The ‘F’ in Falcons? It’s also their grade on this midterm exam

That's DeSean Jackson scoring, Thomas DeCoud grasping. (AP photo)

That's DeSean Jackson scoring a touchdown, Thomas DeCoud grasping. (AP photo)

Philadelphia – There haven’t been many times under this administration when the Falcons have been outfought and out-thought, but this was one. The coaching? Lousy. The playing? Awful across the board.

On a day when the national media stood poised to crown this the NFC’s best team, the Falcons stunk out the joint. They trailed after 171 seconds. They trailed by 14 points after eight minutes, 10 seconds. They trailed by double figures the rest of the way. They didn’t look like the finest team in their conference. They barely ran second on Lincoln Financial Field.

“It was a good test for us,” said Tony Gonzalez, the tight end who scored the two touchdowns that made this score almost respectable. “Obviously we didn’t pass it.”

Nope. Flunked all ends up. If they came Ready To Play, it wasn’t apparent. They went three-and-out on their first possession, hoisted a short punt and allowed the Eagles to cover 50 yards in two plays. Asked if his team was primed, coach Mike Smith said: “The way we performed, I would say no. Before the ballgame … I thought we’d had a good week of  preparation.”

Which only goes to show: Practice doesn’t count. Said Thomas DeCoud, the safety: “When it comes down to it on game days, you’ve got to execute. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and do what we were doing well again.”

If this two-touchdown loss were a function of a top-flight opponent playing at peak capacity, you could write this off as one of those given Sundays. But the Eagles entered 3-2 and were working behind a backup quarterback. (Although it’s hard to tell just who Philadelphia’s quarterback is. Michael Vick, designated the starter last month, was relegated to emergency QB status due to injury and didn’t even appear on the bench.)

Kevin Kolb started and made like Joe Montana. Matt Ryan, the Philly product come home as the visiting quarterback, made like Steve DeBerg. But it wasn’t the quarterbacking that proved such a revelation: It was the offensive approaches of the teams.

The Eagles were quick and clever. Their first touchdown came on a reverse to DeSean Jackson. Their final touchdown came on a deep pass to Jeremy Maclin off a fake reverse. (A “ghost play,” in football argot.) Said DeCoud, who bit on the latter: “[The earlier play] may have had a hand in it. I heard someone call ‘reverse,’ and I went to turn my head. I have to be a little more disciplined with my eyes.”

Said Smith: “We were in a coverage that should have not had the ball thrown over our head and the ball was thrown over our head.”

The Eagles gained 474 yards to the Falcons’ 293. Said Ryan, who passed 42 times for just 250 yards: “We game-planned well. We just didn’t execute.”

One coaching staff maximized resources. The other did not. The Falcons were made to look ponderous and dated by comparison. Michael Turner never got going, which meant Ryan never got going, which meant the 31-17 final actually flattered the losers. (The Eagles’ David Akers missed three field goals.)

Said Mike Peterson, the linebacker and champion mixer of metaphors: “We were definitely ready, definitely prepared. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way early and starts rolling downhill, and we couldn’t do anything to stop the bleeding.”

If you’re looking for the game in four ugly words, there it was: We couldn’t do anything. Only a team this gifted shouldn’t be strapped for a response. The Falcons arrived being regarded as the class of the NFC, left having been outclassed.

“We weren’t concerned with being the best team in the NFL,” Turner said. “We were just trying to win the football game.”

Flunked on both counts. And now we’re left to wonder if the 4-2 Falcons, who’ve won twice and lost once on a game’s final kick, are as good as their record. We’re left to wonder why Andy Reid schemed circles around Smith and Brian VanGorder. We’re left to wonder why Mike Mularkey’s offense never looks so sleek. We’re left to wonder what the Eagles might have done with their No. 1 quarterback.

