a better performance from the offense than we've seen lately. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey need a better performance from the offense than we've seen lately. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Hello. Drove back from Clemson late last night, fueled by a double Whopper with cheese, large coffee and memories of a complete face plant by Georgia Tech in one of its most important games of the season.

I’m happy to say that everything is fully digested and I fully anticipate the only thing today’s Falcons’ game will have in common with the Tech game is the coffee.

The Falcons face Cincinnati today. They are coming off their worst performance of the season, a 31-17 loss at Philadelphia. Every area of their game constituted an epic fail: offense and defense, physical and mental, coaching and execution.

But the Falcons generally bounce back well from losses. They’re also 15-3 at home (2-0 this year) under coach Mike Smith. Quarterback Matt Ryan is 15-1 as a starter in the Georgia Dome, with 22 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 93.4 efficiency. (Contrast those numbers to Ryan’s road results: 9-11 record, 26 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 79 rating.)

Earlier this week, Chad Ochocinco said of the Bengals: “It’s do or die. We’re 2-3. To get into a hole at 2-4 is a no-no. This is a must-win.” At 4-2, it would be inaccurate to say this is a must-win game for the Falcons. But how they respond to last week’s loss could give some indication as to how the rest of the season goes.

They have a bye next week, then come back with two difficult opponents, Tampa Bay and Baltimore. The post-bye schedule also includes a home game against Green Bay, three straight road games to start December (Tampa Bay, Carolina, Seattle) and the rematch with the New Orleans Saints. So today’s game is not one the Falcons can afford to fumble, especially if they have designs on winning the NFC South.

Just a few bullet points before I turn it over to you:

♦ The offensive line play must improve. Both run blocking and pass protection has been weak — and at some point left tackle Sam Baker needs to look like a first-round draft pick (or even a second- or a third-round pick).

♦ Coaches talking about turnovers may get old but check out these numbers: The Falcons are plus-7 in turnovers (with 12 takeaways) in their four wins and minus-one (with three takeaways) in their two losses.

♦ I’ve gone easy on offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to date (to the chagrin of some readers). The reason is simple: The guy has been a solid offensive coach in the NFL for several years. But there are problems with the offense this season and we’ve witnessed them. The Falcons simply has not been as productive as it should be, given their weapons, as Mr. D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq.,wrote this week.

The problems are twofold: 1) Predictability. The Falcons need to do something, whether it’s more no-huddle or more short passes, to change up the tempo; 2) Conservative play-calling. Mularkey and Smith need to attack more with Ryan. They seem to have the wraps on him and won’t allow him to throw down field.

That’s it for now. Look forward to chatting with you.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

1,230 comments Add your comment

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
11:35 am

Some late news: Cornerback Dunta Robinson is out because he hasn’t been cleared medically following a concussion. The other Falcons’ inactives: LB Sean Weatherspoon, RB Antone Smith, OT Garrett Reynolds, OG Mike Johnson, TE Justin Peele, DT Trey Lewis.

Ree Roe

October 24th, 2010
11:46 am

Looking forward to the game.

I’m concerned about our secondary going against TO & Ocho at less than full strength, but Carson Palmer has been inconsistent this season so it might balance it out.

I PRAY we take more chances down the field even though Cincy has an underrated defense.

-REEtired Roe!!!

5150 P.O.A.D.

October 24th, 2010
11:48 am

Jeff
You are going to have to eat better on the road.
Didn’t go to Church after the Tech and UGA games.
The Dawgs will be running their mouths like they just won a Championship and I prefer to enjoy Church and Sunday School.
Falcons do need to do what the Dawgs did and not what Tech did yesterday. Falcons need to start fast and control the speed of the game. Keep the Speed slow and control the clock. Keep the Bengles Offense behind and on the sidelines.

