The Falcons say they’ll ‘figure it out.’ We ask: ‘OK, when?’

This man is a fine football coach, but he's got some figuring to do. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This man is a fine football coach, but he's got some figuring to do. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Matt Ryan’s final pass had smacked off Roddy White’s hands and into the arms of Green Bay’s Jarrett Bush, and the galling game was finally gone. The man in the three-piece suit on the 40-yard-line, the man who foots the bills, stood with hands on hips and stared, and surely a part of Arthur Blank was thinking, “I’m paying for this?”

The 2011 Falcons have worked five games and lost as many as in the entire 2010 regular season. Matt Ryan, the quarterback, sought to brush this off by saying, “It’s early,” but the calendar insists that it’s October. This team should be playing well, or at least well enough to make us believe in its potential. Through five games, the Falcons have done their darnedest to foster doubt.

They have too much talent to be 2-3. The rule of thumb in all sports is: If you’ve got the players and you’re not winning, it must be the coaching. Yes, the mere notion arrives with a jolt. For three seasons Mike Smith and Co. wrung close to the maximum from their men, but now the talent is top-shelf and the results are substandard, and how else do you square this circle?

Sunday night showed us how good the Falcons can be when properly deployed. For two possessions this offense was strong and swift and crisp, all conspicuous resources being brought to bear by coordinator Mike Mularkey. Double M, as he’s known in-house, dialed up reverses and fake reverses and quick passes and body-slamming runs, and after two possessions this observer was saying, “This is the team I’ve waited to see.”

Then that team took a hike. The Falcons had 145 yards and 14 points on those first two drives; they managed 106 yards and zero points on the remaining seven possessions. And here we note: Green Bay entered ranked 28th in total defense, 31st in passing defense. The Falcons had their way for two possessions. Then, for reasons unclear, they lost the plot.

No, the coordinator didn’t instruct the high-priced tackle Tyson Clabo to kill two drives with penalties. Nor did the offense wither because Mularkey, as the convenient criticism goes, Got Too Conservative: Of those seven pointless drives, four began with pass plays. (And it didn’t help that Ryan, who usually has tepid first halves and flying finishes, did it the other way around this time.) It was stranger than that: Everything worked, and then nothing worked.

Asked afterward if he felt a need to re-evaluate the way his offense is being called, Mike Smith bristled and said: “No, I don’t think so. We’ve got to execute better. It’s my responsibility to see that the plays going in give our players the best chance to succeed — I take full responsibility for that, and no one else.”

That manful response tells us, not for the first time, that this head coach is a first-rate boss. But Smitty is a defensive man by trade, and he leaves it to Mularkey to run the offense. Sometimes Double M does it so well — again, those first two drives were objects of art — that you couldn’t imagine such a man running out of ideas, but seldom does even a pedestrian NFL offense go as bankrupt as the Falcons did Sunday.

Brian VanGorder, the defensive coordinator, moved heaven and earth to keep Aaron Rodgers on the back foot. Without John Abraham, BVG  put lesser pass rushers in position to overrun the Packers’ pressed-into-service backup tackles, and if the offense had done anything after those first 18 minutes the Falcons would have won. As it was, VanGorder’s defenders held Green Bay without a touchdown for 41 minutes, which was stirring stuff. Just not enough on a night when his team swore off scoring after its second drive.

Speaking Monday, general manager Thomas Dimitroff mentioned the need to play fundamental football, never an issue before. (In the first three seasons under this regime, the Falcons ranked fourth, fourth and first in fewest penalties. They’re 18th now.) Late Sunday night, the owner had struck the same chord.

“We’re 2-3,” Blank said. “I’m not happy about being 2-3. We’ve had a lot more penalties.”

Then, smiling the slightest of smiles: “I have full confidence we’re going to get it figured it out.”

Smith uses that phrase after every loss, and the losses are coming faster. From Sept. 13, 2010, through the day after Christmas, the Falcons played 13 games and won 12. They’ve since lost five of eight. There’s still time to get this right, but with every false dawn the brave talk sounds thinner.

Figure faster, Falcons. A season is in peril.

By Mark Bradley

255 comments Add your comment

PMC

October 10th, 2011
3:42 pm

Yeah, they don’t have the players. Both lines of scrimmage are average at best Mark.

Thomas Dimitroff should be taking a ton of the credit for the failings of this franchise.

These are his players.