452 comments Add your comment

cattle dawg

October 17th, 2010
6:03 pm

cattle dawg

October 17th, 2010
6:03 pm

Any word on dunta and jackson?

alaska Dawg

October 17th, 2010
6:03 pm

Let’s take this loss in context. it is a long season. 4-2 at this point is much better than 2-4. We have a defining victory over the world champions. This isn’t the NCAA where 1 loss can ruin the season. I still think we are an 11-5 team that can go far in the playoffs. Mark, you are a great writer, but at times I find that you go too far left or too far right on issues. Let’s let the season play out and see how the coaching staff makes adjustments. Go Falcons!

Mark Bradley

October 17th, 2010
6:04 pm

Kudos, cattle dawg.

J.J..M

October 17th, 2010
6:05 pm

Its the whole team this how I see it…Our offense line is not dominate as they should be…Ryan is only relying on two tagerts Tony G and Roddy White(I saw harry douglas wide open on slant routs)play calling is just bad. It seems that they are still treating ryan like a baby and not letting him throw the ball down field, so instead of scoring on quick strikes(like the eagles did all day) we have to try to score on 7 minute play drives and only end up with a field goal…The thing is this has been happening the pass weeks you would think they have corrected it by now….and last who would have thought our defense would be better than our offense

CB

October 17th, 2010
6:05 pm

alaska Dawg

October 17th, 2010
6:06 pm

Exactly why did cattle dawg get kudos?

Mark Bradley

October 17th, 2010
6:07 pm

For being first, alaska Dawg.

woodie

October 17th, 2010
6:07 pm

Same old Falcons. When the heat is on they wither.

Political Man

October 17th, 2010
6:07 pm

Falcons – overrated. How about some of those mulit-millionaires earning their pay. They look like bush-leaguers.

Spete birddawg

October 17th, 2010
6:07 pm

SHOULD HAVE KEPT FAVRE SHAUB AND VICK

October 17th, 2010
6:07 pm

GET MATTY LICE IN THE WEIGHTROOM!

Spete birddawg

October 17th, 2010
6:08 pm

gotta type faster less reading

TrishaDishaWarEagle

October 17th, 2010
6:08 pm

In 3 words their O line played rope a dope..they pushed the pass rush to the corners then let go and as our DBs got to the pocket koplb stepped up in the pocket. Counted 8 or 9 times our DBs were behind KOLB in the backfield when he released the ball..i don;t think it will happen again, because we are talented on D and the coaches will make adjustment this week.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 17th, 2010
6:08 pm

For those of you complaining about Mularkey’s supposedly conservative play calling, the Falcons had 18 rushes compared to 42 passes today. That is a huge disparity in favor of passing.

The bottom line is, the defense played without discipline in the first quarter, and once the Falcons fell behind, Matt Ryan showed that like many a decent-but-not-great quarterback before him, he is fully capable of putting up good numbers working off of playaction, but when he has to put the offense on his back he is incapable of doing so.

UGABugKiller

October 17th, 2010
6:08 pm

SO MARK BRADLEY,

Does this mean you’re FINALLY ready to call out MIKE MULARKEY for holding this offense back from being everything it could be with his stubborness and refusal to take advantage of all its resources???

AGAIN… against a team that BLITZES HEAVILY… WHERE WERE THE FRAKKING SCREEN PASSES???

WHERE WAS MATT RYAN IN THE SHOTGUN???

WHERE WAS THE NO HUDDLE OFFENSE, WHICH MOVES SO MUCH BETTER THAN WHEN MULARKEY CALLS THE PLAYS???

Mike Mularkey may be a good offensive coach, but he is a HORRIBLE playcaller.

JSS

October 17th, 2010
6:09 pm

DeCoud got burnt like Elvis Patterson… That would be “Toast!”

alaska Dawg

October 17th, 2010
6:11 pm

Point taken Mark. If any city can provide a pro team’s fans with excruciatingly painful days like today it is indeed Atlanta. I am still on the bandwagon, but i realize things could go south quickly.

