Great teams don’t blow 14-0 leads, even to Packers

Michael Turner's touchdown run staked the Falcons to an early 14-0 lead over the Packers. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Michael Turner's touchdown run gave Falcons an early 14-0 lead over the Packers, but it didn't last. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(UPDATE: 12:21 a.m.)

We know now what we knew before. The other team is better. It has the better quarterback, the better defense, the better coaching staff.

Green Bay is good enough to look at a 14-0 deficit and not blink. The Falcons are flawed enough to take a 14-0 lead and begin a slow and steady fizzle.

The Falcons lost to the Packers again Sunday night at the Georgia Dome. If there was any consolation, it’s that this score (25-14) wasn’t nearly the dismembering of the playoffs last January, when Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers won 48-21 and sent the Falcons into the offseason with a massive hangover. It forced the front office and coaching staff to re-evaluate just how good this team was on both sides of the ball. It prompted the drafting of Julio Jones and the signing of Ray Edwards.

But this is what we know about the Falcons so far in 2011. They’re 2-3 and less the team they were a year ago. If it’s not talent, it’s execution. If it’s not execution, it’s coaching. More than likely, it’s partly all three.

They’re making too many mistakes. They’re committing too many dumb penalties. They’re unraveling, not coming together, in key moments of games.

They moved the ball 140 yards and scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. They went scoreless and netted only 111 yards on the next seven (five punts, two interceptions). Matt Ryan went 8-for-10 for 80 yards and a touchdown in the first drives, but 10-for-22 for 87 yards with two interceptions the rest of the game.

“We fell apart,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said.

“We’ve just got to get better,” coach Mike Smith said.

Anybody have a plan how to get that accomplished?

There is no shame in losing to the Packers, especially given the Falcons were minus their best pass rusher (John Abraham), their center (Todd McClure) and at various points Sunday also lost their starting strong safety (William Moore), their dazzling rookie receiver (Jones), their starting right guard (Garrett Reynolds) and their nickle back (Christopher Owens).

But regardless of the circumstances, taking an early 14-0 lead and then watching the other team score 25 straight points on your home field is not what great teams do.

This was one of two highly anticipated home games on the Falcons’ schedule this season, and both had a certain fear factor. The first was Michael Vick’s return three weeks ago, and the Falcons exorcized some demons, winning 35-31.

But while many gave the Falcons a good shot to win that game, this one was different. Green Bay body-slammed the Falcons in the playoffs last season 48-21, went on to win the Super Bowl and through four weeks once again looked like the best team with the best quarterback.

Further, whatever the Falcons were supposed to look like this season, they hadn’t. Other than the win over the Eagles, they had been beat up in two losses at Chicago and Tampa Bay and seemed to blow their transmission late in a win at Seattle last week.

But at the outset Sunday, it was an inspired effort. By early in the third quarter, the defense already had three sacks (three more than in the previous three games combined). The first five Green Bay drives: fumble, field goal, field goal, punt, field goal.

If a genie had granted defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder one wish and the request had been to hold the Packers to nine points in their first five possessions, the genie would’ve responded, “Seriously? How about something easier, like a lifetime of riches and eternal happiness”?

“We were holding them to field goals,” cornerback Brent Grimes said. “That’s what we wanted. But if you give a team like that too many chances, eventually they’re going to score.”

The Falcons could not have scripted a better start to this game. They scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. Their first drive chewed up 13 plays, 80 yards and nearly seven minutes, keeping Rodgers on the sideline. Their second touchdown followed a Green Bay fumble and used up another six minutes. They showed creativity with the play-calling, including a reverse to Julio Jones, a screen and a shovel pass to Jason Snelling, another short toss to Jacquizz Rodgers.

It was a Falcons’ dream … that didn’t last.

