Bradley’s Buzz: Did Smitty coach scared in Foxborough?

Mike Smith: Was Sunday's loss a function of timidity? (AP photo)

Mike Smith: Did timidity hurt his team? (AP photo)

I read Ron Borges‘ Monday column in the Boston Herald on the plane back, and I was impressed: He had a good point and made it nicely. And his point was:

Mike Smith coached a dud game against the Patriots.

I’m not apt to paraphrase Mr. Borges half as well as he expressed himself, so I’ll just quote:

“Falcons coach Mike Smith, of all people, should have known what was coming yesterday. Even when Tom Brady isn’t sharp, if you go soft on him he will make it hard on you.

“Yet despite being armed with knowledge gained from harsh experience, Smith allowed Atlanta defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to make the same decision yesterday that Smith made Jan. 12, 2008.

“Both paid the same price: They got beat.

“At the time, Smith was the defensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a divisional playoff game, he decided that his team could not pressure Brady under any circumstance and chose instead to drop seven and eight defenders into coverage.

“Brady carved them up as if he worked in a butcher shop. He set an NFL record for accuracy, going 26-of-28 with three touchdowns in a 31-20 win. His passer rating was 141.4.”

You’ll notice I said Mr. Borges had a good point. But I don’t know that I agree with it completely. To me, the Patriots’ running game (168 yards) beat the Falcons. Brady (27-of-42 for 277 yards) was only OK. He threw a late touchdown pass to tight end Chris Clark but missed every deep ball. The difference was, the Pats were gaining enough yards on first and second downs to put Brady in third-and-three, which is how they wound up with 28 first downs to the Falcons’ 13.

That said, I was surprised at how seldom the Falcons blitzed. Smith noted afterward that the Falcons sent “five or six” men at Brady in the first half, but clearly the Falcons were wrong-footed by the Pats’ sudden emphasis on the run.

“They’d run it 43 times and thrown it 100 [coming in],” Smith said afterward. “We didn’t fit the run as well as we’d have liked. We did not play the run the way we needed to.”

I thought the Falcons would play aggressively, both on offense and defense, than they did. Much of that had to do with New England hogging the ball for nearly 40 minutes. But New England wouldn’t have kept the ball had the Falcons taken it from them. And Mr. Borges’ point is overall a strong one, and one for the Birds to remember:

Faint heart never won the big game.

245 comments Add your comment

JB

September 29th, 2009
7:23 am

that D of Atlanta is about 3-4 play makers away from being decent. They will beat most Average teams this year, and lose to the rest. Defense still wins championships.

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
7:26 am

That’s why I think there’s a place for Lawrence Sidbury in the defensive line. I’m thinking he could be a playmaker.

Ronnie

September 29th, 2009
7:28 am

Yes, Coach Smith coached scared. Pressuring Brady should have been priority #1, and he could have anticipated the Patriots would try to run more after we had trouble against the Panthers the week before.

Smith also made game decisions that suggested he doesn’t understand how to give his team the best chance to win. We trailed the entire second half, and on our four second half possessions, we punted every time. How does that happen? Here they are.

Score 16-10. 7:00 in the 3rd quarter. Punt on 4th and 5 at the New England 38. (Bad punt by Koenen here, “pinning” the Patriots at their 15.)

Score 19-10. 13:20 in the 4th quarter. Punt on 4th and 7 at the Falcon 39.

Score 19-10. 11:05 in the 4th quarter. Punt on 4th and 3 at the Falcon 33. (This was a three and out, the plays being two Turner rushes and an incomplete to Marty Booker.)

Score 26-10. 7:02 in the 4th quarter. Punt on 4th and 4 at the Falcon 31. The Patriots got the ball and ran out the clock. Were we interested in trying to win? Would you punt in that situation in the Super Bowl? Heck no.

The head coach’s job is to make the decision that gives the team the best chance of victory, not to keep the score respectable. And when you’re trailing by two scores and the clock is running out, you HAVE to keep the ball. Smith showed the same defective thinking in that game in New Orleans last year, when he decided to punt on a 4th and 4 late in the game when we needed a touchdown to win. We never got the ball back.

