Heat Check: Meet the Falcons, a hot team that got the chills

"One! One! That's how many yards this play will gain!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

"One! One! That's how many yards this play will gain!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Our weekly Heat Check concerns itself with a team that started hot and then changed its nickname to the Polar Bears. I believe you know of whom I speak.

The Falcons’ offense: It had 145 yards and 14 points on its first two possessions; it managed 106 yards and no points on the next seven. Heat Index: Remember the Batman villain Mr. Freeze? That’s Mike Mularkey’s new nickname. (The previous one was the less evocative “Double M.”)

The Falcons’ defense: It held a team quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers without a touchdown for 41 minutes. Should have been good enough to win. Heat Index: Given that the Packers scored a touchdown roughly every 41 seconds when they played here in January, I’d say Brian VanGorder is on a hot streak.

Matt Ryan: Reversed the usual Matty Ice routine Sunday night — started fast, finished slow. Heat Index: Against a team like the Packers, the requirement is to start hot and stay that way. Fail.

Roddy White: Caught a touchdown early. Dropped another pass late that became an interception. Heat Index: Seven drops in five games make the All-Pro receiver the new Brooks Conrad.

Julio Jones: Caught one pass. Ran one reverse. Left with a hamstring injury. Heat Index: A chilly autumn night for the torrid rookie.

Dunta Robinson: Signed for $57 million over six seasons, with nearly half of that sum guaranteed. In 20 games as a Falcon, he has been credited with nine passes defensed; he also has more NFL-levied fines (two) than interceptions (one). Heat Index: Remember when fans were screaming, “We need a No. 1 cornerback in the worst way”? That’s pretty much what the Falcons got.

Arthur Blank: He told me after the game, “We’re working on it. We’ll be fine.” Heat Index: The sickly look on his face made me want to put my hand on his forehead and say, “Mr. Blank, do you have a fever?”

Tyson Clabo: The right tackle had a holding penalty that killed one drive and a hands-to-the-face penalty — both were against the long-haired linebacker Clay Matthews — that quashed another. Heat Index: When your RT moves you backwards faster than your high-priced skill people can propel you forward, your offense is officially housed in Antarctica.

Mike Smith: The coach offered a fairly frosty response when someone — okay, yours truly — asked if the Falcons need to reconsider how their offense is being called. “It’s my responsibility to see that the plays going in give our players the best chance to succeed,” he said. “I take full responsibility for that, and no one else.” Heat Index: Kudos to Smitty for being a stand-up guy, but let the record show that he’s not the offensive coordinator. Although maybe he needs to be.

The Atlanta Falcons: From Sept. 13, 2010, through the day after Christmas, they were 12-1. They’re 3-5 since. (And that’s if you don’t count exhibition games. If you do, they’re 3-9.) Heat Index: To borrow a song title from Little Feat, they’re “Cold, Cold, Cold.”

By Mark Bradley

350 comments Add your comment

O'Brien

October 10th, 2011
7:45 am

Mark,

I was very disappointed in Ryan last night. How can you slide short of the first down, when your team badly needs that first down?

Earl

October 10th, 2011
7:47 am

First!!! Kudos Mark for asking the obvious!

JSS

October 10th, 2011
7:49 am

It’s a beautiful morning!!!

DogTheMan

October 10th, 2011
7:50 am

The offense is wretched. I mean really bad. The QB has a lollipop arm and then slides short. O-Line is really dysfunctional. I guess we need to go to OZ and find some Nads!!!!!!!

Herschel Talker

October 10th, 2011
7:50 am

MB:

Falcons are garbage.

Kudos to Mark Richt for bringing his A game the last few weeks. I give the man a lot of credit given the circumstances.

HT

D

October 10th, 2011
7:52 am

Ryan was awful in the second half. Poor wimpy passes. Why is rodgers so much stronger than ryan? his passes are like darts. Of course our crappy receivers except for TG would drop them.

