Falcons give performance to leave us wondering again




DeAngelo Williams' 53-yard touchdown off a screen pass buried the Falcons late. (AP photo)

DeAngelo Williams' 53-yard touchdown off a screen pass buried the Falcons late. (AP photo)

CHARLOTTE – It started with the Carolina Panthers winning the coin flip for the first time this season. It ended with the Falcons being trash-talked off the field by a last-place team. Somewhere in between, we witnessed Atlanta’s worst four quarters of football of the season.

And the Falcons’ deserved it all – the loss, the mocking, the questions about what this means moving forward.

“I can hear everybody right now,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “They’re getting off the bandwagon. I can hear them jumping off. Looking at our history, people are going to go, ‘See, I told you.’”

OK. It’s a little premature for I-told-you-sos. The Falcons haven’t lost a playoff game yet. But it has to be concerning when an 11-1 team falls behind 23-0 to a 3-9 team, and at one point finds itself being outgained 356-66. It’s concerning any time a defensive front is so thoroughly shredded the way the Falcons’ front was Sunday, and the offense can’t run the ball (again), and all hopes of opening the regular season’s final month with an impressive win are emphatically squashed.

Cam Newton account for 403 yards and three touchdowns. (AP photo)

Cam Newton account for 403 yards and three touchdowns passing and rushing. (AP photo)

The Falcons lost 30-20 to Carolina. They managed to make Cam Newton feel like he was back at Auburn again.

If Newton could combine for 403 yards and three touchdowns with his arm and legs in victories every week, media members wouldn’t be hiding behind potted palms and waiting for anonymous quotes that rip him for being petty, immature and ego-maniacal (just paraphrasing the attack pieces).

The fact the Falcons lost a game in itself isn’t devastating. They’re 11-2. They’ve already clinched the NFC South Division and remain in a strong position to clinch home field through the NFC playoffs.

But Gonzalez is correct: This was like feeding steroids to a doubting public.

Next week’s game against the New York Giants will tell us something. The Falcons find themselves having to rebound, physically and emotionally, against the team that drop-kicked them out of the playoffs last year.

“We all knew we were flat,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “It seemed like every time there was a play to be made, we were almost there. You can’t be almost in this league.

“We get a chance to go after some guys who controlled our destiny last year.”

Yes. Best to turn the page as quickly as possible. Embrace the possibility of amnesia.

The Falcons made the Panthers look like a playoff team. Carolina scored on its first five possessions (two touchdowns, three field goals), and only one of those ended in a big play (Newton’s 72-yard touchdown run, finished off with a flip). Mostly, the Panthers punched the Falcons in the mouth.

It figured they would milk this a little, and they did. When the Falcons rallied for a 30-28 win back in September in the Georgia Dome – Matt Bryant’s game-winning field goal coming with five seconds remaining – quarterback Matt Ryan was caught on camera screaming toward Carolina’s bench to, “Get the [bleep] off our field!”

So when this one ended, several Carolina players were overheard trash-talking on the field, led by defensive end Greg Hardy, who witnesses say mimicked Ryan’s comment, “Get the [bleep] off our field.” Bryant’s reported response: “Watch us in January.” Introducing, the trash-talking kicker.

Hardy is the same obscurity who earlier said the Panthers were a “better” team than the Falcons, adding: “I’m trying to mess up their whole playoff experience. I want them to go home sick in the stomach, mad about life, a couple depression issues …” (He didn’t make himself available for the media Sunday.)

Down 23-0, the Falcons showed a pulse. Ryan’s four-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones closed it to 23-13. But a seemingly successful two-point conversion pass to Roddy White was ruled incomplete (questionably), deflating the comeback. DeAngelo Williams’ touchdown on a 53-yard screen pass slammed the door shut.

When asked if he considered this loss a bump in the road, Gonzalez responded: “It better be, if we’re the team we think we are.”

Instead, they’ve left everybody wondering again.

By Jeff Schultz

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722 comments Add your comment

Georgia Dome has roaches AND losers...

December 9th, 2012
6:59 pm

Falcons suck

JSS

December 9th, 2012
6:59 pm

And the beat (and spin) goes on…

gabugman

December 9th, 2012
7:00 pm

Mike Smith, get your shiznit together! Superbowl winning teams do not look like your Falcons did today:

1. Find some intensity and urgency. Lazy, lackadaisical play for half a game will make you look like a poser – oops! The defense cannot carry your team when the offense is MIA and coming from behind late will eventually catch up to you – oops again!