I like Smith a lot, but he needs to work on his game management skills. He needs to consistently make the decisions that give the team the best chance to win.

Ronnie,a fan of Mark Bradley since the 1980s

rhynster

September 29th, 2009
7:28 am

Brady should have had far better numbers.

Seemed like there were many passes that should have been caught, but weren’t.

So, yeah, the running game ate us up.

But Brady would have done the same had the WRs been better.

The Falcons were lucky not to have been beaten far worse.

BL

September 29th, 2009
7:33 am

I was very worried when Jerry went down in the carolina game, and Sunday only confirmed my worries. We are just not “stout” up front without that big body in there, and we’re starting to show signs of last years soft line. LB play was good for the ost part, but I already miss Jerry!

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
7:36 am

I thought Brady made more bad throws than I’ve ever seen from him. But he has been injured, if I’m not mistaken.

Bob from Dahlonega

September 29th, 2009
7:41 am

The Pats know how to win

Bob from Dahlonega

September 29th, 2009
7:43 am

Ryan lacks the charisma of a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady he will always lose to those type guys. He lacks the fire of a jay cutler or phillip rivers. He is a less talented Eli Manning, boring and lame

oldbird

September 29th, 2009
7:48 am

At the start of the season I don’t think anyone really believed that the Birds would have any success in New England. If you’re being honest, I think most people chalked that one up as a loss even before it was played.

Then, as the game approached and Brady seemed human, people began to think a win in new england was possible.

Fact is, the birds are still very weak on defense. The coaches seemed to adopt a Willie Martinez “bend but don’t break” mentality which proved to be their undoing. I personally would have blitzed Brady more just to try to bust him up a bit. Isn’t that how the Jets got to him?

If you look at the passes Brady (and his receivers) narrowly missed connecting on, the score of this game could have been A LOT worse.

Take the loss, learn what you can about your team, spend the bye week worrying about how in hell you’re gonna stop New Orleans from winning the NFC South.

Bullwinkle

September 29th, 2009
7:57 am

And I thought Smitty panicked a tad when he challenged that fumble. Even if he couldn’t see a replay, as has been reported, you could tell he was overly emotional. Maybe he challenged more out of frustration than anything else.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

September 29th, 2009
8:00 am

I’ve seen teams that blitzed a got beat by a larger margin because plays were going for 38 yards instead of 8. You can’t blitz Brady. I agree Mark the ground game is what killed the Falcons and they don’t have the DT’s to stop it with Jerry hurt. Like Mike Vick always said, “you can’t take a weiner dog to a dog fight”

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

September 29th, 2009
8:04 am

Bullwinkle, a “tad” panicked? I thought he was going to premature eject that red flag.

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
8:04 am

I think Smith was still mad that he had to challenge that obvious incompletion in the first half, Bullwinkle, and then about the offensive interference on Michael Jenkins. He was going to challenge the fumble no matter what the replay showed.

SimpleDawg

September 29th, 2009
8:05 am

I think the pivotal play of the game was early in the game when the Patriots went for a 4th and 1 on their own 24 yard line….Bellicose Bill showed such disdain for the Falcons defense and offense, that I believe it rattled the Falcon players and coaches, while infusing his team with such confidence that they felt invincible.

Game over.

horse 35

September 29th, 2009
8:06 am

Enter your comments here go bucs

The Unbiased Minority

September 29th, 2009
8:07 am

The Pats offense is still out of sync. Brady missed more throws than I’ve ever seen. Its going to take him at least 6 or 7 weeks to get fully confident in that plant foot. This was the best time to get the Patriots and the Falcons turtled. The play of the line is where this game was lost-not in the air or by the the zebras.