O.G. Falcon Fan

October 17th, 2010
6:12 pm

Yes it was a bad game. As i keep saying something is wrong with our Sepecial Teams. We aren’t covering punts the way we should.
All the trickeration plays made us look bad. I think the defense was playing too soft and what the hell is Abraham doing dropping into coverage.

UGABugKiller

October 17th, 2010
6:12 pm

Davenpoop, you don’t take into account all factors.

Like the fact that in the face of intense blitzes, Mularkey refuses to call screen passes to keep defenses honest.

You forgot that Mularkey refuses to spread the field, go four or five wide, as many teams have been doing the last five years since the rules have changed so much to favor passing offenses.

You forgot that again, in the face of a blitzing team, Mularkey didn’t have Ryan in the shotgun, which would have allowed him the time to find his receivers.

You forgot, again, that Mularkey is a horrible playcaller. No imagination. Just a stubborn refusal to adapt to what the other team’s defense is giving him.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 17th, 2010
6:12 pm

But that being said, the Falcons as a team still have plenty of talent on the roster and in the coaching staff, and they are still on track to make the playoffs as a high seed. I just don’t have much confidence in their ability to win games if they fall behind early and have to rely on the passing game.

Just Not Sure

October 17th, 2010
6:12 pm

I hope that this loss is a wake up call to our boys in red and black that they have way to much work to do. While it is nice to be in the spotlight, some of it I hate to say has not been deserved. I think Jamie Dukes said the other day on NFL Total Access that they haven’t proved that they can have a dominating offense, we seem to struggle every week no matter who the opponent, our defense leaks big plays every game and we can’t seem to bring the intensity like those teams that are playoff worthy. What scares me the most is after a loss like this is most teams start a death spiral. I hope that I am wrong,but there is sure a lot to get right before we can say our boys deserve to be in the playoffs much less the class of the NFC. No matter what though I will always be a FALCONS FAN!!!

stendek

October 17th, 2010
6:13 pm

Hi Mark. Just posted this response to another fan. Have nothing more to add…

Hi Snake Doc. When you talk about the offense it begins with intangibles. QB must be a winner. Forget physical talent. Forget potential. Guy must absolutely refuse to lose. Competitor like Bob Berry or Joe Kapp. Tough inside and out. Matt Ryan is not that type of athlete. Common myth is that run opens pass. Reality is that early passes open running lanes. Worked against Falcons. First and second down passes better choice. Falcon backs extremely weak. Falcon receivers strong but Ryan refuses to or is too slow to locate open receivers. Falcons were running wide open against Eagles. Porous OL not excuse for winners. Winning QBs extend plays. Ryan ends them prematurely. Special teams critical. Missed FGs deflate a team. This has happened to Falcons too often. Need Morten back. No faith in inconsistent loser kicking now. Falcons afraid to return kicks. Big liability. Excellent special team can steal two or three wins per season. Falcon special teams will turn several wins into losses. Not much to look forward to. Been with Falcons since 1966. That first team had heart but little talent. Current Falcons do not have any heart. STENDEK

Edward

October 17th, 2010
6:14 pm

At this point in the season the Falcons are 4-2, while the loss in Philadelphia hurts the season still looks very promising for starters we are coming back to the dome where the Falcons are very impressive under Mike Smith and with games against the Cincinnati Bengals, a bye week and the Tampa Bay Bucs coming up this team has a lot to look forward to. If there was a cause for concern after the loss to the Eagles it would be injuries sustained by Dunta Robinson and Curtis Lofton, hopefully they will be okay and ready to go next week against the Bengals.

J.J..M

October 17th, 2010
6:14 pm

um the falcons had no choice but to pass more than run because they were down by a lot…common sense

JSS

October 17th, 2010
6:15 pm

Everybody and their Mother keeps telling you that you can’t run screens when you have no vertical game to make teams respect you up to the linebacker level… They’ll blow it up every time, did you not watch when Vandy tried to run screens? You just don’t get it, the use their backs to Max protect so Ryan won’t end up with more brain injuries than Chris Miller!