Vince Lombardi

October 10th, 2011
3:48 pm

Forget “when”… it starts with “what” because this group either doesn’t know what the problem is or knows and continues to gloss over it.

Not even I, as head coach, could help this sorry bunch.

Sons of Tom Pridemore

October 10th, 2011
3:48 pm

The Jets are 2-3, the Eagles 1-4, it’s a tough league. Pre-season hype and last year’s W-L means squaddoosh. That’s why we watch.

losersville

October 10th, 2011
3:50 pm

Getting about too late to figure it out.They are digging a hole for themselves that they are not going to be able to climb out of.

Hypocrite Hunter

October 10th, 2011
3:50 pm

Hard to blame this one on just Bosher, the absence of Abraham. and the loss of Dahl. The sideline drop was tough but there were plenty of errors to go around. Green Bay made the plays when they had to, we didn’t.

Who Me?

October 10th, 2011
3:51 pm

Really? As others have pointed out, Mike Smith is starting to sound a whole lot like Freddi Gonzalez of the Braves. One more lame a** excuse today that he should have pretty well down by now. I’ll say this, if I were still a season ticket holder I’d be demanding answers. As it is, I think we’re all at a loss to understand how we’re going backwards?? Aren’t great teams built to grow better year over year? Guess what, we’d have to run the table from here on in to break even with last years record. Raise your hands if you think that’s going to happen…

At a minimum, Baker is a project not a starter on the O-Line. How big a disappointment has our D-line been? Ray Edwards, how’d you grade out last night my friend? Roddy – what, are you so afraid of footsteps now you can’t catch a cold?

The loss last night was disgusting, and we’re fed up with it. This team has far too much talent too be delivering this product, when’s it going to end Dimitroff and Smith??? Arthur, quit hiding and field some questions about your investment, let’s hear you speak up about YOUR team. Are you happy??

honest_abe

October 10th, 2011
3:51 pm

pmc: that’s what i’ve been screaming for the last 3 months! at least big bust ray got his first sack on a busted play. the talent evaluation at flowery branch needs a major upgrade.

Really?

October 10th, 2011
3:52 pm

Figure it out? Really? What about our punter? We have all figured him out? As noted directly above, although the D-line played better, it’s no where close. What about Jerry.. what about the now (finally) departed Jamal Anderson? What about the big offseason acquisition Ray Edwards? What about the acquisition of Robinson a year or so ago? What about letting Harvey Dahl and Koenen (sp) go? Yes, Dimitroff is not the genius we had hoped. No GM is, but the O and D line moves have not been great to say the least. We have no punter.. just admit it was a mistake and hold tryouts. But he can’t. That’s why we had so many seasons of Jamal Anderson (the lineman of course). When other teams were out getting big names we lagged behind, either not getting the deals done or not doing them at all until, well, panic seemed to strike and we get Robinson and Edwards. It’s not that different from the Braves panic in getting pitching after the best were gone (read Kawakami and Lowe here). This is the best we can do? Really?

Mike Tomlin

October 10th, 2011
3:53 pm

You need real linemen on both sides and a real coach to whip em into shape. Dimitroff has been a failure in that regard.

Who Me?

October 10th, 2011
3:54 pm

I like it when they don’t even post your comments for you, its so Big Brother-ish. Just another reason this newspaper sucks. too bad its the only rag in town….

Matt from MN

October 10th, 2011
3:55 pm

Stop TALKING about it and DO it!!!!! Man, I’m so sick and tired of the same platitudes and cliches coming out the Coaches and Players mouths after yet another substandard performance

The Miz

October 10th, 2011
3:55 pm

The team looks soft as baby doo on both sides, folks.

I’m The Miz…. and I’m….. AWWWEEESSSOME!

Adam "My patience is wearing thin" Camp

October 10th, 2011
3:56 pm

Makes me sick that we have to abandon the run because Turner continues to rush for a gain of zero or a loss on first down. As falcons fans, too many of us look at the runs that he reels of 15-20 yards and think, “he is an elite back.” The fact is that on those runs, an athletic back would take it to the house and not gain just 15-20 yards. He isn’t capable of gashing a small hole – it has to be so open my grandma could run through it. Also, what is up him running out of bounds when he gets to the outside? Freaking kills me….

Who Me?

