Mistakes aside, onus is on Mularkey to fix Falcons’ offense

Mike Mularkey is getting some heat for regression of Matt Ryan and the offense. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Mularkey is getting heat for regression of Matt Ryan and the offense. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Let’s start with the two biggest mistakes of the Falcons’ offseason.

One was not adequately replacing punter Michael Koenen after he fled for free-agent riches in Tampa. The Falcons drafted Matt Bosher and for some reason have kept him, as if holding out hopes that on one glorious Sunday, the bingo card will hit. The other was letting guard Harvey Dahl leave in free agency. It robbed the offensive line of its toughest, nastiest, limb-ripping creature, which is a problem when management is still waiting for left tackle Sam Baker to evolve into a species more intimidating than a Peep.

But that doesn’t explain everything.

The Falcons are 2-3. Even their most impressive win suddenly isn’t looking so impressive (Philadelphia is 1-4). There is no shortage of problems on defense, but that wasn’t the primary issue in Sunday night’s meltdown against Green Bay. The offense produced two touchdowns and 140 yards in the first two drives, then seemed to be vaporized. The rest of the game produced five punts, four three-and-outs, two interceptions and zero points.

There was a similar fizzle the week before in Seattle. The Falcons led 24-7 at halftime, then produced two field goals in the second half.

Bottom-line numbers: The Falcons, who promised us pyrotechnics, haven’t even provided improvement. They rank 19th in total offense (338.4 yards), 23rd in rushing (98.8), 22nd in pass-efficiency rating (79.9) and 20th in scoring (20.8) — all drops from a year ago. Some of the struggles can be attributed to the wailing wall up front. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been sacked 14 times in five games. He was dropped 23 times all of last season. He also has been less accurate and consistent in his decision-making.

But production or lack thereof generally starts with the guy pulling the strings. In this case, that’s Mike Mularkey.

It’s an offensive coordinator’s job to put players in the best position to win games. Whether the Falcons have become too predictable in play-calling, or players aren’t executing, or for whatever reason can’t stay focused for four quarters, it’s still about coaching and getting players to perform.

Here’s the most remarkable stat that has come out of the Falcons’ slow start: They’ve been outscored 61-13 in the third quarter. When presented those numbers Tuesday, Mularkey’s response was, “We try to score every time we get the ball, so that’s irrelevant to me.”

Should it be?

Coaches make halftime adjustments. The logical conclusion is defensive coaches are adjusting to Falcons’ play-calling and the offense then sputters. In the second halves of five games this season, the offensive has produced 0, 2, 1, 0 and 0 touchdowns. Is that just a coincidence?

Mularkey dismissed the adjustments theory, saying, “That’s the outside sources who would say that.” (I would be the outside source here.) He then pointed to penalties and breakdowns, not play-calling, as reasons for the scoring drop.

“The general public and yourself would not know that unless you studied film, knew what the game plan was and knew what was happening in the first half and not the second half,” he said.

He’s right. I don’t study game film. I also can’t rebuild a transmission, but I’m pretty sure I can tell when one blows up.

Mularkey doesn’t completely absolve himself of culpability (”We have to clean things up, and it starts with me.”) But he doesn’t look at tape on Mondays and declare, “Wow, did I blow that call,” at least not that he admits.

“We’re not doing it consistently now because something has happened in one place or another that has made that drive stall,” he said. “It’s not just penalties or a mistake. It’s a drop, a sack or something else. The same plays are being called.

“You ask if I second-guess myself? No, I don’t. Not like you guys do.”

He’s not too sensitive.

Mularkey actually managed a smile when asked if he was feeling heat.

“This is heat?” he cracked.

That was to be expected from someone who was a head coach in Buffalo (he resigned after two years). But until the turnaround comes, the questions won’t stop, and it’s only going to get hotter.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter: @JeffSchultzAJC. Friend me on Facebook: Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC.

297 comments Add your comment

Chandler Going Deep..

October 11th, 2011
7:35 pm

Kane337

October 11th, 2011
7:38 pm

gem

October 11th, 2011
7:39 pm

JS I think you get it.

Chandler Going Deep..