F-105 Thunderchief

September 29th, 2009
8:09 am

Well, here we are again at the daily hall-of-fame coaches convention. I’m in awe of the brilliance displayed here every day. Now, how many NFL wins have you guys earned again? I forget.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

September 29th, 2009
8:11 am

Same as you, 2 wins

The Unbiased Minority

September 29th, 2009
8:12 am

The Jets blitzed Brady on 80% of his attempts. The Pats were slow to go the run and still had a chance to tie the game on the final possession. A couple drops did them in. THey were on the road against a great defense and lost by 7. Rumors of a Patriot demise have been greatly exaggerated. Time will tell if this was a bad loss for the Falcons, but I fully believe that the Pats will beat Baltimore this week and will slowly begin resembling the team we thought they would be. By extension, this Atlanta team’s performance although uneven, will be better put into perspective.

Blue Fender

September 29th, 2009
8:13 am

I just pray that the shine hasn’t worn off this apple called CMS. It only takes a few bad games to undermine what has been built. Smith needs to show his team that he wants to win no matter what, not just keep the other team from beating them too badly. Nut up and take chances. What’s the worst thing that can happen, failure? We’re there already.

Get your heads straight and get ready for the 9ers. GO FALCONS!

lefty fielder

September 29th, 2009
8:14 am

See if you’ve heard this before . . . “Falcons showing blitz . . . (fill in the blank) is changing the play . . . Falcons blitz anyway . . . it gets picked up . . . pass complete to (fill in the blank).” Same thing over in Athens.

Big Ron26

September 29th, 2009
8:19 am

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure, they didn’t get it thats the ballgame I would have blitzed Brady all day the way he threw the ball it wasn’t great a little pressure he would have turned the ball over blitzing also would have helped them stop the Run and as far as the Run defense move J. Anderson to DT blitz more and if anyone notices the Defense misses a lot of tackles thats just me and final thing on the defense call me crazy but doesn’t John abraham starting to look and play his age he was no challenge on sunday the Tackle just pushed him along just no challenge and dont talk about Matt he played a good game just didnt get the ball enough the O-line is still great Ryan was never touched all game not worried about run game it will be there when we need it Offense isn’t the problem this and wont be for years to come its the defense that may cost us big time WE NEED A PASS RUSH!!!! Please use bye week to create pressure our season depends on it.

Huge Falcon Fan

September 29th, 2009
8:33 am

It always seems to me that when we are on offense, we seem timid and try to take what the defense gives us. Yet when we are on defense, we seem to play the same way. We never seem to attack on offense or defense. I’ve followed the Falcons since 66, and had many heartbreaks after games, but I’d rather go down fighting than play like we did Sunday.

Good Grief

September 29th, 2009
8:34 am

I only recall one decision that I felt Mike went soft on us and showed no guts. Midway through the third quarter we had the ball on their side of the field. It was 4 & 3 or 4 & 4 and coach decided to play for field position in a time where we were carving them up on defense. The next drive Bill decided to go for two 4th downs on offense and converted both of them and got a field goal out of the drive to go up 6. That was the killer right there, and then later on in the game he had another opportunity to go for it on fourth down and didn’t bother to go for it, but it was to late by then.

It was just surprising because last year Mike went for it on fourth down several times. I understand the concept of we’re on the road, but we were in position to take the lead in a game that was more like a shootout without all the td’s. Game could have easily had a final score of something like 40 – 30 if either team converted because both teams when they had the ball was able to move it offensively with ease.

midnite

September 29th, 2009
8:37 am

That was poor officiating at it’s best. Jenkins was robbed on the offensive pass interference. If Turner doesn’t fumble we still have the momentum. It was not the best performance, but those two plays could have made a huge difference. Light held Abe on every down, which is good football if it’s not called.

We went to Foxboro and faced a pi$$ed off Patriots team and simply got our a$$ handed to us. I mean we’re talking Brady and Belichick for crying out loud.

Was anyone expecting us to run the table this year?

