The Falcons suffer a thumping loss but learn a needed lesson

Kevin Faulk was one of four different running backs who hurt the Falcons. (AP photo)

Kevin Faulk was one of four Patriots' running backs who hurt the Falcons. (AP photo)

Foxborough, Mass. – A young team was exposed by the smartest and saltiest bunch in the NFL. If you looked hard, you could have seen it coming. Thomas Dimitroff, who built this young team, looked hard and did.

“We said this would be a benchmark for our organization,” said Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons’ general manager but once New England’s chief scout. “And the reality is that we still have a lot of work to do. And I knew — I knew — that [the Patriots get] agitated when it’s suggested they’re losing something. I knew they would play physically and come out with all guns blazing.”

To use the Dimitroff buzzword of 2009, the Pats played with urgency. They’d rushed for a total of 156 yards in the season’s first two games; they ran for 168 Sunday. They kept possession for nearly 40 minutes. “They ball-hogged the ball,” receiver Roddy White would say later, and in so doing the Pats hogtied the Falcons.

The Pats weren’t precise — the great Tom Brady missed more open receivers in one game than he used to miss in a full season — but they were persistent. The Falcons hung around and seemed about to seize the lead in both the second and third quarters, but Michael Turner fumbled and Michael Jenkins was flagged for offensive interference in the end zone (the right call, by the way) and the Falcons didn’t score over the final 38 minutes and 48 seconds.

And you’re not going beat New England, which has been the NFL’s best team over the past eight seasons, that way. And that’s what showed  Sunday. One team knew what winning such a game entailed. The other was still guessing.

“They did a good job out-executing us,” safety Erik Coleman said. “They did a good job running the ball.”

That part was a surprise, only it wasn’t. Bill Belichick didn’t become the hooded Beelzebub by doing the same thing every week, and his Patriots didn’t try to outscore the visitors 40-37. He tempo’ed the game, as they say in college basketball, and the Falcons’ offense wound up sitting so long it never got a feel for anything. Case study: Tony Gonzalez caught one pass.

“They played keep-away,” said White, who caught four passes but dropped two others. “They didn’t do what they were supposed to do.”

Describe the Falcons' loss.

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The Pats are smart enough and seasoned enough to win any which way. The Falcons still have to stick to script. That’s a function of age, or the lack thereof. The Pats brought a championship intensity to Week 3 of the regular season. The Falcons don’t know what championship intensity is because, to be blunt, they haven’t won anything yet.

But that isn’t to say they won’t. This is a good young team that, with a few tweaks, will get better as it goes. There’s reason to believe the rookie pass rusher Lawrence Sidbury needs to be worked into the rotation — the Falcons had one sack against Carolina last week and none against New England — and the absence of tackle Peria Jerry was deeply felt Sunday.

But the secondary wasn’t completely undressed by Brady and Randy Moss, and that’s something. Indeed, this rainy day needn’t be viewed as a washout. The Falcons were beaten but not routed, not nearly embarrassed.

Said Mike Smith, the coach: “We’ll learn a lot from this.”

Said Mike Peterson, the linebacker: “It may not show right now, and people may not understand it yet, but this is going to help us down the road.”

There will be bigger games for these Falcons. And when one arrives, Smith or Peterson will be able to say, “Remember how the Patriots did it to us? That’s what we need to do.”

182 comments Add your comment

JJ

September 27th, 2009
5:48 pm

Thank you, Mark, for bringing some sober analysis and reality to Falcon fans. We’ll be fine.

FalconUGAFan

September 27th, 2009
5:50 pm

Wow great write. You nailed it.

FalconUGAFan

September 27th, 2009
5:51 pm

umm that would be great write-up.

Rey

September 27th, 2009
5:52 pm

Is it me, or does Turner look a step slow this year? I’m not happy with the ways he’s played in the first 3 games.

darrell starks

September 27th, 2009
5:53 pm

PLEASE NO MORE CHRIS HOUSTON HE IS LOST OUT THERE.
GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!

darrell starks

September 27th, 2009
5:54 pm

DEFENSE DEFENSE DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIP MRS TD.
GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!

Eric Amous

September 27th, 2009
5:55 pm

They played scared to death. Gonzalas on;y one catch? They should be asshamed for playing like that. The cheerleaders could have played just as good!!!