October 11th, 2011
7:42 pm

Laurel And Hardy(Mckay and Dimitroff) knew when they drafted Ryan as their #1 pick that he had major weakness with his arm and accuracy problems down field…

They ignored those issues and now its going to haunt this franchise..Mularkey cant fix what cant be fixed!!
He is actually trying to cover up for what Ryan’s lacks: Deep ball threat and an unable to throw the very quick 5 yard slants..

SORRY FANATICS MULARKEY IS TRY TO COVER FOR HIS STAR QB AND GETTING KILLED ON THESE BLOGS ….

youcantbeserious

October 11th, 2011
7:44 pm

I’m just waiting on Mularkey to break out is wildcat formation with a TE in for Ryan. I know he’s got a special package for Reggie Kelly, its good for at least two yards.

Chandler Going Deep..

October 11th, 2011
7:45 pm

Ryan 55 QB rating on Sunday said we aint got a shot against the elites!!

GB has the 31st ranked pass defense btw…
GB took the run away and told the Falcons your Star QB will have to try and beat us……

gg

October 11th, 2011
7:48 pm

i remember when mularkey was the oc at pittsburgh and i thought wow i love to have him as an oc here in atl. he ran all kinds of trick plays with kordell stewart and and came out in all different kinds of sets. im not sure what happened, but it’s really sad that we are watching a window of opportunity getting wasted partly because of a stubborn oc

Shawn Mullins

October 11th, 2011
7:49 pm

Sounds kinda arrogant to me what u guys think.I didn’t say confidence,but arrogants.When u talk like that u got to putup,and the time is now.

painter

October 11th, 2011
7:51 pm

Guy sounds like a stubborn old man.

Kane337

October 11th, 2011
7:53 pm

Cowher let Mularkey run those trick plays back in the Pittsburgh days. I guarantee Mike Smith doesn’t allow it which is why you haven’t seen it on the Falcons.

Chandler Going Deep..

October 11th, 2011
7:53 pm

“You usually need some zip on the ball and accuracy to hit those quick slant timing routes. Ryan can make them sometimes, but seemingly not consistently.”

Yep, that’s what make Arron special and puts him right at the top! He killed us on those 3rd down conversions with those quick slants that u cant defend! Just demoralizing for the Defense..

Kane337

October 11th, 2011
7:56 pm

Personally I want to see more screen plays, end arounds, and slants that allow our guys to run with the ball (worked on those first 2 possessions). Tired of the 5-8 yard curl and sideline passes that end up getting tackled after they catch the ball.

Shawn Mullins

October 11th, 2011
7:57 pm

And yes Matt Ryan arm strength is a major problem that seems to never get address.When he goes deep either the ball is short are off target,and the reason arm strength.Just look at some of Matt Ryan long balls he puts his whole body into the throw and still is short are off target.Better hit the weightroom.

Chandler Going Deep..

October 11th, 2011
7:58 pm

“Here’s the most remarkable stat that has come out of the Falcons’ slow start: They’ve been outscored 61-13 in the third quarter. When presented those numbers Tuesday, Mularkey’s response was, “We try to score every time we get the ball, so that’s irrelevant to me.”

Greyhound is ready for ya Coach. Oh and take Coach Jim Mora Jr the 3rd with ya too……

Chandler Going Deep..

October 11th, 2011
8:01 pm

Hey Mr Charlie, cant blame MV7 anymore???? lol

falconsrus

October 11th, 2011
8:01 pm

Irrelevant? there are none so blind as those who will not see

Khalif Timberlake

October 11th, 2011
8:04 pm

It is about time Mularkey is taking some heat. I’ve been saying since last year that he needs to go. His play calling is too conservative to elevate the Falcons’ offense to where it needs to go to compete. We need to bring in an offensive guru from a team whose offense is prolific. Mularkey needs to go! Plain and simple.

bobwhite

October 11th, 2011
8:04 pm

Jeff..Don’t you just love the attitude projected here by the coaches..In other words*&*&^%*$$# you..We don’t care what you moron’s think..we are going to keep doing the same dam thing whether you jerks like it or not!! We don’t have a CLUE as to why the franchise is in this disaray..it worked for the past 3 years…It ant working since December of 2010..but hey, we will keep on doing what we was “brung” here to do and that’s to keep on losing because we don’t know any different!!
Don’t you dare expect anything different..because our dna says we are a run first team whether you like it or not! Well I don’t like it and I will NOT spend any of my hard earned cheese to support any Atlanta Falcon endeavors!!!!!

