Falcons win again but lulls continue to be a problem

Roddy White finished with eight catches against Carolina but even he knew the Falcons went thrugh lulls.

Roddy White finished with eight catches against Carolina but even he said the Falcons are "not focused" at times.

CHARLOTTE – This might not seem like an appropriate question for a team that just won 31-10, shares the best record in the NFL at 11-2 and might be on the way to locking up home field advantage through the NFC playoffs.

But is it fair to expect better than what the Falcons have shown us in the last two weeks?

“I think you should [expect] that and we should too,” center Todd McClure said Sunday. “We have lulls. You can’t do that when you play good teams. We have to try to figure out what’s going on and make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The Falcons were fortunate Sunday. They faced an opponent, Carolina, that’s probably one turnover from being dropped into the Sun Belt.

The Panthers’ first play from scrimmage in this game: a fumble.

Three plays later, the Falcons led 7-0. Eight minutes into the game, it was 14-0.

The question wasn’t whether the Falcons would win but whether the Panthers would wind up looking like Wile E. Coyote after he inadvertently wrapped the dynamite fuse around his big toe. (Actually, the few Carolina fans who showed up deserved some comic relief.)

But domination just hasn’t been a part of the Falcons’ makeup this season – even when it’s handed to them on a platter. That’s a problem.

They won 31-10. Don’t be misled. Until a touchdown with four minutes left – set up by an interception from Jimmy Clausen, who seems destined to join his older brother in the insurance business — this was a sloppy, emotionless and dreary 10-10 game from midway through the first quarter until the final minutes.

Think about that going into the rematch against New Orleans in two weeks.

Think about that going into the playoffs.

Understand where this franchise is at. Making the playoffs is not the goal. Doing damage once it gets there is.

This isn’t to suggest the Falcons haven’t proven themselves this season. They have. They’ve beaten three of the league’s premier teams: New Orleans (on the road), Baltimore and Green Bay. They have won seven straight now, almost a half-season in itself. And yes, the NFL is about wins, not style points or polls or computer rankings.

But after a poor outing at Tampa Bay last week and too many late-game survivals, Falcons players, coaches and front office officials were hoping for a laugher against the NFL’s worst outfit.

From coach Mike Smith: “We didn’t play very well after we jumped up on them.”

From defensive end John Abraham: “We might’ve got a little complacent. We lost a little fire there in the third quarter.”

From wide receiver Roddy White: “I just feel like sometimes we’re not focused and into the game the way we should be. We can’t keep having bad series. Coming out of the half we had a series where it was like one sack, another sack, and then it was third-and-25 or 30 or something. Against good teams we can’t play like that. We can’t have lapses like that.”

Actually, this what any fan of an NFL team would want: Players who are 11-2 and recognize the need to be better.

Matt Ryan needs to be better and knows it. He started the game completing seven of eight with a touchdown. Thereafter, he went 13 for 26 with an interception.

The offense, after touchdowns on the first two possessions, produced only one field goal and a turnover in the next six.

The defense allowed Carolina to rush for 212 yards – by far its biggest total of the season. Jonathan Stewart ran for 117 yards in the second half alone (133 overall).

Linebacker Mike Peterson picked the adjective: “Embarrassing.”

No, there’s nothing embarrassing about 11-2. It’s a special record in a special season. But there’s nothing wrong with expecting more.

– By Jeff Schultz

Earlier posts

Florida takes Dogs’ potential next coach: Muschamp (Will Kirby Smart join him?)

Cam Newton’s Heisman is a victory for fact over suspicions

LogoGrass_652173aWin an iPad! Enter the “Sack Schultz” bowl contest and pick the winners. Click here for more info or go to ajc.com/go/sack-schultz to enter.

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

436 comments Add your comment

Reid Adair

December 12th, 2010
6:27 pm

I like that the players and coaches realize what’s going on. Better to do that and work toward improvement than just to celebrate 11-2.

corey

December 12th, 2010
6:29 pm

Glad they realize they arent world beaters yet. their heads arent in it. they need to learn to punish teams and take them completely out of the game.

SECfan

December 12th, 2010
6:31 pm

A win is a win in the NFL. Schultz, you’re an idiot.