Earl

October 10th, 2011
7:52 am

I agree O’Brien, but can a brother get a little love? I thought when a quarterback slides you can’t hit him. I think Roddy was justified in complaining. Definitely Matt should have shown more field awareness. Overall I agree with with you Mark, we have to be more aggressive in our playcalling and play like we really have nothing to lose.

reebok

October 10th, 2011
7:54 am

average tem, looking at 8-8 this year. last year’s record was a mirage brought on by a soft schedule and a lot of luck.

Ewil

October 10th, 2011
7:55 am

herschel
it’s pretty easy to look like an “a” game when you play against conference winless teams 3 games in a row. how anyone can’t see that ga is beating really bad teams is beyond me.

sam

October 10th, 2011
7:57 am

The Falcons are driving nuts. Why can’t they play consistent football? The D held the most explosive offense in check most of the night. I still hate watching them rush 3 and play soft zone. That dropped TD in the end zone was huge or it could’ve been a blow out.

Bosher is finally looking like an NFL punter.

Our offense is schizophrenic. We started out hot and then go back to run, run, pass. Ryan sliding feet first was a joke. No gut, no glory. I’m tiring of MS keep saying “I take the responsibility, it’s my fault.” Well, do something about it!!

Speed Merchant

October 10th, 2011
7:57 am

It doesn’t really take a genius to figure this out… just watch the Falcons on first down. Hand the ball to Turner: stuffed, hand the ball to Turner: stuffed, hand the ball to Turner: stuffed. How is Ryan or any other QB supposed to operate efficiently if the other defense is consistently putting him in 2 and long situations. The Packers adjusted; the Falcons didn’t, but the larger issue remains. “Run first” offensive schemes never win championships… NEVER. Smith is a defensive coach with a defensive mind set… the whole organization lacks creativity and the rest of the league has figured it out.

gabugman

October 10th, 2011
7:58 am

Fantastic, imaganative play calling for the 1st two possessions! The Falcon’s week long rehersal of those two scripts showed.

Predictable, redundant, ineffective play calling the remainder of the game. Mike Mularkey’s inability to make in game adjustments showed. Squatting on a 14 point lead against a truly “explosive” team will get you beat every time.

Methinks it’s time for Dimitrof to start figuring out whom he will target for the new O coordinator next year..

JSS

October 10th, 2011
8:05 am

Mark Bradley:
“The Atlanta Falcons: From Sept. 13, 2010, through the day after Christmas, they were 12-1. They’re 3-5 since. (And that’s if you don’t count exhibition games. If you do, they’re 3-9.) Heat Index: To borrow a song title from Little Feat, they’re “Cold Cold Cold.”

And when people pointed this out starting when White saved them after Clements had the brain freeze in last year’s 49ers game, they were called trolls. There have been no Colt McCoy’s, Alex Smith’s, Jimmy Clausen, or Derek Andersen’s on the schedule… There has only been one gift from heaven (Vick’s own O-lineman knocked him out), even Seattle got their jock tight and acted manly against Atlanta.

Welcome to reality, you better hope they can get the Panthers who are still learning to walk… That is because if the one (Carolina) that showed in Green Bay shows with Falcons killer Steve Smith having a real QB to get him the ball, it might get ugly!!!

ormewood

October 10th, 2011
8:06 am

Beware Cam Newton on Sunday. The Panthers have only won one game, but they’ve been competitive in all five, unlike the Falcons. Newton will be highly motivated in his first trip home as a pro. He was lights out the last time he played in the Dome.

gt45

October 10th, 2011
8:09 am

Got away from the quick hitters.

hermanmeunster

October 10th, 2011
8:12 am

hey Roddy–still think you;re the beter team?