Chandler Going Deep..

October 11th, 2011
8:10 pm

Yes this whole organization appears to be a bunch of but holes..That’s why its on the decline already..

3-9 last 12(including preseason)…”The Ship Be Sinking” NBA Baller, NY Knicks

Larry

October 11th, 2011
8:14 pm

Spot on Jeff!

Here’s the most remarkable stat that has come out of the Falcons’ slow start: They’ve been outscored 61-13 in the third quarter. When presented those numbers Tuesday, Mularkey’s response was, “We try to score every time we get the ball, so that’s irrelevant to me.”

What utter, unabashed arrogance.

Now we know why he has not been seriously considered for a Head Coaching job and never will be. And his counterpart, BVG, can’t even get an interview!

Jeff,

keep putting out the tough–but fair–questions…we need you!

Chandler Going Deep..

October 11th, 2011
8:21 pm

Blank shooting blanks!

Mr Blank do you realize your arrogant coaching staff was one made FG from being 1-4 like the Eagles?

rm

October 11th, 2011
8:23 pm

I dont know that you can blame everything on Mularkey. The OL is not very good so that’s not really his fault. Regardless, I don’t see them going better than 8-8 this year. That boat has a lot of holes to plug.

OPEN YOUR EYES

October 11th, 2011
8:24 pm

PLEASE JUST GIVE ME 5 MINUTES WITH THAT FOOL!!!!! I WILL BEAT THE CREATIVITY OUT OF HIS BRAIN!!! THIS IS THE MOST ARROGANT MAN I HAVE EVER HEARD!!!! “YOU GUYS DON’T STUDY FILM” WHO THE F**K DOES HE THINK HE’S TALKING TO!!!! FIRST OFF DUMBA** EVERYBODY WATCHES THE GAME AND SEES WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON ON THE FIELD!!!! I CAN’T WAIT TILL THIS P*SSY GETS WHATS COMING TO HIM!!!! DAMN I’M SO PISSED!!!!!!

Felix the cat

October 11th, 2011
8:26 pm

$ 4,000 dollars for three seats in prime section (season tickets) If this product was replaceable or warrantable I would seek my money back. No one guarantees a superbowl but this product is awful. I want my money back.:O( Blank needs to make a move…NOW..

mountain_jim

October 11th, 2011
8:26 pm

Appreciate you pointing out that 3rd quarter stat, Jeff

I agree that the response was “What utter, unabashed arrogance”

I hope his arrogance gets him fired this season.

Big O

October 11th, 2011
8:30 pm

Kroy Biermann is 6 feet 3 inches tall, 260 pounds and I’m guessing, stronger and faster than Lofton. With some time for cross training, wonder how he’d look at middle linebacker?? Seems logical, based on his DE performance that he’d be a terror against the run and a big improvement in pass defense calls.

Then there’s WRs 6-2 Kevin Cone and 6-1 Drew Davis on the practice squad. They are both likely faster and stronger than safety DeCoud. I bet at least one of them could cover deep pass routes better than DeCoud has shown – including his lack of speed on GB WR Jones who went past DeCoud for a 70 yard TD.

BeeKiller

October 11th, 2011
8:45 pm

Never imagined that I’d be envious of Detroits offense.

Keith

October 11th, 2011
8:58 pm

when it’s all said and done the OC is responsibile for adjusting at halftime, to make the game as unpredictable as the 1st half was that’s the only way to keep the defense guessing. also if you don’t throw the ball down field then the defense know they don’t have to worry about getitng burned, He has got to get Matt to throw the ball behind the defense a couple of time ea game otherwise they will alway keep cheating up and stopping the game in front of them

fsjr

October 11th, 2011
9:01 pm

When Mike Mularkey said this:
”We have to clean things up, and it starts with me.”…

He actually meant this:
“We’re not doing it consistently now because something has happened in one place or another that has made that drive stall,” he said. “It’s not just penalties or a mistake. It’s a drop, a sack or something else. The same plays are being called.

