5 reasons not to panic over the Falcons just yet

1. There are still six wins on the schedule. To enumerate: Two against Tampa Bay, one more against Carolina, home victories over Washington and Buffalo and a road victory over the Jets. That would make 10, and 10 generally gets you into the playoffs. And the Philadelphia game here — maybe you’ve heard some discussion about it — on Dec. 6 is a tossup. That would make 11, which would make the Falcons a postseason lock.

2. There’s room for growth everywhere. This is a polite way of saying the Falcons aren’t tearing it up in any single category. They’re 19th in the NFL in total offense, and they should be in the top 10. They’re 25th in total defense, which is one spot down from last season, which was to be expected with the changes made on D. Given the losses of Peria Jerry and Brian Williams, it will be hard for this defense to improve much this season. But the offense should have some breakout games in it, which would give the Falcons a puncher’s chance against anybody.

3. Jason Snelling looked good against Dallas. And that’s a major consideration, seeing that Jerious Norwood is still hurting (hip flexor this time) and Michael Turner is beginning to resemble a one-year wonder. Turner is averaging 3.4 yards per carry, down a full yard off last season’s yield. Put simply, that yard is the difference between second-and-four and second-and-five. Either the Burner gets it going or Snelling gets a longer look.

4. This staff is not Jim Mora’s staff. Mora and Co. were fine so long as nothing went wrong but clueless when something inevitably did. There are fine coaches working in Flowery Branch now — Mike Smith, Mike Mularkey, Brian VanGorder, Sugar Bear Hamilton, Paul Boudreau — and they’ll fix as much as coaches possibly can. And then, if that isn’t enough, Thomas Dimitroff will go to work come February 2010.

5. Remember when we kept saying this might be a better team with a worse record? It still might. The aggregate record of the Falcons’ six opponents is 19-18. Their first six opponents last season were 14-20. There haven’t been any Detroits or Kansas Citys on this schedule, but things will get easier in December. The Falcons are going to lose more games — they’ll lose Monday night in the Superdome — but they’ll manage that breakthrough winning season and they’ll make the playoffs. Keep the faith.

219 comments Add your comment


October 27th, 2009
10:42 pm

Quick editing work needed. In reason number 2, it reads: Given the losses of Peria Jerry and Brian Williams, it will be hard for this offense to improve much this season. I’m assuming you meant “it will be hard for this ‘defense’ to improve much this season.”

eastbound and down

October 27th, 2009
10:43 pm

as long as the falcons win the games they are supposed to win, the season will be ok. losing one to tampa or carolina is a freal possibility. see eagles vs. raiders


October 27th, 2009
10:48 pm

Mark Bradley

October 27th, 2009
10:50 pm

I did. Thanks, Brewdawg.

But I meant, figuratively and literally, no offense.


October 27th, 2009
10:54 pm

As a long time Falcons Fan, I can’t help but think negative. Hope your right. Any ideas on Turner? He seems to be a main reason our offense is sputtering.

darrell starks

October 27th, 2009
10:54 pm

What another vacation 51 hours after the game you put up post LOL
GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!


October 27th, 2009
10:54 pm

Admittedly, third isn’t first, but it’s likely as close as I’ll ever get.

That aside, good article Mark. I especially liked the points made regarding our offense — 19th is at least 12 spots too low for the talent on that unit, in my opinion — and our schedule. It’s not easy, but we’ve still got three games vs. the Bucs and Panthers (…all three of which should result in victories), plus the Redskins aren’t beating anyone. At the very least I think we win 9 games this year, which breaks our run of 40-something years of not having back-to-back winning seasons. Not bad for a franchise that was dead in the water just two years ago.

In Dmitroff and Smith we trust (…because it’s better than anything ever assembled by the Marion Campbells and June Joneses of the world).


October 27th, 2009
10:56 pm

…and turn that frown upside down, RomeDawg. Greater things are yet to come.

Wesley Wallace

October 27th, 2009
10:58 pm

I will still be happy with a .500 season. I think the Falcons will make the first round of the playoffs, and then be done, or they will barely miss the post season. Without the Peria Jerry and Brian Williams injuries, I think we could have been playing in the NFC Championship game.