2. Michael “leadfoot” Turner is a waste of offensive plays. Look, I understand $ vs employment but Dirk Koetter seems to be the only coach in the entire league that thinks Turner can run the ball. That, in and of itself worries me. You know the definition of insanity…;

3. Play like you’re behind the entire game (for a change);

4. There is no “killer instinct” on this team and Mike, that falls on you. Playing safe and conservative is eventually a loser mentality. Kick their azzez and do it from the start!

Other than those 4 points, you’ve done a great job this year. Remember, Arthur is gonna can yer butt if you go one and done this year so maybe you wanna change some things up in the next six weeks? Ya know, dominating and destroying a couple teams all the way to the Lombardi Trophy is NOT a bad thing…

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

December 9th, 2012
7:02 pm

I heard Mrs. CHOKE is leaving for Joe Flacco because she wants to trade up and be with a winner.

HA HA :)

MTSeats

December 9th, 2012
7:03 pm

My Xmas wish, Bill Cowher. Please

Georgia Dome has roaches AND losers...

December 9th, 2012
7:05 pm

At least they beat the Saints…that’s all that matters. Right?

Hillbilly D

December 9th, 2012
7:05 pm

Over the years, I’ve noticed many teams, in the different sports who sort of “turn it on” and “turn it off”. They usually wind up not being able to “turn it back on”, when it comes down to crunch time (post-season). This team might be able to do that, then again, they might not. Moral of the story is you better play hard, all the time. Once things start to get away from you, it’s mighty hard to turn around.

Answer This

December 9th, 2012
7:05 pm

48 – 0
Those the same grown men who will lay down when a teammate spits in another teammates face……still have to respect grown men…..

MTSeats

December 9th, 2012
7:07 pm

Mike Smith and AJC, all hugs and kisses. Good to see this team man up for it’s coach. They should be proud.

Milo

December 9th, 2012
7:07 pm

Does Bobby Cox coach this team? I feel like Ima watchin the Braves.

We forgive you BIRDS for this one. But you better come back and man up with N.Y.

Lil’ Manning is licken hiz chops when he thinks of our secondary. Look what hes doin to the Cain’ts.

Answer This

December 9th, 2012
7:08 pm

So that dont fly! And San Diego beat Pittsburgh….whats your point JSS?

The Truth

December 9th, 2012
7:08 pm

Biggest problem right now is “O” line.

Next biggest problem? Play calling.

M. Turner. Last year with the Falcons.

Mike Smith. Another year of close calls like this? He’s done.

Falcons are mostly like one and done in the playoffs.

Look for big trades and draft picks going toward the “O” line. Lots of changes there.

notsoldonryan

December 9th, 2012
7:08 pm

Here we go again, 1 playoff game and done! Ryan is the best backup quarterback posing as a starter in the NFL

Oliver

December 9th, 2012
7:08 pm

Falcons are just an over-hyped gang of grossly overpaid jerkoffs.

And that’s being charitable.

JSS

December 9th, 2012
7:09 pm

@ Hillbilly, can you say John McEnroe?

falconDave

December 9th, 2012
7:09 pm

The falcons just showed up overconfident and flat—no big deal–they have the nfc home field in the bag. Next week, they will beat the NY giants by 10—take it to the bank.

Blazerdawg

December 9th, 2012
7:10 pm

Thousands and thousands of Falcons fans travel to Charlotte to Rise Up – where was the team?

MTSeats

December 9th, 2012
7:10 pm

Blank, hire Cowher! The city deserves better.

Fickle Mike

December 9th, 2012
7:12 pm

Uh oh !! It’s a very well known fact that football games are won on the line of scrimmage. The Falcons are below average on both. Thanks Dimitroff !! Hello one and done in the playoffs.

5150 UOAD

December 9th, 2012
7:13 pm

I think some of you would complain about paying $10 for a Kim Kardashian Table Dance cause it was a short song.

The Truth

December 9th, 2012
7:14 pm

Mike Smith is the new Marty Shottenheimer. Can’t get to the big one.

Matt Ryan is looking like Bernie Kozar.

The only way the Falcons win the Super Bowl this year is if key players get injured on the teams they have to play.

Answer This

December 9th, 2012
7:15 pm

Lol 5150…..great analogy!