Capetide

September 27th, 2009
5:56 pm

Enter your comments here

And yet before the game, you described them as the “declining Patriots”.

Harpie

September 27th, 2009
5:56 pm

No matter how you look at it, that was a pitiful, disgusting loss against a team that is not even playing well.

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
5:56 pm

What, you want consistency? From me?

stendec

September 27th, 2009
5:57 pm

At least the Pats did not embarrass the Falcons? The final margin was 16 damn points! How many f#cking points does a football team have to lose by before it falls into the embarrassment category? 21, 40, 60 or more?

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
5:58 pm

There’s something missing in the running game. I’d concede that point.

But let me also say this: This was kind of a last-stand game for New England, which has been getting hammered all week by critics. As Dimitroff said, the way to make the Patriots mad is to claim they’ve lost it.

Rey

September 27th, 2009
5:59 pm

Way to go BVG. You did the complete opposite of the New York Jets. Give Brady that kind of time and he will carve any team up.

HERBIE

September 27th, 2009
5:59 pm

Harpie you suck

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:01 pm

And let me say one other thing: To me, the measure of a team is how it plays on the road. Because you’re supposed to win in your building/stadium/ballpark. Had the Falcons won today, I wouldn’t have called it a meaningless victory over a declining New England club. Because it’s hard to win on the road even if you’re playing the Browns. (OK, maybe not them.) The Falcons didn’t play well, but they made only one turnover and held the Patriots to one touchdown in the first 52 minutes and 12 seconds. That’s not a terrible effort.

drmondo

September 27th, 2009
6:02 pm

I was at the game today. Turner’s fumble really took the wind out of the sails of the Falcons. Houston(?) getting flagged for pass interference- never turned around for the ball hurt them as well. There was a rediculous call that Smitty had to challenge. Ryan threw the ball, it deflected off the line and hit the ground, NE scooped it up and ran into the endzone. The officials ruled it a fumble. Smitty challenged and won. He lost his second challenge. I noticed that whoever ran the scoreboard screen never showed a replay on the board if there was any question about the play in favor of the Falcons. There was a fumble recovery that Smitty challenged without the aid of a replay to watch. There were a couple sideline catches we never got to see the replay of in the stadium. I hope the guys in ATL learn from this and don’t allow the opposing coaches to see replays until after the next play. NE certainly used it to their advantage. That’s not to say the Birds would have won but for a couple calls, but it definitely puts a coach at a disadvantage if he’s only relying on the players for info.

Dr. Warren

September 27th, 2009
6:02 pm

China Falcon Club members–all one of us–are discouraged but not downtrodden. They have made it through the Cultural Revolution, sure, but it is clear they haven’t quite completed the Great Leap Forward. Chairman Belicheck and his henchmen still know a thing or two about holding off competitors.

eddiedawg

September 27th, 2009
6:02 pm

We had our chances-can’t turn the ball over in the red-zone and gotta squeeze that interception in the end-zone, Decoud.

It’s game 3 of an NFL season-lots of football left. Mike Smith will use this game to motivate for the rest of the year.

Can we please end the Jamaal experiment? That roughing the passer, while a questionable call, was ridiculous. HE IS A BUST.

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:05 pm

About the Falcons’ lack of a pass rush: Mike Smith claimed his team sent five/six men on occasion, but it didn’t seem they blitzed often. And it really wasn’t Brady who beat them. It was the yardage gained on the ground, which was staggering by New England standards.

As I tried to suggest: I’m thinking Lawrence Sidbury is about to become a bigger player on this roster soon.

Chattanooga Chuck

September 27th, 2009
6:05 pm

Dr. Warren, I’m afraid we’re still in the midst of the Long March.

drmondo

September 27th, 2009
6:06 pm

Mark, I was at the game. Turner’s fumble really hurt. So did the pass interference against Houston (?) covering Moss. Did you notice the lack of replays in the stadium? Smitty had to challenge or decid to challenge without the help of replays (with the exception of that horrible fumble call against Ryan that was overturned).

