Mike Smith should’ve given Matt Ryan, offense a chance

Saints_Falcons_Football.JPE

Matt Ryan lost for only the second time in 21 home starts.

This season has been about comebacks.

This season has been about the Falcons making plays at the end of games to win.

This season has been about Matt Ryan engineering winning drives against New Orleans, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Green Bay and Tampa Bay.

Whether that magic carries over into the playoffs remains to be seen. But it ran out Monday night. One reason: a bad decision by coach Mike Smith.

With the Saints leading the Falcons 17-14 at the Georgia Dome and less than three minutes remaining, Smith pulled Ryan and the offense off the field. The  team faced a fourth-and-6 from the Falcons’ 43 and the head coach went the conservative route.

Smith’s mindset: A good punt could pin New Orleans deep in its zone, the defense looked strong most of the evening and the Falcons could get the ball back in good position.

But that same defense had just allowed Drew Brees and the Saints a go-ahead, 90-yard touchdown drive.

Strategy: Epic fail.

The Saints got the ball back with 2:44 left. They made two first downs and ran out the clock.

Smith has made a lot of good decisions over the past three seasons. This was a bad one.

How do you pull Ryan off the field? The quarterback has been nothing but clutch. He excels in the two-minute offense. He excels in no-huddle. Actually, a case could be made that Ryan often is better in pressure situations and in the fourth quarter than in other situations.

Also worth noting: The Falcons went into the game with the NFL’s best fourth-down percentage (84.6 percent, 11 for 13).

Granted, Ryan wasn’t necessarily at his best Monday night. He completed only 15 of 29 for 148 yards and a touchdown.

But do you know what he didn’t do? He didn’t melt down. Even his counterpart, Brees, did that early in the fourth quarter.

With the Saints leading 10-7, it was Brees who threw a foolish shovel pass as he was being sacked by Jonathan Babineaux in the fourth quarter. The pass was intercepted by Chauncey Davis and returned 26 yards for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead Falcons lead. It was Brees who, on the ensuing New Orleans drive, was pressured and ultimately intercepted by John Abraham.

But in the end, it also was Brees who led the Saints to a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive, capped by a six-yard pass to Jimmy Graham.

The Falcons trailed 10-0. But that wasn’t all about Ryan. The Saints’ touchdown was set up by a bad snap by center Todd McClure — the ball never making it to Ryan’s hands. To open the second half, Ryan drove the offense down the field to the New Orleans’ one-yard-line, completing four of five attempts and throwing two passes that led to a pass interference penalty. But Michael Turner was stopped on first down and fumbled on second down.

Two turnovers — a 14-point swing.

Ryan’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White in the second quarter had closed the score to 10-7. Then came the Turner fumble drive in the third.

In September, Ryan led a comeback win at New Orleans. With the Falcons trailing 21-17 in the fourth quarter, Ryan took them on a nine-play, 85-yard touchdown drive, finishing with a 22-yard score to Roddy White to give Atlanta a 24-21 lead. The Saints rallied for a game-tying field goal, but the Falcons won the game with a field goal in overtime. It was a run-dominated, field goal drive but it was Ryan who set the tone with his calmness.

He wasn’t given that chance Monday night.

If the Falcons win next week over Carolina, their regular season goals will be achieved. They can clinch the NFC South Division, a first-round bye and the top seed in the conference. The memory of this loss will fade quickly.

The Falcons have proven themselves this season. They’re 12-3, still the best record in the NFC. But we know teams and quarterbacks are defined by the playoffs, not regular seasons. That’s not meant at a knock on Ryan. Fact is, everything about him — from his talent to his makeup and his leadership — suggests he will succeed in the playoffs. But consider it the unchecked box on his resume.