5150 P.O.A.D.

October 24th, 2010
11:51 am

Ree Roe
How did I know you wouldn’t be at Church? Do you even go to the Dawg games? Do you buy Tickets to the games of any of the teams you say you support? Do you just buy your walmart hate and T-shirt and call yourself a fan. Hell, I bet you wear a cross and call yourself a Christian too.

yo mama

October 24th, 2010
11:52 am

Jeff, last week the Falcons failed to attack the endzone on several redzone trips that they came up empty. they had chances in the first half last week, and opted to throw check downs way too many times. they need to let ryan throw to the end zone. twice he hooked up with gonzales. my point is, look at all the redzone trips, they failed to attack the endzone on series where they settled for a fg, and either got the three or missed. its simple, you win by executing in the redzone. today, they need to correct that! oh yeah, dont wear the pink shoes Ryan, wear a ribbon instead. the pink shoes have got to go! your record wearing them, aint pretty in pink!

WTF?

October 24th, 2010
11:52 am

falcons will be out of this game early. We’ve seen that they just aren’t as good as everyone has said they are. Defense gives up too many big plays and with TO and Ocho out there it may get ugly quick. I look for the Bengals to do just what the Eagles did last week: strike deep early and take them out of the game right from the start. Too bad CBS won’t put a different game on tv locally. Bengals 35 Falcons 17

tree rollins

October 24th, 2010
11:56 am

Jeff, good comments. I’ve been saying for a while that it’s almost like they’re still treating Matt Ryan like he’s a rookie. As you said, no downfield passes and too much reliance on the run on 1st down.

SadDawg

October 24th, 2010
12:02 pm

Jeff, is it just me, but does the Falcons offense vary, depending on what the record is?

I mean, if they are 0-1, they score 40+ points. If they are .500 or over, they are content with 14, if that is enough to win a game.

I just don’t get this philosophy, unless Smith picked it up from his boss in Jax. It’s hard to see this duo (Smith and Dimitroff) lasting a lot longer. TD is used to a coach who isn’t afraid to blow teams out when he has a superior team. A coach who isn’t afraid to, when playing a team who can’t defend the pass, throw 40 times.

I think we’re in for a lot of 10-6 and 9-7 seasons. I guess that’s still a step up from the past . . .

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
12:05 pm

POAD — I know, but not a lot of options in Clemson at 9 p.m. near interstate.

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
12:06 pm

Yo Mama — Right, red zone needs to get a lot better too. Last week at Philly: 4 red zone possessions = 10 pts.

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
12:07 pm

SadDawg — Falcons’ offensive philosophy is to run the ball, but with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez you need to attack. As for Smith and Dimitroff, I think they’re here for a while.

Diego

October 24th, 2010
12:15 pm

The Falcons have a long history of a poor secondary, they will be embarrased again today. And our premadonnas still have not learned to tackle, they want to grab waists and heads and the runner keeps going. Grab the runner’s legs and he will stop running!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJC and Selma Chin, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: LIVE: Falcons seeking a bounce-back (and some offense) http://bit.ly/9OgQTM [...]

MWC

October 24th, 2010
12:17 pm

The Falcons need to stretch the field for a change to beat this team today.
I hate to say it, but if Ryan doesn’t show me something today, I’m gonna start having serious doubts about his development as an elite OB.

Ree Roe

October 24th, 2010
12:17 pm

@ 5150, I was at the UGA season opener vs. LaLa this yr in one of the corporate suites. Complimentary everything! Want me to send you a pic? :-)

I hope we mix it up on offense EARLY regardless of the score. We can’t come out & run left on first, run right on second and a short pass to Tony for the majority of the game & think were gonna win.

-REEspect Roe!!!

MWC

October 24th, 2010
12:20 pm

Thank goodness no Dick Stockton today.

Mr Charlie

October 24th, 2010
12:21 pm

jeff, is it legal for you to be first? I mean, you do have a built in advantage.

Doomsday

October 24th, 2010
12:25 pm

I’m afraid WTF? is right. The Birds always falter when they’re favored. Look for Cincy to light up the scoreboard with the passing game. Our secondary will be certain to use the armless lunge to tackle–would rather hit somebody than bring somebody down. This team has 8-8 at best written all over it. The worst is yet to come.