Joe Tess Fish House

October 17th, 2010
6:15 pm

Wow the Flacons blow today. What does it say about this team whem there 33 QB was once the strater here.

Jenkins drop anoter ball

Ryan keeps getting worst as the season goes on

I have a feling the just might loose all there games

Najeh Davenpoop

October 17th, 2010
6:16 pm

BugKiller, the ideal game plan for the Falcons in this game would have been to get out to an early lead, chew up the clock using Turner and Snelling (the Eagles’ run D is usually pretty bad and they were missing their best DT), and tee off on Kolb with the pass rush (Abraham against King Dunlap should have been a very exploitable matchup). Once the Eagles went up by two scores, the Falcons were forced to abandon the running game, and the Eagles were able to mix up their play calling more (they rushed the ball 35 times compared to throwing 29 passes). You may have a point regarding the shotgun and screen passes, but the Eagles really took the Falcons out of their game plan by going up by two scores early. If you want to blame a coach for today’s loss, you should blame Brian VanGorder before you blame Mularkey. The defense’s early struggles set the tone for today’s loss.

Fitten

October 17th, 2010
6:16 pm

Wonderful article because it’s true.

Alaska Dawg, I’m sorry but your “glass half full” glasses don’t work. We were 4-2 last year. We had nice starts the last 2 years under Mora. Each of those 3 years, the nice record was “false” because we were playing poorly and winning. Poor play catches up and in all of those cases, the Birds collapsed in second half of season; missing the playoffs.

It’s Deja vu all over again.

Whopper Dawg

October 17th, 2010
6:16 pm

Can we please swap defensive backfields with the Eagles? No, I take that back, can we swap defenses with the Eagles?

Wow, completely out coached, the Falcons with their brief history of winning, went in there and thought they had the game won before the toss. As hard as it is to believe, they actually had the “Big Head” and believed the media.

Maybe from here on out, they will realize you have to play the game, of greater concern was the out coaching that happened which was severe.

Once "Recent" Reader

October 17th, 2010
6:17 pm

Najah . . . .haven’t the Falcs come back against the Saints, 49ers, and Browns this year? Do you mean if they fall behind “big” and then have to rely on the passing game? I think they were moving nicely on the comeback trail (would have been nicer if they got TD instead of FG in 3rd), but that big TD making it 28-10 really blew a lot of steam out.

RA

October 17th, 2010
6:17 pm

Take a picture Bradley because I won’t say this often, but you nailed it on all counts. I can’t add any more to that.

Joe Tess Fish House

October 17th, 2010
6:17 pm

I meant #3 QB

mikeDW

October 17th, 2010
6:17 pm

We only had that many passes because it was a lopsided, lousy game.

Dirty Jacket

October 17th, 2010
6:18 pm

Have you ever considered normal titles for your articles?

Steelers fan

October 17th, 2010
6:18 pm

The Falcons grade should be a “F”. Past, Present, and Forever. No championships in 40 + years. Come the end of December Falcon Fans will be shaking their heads. What happened???? Big hype at the beginning of the year. No championship at the end.

SHOULD HAVE KEPT FAVRE SHAUB AND VICK

October 17th, 2010
6:19 pm

FAVRE THE MAN=MATTY LICE THE BOY

Mr Charlie

October 17th, 2010
6:20 pm

Sten,

Who do you say Ryan is not a winner when:

He has a 24-12 record as a starter;
this includes his rookie season;
and he took over a 4-12 team ?

Delusional Dawg

October 17th, 2010
6:20 pm

Why is it that Philly owns Atlanta in everything? The Phillies constantly dominate the Braves. The Eagles kill the Falcons always. I bet the Flyers crush the Trashers most times. WTF?