Thus far, Ryan has had only one chance. Two years ago as a rookie, he led the Falcons to an 11-5 regular season record but looked average in a playoff loss at Arizona, losing 30-24. Ryan threw two touchdown passes but was intercepted twice, sacked three times and fumbled once during an attempted handoff (leading to a 27-yard return for a touchdown by the Cardinals’ Antrel Rolle).

I remember thinking during and after the game that Ryan didn’t look the same and something must be wrong with him physically. I asked a couple of team officials about him, but the response I got was: Ryan was healthy. It’s just that the playoffs are a step up and the rookie quarterback wasn’t ready for that moment.

This season, Ryan has outdueled four of the league’s top quarterbacks: Brees (New Orleans), Carson Palmer (Cincinnati), Joe Flacco (Baltimore) and Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay). He has the best touchdown-interception ratio (26-9) of his career. He looks ready for the postseason.

It just would’ve been nice to see him get one more chance Monday.

685 comments Add your comment

falconsfan

December 28th, 2010
12:17 am

RaleighDawg

December 28th, 2010
12:17 am

Melt down ? Please, I’m a Falcon’s fan and Brees was the only QB in the building to step up and do what needed to be done for his team to win.

GW

December 28th, 2010
12:17 am

Falcons still keeping Ryan parked in the garage like a shiny new Rolls in a hailstorm.

falconsfan

December 28th, 2010
12:18 am

JS your editor is not very good

Navshad

December 28th, 2010
12:21 am

Agree with everything said Jeff. What amazes me is how everybody is blasting the organizations. We split with the defending world champions, still have a chance for home field and most importantly, the defense showed it can hang. The offense will figure it out. You look at the entire body for work and think rationally, you find the Falcons will be fine. This lost is the a blessing in disguise. It will refocus a team that will have home field during the playoffs. I hope the irrational fair weather fans are long gone too.

Smoothie

December 28th, 2010
12:21 am

Terrible way to lose with the offense choking away their chances all nite. Not taking advantage of JA’s gift-wrapped present in the middle part of the 4th quarter. But it should have been obvious to the normally astute Mike Smith that the defense was completely exhausted after that 90-yard, game-winning drive by the Aints. They weren’t swarming the same, tackling the same or pursuing the ball the same. This one is on Mularkey, Smith and Roddy White….where the hell was Roddy in the 2nd half?? Way to back up your smack talk Mr. White.

Pete

December 28th, 2010
12:23 am

This wasn’t a “must-win” and that’s how it was played and coached. Not a botched game, and the two big fumbles has as much to do with the outcome as anything, but it wasn’t played with the greatest intensity or execution. I’m confident that we will still get it done next week against Carolina and I doubt we’ll see New Orleans again this year. I expect their season to end in Philly or Chicago.

Hummon

December 28th, 2010
12:24 am

I am surprised at the lack of commentary about the total stuffing of our running game two weeks in a row. That is more worrisome than what we have done or not done in any other phase of the game.

the truth..............

December 28th, 2010
12:24 am

Seemed to me we let up on the pressure on Brees in the final 5 minutes…plus not going for it on 4th down was crazy……………

Sports Review

December 28th, 2010
12:25 am

[...] Mike Smith should’ve given Matt Ryan, offense a chance – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)The season has been about comebacks. It has been about the Falcons making plays at the end of games to win. It has been about Matt Ryan engineering winning drives against New Orleans and San Francisco, Cincinnati and Baltimore, Green Bay and Tampa Bay This is a preview of . Read the full sportreview (464 words, estimated 1:51 mins reading time) Administrator @ 2:25 am Filed under: Uncategorized No Comments [...]

Who Dat Nation

December 28th, 2010
12:25 am

Them Saints thats who, you sorry Falcons HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA

UGABugKiller

December 28th, 2010
12:27 am

You’re STILL not addressing the issue of Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey’s terrible, boneheaded, loser Play-Not-To-Lose attitude towards offensive football, Jeff.

They should have been in the no huddle ALL NIGHT LONG!!!

Their stubborn refusal to stop running Turner into TEN MAN FRONTS cost the Falcons this game.

