Loss of Brent Grimes doesn’t have to derail Falcons’ season

Falcons coach Mike Smith can't let his team go into a funk over the loss of cornerback Brent Grimes. (AP photo)

Falcons coach Mike Smith knows his team can't go into a funk over the loss of cornerback Brent Grimes. (AP photo)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Lawrence Taylor spent his career terrorizing and sometimes mangling opposing quarterbacks. But even he, the assailant, couldn’t avoid the physical residue of his profession.

“When you get old, everything is hurting,” Taylor said. “When I get up in the morning, it sounds like I’m making popcorn.”

Football is a brutal sport. No player goes through a season without an injury. The only question is whether that ailment involves a broken bone or a shredded ligament, something that can’t be merely iced, duct-taped or sufficiently numbed for the following week’s game. When there’s only 16 of them, the words “can’t play” are avoided at all costs.

Brent Grimes suffered one of those injuries. A torn Achilles not only ends an athlete’s season, it can be career-threatening, particularly for a relative Munchkin cornerback who makes his living running and jumping.

Personally, it’s devastating for Grimes, a player on a one-year contract who was headed for free agency after the season. The question is what it does to the team.

Here’s the answer: If losing Grimes derails the Falcons’ hopes for a special season, they never were going anywhere, anyway.

That’s not a knock on Grimes. He probably was their third-most important defensive player and maybe ranked second only to John Abraham (while just ahead or behind Sean Weatherspoon). But NFL teams lose players every week. The Green Bay Packers lost over a dozen players to injured reserve  two years ago when they won the Super Bowl. Among the notable casualties: running back Ryan Grant, tight end Jermichael Finley, offensive tackle Mark Tauscher, linebacker Nick Barnett, safety Morgan Burnett and defensive end Justin Harrell.

Dunta Robinson, who returns to starting role, said Falcons can use Packers as an example for overcoming injuries. (AP photo)

Dunta Robinson, who returns as starter, said the Packers can be used as example for overcoming injuries. (AP photo)

“Even though Green Bay is a rival, you have to look at that and say, ‘If they can do it, we can do it,’” said Dunta Robinson, who will return as a starting cornerback in the base defense. “When you lose a key player like we did, people can make a lot of excuses and say things like, ‘Things didn’t go well, and this is why.’ But no team goes into a season and thinks, ‘This is how it’s going to play out from Week 1 to Week 17.’

“We play a fast, physical sport. Guys are going to go down. You can’t prepare for when, but you know it’s going to happen. You can’t come in and make excuses because you know what you’re going to get in this league.”

The loss of Grimes will test Thomas Dimitroff. Every personnel guy has an “on-deck list” — street free agents and players on 31 other practice squad. It also will test the coaching staff, particularly Mike Smith (for attitude) and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (for scheme).

An NFL team’s season is defined by how it reacts to adversity. Whether the Falcons come together or fizzle will indicate something about their makeup and mental toughness. Smith believes he has a resilient team. But the Falcons’ lack of consistency in 2011 might have been an indication of problems with focus and mental toughness. So what happens now?

“We’ve been through a lot even since I’ve been here,” linebacker Mike Peterson said. “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of talking about this, or guys moping about it. We’re going to miss Brent. But this just means everybody else has to turn it up that much more.”

Center Todd McClure added: “Smitty always talks about it: Everybody’s roles are always changing, and they just changed for somebody over there. But [acquiring Asante] Samuel in the offseason kind of prepared us for this, so we have a little flexibility.”

Late in the 2o1o season, Green Bay linebacker Desmond Bishop told ESPN.com: “I think I read an article a while ago where someone called us the no-name defense. I kind of took that a little personal. … No matter who’s in there, we kind of get plugged into one power source. We go out there as one.”

The Packers went on to win the Super Bowl. It wasn’t just because they had Aaron Rodgers. They had a toughness, even arrogance, that’s needed to win a championship. We’re about the find out if the Falcons have that.