I’m excited about next year, but this year we are playing teams that have good QBs that are going to exploit our secondary.

darrell starks

October 27th, 2009
11:01 pm

Defense Defense Defense wins championship, now sense our best cornerback is out we can’t man up 1 on 1, the secondary will be exposed bad.
GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!

Ted Striker

October 27th, 2009
11:04 pm

Absolutely agree. It’s wise not to get too distressed over a single loss, especially a road loss — even if you didn’t look good.

This isn’t college football where style points and pollster opinions determine how a team can have an opportunity to finish at the end.

There’s nothing “mythical” about an NFL championship. In a league with a playoff all you need is an invite. Just ask the Cardinals.


October 27th, 2009
11:07 pm

I wonder what will happen first?

Will Matty Ice and Mike Smith face their first losing streak? Meaning losing two games in a row?

Or will Mike Vick be relevent?

Mark… I sincerely hope the AJC and you have some plans on how to handle a certain troll blogger who’s tones by the names of Vick Supporter 2, Bad News, and now “Choke,” because the rest of us, even those with INTELLIGENT anti-Falcon comments, are getting to the point where this trolling is enough is enough.

Other websites promote discourse and disagreement, and still have no issues regulating the trolls.

It’s time for the AJC to step up to the big leagues in that department, because you and Schultzie do a great job with the Live Blogs, but guys like this ruin the fun for everyone else, which means OUR rights are being impugned, which is reason enough to ban him.


October 27th, 2009
11:11 pm

The point I’m making is, no one has a problem with someone who ADDS something to the conversation, even if it’s a Cowboys fan, or a Saints fan busting our balls.

But all this troll does is yell “Noodle Arm” and “Mike Vick” all blog long.

Enough is enough with this guy.

ron the man

October 27th, 2009
11:12 pm

We falcon fans need to remember that we have a very young team especially on defense. Lots of guys playing in their position for the first year, and they will only get better with experience and good coaching. We have enough talent on the field to win most ball games if the guys will maintain their intensity, and this will come in time with reps. We all have questions about why some players like cris and tye are not playing, but then we know the coaches see them in practice against our quality receivers and they have an edge on us in those decisions. We appear to be just a few seoonds off on the pass rush and I am sure the coaches will come up with the right combinations this week to put some fear in Drew Brees and maybe a bruise or two on his chest to cause him to rush some throws.Our run defense has improved,and we have a good chance with maximum effort of upsetting the Saints. Go Falcons>>>>

Najeh Davenpoop

October 27th, 2009
11:13 pm

I wouldn’t be so sure about chalking up a road game against the Jets as a victory. A team that holds New Orleans to 24 points on the road (yes, considering how good the Saints offense is that is a significant achievement) and beats New England at home is no joke.


October 27th, 2009
11:18 pm

I don’t want to see them blown out again. I understand victories and losses, but it hurts to lose to an inferior team. The thing I don’t understand is the lack of parity between divisions. Our O-Line looked like a WALL/battering ram last year against the AFC West. This year, they struggle against the East-ers. Is one part of the league JV and the NFC South and East and the AFC East etc because of excellent coaching? The teams draw from the same talent pool, so it is hard to believe that is the essence of the disparity.

Whopper Dawg

October 27th, 2009
11:42 pm


I think your comments are spot on. In one game, Dallas, I went from thinking I really didn’t know what position I would draft in 2010 (that was very early one), to thinking we need 400 draft picks (not early one).

One real worry is the 2009 draft. I don’t see one contributor from that draft. I know the top two are out for the year now, but injuries were their rap coming in and we drafted them anyway This is a real problem, like taking a bogey on the birdie hole in the PGA, you give up strokes to the field. I am afraid we did that in the 2009 draft, and it will come home to roost. We are not in a position to stock pile talent, the picks, at least the high ones, have to play.

Ghost Rider

October 27th, 2009
11:43 pm

Guys, come visit the NFL’s newest football MB. http://letsgofootball.com/index.php? Soon to be the best site to come talk football.