It’s wasn’t about some stupid 4th down call.

It’s about their need to take the ball out of Ryan’s hands on the goal line (STUPID).

It’s about their need to run Turner into a TEN MAN DEFENSIVE FRONT (STUPID).

It’s about their need to try and micromanage every aspect of the offensive game when EVERYONE can see the offense is A MILLION TIMES BETTER WHEN RYAN IS CALLING THE PLAYS FROM THE NO HUDDLE.

For ONCE… I’d love to see you, Mark, or DOL admit this.

The Mike’s idiotic stubborness to stick with their play-not-to-lose offense is keeping this team from achieving everything it SHOULD.

Dwayne C

December 28th, 2010
12:28 am

@ Navshad- two things:

1. the Falcons offense should have already “figured it out”

2. I’m looking at the Falcons body of work and thinking, and rationally that this team will lose in the playoffs at home to either the Packers, Saints or Eagles.

the truth..............

December 28th, 2010
12:31 am

bugkiller is right if Ryan can’t call the plays in the red zone ….

Jimmy

December 28th, 2010
12:32 am

Jeff,

I was screaming at home for them to go for it on 4th.
Mike Smith and Mularkey are too conservative in crunch time in big games.
The D was clearly getting tired late in the 4th quarter, as evidenced by the 90 yard saints scoring drive.
It was Mularkey’s conservative play calling late that cost us.

Frozen Rope

December 28th, 2010
12:32 am

Matty Ice Blew this game along the the OC,,, but I agree JS,, should have gone for it,,,, D played outstanding and thats good going forward….

Saints R.E.A.M.

December 28th, 2010
12:33 am

When you couldn’t depend on the running game…your quarterback couldnt deliver. 4rth down would have been no different….Saints would have probably stopped them and game would have been over. Coach Smith couldn’t have been right either way…give him a break. You couldn’t run it or pass it all night long.

Oh yeah Drew Brees melted down alright….right down the field into the endzone…. Who is Schultz fooling?

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 28th, 2010
12:33 am

Like I have been telling you delusional Falcons fans – CHOKE is worthless.

Dude plain sucks! He let the visiting qb show his PATHETIC CHOKING DOPEY sorry good for nothing butt up.

14 for 29 for 51 percent and a qb rating of 77.9.

I told you guys, this is the time of year that than ole NOODLE arm gets worn out. Think I am making it up? Lets take a look at his last 4 games:

vs Tampa….. qb rating 62

vs Carolina…qb rating 76

vs Seattle….qb rating 87

vs Saints…..qb rating 77

total 4 picks in the last 4 games.

Dude just plain SUCKS :)

He once again lived up to his title of CHOKE :)

Brendan

December 28th, 2010
12:33 am

Jeff Schultz, I couldn’t agree more. And I’m saying that as someone who screamed at my TV, “Why are you punting?” At 4th and 6, at your 43, you put the ball in the hands of your money maker, Matt Ryan. I kept thinking, “If we punt, we might not get it back. Let’s take our shot at it, and if we don’t make it. Maybe we hold the Saints to a FG. Get the ball back, down 20-14, still in a ‘one possession’ game.”

Still, I must admit … that with 2 timeouts and a 2-minute warning … that if the defense held … we still would have had a pretty good shot.

CB

December 28th, 2010
12:34 am

One of the best defensive efforts I have ever seen from a Falcon’s team; all lost because of offensive ineptness. What a waste! The Falcon’s should have won this game. I keep hearing what an offensive genius Mularky is; maybe so on the practice field, but in games he sucks.