By Jeff Schultz

Recent past episodes (no charge):

Video blog: On Brent Grimes, Falcons’ offense and some early picks

Falcons finally show an offense worthy of their talent

Short takes: 3 thoughts on Falcons’ win over Chiefs

Short takes: 3 thoughts on Georgia’s win over Missouri

Georgia starts slow, then writes the winning script

Georgia needs to avoid playing catch-up in SEC again

Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Falcons win, and a ‘Sack Schultz’ video update

Falcons, Smith going to amusing extremes to get an edge

Chipper Jones provides Braves with a needed miracle

Has Georgia duped us again, or was this just a hiccup?

Fredi Gonzalez knows if Braves fizzle, he’ll be one to catch heat

77 comments Add your comment

Andy

September 11th, 2012
4:02 pm

Your zeros are o’s in 2010 (second to last paragraph). It’s cute, but probably not what you were going for.

Post-It

September 11th, 2012
4:23 pm

Wow, Andy. Great article by Jeff and that’s the only thing you can comment on?

Add me to the list of optimistic fans who think this injury will pull the team closer together. They certainly didn’t get tested by too much adversity from the Chiefs on Sunday!

mountain_jim

September 11th, 2012
4:25 pm

Good column. Hope Dunta and Owens can improve under Nolan’s leadership.

Wish Walls had not gotten hurt and released.

Big Crimson 75

September 11th, 2012
4:28 pm

It’s not like Abe or Spoon got hurt.
Their the only 2 Falcons that play defense anyway.

Andy

September 11th, 2012
4:28 pm

Sorry Post-It. Wasn’t meant as a jab, just trying to help Jeff out.

Uh oh Thomi Dimi Hair Gel

September 11th, 2012
4:29 pm

The pass D got eaten up by Matt Cassel ?!?!

Peyton is coming to town !!!!

Grimes goes down !!?!?!?!

Uh-Oh

Post-It

September 11th, 2012
4:29 pm

We know Owens can fly. I think he just needs to speed up the synapses a bit.

Post-It

September 11th, 2012
4:32 pm

Now worries, Andy. Half the time Seen the Saints troll manages to post first on these blogs. Just like to see something positive from a Falcons fan every now and then.

Post-It

September 11th, 2012
4:52 pm

He’s listed at 5′9″ so it’ll feel like Grimes is still out there.

Post-It

September 11th, 2012
4:53 pm

Terrence Johnson, that is.

Ricnic

September 11th, 2012
4:55 pm

All we gotta do is get in Mannings face and stay there. He’s just like anyone else you hit him and pressure him he will make bad throws. A tipped pass and couple pick sixes and Falcons win 40 to 28.

Lakewood

September 11th, 2012
5:33 pm

It is what it is. Injury’s happen, thus is life in the NFL. I think they will be OK. It provides a great opportunity for other guys to step up. Wouldn’t it be great if Franks turns into a stud? After originally being cut that would turn into a great story. Owen’s really scares me out there but you just have to hope that Nolan provides some direction that Van Gorder surely did not.

As they always say, a solid pass rush can mask a mediocre secondary. Time for the boys up front to step up!

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

September 11th, 2012
5:49 pm

Well it’s kind of hard to derail something that was delusional from the start :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

September 11th, 2012
5:50 pm

Man that Flacco throws a pretty deep ball…..but hey, the Falcants have a 72 million dink & dunk specialist :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

September 11th, 2012
5:53 pm

So Peyton is coming to town to remind America about the Green Bay beat down and the Giants massacre.

Better get your popcorn and kleenex ready because Peyton is going to have a field day :)

Go Jackets

September 11th, 2012
6:28 pm

Too bad….soo sad…..shoulda payed attention in his REAL classes.

Kirk

September 11th, 2012
6:32 pm

@MCR

Do you always have to act like a twelve year old?