October 27th, 2009
11:54 pm

I am a Michael Turner fa but I could kind of see this coming. I don’t have any stats to back me up right now but I think that last year he used games agaist really weak teams to pad stats… i.e. a 200 game apiece vs. Detroit and St. Louis. He also had good games against KC, GB, Oak, and SD, whose run defenses were nothing too special either. He had good games against TB and CAR the second times around which were really good, but against Philly, the Vikes, and Chicago he didn’t have very high YPC. I don’t even think he had 100 yards against the Saints at all last year. So anyway I think this is to be expected a little, he will have a breakout game now that Ive said this but just pointing out something that I noticed…

Matt "Choke" Ryan

October 27th, 2009
11:55 pm


You need to put that crack pot down.

The Falcons beat The Niners (They have lost 3 in a row)

The Falcons beat Chicago (They lost Sunday 45-10)

The Falcons Beat Carolina (They are hopeless)

The Falcons beat Miami (They gave up 30 in 1 half to The Saints)

They have beaten bottom of the barrel teams and then against “ELITE” franchises…………..

They were BLOWN OUT by The Patriots (They lost to The Jets)

They were BLOWN OUT by The Cowboys (Falcons only win with winning record)

You really think they will beat The Eagles, you really need psych examination. In fact they will get dominated by both The Redskins & Jets and Buffalo will be a toss up.

This season is DONE.

The “NEW FACE” of the franchise project is a BUST just like Matt “Choke” Ryan!


October 27th, 2009
11:57 pm

Our Falcons will go 10-6 or 9-7 this season for the first back to back winning seasons in franchise history. It is remarkable what Coach Smith and the organization has done in such a short period of time! We will continue to improve with our great GM, our great Coach, our great Coaching Staff, and our great Owner! This is only a temporary setback, but we are definitely heading in the right direction! We need two corners and two defensive linemen. Hopefully, we can get a couple of these by free agency, the draft, or the development of some of our recent draft choices. It will be real tough in New Orleans Monday niight. Don’t expect a win. Our secondary is too porous and we are not getting enough of a pass rush to help them out. Unfortunately, we will get beat about 42- 24. New Orleans offense is too good for out talent level that we currently have on defense. But don’t get down on our team, things are pointed in the right direction! That is the good news! GO FALCONS!

Matt "Choke" Ryan

October 27th, 2009
11:58 pm


vs Chicago 68…2 tds….2 ints

vs Dallas 66….2 tds…2 ints….2 fumbles

Playoffs?….. Really?

Najeh Davenpoop

October 27th, 2009
11:59 pm


October 28th, 2009
12:09 am

OK Mark……..5 reasons not to panic over the falcons…5 reasons the hawks will make the eastern conference title. what’s next? 5 reasons why the braves will make the playoffs in 2010…5 reasons why the georgia bulldogs will beat the florida gators this saturday…5 reasons why Ga. Tech will lose again this yr in a meaningful bowl game…and the most important of all, 5 reasons why southerners eat grits….lol.

Kevrock/Smarty Jones

October 28th, 2009
12:21 am

Hey Matt ‘Choke’ Ryan…This is Ryan’s only 2nd year…He’s way ahead of QB’s say a Jay Cutler…so we still have a few years for the Choke reference and I will give 2 more…If he has the stats of say the Bears/Cowboys then yes I would agree with you…For the 49′ers game most folks had the 49′ers winning…Look who is the choker there…Shaun ‘I love larry Johnson’s Johnson’s’ Hill…

Matt "Choke" Ryan

October 28th, 2009
12:40 am

I really don’t know where the AJC journalists get their logics in the bogus predictions they make.

Against New England & Dallas, the combined scores were:

60 – 31

So how in the world are they going to stand a chance Against the Blitzing defenses of the Eagles, Jets, Giants, Buffalo & the Run stuffing Redskins and their shutdown corners?

Get serious!

Ted Striker

October 28th, 2009
12:42 am

Interesting. A guy known for predictably repetitive “Fire Willie” (etc, etc) diatribes on this blog is actually calling out other bloggers for being predictably repetitive on other subjects. Does he want a monopoly on the practice? Does he want a cookie?

Granted, nobody gets much out of a broken record on a blog, but there are numerous broken records on any quality site that permits diverse opinions. It’s not the role of the AJC to ban someone who has a legitimate disparate opinion from another reader — as long as that person keeps it clean and plays nice.

Then again — as Harry Lime said about Switzerland: “They had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? — The cuckoo clock.”

Cage match between opposing parties!

