Falcons’ flaws aren’t worse than any other NFL team

Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff will take their team's 8-1 record, flaws and all. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff will take their team's 8-1 record, flaws and all. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH – This is the way the season has gone for the Falcons. They win games, and people find flaws. They finally lose a game, and people scream, “Aha!”

As if the struggles of the running game, or the instability of the run defense, or the fact that Ray Edwards too often seemed more passionate about conquering the art of modeling than the art of a tackle should come as any surprise.

The Falcons have flaws, but so does every team, and they’re not going away. This is the NFL. Rosters don’t morph significantly during the season. The league has a salary cap. There is little roster flexibility. Unlike baseball, there aren’t pyrotechnics at the trade deadline. Once a season starts, the best a team can hope for is that a backup evolves and contributes more than expected, or a player released by another team can fill a void, or that drop-kicking a high-profile veteran like Edwards gets everybody’s attention.

But from September to January (playoffs included), strengths, weaknesses and perceptions generally don’t change much. In the Falcons’ case, perceptions are that they’re not an overly physical team, they can’t even convert third-and-1’s, and therefore they’re not going to be a great team down the stretch or in the postseason.

So much for basking in 8-1.

“If the NFL had rankings like college football, we’d be last,” safety William Moore mused. “Because we don’t get the love. We can win a million games, but we’d be like Boise State. Maybe they’d give us a decent bowl game. … I like Shreveport.”

With their options limited, credit the Falcons for cutting Edwards. It was a bold decision, even if it meant admitting they goofed by signing him. It says a lot about the player (in terms of how far Edwards had fallen) and the team’s mindset (believing releasing him was addition by subtraction). There is no financial benefit to cutting Edwards now. He’ll still get his $11 million guaranteed. The Falcons merely came to the realization that he was dragging them down, whether in performance, attitude or both.

The damning analysis from coach Mike Smith: “We did it to make our football team better today and in the future.”

This about a player that the organization was going gaga over seemingly five minutes ago.

Edwards couldn’t rush the passer. He couldn’t defend the run. He wasn’t nearly as versatile or athletic as one might think for a guy who so proudly showed off his abs in his 2012 modeling calendar (12 months, 12 poses). Younger, cheaper, hungrier players with a pulse were better options.

Everybody realized the Falcons would not be a great power-running team this season, despite the team’s continuous, “We will be a power-running team” declarations. Michael Turner showed signs of slowing down last season. He’s not running behind an overly physical offensive line. The new offensive scheme clearly would maximize the team’s main talents.

At some point, one would think the Falcons will be able to figure out how to convert a third-and-1.

Offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said, “I still think we have a chance to be a good short-yardage team. It’s not that we aren’t blocking well, we’re just not blocking the right people.”

As flaws go, that would seem to be a correctable one.

Everybody has issues. New England ranks 29th in pass defense, and it lost at home to Arizona. Pittsburgh lost to Oakland and Tennessee. Also, Ben Roethlisberger feels like a piano just fell on him. Chicago has one of the worst offenses in the league (28th), punctuated by one of the worst passing attacks (30th). The mean, nasty, rip-your-head-off Baltimore Ravens? They rank 27th in total defense.

In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers has been sacked more times (29) than any other quarterback. San Francisco’s offense is led by … Alex Smith. And they lost to Minnesota. Houston: Solid overall but not a great passing attack. Eli Manning has 11 interceptions — right between Cam Newton (10) and Brandon Weeden (12) — and has lost to three teams with losing records (Philadelphia, Dallas, Cincinnati).

None of this makes the Falcons better, it just illustrates that every team has to overcome something. We know the Falcons’ flaws. But 8-1 and flawed isn’t a bad place to be.

By Jeff Schultz

195 comments Add your comment

JSS

November 14th, 2012
6:01 pm

But here’s the difference Jeff Schultz, all of the teams that you mentioned do not have the Falcons psyche of doubt! Even Baltimore and San Francisco can call on a little thing called: “we’ve won in the playoffs before.”