William

September 29th, 2009
8:37 am

It sure looked like poor coaching to me. Of course as long as analysts decides how to play the game, we are going to have games like the one against NE. The book says you must punt on 4th down. Wow, NE did not! I guess playing by the book allows you to lose with dignity. I mean it is better to lose by 3 than 33. I guess if you lose by 3 you receive a smaller L in the loser column. I was hoping Smith had gonads but until you get mad dog mean, the only teams will be NE, Pitt, COLTS, Bears, and Eagles. I mean that is all you see on the NFL network. Atlanta can change things around. I am a believer it is a team effort and not just a one man superstar like the analysts talk about everyday.
I agrees with those who say defense wins championships but the Falcons are loaded on offense too. Someone tell Smith we like winners and dont give a hoot about losers.

JB Wright

September 29th, 2009
8:39 am

Enter your comments here
To F-105 Thunderchief, with your logic, only people of the same vocation are qualified to comment on anything? What, because I’ve never been a line cook I can’t say my eggs were over-cooked? Shut up!

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
8:39 am

Actually, I thought the call on Jenkins was appropriate. He didn’t just push off. He held off.

Dean

September 29th, 2009
8:41 am

After watching Mora’s rant after Seattle’s loss, I got on my knees and praised the Heavens for our coaching staff. Everybody in ATL is going through “The Process”.

DandyD

September 29th, 2009
8:44 am

Big Ron, good points, but how ’bout throwin’ in a period or a comma every now and then so I can follow your thought without gettin’ dizzy. Anyway, the SF game looms huge as to gauging how this TEAM makes not only mid-game adjustments, but mid-SEASON adjustments based on everything that obviously needs tinkering and fine-tuning, i.e. defense, rush-offense, coach-management. If we skunk in SF, be afraid…be very afraid…

JT

September 29th, 2009
8:46 am

Mr.Bradley. Can you please explain to me why is everyone panicking after 1 loss. My goodness, we are still 2-1. Let the professionals coach the team. If the people on these blogs were so talented and had the answer to the Falcons winning, TD would hire them instead of Mike Smith with actual experience. I too am disappointed that they lost but lets move on and focus on the next game. The niners are a different team with different personnel. What happened at NE means nothing in SF. Lets support the team instead of criticize every move they make. In the NFC there are only 3 teams that are 3 and 0 and a handful of 2-1 teams and we are one of them. If the season ended today we would be in the playoffs. Relax people and enjoy and support you team. They need their fans. The players play better when the fans are behind them instead of scrutinizing every play.

Grady Jackson Fan

September 29th, 2009
8:47 am

Go for it on fourth down on your 23 yard line, like the Patriots did. That was pretty desperate to me.

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
8:48 am

I don’t think anyone’s panicking. Or, I should say, I don’t think anyone should be panicking.

Mark Bradley

September 29th, 2009
8:49 am

I think Bill Belichick sent a message to his team in practice last week that it needed to be tougher, and going for it on fourth down was his way of testing his men. Not many coaches go for it there with a six-point lead. I’m not sure any coach does.

PMC

September 29th, 2009
8:51 am

Yes, offensively they punted in the 4th far too often. They don’t have corners who can really play without a little PI going on.

On defense. RIDICULOUS! They brought safeties, they brought corners, they brought linebackers… the Pats line held firm and they ran the ball at will. The Falcons don’t have much talent at all in the secondary and they are very very very thin on the defensive line. THEY HAVE TO PLAY ZONE to have a chance to win. The Falcon defense was stopping their offense and holding them to field goals. They CAN’T bring pressure all the time because they don’t have the talent on the edges to compete with Randy Moss and company one on one all day long.

The defense was fine. The offense was freaking garbage. The Turner fumble and the lack of confidence in the offense to convert 4th downs late… cost them the game.

DandyD

September 29th, 2009
8:52 am

No one is panicking,but in supporting your team you want to offer what you may think is constructive criticism, even if it’s from the position of armchair quarterback. That, by definition, is the job description of an armchair QB. Where’s Sidbury? Maybe if we get together a petition, Smitty will throw him in the fray…(just wishful thinkin’…)

PMC

September 29th, 2009
8:54 am

Jamaal Anderson not only kills the Falcons by being on of the worst draft picks in the history of the Franchise… they stop them on 3rd down on their first drive and he gets the softest P**** tap for a personal foul ever…. and HE STARTS FOR THIS TEAM…. that tells you just how horribly thin they are on the DL. Pressure? We’re lucky if they can stop the run. We’re lucky we are so much better than we have been of late at linebacker. BVG is calling the plays he thinks they can execute. When he called secondary blitzes…they didn’t make it to the QB.