Chattanooga Chuck

September 27th, 2009
6:06 pm

I’m hoping Sidbury can turn into the 21st Century Chuck Smith.

eastbound and down

September 27th, 2009
6:08 pm

i am a little upset that the falcons coach and GM seem to be making excuses for losses. “we still have a ways to go” “we will learn from this.” in the nfl there is only the present. a lot of “experts” were picking the falcons to win this game and the “much improved” offense didn’t score in the last half of the game. Tony G has stated one of the reasons he signed with this team was to win a super bowl, well, he isn’t going to be playing in 5 years.
the defense also mystifies me. rushing 3 on a 3rd and 7 makes no sense and there was no pressure on brady all day. heck sending the corner on a 3rd and 7 didn’t do any good either sense the RB picked up the block. and letting those corners cover moss one on one isn’t going to work either. if you are sending 4 against 5 and a RB, moss should be double teamed.

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:08 pm

Turner’s fumble was a huge play. Maybe even bigger than the overruled touchdown to Jenkins. It had been an even game at that juncture, and the fumble changed the whole ebb/flow.

Dr. Warren

September 27th, 2009
6:10 pm

Yes, that is true C. Chuck. Hopefully our Deng Xiao Peng–Tom Dimitroff–will skip Tiananmen this time and keep the gates of progress wide open. I’m figuring maybe maybe by the Chicago game?

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:11 pm

I didn’t think anybody made excuses today. Every Falcon I heard just said, in essence, “We got beat by a good team.”

Edward

September 27th, 2009
6:12 pm

There is really no need to panic we are still 2-1 and we didn’t exactly lose to the Lions. The Patriots are a very good football team and sure we have a few things to work on defensively but with the BYE week coming and then San Francisco after that we should be good to go. Hopefully with the week off we can work on the running game a little bit with Turner and the pass rush just wasn’t there like it needed to be today. Go Falcons.

Dr. Warren

September 27th, 2009
6:12 pm

by the Chicago game the new confidence will have emerged in force. By the way, why does Turner look feeble this year?

mykhalc

September 27th, 2009
6:12 pm

Enter your comments here

karl

September 27th, 2009
6:13 pm

I’ve seen all this before, and heard it all before. Steve Bartkowski. Chris Miller. Jeff George. Mike Vick. Leeman Bennett. Dan Henning. Dan Reeves. Jim Mora. It goes on and on and on.

renegade

September 27th, 2009
6:13 pm

You could tell the birds were going to play uninspired. Ive never seen a team come out of the locker room tunnel like they did. They looked like they were standing outside a funeral home trying to get the last puff on a smoke before the preacher read the last rites.

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:14 pm

It’s thought by some that Turner is carrying a few extra pounds. That hasn’t been proved, but I’ve heard it mentioned.

T-minus 6 days until Thrashers Hockey!!

September 27th, 2009
6:14 pm

DeCoud lost this game for Atlanta. Missed interceptions THAT HIT YOU IN THE HANDS are worse than fumbles, especially in what should have been a shoot-out at best. And why is Grimes still in the NFL??

BugKiller

September 27th, 2009
6:15 pm

Mark,

Some of the things I don’t understand:

Instead of having Grimes come in as the nickel back (to cover the slot) in Nickel Defenses, BVG and Smith are moving Williams inside and letting Grimes cover the outside receivers.

How the hell does THAT make sense?

WHY do they continue to play Jamaal Anderson. EVER???

Why doesn’t Smith go for it on 4th and 5 from the Pat’s 38?

Not going there, not having the guts to go for it there is the difference between winning and losing.

Wouldn’t EVERYTHING be better if they just move Anderson to the other starting spot at DT (because all he seems to be able to do is help against the run) and set Davis and Beer-Man as the RE’s?

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:16 pm

A Belichick anecdote: Tom Brady told reporters after the game the head coach essentially drew that final touchdown — Chris Baker, the tight end, down the sideline — up on the fly.

mykhalc

September 27th, 2009
6:17 pm

mark, the Falcons did not hold the PATS to 1 touchdown. the lack of accuracy from Brady did that. the Falcons played soft and cautious ball today. the defense could not get off the field and when they did the offense could not stay on. lack of execution on both sides of the ball…PERIOD!!! and get rid of CHOUSTON!!! the cat flat out suckz as a startin’ corner…PERIOD!!!