After those two early scores, the Falcons punted on their next five possessions (failing to get a first down on four of them). Meanwhile, the defense wilted. The Falcons ceased getting pressure on Rodgers and he started finding the soft middle of the zone defense. Trailing 14-9, Green Bay drove to consecutive touchdowns to jump ahead 22-14 (they missed a two-point conversion). The first was a 70-yarder pass play from Rodgers to James Jones, who blew past safety Thomas DeCoud to cradle the pass at the Falcons’ 40 and blasted off for the end zone. The second saw Jennings run a slant to a vacated areas over over the middle and catch a 29-yard touchdown.

The Packers led by only eight points. But it seemed like so much more, as the teams were headed in decidedly opposite directions.

Nothing Sunday was going to change that.

By Jeff Schultz

626 comments Add your comment

Decatur

October 9th, 2011
11:38 pm

athens dawg

October 9th, 2011
11:38 pm

We’re not a great team. That’s why

Decatur

October 9th, 2011
11:39 pm

Bada boom bada bing !! Thet blew it.

Cousin Vicker

October 9th, 2011
11:40 pm

Hey Jeff, exactly what has been dazzling about Julio Jones? He doesn’t even have a TD yet. It’s not all his fault, since Ryan can’t or won’t throw downfield. This team will regret the Julio Jones pick for years. And it’s time to face the facts: Matt Ryan is not the answer.

Falcon Nest in DC

October 9th, 2011
11:42 pm

Ryan’s downfield throwing is awful. Last pass to Julio probably forced the hamstring injury.

Last pass that Roddy dropped was poorly thrown, as well.

Buck Hayek

October 9th, 2011
11:42 pm

Ryan is not even an elite QB in his 4-team division.

Decatur

October 9th, 2011
11:42 pm

Ryan over threw every deep pass.

Jay

October 9th, 2011
11:43 pm

Why would anyone pay to see this crappy team. Blank needs to clean house. Sack the coachs and trade anyone with some market value, incl ryan, turner, white, bosher (no market value). scratch that, get rid of all of them except: abraham, douglas, babinuax, gonzalez and bierman. start over again, and again, and again.

These guys suck! not wasting any more time watching them this year!!!!!!!

Falcon Nest in DC

October 9th, 2011
11:44 pm

Only 16 carries for Michael Turner.
Less than 25 carries for the entire backfield. Surely the formula for a loss.

BENCH BAKER NOW!!!!

Jimmy

October 9th, 2011
11:44 pm

Who said the Falcons are a “great team?”
I’ve been amazed at what they’ve accomplished since the Vick-Petrino debacle.
We have been winning with marginal talent.
Our O Line is in need of reinforcements…our secondary is short handed.
Our D line’s best rusher is an old, tired, injury prone Abraham.
I’m not sure if our O playcalling is a poor OC or a genius OC who calls plays for the talent or lack thereof on the field.

Jimmy

October 9th, 2011
11:45 pm

We need to move Baker to guard.

lowdownjj

October 9th, 2011
11:45 pm

Disappointed in my team. Had a 14-0 lead and the D stood up fine for most of the game. You aren’t going to stop GB for 4 quarters. How in the great wide world of sports could we start so fast on offense only to fade to irrevelance down the stretch?

Reasonable Fan

October 9th, 2011
11:47 pm

I don’t think it’s fair to say Julio isn’t any good just because he doesn’t have any TD’s. He’s made great receptions and helped move drives along. Keep in mind this is just Week 5 of his rookie year.

As for the rest of the team, I agree it’s a lack of execution, stellar coaching, and overall talent.

falconsrus

October 9th, 2011
11:47 pm

Good stuff JS Season could still be great though hide and watch doubters

cedrick

October 9th, 2011
11:47 pm

Well, maybe they will stop with the next Peyton Manning comparisons because Ryan seems scared to throw the ball deep. Even after he attempts to go deep its a poorly thrown ball. Who cares that Matty Ice was 25-2 at home (now 25-3) because he does not win the big games when we need him too. Geeezzzz this team has me sooooo pissed right now!!!!