October 10th, 2011
3:57 pm

Is it just me or is Mike Smith starting to get eerily close to Freddi Gonzalez’ post-game comments?? Two franchises that should be over delivering and yet are under performing…

Lee Corso

October 10th, 2011
3:57 pm

DURRRRRRRRRRRR FALCONS

Adam "My patience is wearing thin" Camp

October 10th, 2011
4:00 pm

Please give Gatrell Johnson or Antone Smith a shot. These 2nd and 3rd and longs make it tough on our averaged arm QB.

gabugman

October 10th, 2011
4:01 pm

“is Mike Smith starting to get eerily close to Freddi Gonzalez’ post-game comments??”

I’ve been likening him lately to some of Mark Right’s crazy post game presser answers from last year…

AlanFalcon

October 10th, 2011
4:06 pm

3 sucessful and seasons and they’ve got to figue it out, that’s a real joke.

The Falcons have for some reason regressed to the point that they are back at the M. Vick and Bobby Petrino era.

Mike, you need to take control as it seems you have put to much faith in your coaching staff and/ or your players. This team from Matt Ryan(included) to the last roster spot has become a joke and will be lucky not to end up at the bottom of the NFC South.

PATHETIC !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

78Dawg

October 10th, 2011
4:10 pm

This all falls on Tom D. He let Dahl get away, Would the Pats do that? P.Jerry is a fat bust. Chris Owens..Dunta Robinson,,,Reynolds…ARE YOU SERIOUS? Ryan can’t pass on the ground or on the run.!!!! No draft next year? No hope..stop the excuses and open your eyes A. Blank…

Mayhem Is Coming

October 10th, 2011
4:10 pm

Boring. Different season same rhetoric. You would think that the Falcons would be way up for this game after being humiliated by the Packers, 48-21 last season. So much for pride. I’m sick of ‘em, sick of the excuses, sick of the basic break downs with nothing to look forward to, no Hawks (boring too), no hockey, long gone in a cloud of dust thanks to off the scale stupid former team owners. Braves just put the capital “L” on Atlanta’s sports. Welcome to Loserville.

Complacent

October 10th, 2011
4:11 pm

It’s all coaching !!!!

– Neither side of the ball hasn’t been able to play 4 quarter football for at least a couple years now.

- Costly penalties

- Failure to make adjustments on both sides of the ball for at least a couple years now.

- Inconsistent / ill-advised play calling

- Inefficient resource optimization (using wrong players at wrong times)

- Horrible tackling / Ineffective QB blitzes

- Culture of mental lethargy

Fish Bisch

October 10th, 2011
4:11 pm

Really?

October 10th, 2011
4:15 pm

And from my comment above…. how in the world could I forget the Sam Baker pick? Reall!

M Fender

October 10th, 2011
4:20 pm

gabugman got it right. Imaginative, wide-open play calling on the first two possesisons that
worked. Mularkey looked as if he knew what to do with the personnel on the field.
After the lead, Mularky instituted the same old boring, hum-drum, predictable loser game plan.

We have the players. Dimitroff(and Blank supplying the funds)have done their part. There is no excuse for our
mediocore offense. Ryan is fine.

BTW, Harry Douglas caught that pass. I do not know what the NFL wants revceivers to do.
Maybe the NFL should create a “jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton” rule so we know unequivocally
the receiver caught the ball.

The defense played fairly well, other than the big plays. Failing to answer GB’s big plays is what
killed us. A couple of Roger’s sacks were great. A much better performance than last year’s playoff game.
Weatherspoon looked awesome in the first half until he banged his head. Why players lead
with their head is a mystery to me.

When Turner is good he is good. But if he is not moving the sticks we have other RB’s. Rogers shows promise.
Smith (#35) looked great in pre-season. Where is he? Snelling was huge last year. He’s almost non-existent this year.
Why? The screen to Snelling last night worked. Run the big man Mughelli. I do not get it.

Penalties, dropped passes and an inopportune sack sunk us.

The O-line played fairly well considering McClure(and of course Dahl’s absence) was missing and Reynolds(?) went down.

All teams have some personnel issues. The successful teams find a way to make it work.
We are not doing that. we have the players to be sucessful. Do we have the coaches to be successful?

Cybo

October 10th, 2011
4:23 pm

Complacent you are 100% right. As a lifetime falcon fan you see the same thing game after game. Whats up with our draft picks. And tell me if i am wrong. Maurlarkey ( hope I spelled it right ).had this same problem in Buffalo. No adjustments. I knew the offense played all its cards on the first two drives. I think we peaked as an organization

dan

October 10th, 2011
4:26 pm

Victory was there to be had last night. The Birds had the Pack on their heels the entire first half and most of third and then went completely comatose. Its almost like they want to be 8-8. I just don’t understand it.