ROD

October 10th, 2011
8:12 am

Mark, great article. To be honest, I thought it was going to be a blow out. They played better than I thought. The defense played okay, until the big plays hit them. We had the opportunity to go after a Champ Bailey, Nnamdi, etc., but the FALCONS decided to bring in Dunta Robinson, and keep the same cornerbacks this year. I thought it helped the Falcons when Owens went out, because they were going to pick on him all game. Matt Ryan, is Matt Ryan. I just wish we stop putting this guy up there with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees. He has a long way to go, and it goes back to what I wrote last week, do we have another Chris Miller? I know we want this guy to win, so people can say, I told you so. It doesn’t matter to me who’s a QB, because we are not winning. I believe it’s time for a NEW Offensive and Defensive Coordinators. If you watch the other games, other teams offenses are so much better than the Falcons. I had the FALCONS starting out 2-3 or 3-2 at best, but I still believe they will finish 11-5 OR 10-6 as I said in the beginning. But, they need to fix it, and fix it soon, or they may end up being 8-8 OR 9-7 at best. Please, please get a running back in here with more speed. They need to only use Turner when they are near or at the goaline. He’s not an Adrian Peterson. I say, bring in Clinton Portis, why not, at least he’s faster, and will get through the holes faster. I’m going to take the high road this time, and take the positive from this game, which wasn’t much. But I believe once they get it together, they will run the table. Arthur and TD are going to fix it, and I believe some changes are coming soon.

Double Zero Eight

October 10th, 2011
8:15 am

Same old Falcons. Lack of focus and intensity during
the second half, inability to make adjustments.

Ryan is not the one that is going to take this team to
the “promised land”.

KennesawFAN

October 10th, 2011
8:17 am

hasnt brooks conrad suffered enough? you dont have to bring him into this mess

Ed Pilcher

October 10th, 2011
8:17 am

These guys don’t look too effin good. The loss of one lineman, and they tank. Of course, he WAS the leader of the o-line, and was also one mean and nasty SOB…….See? One man CAN and DOES make a difference, sometimes.

Ed Pilcher

October 10th, 2011
8:18 am

And that was Harvey Dahl, in case anyone cares to notice.

DetroitBraves

October 10th, 2011
8:19 am

I think that’s about right Mark. There may be deeper troubles with this team but I would like to see what they look like with a new OC before condemning too many players and other members of the staff. That said, every time they rushed 3 on 3rd and long it brought back mental images of last January’s torching. I guess I could see this team still making something of this year in terms of a playoff run but right now that looks like a longshot. Got tickets to see them in Detroit in a couple of weeks. Thought I was going to see a Super Bowl favorite. I guess that’s still true. Would have never guessed it would be the team in blue.

balismith

October 10th, 2011
8:19 am

the offensive line has lost its swagger…not having the starting center hurts but i think the falcons miss harvey dahl….

teamguy

October 10th, 2011
8:20 am

I think I liked the Falcons better back when everyone knew they were a lousy team. Then, every now and then, they would come up and win a game. But it is more fun to criticize a lousy team, rather than one with good players who are poorly coached and play like the Scarecrow (no brain).

Nativebird

October 10th, 2011
8:22 am

Mularkey has got to go. It’s not that he’s a bad offensive coach, it’s that he cannot “adjust” to “adjustments” made by good opposing coaches. Just not creative nor deep in the designs at all; It’s as if when we got up 14-0, he reached the end of his play book, called in and said…”good luck down there, I’m all done”.

sam

October 10th, 2011
8:24 am

It was apparent even to my wife that Rodger’s pass looked like a laser compared to Ryan’s flutter. I’ve finally come to accept the fact that Ryan’s arm is weak. They don’t fear our deep passes because they know Ryan can’t sling it 50 yds.

Herschel Talker

October 10th, 2011
8:28 am

Ewil:

I agree with you. It’s a mirage. As soon as Richt starts playing good teams, he will be exposed as a fraud. See this: http://cfn.scout.com/2/1115664.html

HT

george

October 10th, 2011
8:29 am

I am wondering if the Falcons were to play the Braves in sometype of Neutral sport which team would CHOKE first

JSS

October 10th, 2011
8:32 am

My goodness, will someone please pull the plug on that one trick pony Bulldog lover!!!