JSS

November 14th, 2012
6:06 pm

Being realistic, their only hope is that they run into a team like Arizona which has absolutely no running game or a team like the Cowboys which just lacks an identity… Do that, and then possibly win your 1st playoff game, that will please the opium takers…

True Falcon Fan

November 14th, 2012
6:13 pm

Foresure you’ve got one statement right “You being ONE that knows all about opium”! ;)

“Goofy” again at it’s best!

Go back to SF or was it LA — jus go away!

Go Falcons — Cardinals next

True Falcon Fan

November 14th, 2012
6:15 pm

Hey Jeff, very good commentary! Thanks

okeetee

November 14th, 2012
6:16 pm

….not only is EVERY team flawed……but every team has SERIOUS flaws! I mean so serious as to be exploitable by sub .500 teams! Yes, we are flawed. But in a passing league that caters to the passing game…..we are in very good shape! Plus, with our remaining schedule and with no serious injuries……whatever flaws we have will have to be exploited on our turf! Sometimes flaws can be masked and even overcome…..when your playing at home!

JSS

November 14th, 2012
6:18 pm

Ah, the idiot who calls out people when they are on vacation rears his head over the railing of his booster seat…

Tell the attendant to wipe your face, you’re drooling on the keyboard…

True Falcon Fan

November 14th, 2012
6:24 pm

Hell your buddies said you died went to hell and meant your maker…..My guess is you escaped and now on the run!

Bills fan

November 14th, 2012
6:26 pm

Sometimes “who wants it more” is what it comes down to with parity being what it is.

Some good points about having won a playoff game, but then some greats like Elway and Manning took awhile befoer winning the SB.

Somehow these Falcons have learned how to win most games. Let’s give them credit. Some teams never learn what it takes to win. As long as there are vets like Gonzales and McClure and Abraham this team is not going to get soft in that dept. This has been a good ride so far. Some cities have that “12th man” homefield advantage. Let’s get behind these Falcons and root them on past their shortcomings instead of picking them apart. It can be the difference maker.

Falcon Mania

November 14th, 2012
6:27 pm

True Falcon Fan

November 14th, 2012
6:28 pm

Re: drooling, that’s foresure something that you know more about than me! How’s momma, she still care of you???? ;)

UGA ECONOMICS MAJOR

November 14th, 2012
6:31 pm

falcons are still a good team //i just hate however of all teams to lose to the lost to the most hated team in atlanta history…those NEW ORLEANS CAINTS….I HATE THEM WITH A DEEP PASSION

old fart

November 14th, 2012
6:32 pm

Come on. Give it a rest. The Falcons will go 13-3 for the season.

Falcon Mania

November 14th, 2012
6:33 pm

The the best team in the NFC, period.

Falcon Mania

November 14th, 2012
6:34 pm

I agree with Roddy.

Falcons RiseUp

November 14th, 2012
6:37 pm

We need to start our upcoming players like Antone Smith as RB using Rodgers on play action & bootlegs use Snelling on goal line & short yardage but start Turner

True Falcon Fan

November 14th, 2012
6:41 pm

I was driving my BIG rig thru Canton, Ga in fact stopped by the pawn shop ole Ben stated he hadn’t seen you yet? But he sure has been look for you….. ;)

Justin

November 14th, 2012
7:08 pm

Run Antoine Smith at RB. Let’s see what he’s got. He can’t be any worse than Turner. Let Jason Snelling tote the rock if we want a bigger, phyiscal bac. Snelling is 244 lbs himself.

Tell it like it is.

November 14th, 2012
7:10 pm

Falcon Mania–make that 14-2 we still have to play the Saints again!

Gman 84

November 14th, 2012
7:18 pm

Couldn’t agree more. Every team scrapes a few out against lesser foes. The ones that survive are the one’s there at the end.

Loved it a few weeks back when the Bears barely got by Carolina and the media narrative centered on their “great” defense. Give me a break.

BTW the short yardage failures vs the Saints were well documented but I found it amazing that they almost pulled it out with 16 seconds left. The pass to White was there had he untangled himself.

Gman 84

November 14th, 2012
7:18 pm

Couldn’t agree more. Every team scrapes a few out against lesser foes. The ones that survive are the one’s there at the end.