Ted

October 9th, 2011
11:48 pm

Roddy White spends lots of his time running his mouth. Everyone knew that the Falcants wouldn’t stand a chance against the Packers.

Jimmy

October 9th, 2011
11:48 pm

Lowjowjj,
I’m disappointed too.
But that D gave up 400 yds passing.
And I agree…the O is the bigger problem.
We are too one dimensional.

Oh no!

October 9th, 2011
11:48 pm

This is not a great team. This is not a good team. Defense completely blows and the offense self destructs. Coaching continually fails to make adjustments. Nothing good here!

Biff Pocoroba

October 9th, 2011
11:49 pm

The only reason that Sam Baker is on the team is his dad was the commissioner of the Arena Football League and Arthur Blank owned the Georgia Force. Baker ran the league into bankruptcy and Blank doesn’t own the Force anymore, so he can get rid of Sam now with no worries.

Chill

October 9th, 2011
11:49 pm

Does Sam Baker have to get Matt Ryan Killed before he finally gets benched??

lowdownjj

October 9th, 2011
11:49 pm

Jimmy I would prefer to move Baker to Siberia

just sayin

October 9th, 2011
11:49 pm

The offensive line of the Falcons is bad approaching horrible. Nothing happens without control of the line of scrimmage.

LOL What??

October 9th, 2011
11:49 pm

I always laugh when I see a fan screaming to trade everybody. When have you ever seen a team trade everybody? Sit down.

gadawgs

October 9th, 2011
11:49 pm

I have now officially given up on all of our professional franchises. Not a single one of them will ever win a championship so why even bother.

Reasonable Fan

October 9th, 2011
11:50 pm

It’s also clear that this O-line NEEDS McClure.

Mr C

October 9th, 2011
11:50 pm

I see 2-5 before the bye. Loss to Carolina and Detroit. Newton will light up that defense!!! Cleveland is jumping up & down. They might get a top 10 pick.

Jimmy

October 9th, 2011
11:50 pm

I think TD realized we’ve been too one dimensional.
That is why he drafted JJ.
He didn’t count on the problems with the O line early in the season.
And he can’t do anything about Turner losing a step.

Chandler C

October 9th, 2011
11:51 pm

This is ridiculous. The falcons come out and show more imagination and creativity than they have all year. Route combinations and fake tosses that actually make sense. But apparently one quarter was all the imagination we had. MM had a few tricks up his sleeve. Unfortunately it was literally a few

just sayin

October 9th, 2011
11:51 pm

“Who cares that Matty Ice was 25-2 at home (now 25-3) because he does not win the big games when we need him too.”

ROTFLMAO at the guy who thinks this way. I think the word “fool” is appropriate.

iron head

October 9th, 2011
11:51 pm

Look Ryan is a nice kid, but this loss is on him. I would like your help in starting a new name for him Sideline Matt; Why?, because his best passes are to the sidelines. Smart kid but he has no arm. Sorry sports fans but the truth hurts.

HILLTOPPER

October 9th, 2011
11:51 pm

The difference between pretenders and contenders. The Pack had injuries too during the game (both tackles). But they overcame. The Falcons made them look like a high school team the first two times they had the ball; but better coaching prevailed. Falcons need to quit talking about being good and go out and prove it.

lowdownjj

October 9th, 2011
11:52 pm

And I agrree Jimmy. We seem to give up on the run too early every week. Gotta have balance. Sure wish we still had Dahl

cb

October 9th, 2011
11:52 pm

Easy now folks! With 8 seconds to look for WR we can all make the throws! ATL will be allright.

just sayin

October 9th, 2011
11:52 pm

Signing edwards instead of the offensive tackle is not looking like a good move.

Rikus

October 9th, 2011
11:53 pm

Second Half Collapse! What the hell happened???