Curious George

October 10th, 2011
8:33 am

Is Green Bay always going to be packing the Kryptonite that will keep the Falcons from the Super Bowl, or will this year’s Playoff Falcons be able to RISE UP like the yellow sun and ruin Green Bay’s season like they did to us last year?

Hayseed Dixie

October 10th, 2011
8:33 am

Blowing the 14-0 lead shows me it’s 100% mental.

The playoff blowout at home last year has spooked this organization, and they can’t shake it.

Cousin Vicker

October 10th, 2011
8:33 am

Good thing we wasted all those draft picks on that explosive Julio Jones. At what point do we seriously need to start asking: Has Matt Ryan peaked? Because he hasn’t shown very much progression since his rookie year.

TCCB

October 10th, 2011
8:35 am

Bradley, did you read that sign? ” Nobody Beats The Cheese”

Stats

October 10th, 2011
8:36 am

The 3 consecutive winning seasons showed the ‘big picture’ was gaining some traction towards progress. But that streak can’t be considered a reason to defend the current collective lack of focus and heart. Week to week it’s been like watching a train wreck in slow motion. How do you undo a train wreck Arthur?

?

October 10th, 2011
8:38 am

TURKEY NECK RYAN THROWS PAPER AIRPLANES. I WAS HOPING THAT GREEN BAY WOULD BREAK BOTH OF HIS LEGS.

gman

October 10th, 2011
8:39 am

Couple of quick points.
1. This team has lost their heart. Players are giving up to early, not making the extra effort to finish the play. That is usually a sign of a coach losing the team.

2. The old time bust you in the mouth offensive scheme is just not going to work today. Maybe it will come back when everyone figures out the spread offense well enough to shut it down, but until then, we either need to adjust or we’re done. Usually points to coaching.

3. Speaking of adjusting. Why is it that every other team seems to be able to adjust DURING the game EXCEPT the Falcons? I heard that Green Bay was playing a zone defense during the first half and adjusted to a bump and run man coverage during the second. WOW, Falcons pay attention. Man coverage works!!! Definitely coaching.

4. Lastly Mark, next time you are asking questions to the coach could you please put in a request that whomever is talking to the team at half time needs to shut the heck up!!

Ted M

October 10th, 2011
8:39 am

Ryan is an average QB. I guess you can win with an average QB but you need great defense & great coaching. We don’t have that right now.

The Panthers looked pretty good yesterday but lost. They have a good excuse though, young team new coach.

Anyway, if the Falcons lose next week the season is over. I think they’ll win, I hope they win but I’m not sure they’ll win.

Damn the season could be over in week 6.

Escaped from Email Purgatory

October 10th, 2011
8:40 am

Thanks for the Little Feat reference. It’s the only real positive in a recap of another dismal Falcons performance.

This team’s got problems:

Blank – divorce settlement – so much for money available for the next big free agent acquisition. Speaking of which –

Dimitroff – dubious pick ups in Robinson and Edwards; and he spent a draft choice on a guy who continues to prove he’s the worst punter in the league. We gave up the house to get Julio. And now it looks like Cleveland is gonna get some sweet draft picks (that clearly, we can really use).

Mike Smith – 3-5 in last 8 games (or 3-9 like you said, if…)

Matt Ryan – he’s proving what a farce ESPN’s QBR is. According to QBR, it’s Brady, Manning, then Ryan? The team’s offensive futility is not all his fault for sure. But Matt’s a “franchise” QB only if your franchise aspires to be the current Falcons

Michael Turner – He needs to wake up those two 150 pound Rottweillers sleeping in the back of his pants and have them starting biting him on his ample butt. Giddyup Mike. And the goal line is in front of you, not to your right or left.