Loved it a few weeks back when the Bears barely got by Carolina and the media narrative centered on their “great” defense. Give me a break.

BTW the short yardage failures vs the Saints were well documented but I found it amazing that they almost pulled it out with 16 seconds left. The pass to White was there had he untangled himself.

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:20 pm

TFF, seriously how is it to be the most geographically illiterate blogger in the history of AJC blogs?

The only CDL you have is the one that comes with a Hot Wheels set…

I thought about at about 11:35P on November 6th, I could do is smile… Oh wait, then came Sunday, what a welcome back present… Friendly reminder, K-M-B-A just as I promised!

Athens Tider

November 14th, 2012
7:22 pm

The Falcons have won in the playoffs before, just not in the last three years. The Falcons have won 0 Super Bowls and the Saints have won 1. It’s amazing that this difference of 1 game in 46 years somehow makes the Saints winners and the Falcons losers.

Also, regular season games count. Whose team would you rather have – Houston, who’s never won a Super Bowl, or Dallas, who’s won several but not 1 this century?

Fan since 66

November 14th, 2012
7:24 pm

Very good observations Jeff. I think everyone is just jaded by the past post season busts. I find it humorous that you can tell the real, long-time fans by their reaction to the team this year. Yes, we have had some terrible, and I mean terrible, showings in the Playoffs. Even I turned off the game last year against the Giants and went for a walk at the lake with the dogs. But the true fan is able to see the maturation of this team from year to year under the leadership of Dimitroff and CMS. I sense a cool, calm confidence in the players this year that I don’t recall ever seeing. I found it funny also that the national sports media went almost gaga after the loss to the “Aints”. You woulda thought we lost by 30 points. All things considered, I remember the horrendous record of the Braves in the MLB playoffs prior to the 90’s. Makes me think that some things can change! Guess time will tell. Go Falcons!

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
7:25 pm

Hey look a familiar sight, our friend is back. How was your hiatus?

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:26 pm

Oh let me clean this up before Malibu Trailer Park Ken has a stroke…
“TFF, seriously how is it to be the most geographically illiterate blogger in the history of AJC blogs? Yep correct…

The only CDL you have is the one that comes with a Hot Wheels set…
Yep correct..

I thought about (you) at about 11:35P on November 6th, (and all) I could do is smile… Oh wait, then came Sunday, what a welcome back present… (Here’s a ) Friendly reminder (for you), K-M-B-A just as I promised!”

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:28 pm

Mexico was great, the wife-to-be is great, and the future is bright!

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
7:31 pm

The Falcons will be alright. One loss isnt the end of the world. No team has been perfect since 72. Im not gonna push the panic button just yet. The loss on Sunday just added a 1 in the L column, everything else remained the same. Still first in the NFCS and the NFC. We will make the playoffs and thats where everything needs to come together, till then every week is just a practice for the playoffs.

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:33 pm

Pssst, sorry but the Texans have won a playoff game (recently)… Nobody wants to be the Cowboys right now except for possibly Detroit or the Eagles… Let’s see what they look like if Murray gets back and if he stays healthy…

Fan since 66

November 14th, 2012
7:35 pm

Even though I shouldn’t do this…JSS, you are obviously in need of a real life. I come on this blog because, most of all, I love my Falcons. Jeff is a talented, very knowledgeable sports writer and I respect his insight. You, on the other hand, are either someone who is paid by Jeff to rile up the readership, or someone who is just pathetic. You can’t respond to anyone in a civil, intelligent manner. You just slam anyone who disagrees with your opinion, usually with a baseless, demeaning attitude. I respect anyone’s right to not like the Falcons, to think they are the worst team in the history of the NFL, and to expect them to lose every playoff game for eternity. However, I don’t think that gives you the right to downright disrespect people. How about it? Give it a break. If you can’t be civil…go somewhere else.
Go Falcons!

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
7:35 pm

Mexico huh? Sounds good. I have yet to grace Mexico with my presence, but I will soon. I went to see our friends north of the border over the summer and things are much calmer over there. I enjoyed it. Canada is my preferred choice if the USA doesn’t work out.

