Falcons implode vs. Texans (and did Smith see same game?)

The Houston Texans muzzled Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense.

Houston muzzled Matt Ryan (20 for 47, 2 interceptions) and the Falcons' offense. (AP photo)

HOUSTON – The NFL season has crossed into December. This is when things get kind of serious. This is when Super Bowl contenders generally emerge from the pack and the thumb-twiddlers of the league fade into postseason oblivion.

The problem Sunday wasn’t merely that the Falcons lost a game, it’s that, given the backdrop, they looked far closer to thumb-twiddlers than contenders.

The bar is supposed to be raised.

The bar just fell on their head.

They lost 17-10 to the remains of the Houston Texans. They lost to a team with a rookie first-time starter at quarterback (T.J. Yates). They lost to a team with its three  best players on the sideline with injuries: quarterback Matt Schaub (broken foot), wide receiver Andre Johnson (who left with a hamstring pull in the second half) and linebacker Mario Williams (lost for the season in October with a torn pectoral).

Houston’s leftovers do not comprise an awful team. They just don’t comprise a team that should’ve beaten the Falcons.

“This is one you’ve got to take care of,” linebacker Mike Peterson said.

Yet, this is how the Falcons responded: Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones dropped a blur of passes. Quarterback Matt Ryan was dreadful — overthrowing receivers and twice intercepted. Ryan also had a delay-of-game penalty on a crucial fourth-and-1 late in the game. He was outplayed by Yates. It was difficult to tell who was making his 58th start and who was in his first.

The defense knew the Texans would run the ball. It couldn’t stop them, either because players were in the wrong spots, or missed tackles, or got flattened.

Did I mention it was December?

Falcons coach Mike Smith was not as critical as his team's performance as one might have expected (AP photo).

Falcons coach Mike Smith was not as critical as his team's performance as one might have expected (AP photo).

From linebacker Curtis Lofton: “You can’t come out when they’ve got a rookie quarterback and let them run the ball on us. That’s what happened.”

You expected a win.

You witnessed an implosion.

This was one of the worst regular season losses of the franchise’s current administration, given the circumstances. Strangely, Mike Smith didn’t react that way.

Yes, he referenced mistakes. But he punctuated his opening remarks with: “I like the way our guys fought to the end. They showed a lot of resolve. We fought back from that 10-0 start.”

The only thing missing was, “Let’s all go out for pizza.”

I’m sorry. I know Smith is a players’ coach. He is not going to throw anybody under the bus. But hasn’t this franchise advanced way past pats on the back?

This was a bad loss. A little anger seemed in order. What happened to the edge?

It got worse.

Smith referred to the Texans as “a measuring stick for our team in December.”

A measuring stick. Really? T.J. Yates, no Johnson, no Williams?

“The team that won the Super Bowl had 18 guys on injured reserve,” Smith responded. “This is a league of teams that have a lot of depth.”

So now Smith was comparing Houston, which never has made the playoffs, to the Green Bay Packers.

When asked again if he really believed the Falcons did not have an advantage going into the game, Smith said, “I think we had an advantage on paper before the game, but you have to go out and play the game. We’re disappointed. But we know those guys on the other side of the field are talented.”

There were excuses. A potential 90-yard fumble return for a touchdown by James Sanders in the first quarter was nullified when players from both teams left the sideline, believing it was an incomplete pass and play was dead. (The Falcon penalized: Ray Edwards. So he made an impact.) In the fourth quarter, with the game tied 10-10, a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown by Peterson was voided by a holding penalty by Dunta Robinson. (Again, a high-profile acquisition making the wrong impact.)

But the game never should have come down to either of those two plays.

“Obviously it’s a concern,” center Todd McClure said. “You want to have that win. But I have confidence in this team everything is still in our own hands.”

Should the Falcons still make the playoffs? Yes. But at 7-5 and with only four games left, there’s no comfort zone. There’s also no clear direction. When it’s December, that’s a problem.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

816 comments Add your comment

Embarrassed

December 4th, 2011
7:09 pm

That was brutal.

jacket28

December 4th, 2011
7:11 pm

jacket28

December 4th, 2011
7:12 pm

2010 BCS CHAMPS!!!!!!!

December 4th, 2011
7:14 pm

Cam Newton set another rookie record today. Yep.

jawill

December 4th, 2011
7:14 pm

The falcons and uga have the same problem OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR! There both too conservative and predictable.

mike addington

December 4th, 2011
7:15 pm

Falcons not progressing; in fact, they are regressing. Somebody needs to light a fire under their butts

tonyb

December 4th, 2011
7:18 pm

That was a dreadful performance by a team that is supposed to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. I really think, from the comments made by Mike Smith, that he is in denial. The team simply did not look ready. At this point in the season, the team should be coming together and making a run. Today, the offense looked like it was playing the first game of the season.