And when he said this:
“You ask if I second-guess myself? No, I don’t. Not like you guys do.”

He actually meant this:
Ain’t my fault!

Keith

October 11th, 2011
9:06 pm

also, I still think ya sit Robinson, explain to me what he has done to warrant keeping him in the starting line up. Jay Adams says Franks is not ready, Owens is not an option and Walls is young, Well seems to me we threw Matt in and guess what the Broncos just named Tebow starter and he’s Not “ready” with what Robinson has not done in the 2 yrs he’s been here I say it can’t be much worse, Robinson has not made tackles has not made INT’s, where’s this “SHUTDOWN CORNER” that we paid 54 million dollars for? I gave him the 1st yr to get into the system but we’re 5 games into another season, and I still have seen nothing to warrant this, hell he needs to give money back!!

markmjtx

October 11th, 2011
9:09 pm

Mike Smith is responsible for the Falcons. Freddi Gonzalez is responsible for the Braves. Calling out offensive coordinators and hitting coaches is just making noise. They will be the ones who will make the call the performance of the team. Who was the offensive coordinator of the 1980 Falcons and who was the batting coach for the 1969 Braves? The point is that before blogs, these positions were not known or hardly discussed. Smith’s name is not even mentioned by Schultz in the post above. He is the one responsible.

down deal

October 11th, 2011
9:09 pm

mark this down—the falcons will come out angry from all this disrespect and beat carolina by 20! cam newton’s overrated and the Falcon’s D will shut him down!!! Falcons win and go to 3-3!

dan

October 11th, 2011
9:10 pm

Let’s put this loss where it belongs: on the players, and in particular the QB play.

My patience is wearing thin for Matty Ice and his development. I don’t understand why he can’t win the close games this year. He did that what: 5 or 6 times last season? Are you seriously telling me that you can’t score a SINGLE TD IN THE SECOND HALF with Roddy, Julio, Tony,and Michael Turner at your disposal? It wasn’t even like Green Bay played that well. Our defense was outmanned vs. the Pack and still managed to get to Rogers 3-4 times. When your defense is playing well the offense has to step up! Did the Falcons REALLY expect to hold Aaron Rogers to under 14 points all game??? C’mon Man! Do the coaches REALLY need to tell Matty Ice to make plays in these situations. I’m growing weary of this “disappear in big games mentality” that Matty Ice has. You’re a 4th year starter!! You’re the franchise QB!! The O-Line isn’t blocking? Tough $hit, craw their arses until they do! That’s what elite QB’s do! That’s why the organization mortgaged their future to give you playmakers! Get your head out of your butt Matt Ryan and grow up!

browns fan

October 11th, 2011
9:11 pm

The Falcons should go after Payto Hillis. Looks like the Browns don’t need him….

ME TOO

October 11th, 2011
9:12 pm

I’m really taken back with Mularkey’s attitude. No wonder, our offense is failing.

eturn

October 11th, 2011
9:12 pm

I agree with the comments that Marlarkey have to go. But also Brian VG, Teams lick their chops when they see the Falcons this season. No creativity or adjustment ever.Then we have no superstar player on the team. A player that other players fear or respect. No idenity. No swagger, I also blame Mike Smith because he allow this to happen, And our qb.. OMG.. lol

doggoneit

October 11th, 2011
9:13 pm

Harvey Dahl should of never of been let go. That my friend was the Falcons biggest mistake of the year. stupid stupid stupid….

T-Bone

October 11th, 2011
9:15 pm

Fire Mularky and hire Ralph Friedgen!!!

OPEN YOUR EYES

October 11th, 2011
9:20 pm

LIKE I SAID EARLIER GUYS, NOBODY GO TO THE HOME GAMES SO WE CAN TEACH THIS MANAGEMENT A LESSON!!!!!! WE WANT RESULTS AND IF WE CAN’T EVEN GET 4 QUARTERS OF PLAY HARD FOOTBALL, THEN WE THE FANS WILL NOT WASTE OUR TIME, MONEY, AND LIFE ON THIS ASININE TEAM!!!!