P B Orr

September 11th, 2012
6:40 pm

The key players on the Falcons D, even before the injury, were Nicholas and Grimes – the first to fill in for the missing Lofton, who always led the team in tackles, and the latter because unless the Falcons bring some safety blitzes, they are going to get torched again and again. Bringing the safety will free up Abraham and the other D-linemen to wreak their own havoc. So nothing has really changed. By season’s end, the most beloved D-man for these Birds will be William Moore, a genuine hard-nose who can smell the football.

P B Orr

September 11th, 2012
6:41 pm

Sorry Nicholas and Moore (not Grimes).

FootballTopFan

September 11th, 2012
7:15 pm

Brent Grimes is a great player. His defensive and pass coverage ability are unquestionable. Football Top Fan and Atlanta Falcons fans wish him a healthy and speedy recovery.

Pro football teams are always facing injuries and obstacles. The Atlanta Falcons will replace him and continue to win.

Go FALCONS ! ! ! ! !

j

September 11th, 2012
7:20 pm

hope someone steps up. we were gonna rely on a strong secondary this yr…

Reality

September 11th, 2012
7:26 pm

“Choke” you’re the only one missing MV7. Bet Philly would take Ryan over Vick in a heartbeat. Your obsession year end and year out can not be healthy

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Matt "asphyxiate" Ryan

September 11th, 2012
8:01 pm

Matt Schaub throws the deep ball so much better than noodle. Falcons paid big money to dink and dunk….TD…you have the wrong Matt!!!

Matt "asphyxiate" Ryan

September 11th, 2012
8:02 pm

Matt Schaub throws the deep ball so much better than noodle. Falcons paid big money to dink and dunk….TD…you have the wrong Matt!!! …..

JSS

September 11th, 2012
9:00 pm

Love these people minimizing Grimes… Grimes was the only full tool Falcons corner… Even for his size he’d at least run support and rarely miss… He could play zone and press man… He might get posted up in the slant passing game but that was generally when LBs didn’t drop in the routes properly… And Grimes rarely was run away from unless DeCoud was caught gambling as usual…

JSS

September 11th, 2012
9:02 pm

Jeff Schultz, big difference, the Packers stocked the “2010″ defense with depth that made their surviving the loss of players possible…

Hobbler

September 11th, 2012
9:04 pm

I love the replacement Officials. A lot better than the Originals. Let em play.

Falcons cornerbacks roasting on an open fire...

September 11th, 2012
9:08 pm

Falcons lose 37-10. Franchise, and fan base get a long, cold, taste of reality…

:)

falCANS

September 11th, 2012
9:37 pm

HUGE LOSS but glad to finally see Grimes get his due props. Hands down top 5 corner. Personally have him at #2 behind Revis

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

September 11th, 2012
9:40 pm

Reality

September 11th, 2012
7:26 pm
“Choke” you’re the only one missing MV7. Bet Philly would take Ryan over Vick in a heartbeat. Your obsession year end and year out can not be healthy

__________________________________________

I miss Flacco & his 5 playoff wins.

Philly doesn’t need another clipboard holder :)

Samuel

September 11th, 2012
9:42 pm

That’s why this game will show if their mental toughness is better than previous years. You have to have a mindset of next man up. You know the rub, everybody do their job….

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

September 11th, 2012
9:43 pm

It’s a damn shame it’s been 9 years and no playoff win and you losers are okay with that.

If CHOKE was in another City he would have been benched for getting shutout in the playoffs. Pathetic :)

[...] – who made the Pro Bowl in 2010 – was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. While this article makes the case that the Falcons defense can withstand this loss, it will certainly put added [...]

falCANS

September 11th, 2012
9:48 pm

@JSS exactly. Grimes basically shut his man down eve

falCANS

September 11th, 2012
9:56 pm

Grimes shut down his man EVERY GAME!! This is huge. Daunte is a liability at besr. Assante looked pretty good but he isnt shutdown. Its on our safeties now and get takeaways. The rpass rush is wat it is . Dent obviously isnt the answer at MLB. Spoon fotta tighten up in coverage. Hope Daunte goes inside in nickel packages. Franks > Owens

MaxxFalcon

September 11th, 2012
10:21 pm

Anyone who has anything bad to say about Matt Ryan after Sunday did not watch that game and clearly knows nothing about football!! What a joke!

