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.