The Unbiased Minority

September 29th, 2009
8:55 am

Grady Jackson Fan
September 29th, 2009
8:47 am

‘Go for it on fourth down on your 23 yard line, like the Patriots did. That was pretty desperate to me.’

Or the act of a man that has the the cache of 3 rings and balls the size of the one Atlas has on his shoulders. Not only did that energize the Pats, it showed how confident the Pats were in Atlanta’s inability to stop the run; even with advance notice.

pd

September 29th, 2009
8:55 am

Whether or not you are able to get pressure on a qb consistently is not the point. On at least one play, and it has to be early in the game, you absolutely, positively, have to lay a big hit on the QB. Even if the blitz burns you and the RB picks up big yardage, the QB MUST be pulling grass out of his helmut one time. Falcons failed to do that and Brady rightfully felt that he had all day to throw the ball.

I think that the loss of Parade Jerry is going to sting all year.

The Unbiased Minority

September 29th, 2009
8:56 am

Enter your comments here

Chef montuer

September 29th, 2009
8:58 am

Enter your comments hereThe Falcons are playing for 2nd place in the division. Saints will trample them

coastaljim

September 29th, 2009
9:13 am

We did blitz periodically, but the Patriots picked up every one of them. I sometimes wonder if BVG has even heard of the term stunt.

I have no problem with the offensive pass interference call on Jenkins. If Randy Moss had done the same thing, I would have been screaming for a flag.

Why did we keep punting in the fourth quarter when we were down two scores?? I understand it was in our end of the field, but a loss is a loss. We should have rolled the dice and gone for it!!

LutherVan

September 29th, 2009
9:17 am

The falcons have too many gaps on D to be a contender. They’ll likely miss the playoffs.

Reid Adair

September 29th, 2009
9:19 am

I tend to agree with your assessment, Mark. The Patriots’ success running the ball on Sunday was far more important to their victory than Brady’s somewhat average passing performance.

garcia

September 29th, 2009
9:29 am

Just a few random points:

1 We can not put pressure on the QB with our four man rush. That is not unusual, many teams employ elaborate blitz packages to get to the QB. The teams that take that aggressive approach have CB’s that can cover WR’s man-to-man. Do we have such CB’s on the roster? Houston plays with his back to the ball and Grimes (despite great effort) can not overcome his lack of size.
Until we play CB’s that can handle man-to-man coverage, we will not see opposing QB’s hurried. And, we will continue to see third and long’s converted against us. Williams looks pretty good and we are all curious to see what Hill can do. Let’s see what Smith does during the bye.

2 Tony Gonzalez is the most feared and respected offensive player on this team. The Pats assigned two, sometimes three, defenders to him every play. Drawing so much attention, why didn’t we take advantage of the favorable matchups? White and Jenkins got single coverage. Turner did not face eight in the box. And, the experienced duo of Booker and Finn should have been open all day long.
So, why didn’t we capitalize on the Gonzo effect? Ryan made the right reads and he was accurate. We simply did not run the ball. Nineteen rushing attempts will not get it done.

3 Thomas DeCoud is getting some grief for missing the interceptions. Personally, I like the fact that a virtual rookie FS was in the right place at the right time. I think that DeCoud will turn out to be a heck of a good FS for many years. The interceptions will come. If you want to find the problem, you won’t find it in the deep patrol.

4 What happened to our interior OL? I get that Blalock might be better in pass protection than run blocking. I can excuse that because he protects Ryan’s blind side. McClure may not be a guy that can push the pile backwards, but he knows the game and makes all the calls. That leaves the RG position. If we are going to be a run oriented offense, we absolutely need a RG that we can ride. What about Dahl? He has the rep for being a nasty guy. Why can’t he put his nastiness to good use? We should be able to give the ball to Turner and Snelling and run four yards behind our RG. That ain’t happening.
Once Vince Wilfork left the game with an ankle injury, I figured that we were going to run right up NE’s gut. Not so. Something is wrong and we need to fix it quickly.