If the team misses the playoffs by one game, I want everyone remember that touchdown that was taken away because the players (and coaches, including Mike Smith) ran onto the field before the play was blown dead. That was inexcusable. You have to know the situation and be aware that until you hear the whistle and see the official waving the arms, you simply can’t go on that field. That penalty was the worst penalty I have ever seen the Falcons take in my 25 years as a fan.

lamac66

December 4th, 2011
7:18 pm

It’s EVERYBODY’s fault, excluding Matt Ryan of course.

randawg6

December 4th, 2011
7:19 pm

Thought pass d was good without b grimes. Giving up 140? On the ground was the difference. And what’s up with the drops and ryan’s touch on the deep pass. Killin me. Damn

matt from mn

December 4th, 2011
7:19 pm

No playoffs will REQUIRE a major shakeup of the coaching staff. No excuse for being this pitiful this late in the season.

David

December 4th, 2011
7:20 pm

I have always been a Matt Ryan fan, but he is just not getting better. Is this as good as he gets? I hope not. Need to see him progressing if he is ever going to become a championship caliber QB. He has a long way to go to get there.

Big Rod

December 4th, 2011
7:21 pm

We have a good team but we just continue to shoot ourselves in the foot. the Texans didnt beat us today, we beat ourselves. I really believe that we have the team to be dangerous in the post season but we have to stop making the stupid mistakes and play fundamentally sound football.

RISE UP!!!!

Steve Fartkowski

December 4th, 2011
7:21 pm

Un-friggin-believable. This team has no heart (just like the Braves) and it starts with upper management. How many draft picks for the dreadlocked dude? Cam will go crazy on this killer zone D.

Whatever

December 4th, 2011
7:21 pm

Let’s face it — these Falcons are lacking the crucial ingredients that make contenders. They should have beaten New Orleans. They should not have let Tennessee and Minnesota hang around as long as they did. They have four games left and realistically need at least 3 of those–and quite possibly all of them– to make the playoffs. They won’t. They’re done.

Just checking

December 4th, 2011
7:22 pm

Uh, so Arian Foster is not one of Texans’ top 3 players? He’s not as good as Matt Schaub? I know you’re trying to make a strong point, but keep it real, dude.

Najeh Davenpoop

December 4th, 2011
7:22 pm

I thought they would run the table until the Saints game. Evidently I was wrong. This is a game they should have won. Too many penalties, poor offensive execution, and not enough pressure by the D-line.

I still think they finish 10-6.

The Grinch

December 4th, 2011
7:23 pm

No way they beat NO, which means 10-6 at best and maybe the wild card. That’s certainly not bad, but it seems where we’re stuck and the window for this team with this talent level is closing. Mike Smith made us relevant and I thank him for it, but “good” may be our ceiling with him.

Eric

December 4th, 2011
7:25 pm

The Falcons were completely undisciplined today. Even with the Texans running over the Falcons, the Texan only scored one rushing touchdown. The Falcons shot themselves in the foot time and time again, and finally, they just shot themselves in the head.

All that being acknowledge, we are 7th in the NFC with four winnable games if we play the methodical disciplined game our team can play. Mike Smith has been great at getting his team to learn and then move on. No back to back losses. So let us not panic, but instead let us look to see how they play next week and whether they have learned anything. This will show us whether or not the Falcons can play in January.

ZinoDawg

December 4th, 2011
7:25 pm

Matty Overthrow will never lead this team to the promised land.

Strange Murphy

December 4th, 2011
7:25 pm

Atlanta is Losersville! Braves and Falcons both find ways to lose when they should not. Hawks, don’t really care bout the NBA but they’re losers and Tech is a school of losers.

WitStream

December 4th, 2011
7:25 pm

Jeff: do you EVER plan on calling out Mularkey? Yet again, Rodgers and Snelling, both explosive guys with the ball, have FOUR touches between them. How does this make any sense at all. Where is the creativity in the play calling? A 12 yr old playing Madden could do better. It’s unreal.

This is Mularkey

December 4th, 2011
7:26 pm

This team can’t get out of their own way. It’s not that they lack for talent, but they always screw up, whether it’s a turnover, a dropped pass or a penalty at a crucial time. It looks nothing like the Mike Smith teams from 2008-10 that rarely made key mistakes.

I’m not a Ryan fan, and, yes, he did suck today, but I’m absolutely digusted with Roddy White and Julio Jones. There’s really no excuse for dropped passes at this level, especially by players that receive as much money and accolades as these two do.

Don’t even get me started with Ray Edwards. Talk about throwing money down a sinkhole. We should have listened to Vikings fans who said that while he will pick up a few sacks throughout the course of the season, he rarely impacts games.