Matt "Choke" Ryan

October 28th, 2009
12:45 am

Kevrock/Smarty Jones

October 28th, 2009
12:21 am
Hey Matt ‘Choke’ Ryan…This is Ryan’s only 2nd year…He’s way ahead of QB’s say a Jay Cutler…so we still have a few years for the Choke reference and I will give 2 more…If he has the stats of say the Bears/Cowboys then yes I would agree with you…For the 49′ers game most folks had the 49′ers winning…Look who is the choker there…Shaun ‘I love larry Johnson’s Johnson’s’ Hill…

Aren’t you guys saying he is more intelligent, better passer, better leader etc than Vick?

Well guess what? In Vick’s 2nd season, not only did the team go to the playoffs, Vick was the 1st qb in NFL HISTORY to beat Green Bay on the road, so what are you saying?

Does that mean Vick actually was better? Or does the CHOKE has an excuse for needing more time.

Pro Bowl Back

Pro Bowl Receiver

Pro Bowl Tight End

More improved coaches

More improved Offensive Linemen

What more does he need?

Time is like the N.F.L. (Not For Long).

Matt "Choke" Ryan

October 28th, 2009
12:48 am

Ted Striker

TOUCHE – Well said!!!


October 28th, 2009
12:56 am


Matt Ryan has an evil stalker.

Seriously? You’re going to bash Matt Ryan? The guy has been nothing short of phenomenal in his year and a half wearing the Falcons’ uniform and has a 0.0000% risk of going to jail for organizing an interstate dogfighting ring, and you’re going to hate on him because of two poor games? Hands down the best rookie quarterback season in several years last year, and two games aside, putting up a strong campaign in his sophomore season, and all of a sudden he’s Matt “Choke” Ryan.

Excellent analysis.


October 28th, 2009
12:58 am

difference here, Ted Striker, is for two years, I HAVE HAD THE STASTICAL ANALYSIS of Willie’s ENTIRE career at Central Michigan, East Carolina, and now at Georgia to lead the fire Willie Martinez movement.

Which by the way, is FAR more CREDIBLE than this lunatics ravings about Mike Vick being better than Matt Ryan.

Ravings which are RACIALLY motivated, by the way.

Sorry, Striker, you may be a blind homer and think everything is hunky-dory with Martinez, but you DO NOT want to cast your lot with this race-baiting psycho.

Mark Bradley

October 28th, 2009
1:00 am

My favorite part of the cuckoo clock scene: The little skip the nefarious Harry Lime does as he leaves Holly at the big wheel.

Denver Bird

October 28th, 2009
1:08 am

man, oh man, how I wish I had watched as many movies as Ted Striker…


October 28th, 2009
1:11 am

The real question, Mark, if you’re awake and still reading…

….who do you think represents the NFC at this point? New Orleans? Minnesota? Tampa Bay? (snicker)

I don’t think I’ve ever picked the Saints for anything other than “worst football uniforms,” but my God, they look unstoppable right now. I’m gonna go with New Orleans vs. the Colts in the league’s first “All Dome team Super Bowl.”


October 28th, 2009
1:14 am

And while Ted Striker knows his movies, I’m with BugKiller on the D-Cord representation. Willie Martinez, while a nice guy, isn’t fit to be the defensive coordinator of your average high school program at this point. Here’s hoping Coach Richt does the right thing and splurges for Kirby Smart or Will Muschamp or some other former Bulldog who is making a name for themselves elsewhere this offseason. :)


October 28th, 2009
1:17 am

I’m going to repost this since I posted it so late on a previous page I’m not sure anyone read it…

These are just some of my arm chair coaching thoughts and comments. Is it just me or does anyone else see the same things???

1.) Matt Ryan seems to be looking too much to Tony Gonzalez at the expense of getting the ball down field. I also think that we’ve run less designed bootlegs and rollouts than we did last year and this has effected our ability to get the ball down field. I think we do miss Harry Douglas a little more than expected but it should be no excuse… Where is the vertical passing game????

2.) Tony Gonzalez put up good numbers and has been a huge bonus in the redzone but conversely hurt some of the chemistry that White had with Ryan as well as hurt us in the run game with average blocking especially early in the season, it has gotten a bit better and we have seemed to try to run behind him less but it is still a concern for me.

3.) Sam Baker has also been a bit off in his blocking in the few games that I spent time reviewing.