Pip

December 28th, 2010
12:34 am

McClure fumbles the snap, Saints TD. “Slow as Molasses” Turner stuffed on Saints 1 and then fumbles. Abraham, the hardest working guy on the field tonight, forces a turnover and the Falcons are 3 and out. D@mn! Offensive play calling by Mularkey was offensive! Falcons played conservatively. When are the masses going to realize that Turner is okay but not great. He gets a lot of yards because the team runs a lot of running plays. He is slow. Lombardi told his backs to “run to daylight”. Turner doesn’t. He takes ten yards to accelerate to NFL speed. Unfortunately, he runs to the closed part of the line and gets stopped at 1 or 2 yards. We could have put a nice exclamation point to the season tonight but we left the door open for other teams to be confident that they can come here during the playoffs and beat us on our field.

Who Dat Nation

December 28th, 2010
12:34 am

Noodle Arm CHOKES again HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Najeh Davenpoop

December 28th, 2010
12:34 am

It was a bad move to punt on 4th down. As far as I’m concerned, if you are trailing, it is a bad move to punt on 4th down within 3 minutes under any circumstances unless you have all 3 timeouts and you are facing a terrible offense.

But let’s not act like Ryan wasn’t given a chance to win. The Falcons got the ball back with over 3 minutes left needing a field goal, and every play called from that point was a pass play. It doesn’t take even a great comeback artist to get the team into field goal range in those circumstances. The plays went like this: scramble, short completion, incompletion, incompletion, punt. Bottom line is, in a position where Ryan had a chance to mount a fairly pedestrian comeback, he didn’t get it done. Obviously he has had much more impressive comebacks this season, but in that situation he didn’t do it tonight.

Gatorman

December 28th, 2010
12:36 am

Shultz: You impress me again that you recognize that Coach Smith has the tight butt syndrome. The Saints just marched down the field to take the lead, why would he think the defense would some how stop them at the end. Smith gets an F and the defense a B for standing in their most of the second half when Mularkey called a horrible game on offense.

metallica0785

December 28th, 2010
12:36 am

Why is no one talking about the fact that it should have been 3rd and 1 and not 3rd and inches right before we had to burn our last time out? Why wasn’t the play reviewed by the booth?…1 yard is huge.

Savannah Fan

December 28th, 2010
12:36 am

The Ice has melted!!!!!!

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 28th, 2010
12:36 am

the truth…………..

December 28th, 2010
12:31 am
bugkiller is right if Ryan can’t call the plays in the red zone ….

_______________________________________________

I thought you guys said that Peyton II calls audibles :)

Pip

December 28th, 2010
12:37 am

Matt “CHOKE” Ryan is a tool. :-)

Jimmy

December 28th, 2010
12:38 am

Our running game is being stuffed because teams are playing 7 and 8 men in the box.
Our running game is being stuffed because everybody knows we will run on first down.
Our running game is being stuffed because Turner cannot get around the corner.
Our running game is being stuffed because our coaches won’t change things up.
Our running game is being stuffed because we kept Norwood the oft-injured back.

I think we can win in the playoffs…but the ball will have to bounce our way a few times.
The refs will have to call a fair game.
Our coaches will have to open it up.

Frozen Rope

December 28th, 2010
12:38 am

Ryan is still young and learning,, I love the guy,, I think he is going to be great…….

Brother John

December 28th, 2010
12:39 am

Falcon’s defensive intensity was awesome — but their technique was pathetic. They over ran Brees’ quick feet “step up” about 15 times in this game. They were there — but couldn’t adjust an make the sacks. Could have had eight easily! Then, toward the end, they attempted only to strip the ball from the running backs instead of tackling them. If the coaches haven’t “fixed” this by now — there’s no fixing it. Falcons one and done in playoffs regardless of opponent…

Who Dat Nation

December 28th, 2010
12:39 am

Matt Ryan for MVP????? HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAHA

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 28th, 2010
12:39 am

They punted with 2 minutes left because the coach does not trust CHOKE – Who can blame him. The dude only completed 14 of 29 passes for 148 yards.

Do you guys really think they could seriously hang with the Eagles?