Supes

December 12th, 2010
6:34 pm

I’m sorry Jeff, but I’m going to enjoy my 11-2 season and not dwell on the NEGATIVE.

We won the game. I guess I don’t care how pretty the “wins look” or how skewed the stat sheets may look like. This isn’t fantasy football. The panthers maybe a bad team, but they do have SOME good players left. They field an NFL team…they almost BEAT the Saints in New Orleans earlier this year. They almost beat a good Cleveland Team in Cleveland earlier this season. I too can “play this game”.

11-2 best in the NFC!

And please where are all the folks clamoring for the Chicago Bears now? I guess that’s one more we can cross from the list that people keep saying are better than our Falcons.

Supes

December 12th, 2010
6:36 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I want the Falcons to be hungry and not satisfied and keep working…but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy this ride which is reminiscent of the 1998 season. Go Falcons…next victim the Seattle Sea Chickens!

Native Atlantan

December 12th, 2010
6:37 pm

It’s in the Falcons DNA to get a lead and then stop playing. I’ve seen this for forty years. It’s maddening. Doesn’t matter who the coach is. Doesn’t matter who the QB is. They can come out like gang busters but once they get that lead they stop playing and only start again when the other team narrows the lead. Go figure.

Joe Tess Fish House

December 12th, 2010
6:38 pm

If the Flacons R as good as some of U claim they should of had beetin the Panters a hole lot wors then they did. Matt Ryan looked horible again he thru 2 many ints.

Bryan G.

December 12th, 2010
6:39 pm

The Falcons really have played up (or down) to their competition this year.

gritz

December 12th, 2010
6:40 pm

Schultz isn’t anywhere near being an idiot. He’s actually very astute with his observations about this game. There is a great deal of room for improvement. The run defense was porous…Roddy White seems more interested in jawing with opponents than actually getting open….etc. I love the Falcons and I think the sky is the limit for what we can achieve this year but there are some things that need to be cleaned up.

Joe Tess Fish House

December 12th, 2010
6:40 pm

2 many mised tackels again

Not Don Waddell

December 12th, 2010
6:44 pm

They just got bored after going up 14-0. This was exactly what I expected. John Fox is a damn good football coach and has a lot of pride. The Panthers view the Falcons as a big rival. This was a snoozer. Falcons had intensity to begin, put the game immediately out-of-reach and coasted.

There are no polls in the NFL. Just win baby!

Ryno

December 12th, 2010
6:45 pm

Should have been 28-0 at the half. Then play the back-ups in the 4th quarter. I’m concerned about the toll taken on Michael Turner.

Joe Tess Fish House

December 12th, 2010
6:46 pm

WasPerrier Jerry even in the game? The guy is a bust!

Supes

December 12th, 2010
6:47 pm

Anyone here who “claims to be a fan” and is ragging on Matt Ryan’s play…

Drew Brees threw 2 picks today….just saying.

Stop with the moaning about Matt Ryan’s play…he’s our QB and whether you like it or not that’s his game right now. He’s not Peyton Manning and or Tom Brady.

Terry Funk

December 12th, 2010
6:50 pm

I think Jeff is saying that New England’s win over Chicago was sexier than the Falcons win over Carolina today……and he’s right…but at 11-2 the Falcons make me smile every week, except when we go to the state of Pennsylvania…I’m fat and in my 40’s I gave up sexy years ago…Go Falcons!!! next week is HUGE…going to Seattle who is desperate for a Win..

Joe Tess Fish House

December 12th, 2010
6:51 pm

Ryan is a fist round pick. He beter play like it he thru 2 many bad passed to be payed as much as he is

Once "Recent" Reader

December 12th, 2010
6:52 pm

OK folks . . . .I understand we must stay level-headed, but just because the Pantheres got as close as 24-10 after the half . . . ..I doubt anyone was 1/20th as nervous as we have been in many of the other games the Falcs were able to win in the final minutes or so – through D or O. Yes Jon Stewart ran the ball well in the second half . . . .but damn – he’s a very exposive running back. Were their missed tackles aplenty on his long runs . ..sure. Still – 31-10!! The D was mostly dominating . . . .the O once again dominated in 1st Downs and Time of Possession. This team can win in various ways and that makes them a more “complete” Offense to plan against. 11-2 . . . .. .go back and nit-pick on the methods of winning . . .. . .I’ll look ahead to the next game.