Something is off-kilter with this team. I don’t know what it is, but it’s been that way all year. When we win, it’s only because we have more talent than the other team. The attention to detail and smart coaching that defined the Mike Smith era to this point seem to have disappeared.

Voice of Reason

December 4th, 2011
7:28 pm

This was a horrible loss (though I had not expected us to win this one when I looked at the schedule, but it hurt nonetheless). Still, some combination of Ryan and Mularky were horrible with the play calls early. Then, when Ryan settled down, it seemed that everyone wanted to drop passes, even when they hit them in the hands. Jullio had his worst game as a pro by a mile. And Turner looks out of gas. We’re better with Snelling. That said, this wasn’t a rookie QB beating the Falcons. This was the Falcons beating themselves, unable to score against the top ranked D, and unable to stop one of the bets RBs in the game (Foster) due to stupid penalties that negated two defensive TDs.

Playoffs are are still well within reach with Dallas, NY (probably), Chicago and maybe Detroit losing. So the Flacons lost nothing in the Wild Card race. But we need to do something better on offense. If we fail this year, we need a change. Since we won’t be getting rid of franchise players maybe it’s Mularky’s time to go …

Ga Blogger

December 4th, 2011
7:28 pm

I never thought they should have drafted Ryan, he never played vs any competition in college.
If the throw is more than 20 yards he stinks. In the NFL you have throw the deep ball, defenses don’t respect his arm. Good luck winning 8 games year.

Eric

December 4th, 2011
7:28 pm

The Falcons were completely undisciplined today. Even with the Texans running over the Falcons, the Texan only scored one rushing touchdown. The Falcons shot themselves in the foot time and time again, and finally, they just shot themselves in the head.

All that being acknowledge, we are 7th in the NFC with four winnable games if we play the methodical disciplined game our team can play. Mike Smith has been great at getting his team to learn and then move on. No back to back losses. So let us not panic, but instead let us look to see how they play next week and whether they have learned anything. This will show us whether or not the Falcons can play in January..

JackDennis

December 4th, 2011
7:29 pm

Too much talent for this bidness.

"Chef" Tim Dix

December 4th, 2011
7:31 pm

Demi’s greatest error, trading up to get Jones, exposed his QB as a fraud. Matt cannot out throw Jones ability to run route.

why

December 4th, 2011
7:32 pm

matt ryan couldnt hit a marta bus in the side in a empty parking lot im sorry falcon fans but he is not it not to mention all the dropped passes. this game reminded me of the uga game defense played well but offense did not help out at all

tulsabravo

December 4th, 2011
7:33 pm

The Falcons suck, and they’re getting worse. Just get rid of everybody, and let’s start over.

tmc

December 4th, 2011
7:34 pm

Poor performance @ Tampa= L
Poor performance @ Seattle= W
Poor performance vs. New Orleans= L
Sluggish performance vs. Minnesota=W
This horrendous performance @ Houston=L
(maybe the worst in years)

The trend is becoming the norm.
There were many who played their worst game.
Matt Ryan was one of them for sure.
It’s time to turn this around or no matter what happens…
We aint doing anything in the post season. IF, we get there.

dawg tired

December 4th, 2011
7:34 pm

#2 played like #2.

OneBourbonOneScotchandoneBeer

December 4th, 2011
7:35 pm

Matt cant throw and Roddy, Julio and Tony cant catch. I think they should give their paychecks to charity this week because they sure did not earn them. A delay of game penalty on 4th and 1 is just !@#$%^%&*&*((((( I cant even think of the words to say how bad that was!!!!!!!!

Nate

December 4th, 2011
7:35 pm

The offense play calling is bad and the execution is even worse. The defense couldn’t stop them on 3rd and long several times. This is not a playoff team but they got lucky with dallas and chic losing and the giants about to lose too. For so many weapons on offense, this team really stinks.

Master P

December 4th, 2011
7:35 pm

Come on dude, I realize the Texans have never done anything, I respect that, but you were pretty hard on them. Yes, Atlanta was favored by a couple, but remember the Texans number one defense? Your article failed to mention the pressure the defense put on Ryan or the solid job against the limited running opportunities. Falcons Fans, I hope you get in and go deep in the playoffs. I too hate the s’AINTS.

chipper's ACL

December 4th, 2011
7:36 pm

The trade for Jones has changed the face of the team. What once was a dominate run team must change to a passing team with his presence. Right now they look lost. No blocking. No tackling. If they make the playoffs they will for sure be one and done.

mike mularkey

December 4th, 2011
7:37 pm

enjoy this conservative offense you complainers because thats all im calling what do u expect the qb cant throw down the field

Richt's game plan dissolved into crud

December 4th, 2011
7:38 pm

Great point, Ryan has reached his ceiling. Cant throw deep. Not mobile enough for this threadbare offensive line.