Falcons Chic

November 14th, 2012
7:39 pm

Things would look a lot different right now if MR2 had happend to see Tony G open in the right side of the end zone before he tried to force that pass to Roddy White at the back of the endzone.

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:40 pm

Be careful, Clusters might pop up and remind y’all that the Braves haven’t advanced since 2001 out of the opening round… You may want to tie your horse somewhere else!

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:43 pm

Canada is fantastic, but they have socialized healthcare and actually pay income taxes… Why you running there?

Try Owens Sound, Ontario, it is a gem!

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
7:43 pm

I dont understand this obsession with playoff wins only. Jim Kelly and his boys had plenty of playoff wins in the 90s but none of them are beating their chest over them. Playoff wins mean nothing without Superbowl wins, but no one seems to stress that around here. Only one QB has been close to a SB win for the Falcons, Chris Chandler. None of the others have. I believe Ryan gives us the best chance since Chandler to get to and win the big dance.

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
7:44 pm

Socialism is the least of my concerns. Its the other side the scares me..

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
7:46 pm

@Falcons chic,

Ryan had no time on that 4th and goal play. He barely got the pass out to Roddy

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:47 pm

66, you need to take your “civil” comment and try it on yourself and that idiot pretending to have some insight into my outside life…

And just so “you” know, I had 25 days of a “real life” and never did I lose a moment of realization or relaxation worrying about your ilk!

Enjoy!!! Now go elsewhere!

Fan since 66

November 14th, 2012
7:49 pm

Dude, you miss the point entirely… makes me think that you aren’t paid by Jeff, but just downright dense. The point was that the Braves had a history of losing any playoffs they happened to get into prior to the 90’s. But after that, they regularly advanced past the first round. I’m just saying that maybe you shouldn’t “tie your horse” on the past record of the Falcons. Believe it or not, things sometimes change…unlike your incessant posts slamming everyone who disagrees with you. Get a life man!
Go Falcons!

PHL Falcons Fan

November 14th, 2012
7:50 pm

I know it’s a stretch, but isn’t there somebody on the street or a practice squad we could pick up who is better than Turner?

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:51 pm

Well you’ll love Canada, beautiful folks and country…

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:53 pm

I never said the Falcons are the “worst team” in history… That is your agenda talking, they’ll be playing that team on Sunday…

Fan since 66

November 14th, 2012
7:58 pm

@PHL Falcons Fan I think we already have a couple of good prospects. Antone Smith and Jason Snelling couldn’t do any worse. I agree that the line didn’t provide much of a hole for Turner on Sunday, but it appears that he is hesitating more and more at the line. You just can’t do that with his (lack of) speed. He’s more suited for late in the game after the d line is worn out. Then we could pound him in. Just my observations.
Go Falcons!

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
7:58 pm

So many starting QB’s went down last week. Im glad the injury bug didn’t hit the Falcons too hard this year.

JSS

November 14th, 2012
7:59 pm

The Braves had a history of losing in Atlanta post 1974… They were self-inflicted bad… When you give up Dusty Baker, Andre Thornton, Darrell Evans, and countless MLB prospects for folks like Frank Tepidino you deserve to be bad…

Mora less Petrino

November 14th, 2012
8:03 pm

Every team has issues. It’s easy to see your team’s shortcomings, but you mostly just see the highlights of other teams. There are 30 teams that would like to have the Falcons record right now.
Simply my opinion, but the only teams with a real shot to win the NFC are Atlanta, Chicago, Green Bay, San Francisco, NY Giants, and Tampa is looking good of late. All of those teams have shortcomings, but one will go to the Super Bowl.
Good article!

JSS

November 14th, 2012
8:03 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
Where’s my direct deposit? You’ve been holding out on me… Wayne Brady don’t like that!

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
8:05 pm

Whatever happend to MCR? I miss his/her daily drivel.

JSS

November 14th, 2012
8:07 pm

Never gets old… Won’t make it past the filters

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
8:08 pm

@ moral less pertino

The Saints are beginning to sniff the postseason too. We cant let them get hot. We have to beat them in 2 weeks.

atlfalconsfan0125

November 14th, 2012
8:10 pm

The finally got MCR…I figured it was about time. It was still a comic relief.