Mike

October 24th, 2010
12:26 pm

Schultz…we are having a hard time sticking to that philosophy of running the ball with Turner, the Oline, and the play calling the way they are going. The opposing D is crowding the line because we don’t ever attempt to go any further down the field than 10 yards at a time.

Jesse

October 24th, 2010
12:36 pm

Is Mike Smith keeping the O back? If Pitt. when M.M was the OC they ran so many great plays, now it’s so simple and boring…. I feel like we’re back to Dan Reeves style football, and that’s not what Pitt was like with M.M running the show.

Cousin Vicker

October 24th, 2010
12:39 pm

How can we know how good Ryan can be in the vertical passing game if the Falcons won’t offer more consistency in the passing attack?

Jordan

October 24th, 2010
12:41 pm

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
12:42 pm

Mr. Charlie — I’ll ask the judges. Then again, I sit on the judging board.

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
12:42 pm

Mike — Yep. That’s why the offense needs to do something to keep the defense honest.

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
12:43 pm

Jesse — That’s a great question and I don’t know the answer to that, whether there’s a philosophical difference between Smith and Mularkey. But I plan to explore that if this continues.

JTH

October 24th, 2010
12:46 pm

Falcons win 34-24 and the secondary takes out Ocho with a massive helmet to helmet hit and pool their money to pay the fine.

G_Martin

October 24th, 2010
12:47 pm

Sup Schultz, really looking foward to the Falcons secondary taking advantage of Palmers wild throws, I know Grimes and Owens do not match up well on paper with TO’sinko but I have a feeling..

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
12:48 pm

Falcons must have latest-arriving crowd in NFL. 20 mins before kickoff and Dome is 75 percent empty.

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
12:49 pm

Hey, G … I’d feel more comfortable if Robinson and Weatherspoon were in the lineup.

G_Martin

October 24th, 2010
12:51 pm

I would too, Spoon more that Rob however, look for Gresham to be making catches in the middle

Norman

October 24th, 2010
12:52 pm

Schutz- Is there anybody else they can play Baker’s position?

Ree Roe

October 24th, 2010
12:53 pm

We get Gus Johnson calling the game!!!!1

-REEset Roe!!!

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
12:54 pm

Norman — Will Svitek is listed as backup LT. Don’t know if he’s better but with money they’re paying Baker there’s no way they’d make a change right now.

G_Martin

October 24th, 2010
12:58 pm

Agreed, Baker will start, to much $ involved

Cousin Vicker

October 24th, 2010
12:58 pm

I listen to Gus Johnson enough playing Madden, I don’t need to hear him call the Falcons game as well. ugh

G_Martin

October 24th, 2010
12:59 pm

I do like Svitek tho

G_Martin

October 24th, 2010
1:00 pm

You guys follow Schultz on twitter ? if not you should, informative and funny tweets

G_Martin

October 24th, 2010
1:01 pm

Oh yeah and me too @G_Martin :)

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
1:01 pm

Falcons will receive and get the ball first.

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
1:03 pm

A first down pass. Go figure.

G_Martin

October 24th, 2010
1:04 pm

Turner did NOT want to go down

G_Martin

October 24th, 2010
1:04 pm

I would like to see the Falcons try and stretch the field more on first down, hard to do i know with a beast like Turner in the backfield.

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
1:05 pm

That’s what I’m talking about. Falcons lined up three receivers on right and Roddy crossed over from left. 46 yard gain,

Matty Nice

October 24th, 2010
1:06 pm

What a catch by Roddy.

Jeff Schultz

October 24th, 2010
1:06 pm

Great catch by Roddy. That’s 2 already for him.

5150 P.O.A.D.

October 24th, 2010
1:06 pm

Nice catch over middle.

G_Martin

October 24th, 2010
1:07 pm

Damn what a catch !

5150 P.O.A.D.

October 24th, 2010
1:07 pm

I like that we can still get a 1st down inside the 5.

5150 P.O.A.D.

October 24th, 2010
1:08 pm

1st down thanks Cin,

Matty Nice

October 24th, 2010
1:08 pm

The Bengals have the ugliest helmets I’ve ever seen.