Come on now :)

Jimmy

December 28th, 2010
12:40 am

metallica:

It was not reviewed because of a stupid NFL rule that does not allow challenges in the last two minutes of the game. Since it was not a first down play, it was not reviewable in the booth.

Mack1124

December 28th, 2010
12:42 am

“Fake Matt Choke Ryan” you constantly show your ignorance and “Who Dat Nation” you and the entire city of NO shoud get over yourself. You should be worried about your QB and his 21 INT’s, I assure you no NFC team are worried about aints.

mike turner

December 28th, 2010
12:42 am

I have twinkle toes.

Navshad

December 28th, 2010
12:43 am

Dwayne C
This is the NFL. The coaching staffs get paid a lot of money to create wrinkles, ESP on offense. The Saints made a decision to stuff the run and the Falcons didn’t adjust..that simple. But the Saints never adjusted to the blitzing by Atlanta. They lucked out. The fact is we should have went for it and in the playoffs I think Smith and Co will….

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 28th, 2010
12:43 am

What cracks me up, is when CHOKE gives press conferences and interviews like he is an elite qb and like he belongs with the big boys :)

Its like that ugly girl posing with the prom queens :)

I actually feels a little sorry for CHOKE because the delusional Falcons fans have filled his head up with false hopes and expectations that he can never hold. This is still Mike Vick country :)

MV7 for MVP

December 28th, 2010
12:43 am

Mike Vick brought his team back from 21 points down, that is a true leader. Matty Duck can’t even lead his team to a field goal, Vick will always rule Atlanta

Jimmy

December 28th, 2010
12:44 am

Choke:

We all get sick of you (in all your aliases) spewing the same stupid stuff all the time.
You are boring and moronic.

Mike McDonald

December 28th, 2010
12:44 am

NoodleArm Ryan

December 28th, 2010
12:44 am

Your defense sux, you could not move the ball against a team that Flacco shredded. Birds are not flying this year. Drew Brees has thrown 5 ints. in his last 2 games 2 in Atlanta & you can’t whip him. This is a preview of the playoffs you guys are going nowhere, Turner looks more like he was playing for Green Bay LOL. Just like the governor of PA Falcons are a bunch of wussies! Your defense scored 2 too keep your sorry@sses in the game. HA HA HA Losers!

bigtaco

December 28th, 2010
12:44 am

you guys were missing mc hammer…….matty ice….ice, ice baby….what a city……chase that ring ladies..we have one…….wher was mc????

gabugman

December 28th, 2010
12:44 am

The biggest game of the year saw the smallest showing from the Falcons offense. Play calling, execution or the Qb, it all stank!

Defense turned in the best performance of the last three years. Too bad this team has not found a way to get in sync.

Mark Bradley is the true culprit!

Who Dat Nation

December 28th, 2010
12:44 am

“Who Dat Nation” you and the entire city of NO shoud get over yourself. You should be worried about your QB and his 21 INT’s, I assure you no NFC team are worried about aints.

And we just beat your Falcons loser, how does that Crow taste moron

BLUE

December 28th, 2010
12:44 am

Has anybody seen Tony Gonzalas tonight

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 28th, 2010
12:45 am

Drew Brees tried to help you guys up as much as he could with those fluke turnovers and CHOKE still screwed that up :)

BLUE

December 28th, 2010
12:47 am

Weems killed us all night by letting the ball hit and roll

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 28th, 2010
12:47 am

MV7 for MVP

December 28th, 2010
12:43 am
Mike Vick brought his team back from 21 points down, that is a true leader. Matty Duck can’t even lead his team to a field goal, Vick will always rule Atlanta

___________________________________________

Come on now, don’t be too hard on ole Noodle Arm :)

bigtaco

December 28th, 2010
12:47 am

ice, ice matty…sounds like an mc hammer song…what a joke of a team.. i drove all the way here to this dirty city to see a team that is suppose to be great get beat down….by a wild card team….ice, ice matty………oh, i hear mc