O'Brien

October 11th, 2011
9:21 pm

The offense had problems last year in that Mularkey’s play calling was too predictable. And the only way the Falcons knew how to win was by running the ball, and taking advantage of 10 play drives.

if I’m not mistaken, they were at the bottom of the NFL last year in terms of plays longer than 20 yards, so Mularkey should have been feeling the heat from last year

Ernmeister

October 11th, 2011
9:22 pm

Laurel And Hardy(Mckay and Dimitroff) knew when they drafted Ryan as their #1 pick that he had major weakness with his arm and accuracy problems down field…

I didn’t see that weakness when he zipped a 35-yarder into the end zone to bust Virginia Tech’s chops. The problem, IMO, is that Ryan isn’t permitted to attempt a long pass. Somebody decided that 20 yards would be the maximum for a pass.

The other problem is the almost complete absence of a running game to open up some passing lanes. I’m fed up with Turner’s tip-toeing to the line, pausing, and then falling over if somebody so much as breathes on him. Even Drew Brees would turn very mediocre under such circumstances.

JSS

October 11th, 2011
9:22 pm

Letting Dahl go was not a mistake, not moving Baker inside and going and getting a real left tackle when teams were jettisoning quality free agents for cap reasons was a mistake… I know some of you love Dahl, but he was just plain dirty… That’s not aggressive or attitude, he was just dirty and cheap…

I asked you during the first pre-season game whether losing Koenen was going to hurt them, man that’s resounding yes!!!

The lack of flexibility in the Falcons organization (excluding using top line players on special teams) is astounding…

Najeh Davenpoop

October 11th, 2011
9:23 pm

Carolina’s defense is horrible and the Falcons are playing them at home, so if they can’t get the offense going against them it’s never going to happen.

garcia

October 11th, 2011
9:24 pm

Well done Mr Schultz. Please keep the hot lamp pouring down on Mr Smith and Mr Mularkey. Accountability is the first step towards improvement.

We know that our OL has flagarant weaknesses. It is now up to MM and MS to devise stategies to minimize the weaknesses and maximize the strengths. Counter and misdirection plays mixed in with traditonal MM play calling may do the trick. The point is that MM needs to plan or script the first fifteen plays of each half.

It is time for Mularkey to out smart his opponents.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 11th, 2011
9:26 pm

“I didn’t see that weakness when he zipped a 35-yarder into the end zone to bust Virginia Tech’s chops. The problem, IMO, is that Ryan isn’t permitted to attempt a long pass.”

Easier to fit those throws into the windows afforded by ACC secondaries than NFL secondaries. Chad Pennington completed a lot of deep passes to Randy Moss in college. The velocity needed for those throws is a lot higher in the NFL, and Ryan hasn’t consistently displayed it.

Weather Channel Expert

October 11th, 2011
9:26 pm

Mularkey doesn’t like to stretch the field. That needed to be said.

Joe D

October 11th, 2011
9:27 pm

Keith,

Dunta Robinson is a COVER CORNER (bunt and run). You can not blame him for the Falcons signing him knowing his skill set; but yet, they choose to have him play mainly zone coverage. You DON’T PAY $57 millions for a zone cover Dback. This one is on the Falcons!!!

Fredi

October 11th, 2011
9:28 pm

The reason for those dreadful 3rd quarter numbers is simple. Before, and during, the half time show the other teams coaches spend time looking at what the Falcons offense did to that point, and knowing that Mularky is not going to adjust his script, they adjust their defense and the Falcon offense gets stomped. You can not surprise by constantly doing the same thing over, and over, and over.
The Falcon pass defense needs to closely cover receivers instead of BVG’s “Let them catch it and we’ll run them down” plan.

atlpaddy

October 11th, 2011
9:29 pm

Well, if this is the attitude of the coaching staff after five weeks of half-@ssed to downright wretched football, then Falcons fans are in for a long season.

Weather Channel Expert

October 11th, 2011
9:29 pm

My only guess is that Matty Choke Ryan has a noodle arm