4.) If Snelling is out-rushing Mike Turner change the depth chart for a game and see if that gets Turner’s attention.

5.) Despite a lot of criticism Brent Grimes has played quite well especially against Chicago whose only receivers are over 6 feet are 3rd stringers. But for God’s sake why is he covering Austin Miles (6ft.3in.) when Tye Hill and Chevis Jackson would be better match-ups? Brent Grimes should start against any receiver 6ft or under and sit the bench against anyone taller.

6.) Chris Houston is a fairly decent CB but “HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM” in at least 3 games now you gotten caught not getting your head around and giving up big pass interference calls.

7.) Thank God they finally decided to move Jamal Anderson inside but for the third game in a row now the pass rushers in the middle have gotten out of position and let HUGE running lanes open up for the opposing QBs. I think that almost 40% of the opponent rushing yards in the last three games have been by the QBs… Thankfully the total opponent rushing yards are down but still this is a BIG problem if you ask me.


October 28th, 2009
1:20 am

The lesser Jamal Anderson has even been somewhat impressive in the middle, Cali, to speak to your final point. He was in the backfield a pretty good bit last game. There may be hope for the man yet.

The Grinch

October 28th, 2009
2:44 am

I will echo that the Jets are not an automatic victory. And being the falcons, they’ll probably lose one to the Bucs and win one vs. the Saints.

Turner needs to be temporarily benched in favor of Snelling, purely to motivate him to drop a couple of pounds and hit the hole hard like he used to.

The loss of Jerry, Douglas, Mughelli, Norwood, Williams and Moore is what’s keeping us out of the NFC title game.

Speaking of Moore, how the hell does a SAFETY miss an entire season due to a pulled hamstring? A scrawny wideout would be one thing (though still hard to believe), but aren’t safety’s supposed to be tough?

Despite the setbacks and the schedule, I still expect us to break the streak and really hit our stride in the next year or two, providing the coaching staff stays intact.

And add me to the list of those who love the first amendment but feel that “angryblackvicksupporterchokeryannoodlearm” doesn’t contribute much and is getting very, very, very old.

David Smith

October 28th, 2009
3:09 am

Thanks for the encouraging words Mark. It amazes me how many fans have already given up on this team after six games in this season (The Atlanta Falcons website has “fans” who are already looking forward to next year’s draft instead of looking forward to the rest of the season). As a fan for 33 years of this team I have experienced much ridicule and suffering for supporting a franchise that hasn’t had consecutive winning seasons in it’s 43 years of existence (I’m to set in my ways to support another franchise). The bottom line is that this team is capable of winning for years to come (with a few more pieces) and deserve our support (unless you want to feel the pain of Cleveland, LA, Brooklyn, and even our former hockey team the Flames who all left other cities to win championships elsewhere). GO FALCONS!!!

Harvard Blue

October 28th, 2009
6:14 am

Fan of 41 years (all of my life). Blame my dad for that.

Not giving up but….

Problem #1: Dimitroff and Smith have done well, but the Foxworth business was handled poorly. BIG MISTAKE. Bigger was acting like it wasn’t important and not trying to do fix it.

Problem #2: How many NFL teams have 0 CB value. Even the Raiders have 1 good CB.

Problem #3: Turner ain’t getting it done. You say this isn’t Mora’s staff. Well tell them to stop sitting around watching the wheels come offf. Show the fans that you care as much as we do.

Problem #4: Stop jumping around placing some of the blame on Ryan. I know he’s the franchise but he is throwing too many passes away which are resulting in an extremely high number of “3 and outs” which any real football fan knows, but announcers, analysts, and coaches try to ignore, kill a defense!

Mitch (the one in Rome)

October 28th, 2009
6:16 am

I wonder if bringing in the running back and signing him is to light a fire under Turner’s a$$? And my point is that it’s not blocking, etc, but that it’s Turner’s effort. Our coaches do NOT deal with stuff in the media they just replace you if you don’t perform. It could be that Turner is getting a reminder that you have to earn the right to start in the NFL. I know Jerious is still hurt and, but not out and I thought we would pick up more secondary help. Just wondering.