MaconSportsFan

October 17th, 2010
6:20 pm

Mark,

Here is what I see with the Falcons today and the problems. They are building the team around the Pittsburgh Steeler model in which I grew up a big Steeler fan as a kid. Mularkey is running the offense under this scheme which means a big bruising back, a Quarterback who manages the game in which to not make mistakes. And also the key is to control the clock and the tempo of the game.

Well the problem is that we do not have the Steelers Defense at this time. Our defense has improved alot from last year, but will not shut teams down like the Steelers. Mularkey needs to make adjustments with the offense to run an uptempo game early to grab the lead in games. Something like running the two minute offense on the first two possessions or so……….get the lead then use a big dose of Turner and Snelling :) The Eagles today upped the tempo early and took the running game away from the Falcons :(

Do you think this makes sense?

Great Falconi

October 17th, 2010
6:21 pm

Ryan is capable of carrying this team with his arm, but we ain’t exactly the Pats out there. We don’t have a great passing game because our whole philosophy is geared toward grinding out first downs and controlling the clock.

Oh, and stendek, you don’t have any heart. You b**** about every loss as if it is a permanent state. Grow up, buddy.

Noodle arm

October 17th, 2010
6:21 pm

This is relatively small given the break downs in all phases of the game todya, but why haven’t the break downs on special teams been corrected by now? Frankly, win or lose, the Falcons offense is boring.

Bird Dirty

October 17th, 2010
6:21 pm

Our offensive coordinator is not getting it done. Our offense is too vanilla and very predictable. Why does it take so long to get our best offensive player, Roddy White, involved in the game? Why do we continue to run up the middle on first down when everyone in the building knows what we are about to do? The Eagles were under-manned on both the offensive and defensive line, but we were unable to exploit either one. Instead of being obsessed with the playing status of Philly’s injured/emergency/3rd string QB (Michael Vick), the local media (AJC writers) should start asking some tough questions about the offensive play-calling. Van Gorder looked over-matched at times as well, but nothing like Mularkey. Case in point, we are down 21-10 in the third quarter, and we come out in a two tight end, one receiver set and run the ball up the middle for one yard. WTH!!! With no dominant team in the NFC, the Falcons have a good chance of going deep into the playoffs this year, but not with this conservative offensive play-calling. Is it that the coaching staff is not fully confident in Matt Ryan? I know the offensive line didn’t play well, but our line is much better than Philly’s and look how the staff schemed to cover up their deficiencies. We got out-coached/schemed today. Even S.F. looked better against the Eagles than we did.

Mark Bradley

October 17th, 2010
6:21 pm

I do, Macon.

Supes

October 17th, 2010
6:21 pm

Mark,

you can not be serious? you gonna lay this loss at the feet of Matt Ryan and the offense? COME ON MAN…this was about our Defense getting out schemed and out played in all areas of the game!

Najeh Davenpoop

October 17th, 2010
6:22 pm

“Why is it that Philly owns Atlanta in everything? The Phillies constantly dominate the Braves.”

Let’s see the Phillies win 14 straight division titles before we start talking about them “dominating” anything.

Joe Tess Fish House

October 17th, 2010
6:22 pm

Some one ask Mr Blanks if he wants to sale this team after today who wood want to own this bunch of loosers

Mark Bradley

October 17th, 2010
6:23 pm

I believe I hold the defense and offense both culpable, Supes. And the special teams were bad, too.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 17th, 2010
6:24 pm

I will say one thing about Mularkey, though, which I think is a valid criticism. The Eagles have been vulnerable to tight ends for a LONG time, and their back 7 was playing aggressively in the first half trying to fill gaps and prevent Michael Turner from getting going. It would have been smart to set up some play action to try to hit Gonzalez down the seam more often. I don’t know if this was on the coaching staff or not, but I felt like the Falcons under-utilized Gonzalez for a big part of the game.

Mark Bradley

October 17th, 2010
6:24 pm

I guess I should note that I’ve seen Atlanta teams play Philadelphia teams five times in the past month. And Atlanta teams haven’t won once.