Julio is a liability. Only good game vs Colts. Otherwise, we play better without him. Laurent Robinson making plays in Dallas, we let him walk. We gave up farm for Julio and it wasn’t worth it.

Anybody gonna blame Thomas Dimitroff?

Angus

December 4th, 2011
7:39 pm

Not to excuse or dismiss Ryan’s lack-luster day, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a worse wide receiver(s) performance.

Dawgs Man

December 4th, 2011
7:39 pm

Why did anyone think that this loser of a team could beat Houston on the road. It was obvious to me before the game started that we would lose. We have “noodle arm” Ryan and “no yards and a cloud of dust” Turner and “couldn’t make ice water from a mix” Julio in the game.

KJ

December 4th, 2011
7:39 pm

And on the final drive julio doesn’t even get back??? Where is his head???

Ed

December 4th, 2011
7:41 pm

Watch the pack show you how it’s done. Not the loser falcants.

stendek

December 4th, 2011
7:42 pm

I had had my fill. Will continue to monitor Falcons since I have since 1966 but now want Saints in. Always proud to see a team leave everything on field. Falcons do not! I have watched the Falcons faithfully since 1966. During that time I have never seen a Falcon offense as heartless as this one. Every offensive player except Tony Gonzalez. Matt Ryan is a waste. He had two decent passes (to teammates) with Julio Jones catching one at the Texan 4 to set up TD then dropping the other in the end zone on the final play. Yes, I did say drop. Sort of in the vein of Roddy White the master dropsman. Michal Turner has become a bad joke. A slow one at that. As many passes as MR threw into the arms of Texans one would think he is five feet tall. Inexcusable. The defense scored twice with both TDs being wiped out. Guess they knew the offense was absent without leave. One erased when idiot Falcons came onto field. Other one personally taken off board by Donothing Robinson. Only defensive player who does not give a rat’s backside about winning. Rest of defenders played their hearts out. This loss CANNOT be laid on their shoulders. Long drive by first year Texan QB unfortunate but what did offense do in support? Not a blasted thing. Falcons lack heart for playoffs. No sense of urgency. No clue. No hope. May having winning record but MR will continue to regress. Terribly. Still think Brett Favre should be brought in. At least he can get the ball to wide open receivers. Something MR has never been able to do. Go Saints! I love a team that tries hard every time out. :)

Falcs

December 4th, 2011
7:42 pm

How come GB and other team receivers get open and ours rarely do and if they do the ball is thrown badly.

ijonathan

December 4th, 2011
7:43 pm

It is refreshing to watch receivers like Nelson and Driver, you know, real, professional, NFL caliber receivers who can catch tough sideline passess, stay in bounds, etc. Maybe it’s the dredlocks.

Oh, and a few weeks ago I compared Ryan to Eli Manning. My humblest apologies to Eli. I was wrong.

tmc

December 4th, 2011
7:44 pm

that’s 5 of 12 games where the Falcons have played very poorly. Some we won and some we lost. There were many stretches in other games where the execution was poor, but not for the entire game.
( i was generous only naming 5).

This team & coaching staff has struggled all year.
Last year’s ending was disappointing.
This year’s season is not much better.

This is Mularkey

December 4th, 2011
7:45 pm

Rodgers makes game-winning drives in hostile environments look so easy.

J.J.M.

December 4th, 2011
7:45 pm

did you see how quickly aaron rogers got the ball down the field just now!!!!

Najeh Davenpoop

December 4th, 2011
7:46 pm

14 carries for Turner, 47 pass attempts for Ryan. When your best offensive player doesn’t touch the ball, the offense will sputter.

It’s not Julio’s fault entirely, but when he’s been healthy this year the Falcons have gotten away from their smash mouth roots and put the offense in Ryan’s hands, mostly to their detriment.

Turner is still the horse on this team. The Falcons would be well served not to forget that.

Najeh Davenpoop

December 4th, 2011
7:46 pm

14 carries for Turner, 47 pass attempts for Ryan. When your best offensive player doesn’t touch the ball, the offense will sputter.

It’s not Julio’s fault entirely, but when he’s been healthy this year the Falcons have gotten away from their smash mouth roots and put the offense in Ryan’s hands, mostly to their detriment.

Najeh Davenpoop

December 4th, 2011
7:47 pm

It’s not Julio’s fault entirely, but when he’s been healthy this year the Falcons have gotten away from their smash mouth roots and put the offense in Ryan’s hands, mostly to their detriment. 14 carries for Turner, 47 pass attempts for Ryan.

Turner is still the horse on this team. The Falcons would be well served not to forget that.