I’m just not too concerned. I have not seen anything that tells me out D sucks. They are young, fast and sometimes make stupid mistakes (like wrong angles on pursuit), but that can be coached. The secondary just has to cover too long. No one in the league can cover that long. It’s not possible. The pass rush is the killer. When the rush is there our secondary looks pro-bowl. When it’s not there they get toasted. They have skill, but they can’t cover forever. We HAVE to get a pass rush going without sending the entire house every down. Stunts, one or two to blitz at the right place, but not every down.

We’ll be ok. I agree with Mark. We have 5 or 6 wins left on the schedule, and if the streak of not losing back to back games keeps up, maybe 7.

Go Birds!!!!


October 28th, 2009
6:59 am

9 – 7 would be a fortunate finish for the Falcons, based on the performance to date.

Ryan is beginning to pre-determine where he’s going with the ball on passing plays….often into double coverage. Surely there are “reads” involved and other options to the primary receiver.

Turner “the Burner” looks sluggish and impatient. He’s not seeing the holes, nor cutback lanes. Definitely not the same guy as last year.

The corners are professional only by virtue of receiving a check for their play.


October 28th, 2009
7:10 am

I pretty much agree with all of your observations, Mr. Bradley. I too believe the Falcons will again post a winning season, which will be huge in getting that ignonimity of never doing so back-to-back out of sight and mind. But with what we have now, I think we’d have to have a run of luck like the Arizona Cardinals had last year to reach the Superbowl; I felt that in every NFC playoff game, possibly with the exception of their game against the Eagles, they caught teams napping or took advantage of sloppy plays and mistakes (Atlanta and Carolina) to advance. But right now I just don’t see us making it; Ryan’s improving, but still hasn’t yet become comfortable taking shots downfield or avoided the occasional head-scratcher as far as interceptions or throwing laterally in long yardage situations. He’s definitely an improvement consistency-wise from Vick as far as the decision-making a quarterback is responsible for, but has a long way to go. And there are just too many holes that opposing teams (especially the better ones) can exploit on both sides of the ball right now.

One thing is for sure; our running game is killing us on offense, forcing Ryan to pass in long yardage situations time and time again. Hopefully Turner will get things turned around before we have to go shopping for another featured back either through the Draft or free agency. And our undersized defense (especially the secondary) is a liability we can no longer ignore come the offseason; we have to bring in some guys who will put opposing linemen on their backs and get to QBs, and have corners and safeties who are tall, athletic, and hard-hitting to dissuade opponents’ passing games.


October 28th, 2009
7:18 am

Falcons are still in it, but the secondary was finally exposed last weekend in Dallas. Not sure if it was the loss of Williams but i look at that game then look at the game coming up against the Saints and i’m thinking…oh my!! Get to Brees early, gotta have strong pass rush. Snelling is putting in a great effort and since Turner is sluggish, hand the rock to Snelling.


October 28th, 2009
7:22 am

Falcons don’t have much wiggle room should they lose one of those “6 wins on the schedule” games. There are 3 other teams in the conference that are also at 4-2 (out of those 3, Dallas/Green Bay look to have sort of the Falcons remaining schedule with more winnable than loseable games left while Philly might have the hardest).

At this point I’m thinking the Falcons could have a winning season but still miss out on the playoffs, but there’s still a ways to go before we can start filling out those NFC playoff brackets.

F-105 Thunderchief

October 28th, 2009
7:25 am

And that was a really big wheel.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

October 28th, 2009
7:51 am

Matt “Choke” Ryan, funny you mention Ryan’s last two games passer rating, Vick’s last two seasons, his passer ratting was 73.1 & 75.7. He probably had 10 – 12 fumbles in that time as well.


October 28th, 2009
7:54 am

Matt “Choke” Ryan, I want to compliment you here. You are actually putting out some decent blogs. Thank you for moving away from the repetitive blogs and putting some thought and facts together.

So clearly Mike Vick did wonders for this team in his early years and he was and may still be a tremendous athlete but he is no longer our QB, I think most fans are supported Vick while he was here and now support Ryan. I know I loved MV as our QB but he broke our fan hearts. He clearly burned us and most of us will never forget that. Kinda like the girl that you loved but she cheats on you. Most of us just want to move on. But bloggers such as yourself make that difficult. Just stating facts, my friend.


October 28th, 2009
7:57 am

7. Arthur Blank continues to stay out of football decisions.