The Offense is dink pass left, dink pass right and Tippie Toes getting what he can until he makes first contact with the enemy. Ryan makes a big show of changing plays and realigning his offense based on his read once he’s at the line of scrimmage. It’s much ado about nothing – because ultimately, the play is always just another dink pass or Tippie Toes getting what he can until he makes first contact with the enemy.

And apparently, there’s no amount of yardage too great for the Defense to surrender on third and long.

This is our 2011 Falcons, people. “Rise Up” my butt. Change the slogan to “Avert Your Eyes” or “Save Yourself” or “Maybe A Strike Wouldn’t Have Been So Bad” or “Falcons Fever: Catch It If You Want A Splitting Headache and Diarrhea”.

SRF

October 10th, 2011
8:40 am

Meet the new Detroit Lions – losers, losers, losers

Chuck

October 10th, 2011
8:41 am

falcons=cellar dwellers of the NFC South. The cheating pos sCam will light them up next week, and there’s no way this team competes with the Saints and Bucs down the stretch. I called the “Matt Ryan is garbage” line long ago. No innards and a weak arm. Dunta is a punk. If ANYTHING on Roddy was as big as his mouth (especially his heart), he wouldn’t be such a monumental disappointment. Somebody remind me why Tony G decided to come here for one last chance at a ring!

ubah

October 10th, 2011
8:44 am

Mark, you forgot the Bosher. Of course he’s never been hot but man, talk about not being able to turn the field. Also,
I think Atlanta is where DB’s come to die.

Reggie

October 10th, 2011
8:44 am

I have a solution and his name is a Kellen Moore.

nathan

October 10th, 2011
8:45 am

Playmakers…I was one who blamed the OC & the DC…I apologize for that…I’m putting the focus solely on the players now…the Falcons have few, if any, playmakers…Guys who WANT to make the BIG play…Too much sloppy play out there…I recommend the team go on a retreat and get their minds right, a la something reminiscent of Phil Jackson.

lewis

October 10th, 2011
8:45 am

matt ryan doesn’t have the armsrength to throw down field or make those passes, i dunno if mularkey is even to blame

SRF

October 10th, 2011
8:45 am

Reggie – I agree – but the fowl gave away all their draft picks

Todd smith

October 10th, 2011
8:47 am

Ryan does not have the arm or the confidence to throw more than the 10 yard slant. Teams know this and rush and leave single coverage on the corners. In till Ryan can throw down field and open up the running game. It’s going to be a 4 and 12 season. I think this comment sums I all up

Double Zero Eight

October 10th, 2011
8:48 am

Cam Newton will be a better quarterback than
Matt Ryan by the end of the year. Matt Ryan
is another “Chris Miller”.

Reggie

October 10th, 2011
8:50 am

It’s time to accept the fact that Matt Ryan isn’t the right quarterback for this team…Kellen Moore is the guy I want on this team.

SirReal

October 10th, 2011
8:51 am

I keep telling people this is a 9-7 10-6 team at BEST. They dont play with heart anymore. I honestly think its a lot to do with coaching. Its like they dont believe in what Smitty and Co. are selling right about now…..doesnt bode well for rest of the year. All who are thinking playoffs need to forget it. Our QB is soft. Our offense is soft. Our defense tried but they are soft too, esp in secondary. Robinson isnt garbage but not built for zone coverage. You’d think they would get that. On another team, playing man to man, he’d be a star. Let’s face it, as long as Mularkey and Van gorder are around and Smitty keeps playing this “Its all on me” act….this team isnt going anywhere anytime soon.

Paul James

October 10th, 2011
8:53 am

The Falcons join the Eagles & Jets as three teams in the NFL with talent GALORE but severely bad PREPARATION. Wonder who is responsible for this???? Is it coaching or the lack of or poor player acquisition, too much money paid for the wrong people or all the above.