Elena in Forest Park

December 9th, 2012
7:15 pm

Even 3rd-rate Mark Richt could outcoach Mike Smith. This was beyond pathetic against a 3-9 team.

JSS

December 9th, 2012
7:15 pm

Why bring Pittsburgh in it? Cam Cameron calling plays for them this week? The point is right match up and scheme can put that “any given Sunday” and “everyone is a pro” talk in the diaper hamper… Seattle can run the ball and Wilson actually is maturing + the absolute worse QB situation this side of the 2010 Carolina Panthers = 48-0… Simple as that…

vuduchld

December 9th, 2012
7:15 pm

I never was on this bogus bandwagon to begin with.

no defense

December 9th, 2012
7:17 pm

I thought Mike Nolan was a defensive mastermind? All I see is the similarity of last years D.

cb795

December 9th, 2012
7:17 pm

No, Tony most of the long time fans will not jump off the bandwagon. We have been in this place before, how nice it would have been if these Falcons reponded to the trash talking the Panthers were doing all week. Maybe they took a page from the Saints and decided talking trash to the Falcons will make them play passive. Whatever happens to the current Falcons, people will be on the bandwagon.
Maybe before the next season starts, the defensive players might learn how to tackle. You know Mike Smith has been talking about this for five years now, with zero improvement.

GFY

December 9th, 2012
7:17 pm

They can win it all. Stop hating. If you want to hate, do it on the NFL and BS officiating. The same that walked the Saints into a Super Bowl they didn’t deserve.

JSS

December 9th, 2012
7:18 pm

5150, Kim Kardashian can’t dance… That is all show booty…

Jaded

December 9th, 2012
7:18 pm

Mike Smith is essentially the modern-day Marty Schottenheimer. Consistent winner in the regular season who’s conservative style doesn’t work in the playoffs (or at least hasn’t to this point). No, today wasn’t a playoff game, but the lack of urgency we saw today doesn’t bode well.

Much like Bobby Cox’s Braves teams did so many times, this year’s Falcons squad – if today was any indication – looks content to coast into the playoffs with a fat division lead. History tells us that’s a very dangerous game to play. Other than the 2009 Saints, I can’t think of a team in recent memory that was able to flip the switch in the playoffs after taking their foot off the gas down the stretch.

I’m not saying this team can’t still get to the Super Bowl, but it sure seems like we peaked early in the season. Over the last month this team has played very mediocre football. I don’t know if you can peak twice in one year, but now be a great time.

Rod

December 9th, 2012
7:20 pm

Come on guys, it’s one game. It’s hard to get up for a team like that. This was their playoffs. Yes, the Falcons didn’t show up in the first half. But I’m not worried. We didn’t have some of our key players on defense, but we will be fine. They will rebound next week, and on to the playoffs with home field advantage. They will still play in the Superbowl. I saw some positive things about that game, especially in the second half. We need Samuel to rest, so that he will be ready for the playoffs. So it’s okay, I’m not concerned.

Colin

December 9th, 2012
7:20 pm

I’m sure tomorrow we will hear all the normal buzz from Flowery Branch with words like “process”. “evaluate” and “improvement”. However, as many of you have noted, this team doesn’t give me any real hope that things will go better once the playoffs start. The fact that Blank is trying to shake down the politicians and the GWCC officials to use public money for a new stadium to further fatten his wallet makes me almost look forward to the collapse of his team when it really counts. These guys can’t run the ball or stop the run.

Georgia Dome has roaches AND losers...

December 9th, 2012
7:20 pm

Giants will stomp the Falcons next week in the Dome…mark it down!!!

Elderly

December 9th, 2012
7:21 pm

I’m a Birds fan, but I thought the Panthers were better than we were in the earlier game, and they were MUCH the better team today. I saw this coming. If we had to play them again, they’d probably beat us again. What about our record, you say? We’ve beaten only one team with a winning record all year. We’re just not that good. Sort of average. Everything else is hype.

Roswell Bob

December 9th, 2012
7:21 pm

I am rooting against the Falcons so they don’t get home field advnatage in that sorry-ass dome. What a bunch of surly employees who work there. Arthur’s palace. Falcons will go down outside as they did today.