I’m getting really tired of all these half a$$ Georgia sports teams. Maybe I should just be a bandwagon fan, like all of those so-called “lifelong” Packers fans in the Dome last night. At least I would be happy.

Billy Rykman's Hands

October 10th, 2011
4:26 pm

Key issue is the strategic blunders in play calling. More 1st down passes and sprinkle a little more Tony G and keep throwing to Julio Jones (too bad he’s hurt). If Roddy makes catches and not drops, we probably win last night. Tucker is fine as long as there is an honest threat that we’re going to throw on 1st down. Lastly, the O line needs to get bigger. If we have to hold Tony G in to block we lose one of our best weapons/advantages.

Falcons 73

October 10th, 2011
4:29 pm

This really is no surprise to those of us who have been watching closely. The fact that the Falcons won 13 games a year ago was a bit of good luck (very few injuries), time of possession, and very few penalties. Let’s not forget how close many of those games were last year (and that they were able to pull out wins). I believe that the win total last year has set us fans up for some false expectations and it may be bit more rebuilding that at first glance.

Another HUGE component is the philosophy of the coaching staff on both sides of the ball is terribly conservative and out dated. The league has changed considerably and the old model of running to set up the pass, is really a thing of the past. The most recent Super Bowl winners (Green Bay, New England, & New Orleans) take full advantage of the rule changes and have implemented additional wide receiver sets that spread defenses out (while not allowing db’s to touch receivers). Our offensive philosophy looks to be a work in progress and the current identity is either in transition or not yet defined. They clearly have the talent to put constant pressure on the opposition, but for some strange reason are stuck in the old methodology of grinding out the clock. I believe it will be time to severe ties with MM and the end of this season and find an OC on the “cutting edge” that will utilize this teams talent.

The overall coaching style and approach by Smith, Mularkey, and Van Gorder is completely crippling this team with a reactionary approach that only serves to impede this team. I can’t fathom that Green Bay, New England, and New Orleans sit back and allow the opposition to dictate their style or approach. On the contrary, they impose their will and dare you to stop them…wish I could say the same about the Falcons.

Sam Bakers Arms

October 10th, 2011
4:32 pm

Enter your comments here

chasjons

October 10th, 2011
4:35 pm

I hate to say it , but I think we need to lower our expectations. Never get too excited or unrealistic as an Atlanta fan…you will get burned. The Falcons in my opinion were not as good as their record indicated last year and I think we are a fringe wildcard team this year. I don’t follow football as closely as many of you may, but as they say you win and lose the game at the line of scrimmage and I think our lines are average at best. So there we have it…average lines with some exciting offensive players. To me that computes to as little as 7 wins or (if lucky) maybe an 11 win season. I need to lower my expectations as well. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Paddy O

October 10th, 2011
4:38 pm

Mayhem – it is loserville due to fans just like YOU.

Cybo

October 10th, 2011
4:39 pm

I hope Abraham doesnt have one of those seasons

Are you kidding me, 'Who me?'...

October 10th, 2011
4:42 pm

…”I’ll say this, if I were still a season ticket holder I’d be demanding answers” – obviously you have less of a clue than the Falcons coaching staff – no one cares what the ticket holder thinks, nor do the ticket holders…this is a cash game and the only way to show displeasure is to NOT buy tickets – but, they are already sold, so the next thing is to not show up – and in a couple of weeks, after losses to Carolina at home and then to New Orleans, the fans will not show up and then the Falcons start over with very few draft choices thanks to the price paid for #11, to whom they will not throw the ball

Same old, same old, 44 years of frustration, with one good year being blown by a “Man of the Year” looking for a BJ on South Beach – soooooo typical of the Falcons…oh well……

Alex

October 10th, 2011
4:47 pm

There is something wrong with this team. Obviously.

Mark Bradley, you are right on.

How can you look so good in the 1st quarter then look so PATHETIC in the second half?

That has got to be coaching. There is no other explanation.

So….. WHO is no doing their job????

Falcon 73, you are so right...