Covers Dixie like the Dew

December 12th, 2010
6:52 pm

It’s still all part of the ” process “.

Sanford Drive

December 12th, 2010
6:54 pm

(((((42-34))))) hahahahahha

Soglad it hurts you Techies so bad!!!!

Once "Recent" Reader

December 12th, 2010
6:54 pm

Joe Tesh – you think the Falcs should maybe trade up in the draft to get a “real” franchise QB . . .someone like Luck from Stanford?? I’m sure that’s what Dimitroff, Blank, Smith and millions of Falcon fans are pondering at this moment . . . . … . . :) :)

Ted Striker

December 12th, 2010
6:57 pm

If I had to pick one Falcons player who has come up big this year, it’s Weems. Not just because he’s been solid on decision making/returns but because he’s been an absolute force on kick coverage.

Certainly room to improve however any team that takes a road game for granted no matter the record makes themselves vulnerable. To the Falcons credit, they’ve generally avoided critical mistakes most of the year.

Joe Tess Fish House

December 12th, 2010
6:58 pm

They never should of had gottin rid of VIck or Shaub

Steve C

December 12th, 2010
6:58 pm

Joe Tess,

Your intentional misspellings are getting old. You are trying too hard to be a clown.

Falcons Fan Forever

December 12th, 2010
6:59 pm

Hey Supes,
I’m with you man. Hey Schultz, SHTFU and stop dwelling on the negative and stop writing negative articles about the Falcons. Is that your life style? Go live in a cave with yo negative butt or just enjoy the ride!

Ed

December 12th, 2010
7:00 pm

While the offense looked sloppy at times they got the job done against a Panthers team that has had it rough. At 11-2 I think the Falcons got a little complacent at halftime, I am confident that this team will get these kinks worked out, they expect better out of themselves and that is certianly a sign of a championship team. Mike Smith is a great coach and will get them coached up before wqe head to Seattle.

UGABugKiller

December 12th, 2010
7:00 pm

Jeff, why do you and DOL keep on dancing around the issue and refuse to WRITE ABOUT IT???

The problem with this team is that they have the personnel on offense to be as aggressive and explosive as the Patriots are, but the head coach and the offensive coordinator would rather their offense play not to lose and be ultra conservative.

But here’s the real issue. In the last 15 years, only THREE teams have won the Super Bowl with a super conservative, run first, run second, run third offense: the 00-01 Ravens, 05-06 Steelers, and 07-08 Giants.

But here’s the dirty secret no one in the Atlanta media or with the Falcons want to admit… those teams COULD have run-first offenses because they had AGGRESSIVE and DOMINANT DEFENSES.

The Falcons DO NOT play that kind of defense. They play not to lose on offense and play bend-don’t-break defense.

They are literally the ultimate prevent team. They play prevent offense AND defense.

And they WILL NOT win the Super Bowl unless Mike Smith nuts up and lets Matt Ryan loose in a No Huddle Offense ALL THE TIME. Or, brings in Josh McDaniels to run the offense next year and gives him free rein to be AGGRESSIVE on offense.

And THAT’S the truth.

Joe Tess Fish House

December 12th, 2010
7:00 pm

Im hear 2 talk footbal if U cant contribute then go away.

Tom

December 12th, 2010
7:00 pm

JOE TESH – You seem to know as much about football as you do about spelling!!! Did you used to be VICK SUPPORTER and changed your blog name???

J Clay

December 12th, 2010
7:06 pm

Packers elite? They are very likely going to miss the playoffs….

Cannonball Butler

December 12th, 2010
7:06 pm

Roddy White… try shutting your mouth and concentrating on getting open! Falcons confidence and dominance showed today even though they did have O and D lulls in the second half. Looking forward to seeing how they play against the Saints after games with Panthers and Seahawks. Hope Carolina forces them to step it up in the final week as well.