Big Daddy

December 9th, 2012
7:22 pm

It is games like this why people do not look at us as serious contenders. We should have won this game easily. That is what an 11-1 team should do playing a 4-8 team whether it is on their home field or not. The birds were ill prepared for this game and if I was Arthur Blank I would want a meeting with the coach with an explanation of why we played so poorly.

tidog

December 9th, 2012
7:22 pm

Tough to watch that performance today. Letsl hope this isn’t how the Birds will finish the final games heading into the playoff. We all know January will make or break this season suprising season.

retired

December 9th, 2012
7:22 pm

1) Mike Smith ain’t gettin’ fired
2) All I repeat ALL NFL teams lay an egg once in a while (Green Bay at KC last year NE vs Arizona this year)
3) Blow up team ranters are IDIOTS losers and fools
4) We Will recover and be ready for NY next week count on it!

All you trolls go home where were you the last couple of weeks?

Iluvnutella

December 9th, 2012
7:23 pm

Ive said this on several blogs today after the game, but as a lifelong Atlanta sports fan since the 70’s, this scenario we find the Falcons in reminds me of the Braves of the 90’s. Bobby Cox was one helluva regular season mgr, but put the bright lites on and put his teams on the Big stage they were uber-fail. I think Mike Smith is cut from the same mold, no highs or lows, business as usual…..good reg season record. Then, come playoff time, the Falcons will get ROLLED again, home OR away. I think next weeks game gianst the Giants will tell us a great deal about Smiths ability to rally his troops and his willingness to make adjustments. Now T. Dimitroff does share some of the blame, selling out drafts to get 1 receiver who we really didnt need. No O or D line will catch up with us…..watch and see.

Gator CHOMP Champ

December 9th, 2012
7:23 pm

As clutch as the GA Bulldogs.

gabugman

December 9th, 2012
7:23 pm

Mayhap we should all meet the plane at Hartsfield with a couple dozen eggs….

ryan stinks

December 9th, 2012
7:23 pm

Giants 41 falcons 27

jkj300

December 9th, 2012
7:25 pm

Bahahahaha – silly falcons. Another year of futility. A lot like UGa this time around. A WEAK schedule has a bunch of average players feeling strong. And a bunch of bandwagon fans hopping on for a brief ride. And then, REALITY. Weak playcalling. Weaker effort. From weak players. And BOOM – a hideous loss and a total loss of confidence. And just like UGa, next year will be different. Bahahahaha!!!!

Panthers were right.......

December 9th, 2012
7:25 pm

Panther’s Hardy was totally right and the ATLANTA FALCONS SUCK!!! One and done when it comes to the playoffs will be the title of the sports article written….they are like Richt….can’t win the big important ones…..heck they can’t even beat one of the worst teams in the league….Arthur might ought to get his firing pen ready….Smitty should be the first to go for calling such a terrible game and not having his team ready to play……EMBARRASSING!!!!!!

DawgNole

December 9th, 2012
7:25 pm

Hillbilly D
December 9th, 2012
7:05 pm

Moral of the story is you better play hard, all the time. Once things start to get away from you, it’s mighty hard to turn around.
_______________________

You’re spot on. And that’s exactly what those who try to minimize the importance of any loss–i.e., the “loser mentality” group–completely fail to understand. On every single sports blog.

Answer This

December 9th, 2012
7:26 pm

I can ask the same question you did! Why bring Seattle in the picture? That disfunctional team has QUIT! Teammates spitting on each other? Hate to tell you this but you making my point for me. Right match up and any sunday you get beat! Come on man! Falcons were the nail today and on this sunday they got hammered! I dont make excuses i create solutions and my team will do the same! You brought another team in the mix….not me you brought up Seattle….why? Beats me I was talking Falcons and getting beat by the Panthers today. On this Sunday they showed up and we got drilled. Like San Diego showed up and beat a great QB in Rothsleisberger (sp)….but Ravens could not beat a third string QB in Bmore last week? Come on man! Any given Sunday! The saying stands!

TCCB

December 9th, 2012
7:26 pm

The Giants are going to clip the wings of the Dirty Birds next week you can count on that!!!!!!!

JSS

December 9th, 2012
7:28 pm

“Mike Smith is essentially the modern-day Marty Schottenheimer. ”

Even Choke-enheimer won 5 playoff games, so be careful with that one!!!

no defense

December 9th, 2012
7:29 pm

Man will the state of Georgia ever win anything? I mean look at all the teams we have college included. Tell me how in the hell the Falcons deserve a new stadium?

Mike

December 9th, 2012
7:29 pm

I wish the ajc had some sort of registration system for commenting so their game threads and later threads had some sense of accountability and not just homer/troll festival.