BigHittas

September 11th, 2012
10:58 pm

I hate that Optimus Grimes is out for the year, I just hope he can come back next year. It does concern me though that 21 is already being mentioned as last year he would’ve had a difficult time covering my grandma riding on her wheels from the Scooter store.
DaCoupe does nothing to ease fears or instill confidence. He routinely misses regular pass routes that most decent safeties cover. The big money guy we got from Houston to play CB is just scared, plain and simple. Watch him play….he always seems to back off and play 10 yds off the receiver.
I really hope the O is better and we can outscore folks. That’s really how the Pack did it.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

September 11th, 2012
11:14 pm

Joe Flacco sure throws a pretty deep ball :)

Fred Macmurray

September 11th, 2012
11:14 pm

Sorry MCR,, didnt watch the game you speek of,, so it really doesnt matter to me,, Matty Ice had the highest QB rating this week,, lets see what happens next week, should be interesting,,

MCR is Stupid

September 11th, 2012
11:16 pm

MCr,, i hear you throw a pretty good deep ball yourself

Fred Macmurray

September 11th, 2012
11:19 pm

JSS,, Grimes is really good,, to down play that is stupid,,, he will be missed,, the question is can somebody step up,, we shall see,,,

Dee

September 11th, 2012
11:23 pm

I like this article for a couple of reasons. Reason 1: there seems to be something special in the air this year. These coaches seem to actually have a plan. We have never seen an offense like Sunday, or a defense that made half time adjustments. (weird huh?) It’s early, so let’s temper that with a wait and see. Reason 2: Grimes is a helluva player, but if we are serious…as stated, we got to be able to overcome and some cat on the bench WILL have to step up and show he is a PLAYER. Great teams in the NFL do it all the time!! The talent on this team compared to 2010 does not compare. It seems now we have the coaches to help our players realize they are champions.
I like what our front office is doing. If you put all the ingredients in a apple pie then cook it the right amount of time…guess what happens? (U git a pie fool) The birds have the right ingredients.
I may be tripping…but it’s ALL birds ALL the time on my side!
Go Birds!
D

UknowWhat?

September 11th, 2012
11:57 pm

Ryan will have to run the “no huddle” against the “no huddle Payton Manning, just to keep up with the Broncos. Now-enter the running game to keep Payton off of the field. I don’t know what’s wrong with M. Turner or the O-line when it comes to running, but it may be a combination of the O-line and the lack of a decent fullback. Sure thing is-Atlanta won’t be depending on their running game a whole lot.

panic fan

September 12th, 2012
1:55 am

They said the airplane would not fly and the train would not stay on the track well we see how that turned out still got the plane and now its a 200mph train this will be fun to watch how we prove this theory in 2012 AINT LIFE GRAND!!

Reality

September 12th, 2012
2:17 am

Based on 45 yaers of futility, Falcons will fail this test.

The Falcons put their all-time-worst MNF winning percentage on the line against Peyton Manning Monday with a new cornerback. Jackpot!!

falCANS

September 12th, 2012
6:22 am

We can win the shootout tho. Off vs. Off. Will be interesting to see if they let Champ & Julio go 1 on 1 & double Roddy

Stepchild

September 12th, 2012
7:54 am

I don’t know that I would double Roddy, he won’t run away from anyone. I would give safety help over the top of Julio and go 1 on 1 vs Roddy. Although he will probably drop 1 or 2 passes anyway.

Nativebird

September 12th, 2012
8:08 am

Agreed. If a BRENT GRIMES injury craters this team? Are you kidding me? This topic, this injury: yeah okay, would have preferred to have Grimes, but collapsing on this? The question itself is a little over the top dont you think, I mean Brent Grimes? Sure he’s a good little player, but the team derailing? Must be a slow day at the AJC.

Say It Aint So

September 12th, 2012
8:10 am

Redskins 40
Saints 32