OVER-RATED QB GOT EXPOSED

September 27th, 2009
6:17 pm

Enter your comments here

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:19 pm

I thought the Falcons might go for on the fourth down you mentioned, BugKiller. But they had gone for it on fourth down earlier — fourth-and-three from the 34.

Now, if you’re asking what the difference was: I don’t know.

Brent S.

September 27th, 2009
6:20 pm

Bottom Line…Tom Brady exposed our BIGGEST WEAKNESS-our CORNER BACKS!!
Brent Grimes, is our “RUDY”, and Chris Houston-well, I’m STILL trying to figure out what the hell the Falcons staff sees in him. He had a descent game against Carolina last week, but other than that..he SUCKS!!! (It’s not that we stopped their passing game, it’s the fact Brady’s receivers couldn’t catch anything.)

Michael Turner has developed the “Duckett Dance” syndrome this year for some reason. He is NOT hitting the hole with that same explosiveness he had last year. Maybe the O-LINE has something to do with that as well, b/c Turner ran into blue shirts all day. I wish they would put Snelling in more. He runs like his job depends on it, and THAT is exactly how you have to run in this league.

Nobody wrapped up on tackles, except ONE time during the game. Peterson tried to arm tackle four times. Also, there was absolutely NO PASS rush to speak of; however, I do believe that the Patriots weren’t called for about 10 holds that I saw. Playing in Foxborough, it’s suspect that those won’t be called anyway.

Granted, I love Mike Smith and what he is doing and has done so far, but why in the hell do we not go for it on that last 4th and 5??? We are down 16 points, with 6:52 left in the game. Do you honestly think that by punting the ball, our defense will get the ball back against Tom Brady, a multi-MVP and SB Champion, and have a chance to score again???

Over all, I’m happy with a 2-1 record going into the BYE week. Plus, we do have a division win under our belts, but this game could have been very easily won. it would have made a statement that the Falcons are a serious contender. Although, we still are, the Patriots are the “blueprint”, and until you start betting teams like them and the Colts, you won’t really be taken to a serious level in the eyes of the NFL world. JUST A REALITY CHECK!!

We have a lot of work to do in the BYE week!!! By the way, where is Ty Hill at? I thought we signed him to give Houston some competition?

SHOULD HAVE DRAFTED FLACCO

September 27th, 2009
6:21 pm

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:23 pm

The Patriots threw it 42 times and averaged 6.6 yards per pass. That didn’t beat the Falcons. Running it 39 times for 4.3 yards per carry did.

Vick Supporter

September 27th, 2009
6:24 pm

Falcons got that ass TROUNCED, LMAO!

NoD

September 27th, 2009
6:24 pm

Mark, I sure hope Sidbury starts getting more reps. Gotta love Jamaal’s roughing the passer penalty today too. What’s up with William Moore? We need some hitters in the secondary to intimidate receivers a’la the Patriots (and Lawyer Milloy).

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:24 pm

Tye Hill was inactive again. Apparently he hasn’t yet found a spot.

Sautee

September 27th, 2009
6:26 pm

Mark,

I warned you this morning about their running game.

But believe me, I take NO pleasure in being prescient.

I also think Mularkey had his worst game since he’s been OC.

Vick Supporter

September 27th, 2009
6:27 pm

Not seeing the Falcons “fans” talking all that trash now…….Falcons couldn’t make plays in the red zone or down the field. Matt “The Ceckdown King” Ryan

Some Sense

September 27th, 2009
6:29 pm

Can’t y’all ban BugKiller and Saint Simons from these things?

Falcons got “schooled”.

drmondo

September 27th, 2009
6:29 pm

Did you notice how often Grimes ended up covering Moss? He had help, but it just seemed like such a mismatch. The pass rush was herded by the Pats. They’d push upfield and be directed past Brady. I hope they use this game as incentive to work on their pass rush. It’s going to be a long season if they don’t.

BugKiller

September 27th, 2009
6:29 pm

Bad News, you continue to be a lying moron.

WHO HAS BALTIMORE PLAYED???

K.C. San Diego. Cleveland.

Even your Favorite Felon (Mr. 0 for 2) could get at least one win out of those teams.

Mark Bradley

September 27th, 2009
6:30 pm

I thought the Falcons played it a bit too safe offensively. But that’s easy to say now.