5 Smith said that our DL did not control their gaps. Watching the game, I was amazed at how our interior DL seemed to be pushed off the ball and to the side. Running lanes were not only open, they were big enough to install toll booths. Hopefully, Trey Lewis will get his feet back soon. If not, we are going to have to go shopping for a DT. I hear that there is a DT in Jax that may not be entirely happy with his coach.

6 Finally, although I have plenty of gripes, we should all realize that this team is still on the rise. We have an excellent coaching staff, a gifted talent evaluator, a franchise QB, and several quality foundation-type players on both sides of the ball. We have the makings of a very strong franchise. Patience will be required.

Gravy Train

September 29th, 2009
9:30 am

This game was yet another example of what you get with a defense that can’t generate pressure with the front four. It doesn’t look like BVG has the same kind of talent pool he had while at UGA. I maintain that BVG is not so great without Pollack, Davis, and Sullivan type guys. If the Pats receivers didn’t have a case of the dropsies the final score would’ve been much worse.

The most glaring weakness to me, was that nobody on the Falcons offense stepped up. White and Jenkins were in very favorable coverages because the Pats chose to focus on Turner and Gonzalez. Where were they? Why didn’t Ryan take a deep shot with one of those guys?

Joseph

September 29th, 2009
9:30 am

Take away the questionable calls, and there were many made by the refs, the Falcons may have even pulled out a victory in NE while playing scared. We saw the problems, but we also saw a team on the edge of being pretty darn good IF they can be little more agressive.

garcia

September 29th, 2009
9:33 am

One more thing. If a level headed coach decides to go for it on fourth down (at his own 25 yard line and early in the game), then there is little respect for your defense. That one play, more than any other, should be burning Smith for some time.

FALCONS SORRY

September 29th, 2009
9:50 am

MARK BRADLY! YEAH! YOU BETTER BELEAVE THAT COACH SMITTY WAS SCARRED ON SUNDAY IN NEW ENGLAND! HE WAS SCARRED OF THE PATROTS BEING A BETTER TEAM WITH BETTER PLAYERS AND A BETTER QB AND A BETTER DEFENCE THAT IS OWN BY AN OWNER WHO AINT TOO CHEAP TO PUT A DECENT TEAM ON THE FIELD! SMITTY WAS SCARRED IF HIS WEAK ARM QB MIGHT BRAKE A NAIL! SMITTY WAS SCARRED THAT HIS SWISS CHEESE DEFENCE THAT AUTHUR BLANK GOT AT THE 1 DOLLAR STORE WOULD GET RUN OVER! AND THEY DID! SMITTY WAS SCARRED THAT HE DIDNT HAVE ENOUGH LIFE INSURANCE ON TURNER BURNER WHO IS DEAD TIRED FROM HAVING TO CARRY THIS TEAM ALL SEASON! A TEAM LIKE THE EAGELS AINT AFRAID TO SPEND GOOD MONEY ON TALENT WHEN THEY SEE IT! THEY AINT TOO CHEAP TO PAY TOP DOLLAR FOR THE BEST BACKUP SOON TO BE STARTING QB IN THE ENTIRE NFL! GET READY PEOPLE! GET YOUR TRAIN TICKETS TODAY! THE #7 SUPPER BOWL EXPRESS TRAIN IS LOADING IN PHILY AND IS GETTING READY TO MAKE ITS NON STOP WAY TO MIAMI! STRAIGHT THREW THE ATL ON ITS WAY! CHOO CHOO AUTHUR BLANK! CHOO! CHOO!

Falcon Sam

September 29th, 2009
9:55 am

The Falcons play well from a lead, but seem to have no clue how to play from behind. How they could not prepare for the run on any week in the NFL is inexcusable. The gaping holes that we saw are poor coaching. Let’s see how Mike and Brian adjust, though. Maybe they will have learned a lesson at a time when it won’t kill the season.