Covers Dixie like the Dew

December 12th, 2010
7:07 pm

Of the nine teams in the Sun Belt Conference,
not a single one lost 12 games
like the Carolina Panthers.

tbake70

December 12th, 2010
7:07 pm

I think the Falcons will be fine. They are a classic example of a team that plays up or down according to the level of its opponent. They will be motivated for the New Orleans game that will clinch the division and, chances are, NFC home field throughout the playoffs. Once that happens, they are a near-mortal lock for at least an NFC Championship Game berth, and as last year proved, it’s a crapshoot from there on out.

So I give them a 25% chance of winning it all right now, which is pretty good for 3 weeks in the regular season. Those odds stand to improve from here on out.

Sports Review

December 12th, 2010
7:07 pm

[...] Falcons win again but lulls continue to be a problem – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

JASon

December 12th, 2010
7:08 pm

Jeff, you and the rest of the local media can continue to try to divert attention from the true weakness of this team: coaching. They mentioned during the game Mike Smith’s criticism of the team for not getting it done in the second half. This is actually he and the coaches fault. While the other team is making necessary adjustments during halftime, they simply stick with the exact same game plan. The difference is his players, not the coaches, are the reason this team is 11-2 and could go to the super bowl.

will

December 12th, 2010
7:09 pm

great column, perfectly sums up what i’ve been thinking and would like to articulate about the last two weeks, which is that if the falcons show and play like this up in seattle or at home against n.o., home field advantage might not be a lock, and the superbowl wouldn’t be as attainable if we have to travel to chicago…

JSS

December 12th, 2010
7:11 pm

It ain’t about “sexier!” Sooner or later, you must be able to put the throttle up and wear somebody that awful out! There is just no excuse to get worn out in the run game like that. That team was playing with one arm behind their back and three fingers amputated (see one Jimmy Clausen)…

Once "Recent" Reader

December 12th, 2010
7:12 pm

Hey, I know at times this team doesn’t seem very flashy . . . . . .but it is the first time I’ve read a decent % of fans (posting) criticize the Coaching Staff of an 11-2 team. Kind of strange.

The Grinch

December 12th, 2010
7:13 pm

This team is flawed in that it doesn’t hold the throttle down and absolutely stomp lesser teams. But that appears to be the only flaw, and almost everyone we play appears lesser, so I’ll take it.

Rick

December 12th, 2010
7:15 pm

run, pass, run, pass our offense is WAY TO PREDICTABLE… we need to add more schemes to the offense come playoff time. In the playoffs were playing with the big boys of the NFL we’ve gotta step it up in all cylinders! Even though we won this was an ugly win. Get it fixed Falcons. The Ain’ts are coming the town and they are getting hot!

Dwayne C

December 12th, 2010
7:17 pm

Jeff Schultz is right about the Falcons.

@ SECfan: you’re the idiot.

Ross

December 12th, 2010
7:17 pm

Oh frickin snooze. It’s a win.

JSS

December 12th, 2010
7:19 pm

@ Bug Drooler…
What happened to the 1998 and 1999 Broncos or the 2003 Buccaneers from that list?

Mike "CON" Vick

December 12th, 2010
7:20 pm

I thought this team was a year or two away from becomming a great team. I’ll take this season, and I’m gonna enjoy it to the end!

Rick

December 12th, 2010
7:21 pm

I hate to say this but Grimes has been playing better than Dunta of late. Dunta has to many missed tackles this season its pathetic for a $8 mil a year CB.

Matt

December 12th, 2010
7:22 pm

Is it just me, or does the play calling get EXTREMELY conservative whenever this team gets a lead? They need to play with a killer instinct and put teams away when they are down.

Mike "CON" Vick

December 12th, 2010
7:24 pm

Matt, I totally aree with you. Why abandon the gameplan that gave you the lead? Keep doing what you’re doing until they are able to stop you.

JSS

December 12th, 2010
7:24 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
I’m in your filter again…

Rick

December 12th, 2010
7:24 pm

The Aint’s just pin their opponents down when they get a decent lead. Why cant we do that? And were better than them!

MATT RYAN NO HUDDLE OFFENSE please!!!!!!!

seattle falcons fan

December 12th, 2010
7:26 pm

I cant wait for next week! The Falcons will beat the pants off the sea chickens

Rick

December 12th, 2010
7:28 pm

I think once we get the #1 seed in the NFC we should give our starters a rest on the last week. They look a little bruised. Our backups could probably beat the panthers haha!