P.S. Is Julio okay?

just sayin

October 9th, 2011
11:54 pm

iron head

October 9th, 2011
11:51 pm

Look Ryan is a nice kid, but this loss is on him. I would like your help in starting a new name for him Sideline Matt;

Bonehead, you are nutts. Ryan has no time to throw the ball deep. The offensive line can’t protect for 3 secs.

Chandler C

October 9th, 2011
11:54 pm

this is ridiculous, we show more imagination and creativity than we have all year and we drive down the field and score with ease. apparently MM had a few tricks up his sleeve. Unfortunately he literally just had a few. we went right back to the same safe and boring playcalling as usual. we did not mortgage our future for mediocrity or to build for the future! we need changes now.

Howdy Doody in a Helmet

October 9th, 2011
11:54 pm

Matt Ryan is the 4th best QB in the NFC South. That is the unfortunate truth.

Gumbo

October 9th, 2011
11:54 pm

Easiest bet of the weekend. Two equally talented Teams. One has Dom Capers and Mike McCarthy and the other has Brian van Gorder and Mike Mularkey.

This is like STEALING!

TheAntiMe

October 9th, 2011
11:54 pm

Julio Jones is proving what we already suspected and what the stats have always shown: Matt Ryan is a line drive hitter who cannot hit the home run.

Probably the most disturbing thing about the Falcons to me so far this season is that – except for the game in Chicago where they didn’t show up for either half – the Falcons have not given any effort, whatsoever, in at least one half of each game. And in most of those games, once the opposing team started gaining the momentum the Falcons players collectively just folded their little Girl Scout tents and went home.

Every player on the Falcons team should have to pay Arthur Blank back half of the money they have earned so far this season for only showing up for half of the game. Totally unacceptable.

Chandler C

October 9th, 2011
11:54 pm

Enter your comments here

rivercard

October 9th, 2011
11:55 pm

The Legend of Matty Ice continues to melt away. He looks like he is getting worse. Really no strong points on this team. a few good players , some overpaid under achieving free agents and horrific coaching.

just sayin

October 9th, 2011
11:55 pm

Rikus

October 9th, 2011
11:53 pm

Second Half Collapse! What the hell happened???

Pack started mixing up their blitz’s and the offensive line had no clue.

Jimmy

October 9th, 2011
11:55 pm

Reasonable Fan,

The O line needs Dahl too. We struggled to open the season with McClure.
Baker is not a complete lost cause.
He just is not tackle material.
Move Baker to guard and go get a left tackle in FA.
We might have a decent line if Baker is moved or cut.

Kyle

October 9th, 2011
11:55 pm

Good article. I don’t think anyone that knows this team really thought that they still stood a chance even with a 14-0 lead. You knew they would blow it but it is all a matter of how they are going to do it. We need to go ahead and start making a short list for a new coach after this disaster of a season is over on January 1.

Casey

October 9th, 2011
11:56 pm

Instead of spending that money on no-play Ray, we should’ve resigned Harvey Dahl.

charles

October 9th, 2011
11:56 pm

WE NEED TO MOVE BAKER TO THE PRACTICE SQUAD MORE LIKE IT!!!!

Tom Drake

October 9th, 2011
11:56 pm

These Falcons play not to lose. Which usually ends up with the Falcons getting a lead and slowly giving it up in small chunks. Out of 20 1st downs, how many plays were Turner up the middle? 17? This huge turd is deposited on the top of the head of the offense and the coaches that continue to allow this to go on without consequence.

Oh yeah, and after 22 years of watching the Falcons, we still can’t defend the pass. LLYMFF

Chandler C

October 9th, 2011
11:56 pm

We showed more imagination in the first quarter than we have all year. Mike had some tricks up his sleeve. Unfortunately he literally only had a few.

dub366

October 9th, 2011
11:57 pm

Matt stood out like a sore thumb tonight. with no pass rush he still threw the ball over the wideout. he’s just a shake QB that can’t get the job done.