October 10th, 2011
4:48 pm

…did you see how Brees and N.O. just imposed their will on the Panthers at the end yesterday – they just knew they were going to win and went out an did it – compare that to the Falcons and their haphazard way and you hit the nail on the head with your comments about the coaching staff and the way the league has changed – and most everyone is keeping up, too, just look at Tampa Bay, SF, Buffalo, heck even Seattle, while the Falcons just PLOD along with absolutely no direction or even thoughts of direction, which even the most unsophisticated fan can see -

Good job with your comments 73…

Pauls Johnson

October 10th, 2011
4:49 pm

Paddy O,,, no, its loserville cause we always figure out a way to lose,,, sorry,, i’ve been here from the beginning and its like a broken record. One step forward and two steps back,, Thats been the history of Atlanta pro sports,,, Except for the 95 Braves. Its been futility on parade. Not saying it cant change,, wish it would,, its getting old…..

Harpie

October 10th, 2011
4:50 pm

To be a fan of Atlanta pro sports is to live in a state of constant disappointment. And, of course, this team, at the present time, stinks to high heaven!

Harpie

October 10th, 2011
4:52 pm

This team stinks!

Supes

October 10th, 2011
4:52 pm

If they don’t “figure this out” quickly even a 10-6 mark may not be good enough to get into the NFC playoffs as a wild card since we’ll be losing out on some key tie breakers!

at least we’re not Philly fans…those guys have REAL problems…try being 1-4 with the blowhards on ESPN focusing on everything that “went wrong”.

Thankfully with the Uglies collapsing, and the Jets “drama”, Falcons being 2-3 staying off the national media spot light.

cb795

October 10th, 2011
4:52 pm

The Falcons won’t get this fixed this season. Under Smith his team deficiencies from the preseason always carry over into the season. Matt hasn’t learn to time his throws deep and Turner runs with his head down and on first contact is down very quickly. Maybe getting Jones wasn’t the right call if our QB can’t throw accurately over ten yards. Maybe shot gun formation will give him the three seconds to pick the currect receiver. Then again Matt does stress alot when pressured. Before the season started I had them finishing 6-10. I need to change that to 5-11, heck the Panthers should beat them at home.

Lee

October 10th, 2011
4:57 pm

“Falcons 73″ has said it perfectly. Well put. In addition, I would say the only ray of hope shining on my disgust of this organization this year is that at least we have an owner who wants to win. (I think Blank has done as good a job as any owner given the time he has been one.) When the Smiths were in charge, there was truly no hope.

Uhh......I am Tony Gonzalez, Univ. of Cal.?

October 10th, 2011
4:58 pm

Figure this! Julio will be a stud, Edwards not so much, he looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane! Dunta is high priced bust, Peria Jerry #1 pick bust, Abraham always hurt, only keepers on D are Babineau, Lofton, Spoon, Moore, & Grimes the rest are expendable.

Pauls Johnson

October 10th, 2011
5:00 pm

We’re done this year. The MoJo we had last year is just not there. And the Honeymoon is over. Coaching changes are the only thing thats gonna fix this problem.

Complacent

October 10th, 2011
5:05 pm

Cybo,

Exactly!!

The Falcons make me look like Nostrodamus because i can predict how a game is going to unfold due to their broken record nature of play.

Again, they have the players, but NOT the coaching !!!

Van Gorder and Mularkey need be GONE – They are WINGING IT !!!!!!!!

T-Bone

October 10th, 2011
5:06 pm

fire DD . . . hire Ralph Friedgen

Not a Falcon fan

October 10th, 2011
5:10 pm

What am I hearing ? Last year the Falcons were the greatest team ever. Then Green Bay beat them in the playoffs. Now this year they are losing, and fans are trashing them. It’s the same old Falcons. They will NEVER figure it out. Get off the bandwagon and go back in hiding. The Falcons will never “Rise Up”.. The fans will rise up and leave the dome, just like last night.

Pauls Johnson

October 10th, 2011
5:10 pm

Been a Fan since the mid 70’s. A Falcons Superbowl victory is on my bucket list. I just hope I get to see it….

Mike Malaurkey

October 10th, 2011
5:15 pm

If each player would do there assignment, the plays would work

SimpleDawg

October 10th, 2011
5:18 pm

The Falcons are an enigma, wrapped in a riddle. Back-sliding into the old Falcons.

Roddy got paid, and has reverted back to the butter-fingered Shoddy Roddy.

Dunta got paid….waaaay too much money for what he brings to the defense.

Matty Ice looks more like Matty Spice.

Looks like a disappointing season unfolding with each new loss. Too bad, I thought we were on to something.

Joey

October 10th, 2011
5:21 pm

It’s like one coaching staff makes adjustments, the other hopes what they’ve been doing, starts working again.

Which one describes the Falcons staff?