Here’s why the Falcons’ Smith should have gone for two

To borrow from the great Lousianan Joe Dean Sr.: "Tony G. plays a little stufferino." (AP photo)

To borrow from the great Louisianan Joe Dean Sr.: "Tony G. plays a little stufferino." (AP photo)

This post is an adjunct to the Falcons-Saints game column, which can be found here.

1. Mike Smith erred in not going for two after the Falcons cut the lead to 28-23. Smith’s position was that, with 13:57 remaining, it was too early. “You don’t even start looking at the 2-point chart until there’s seven minutes to go,” he said. But a 2-point conversion would have drawn the Falcons within a field goal, and the successful 1-pointer pulled them only within four, which is essentially the same as being down five: You still need a touchdown (or two field goals) to take the lead. And a successful 2-pointer would have left the Falcons within tying range on their final three possessions.

2. You might never see a better duel of tight ends. The Saints’ Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. (Gonzalez’s were the 100th and 101st touchdowns of his distinguished career.) Both tight ends played college basketball — Graham at Miami, Gonzalez at California — and both punctuated touchdowns this given Sunday by dunking over the crossbar. Asked if he ever worries about getting too old to dunk, Graham said: “I’m 6-foot-7. I’ll always be able to do that.”

3. The league’s least-penalized team hurt itself badly. Asante Samuel intercepted Drew Brees’ first pass and returned the ball to the Saints’ 12 but was flagged for excessive celebration, a penalty not often assessed in the NFL. Pushed back to the 27, the Falcons wound up kicking a field goal to lead 10-0 after five-plus minutes. As any coach will tell you, there’s a big difference between 10-0 and 14-0. And when the Saints punted inside the final minute, a holding penalty on Lawrence Sidbury moved the Falcons from their 41 to the 31 with 37 seconds remaining — another significant reversal at another significant moment.

Further reading: Bill Barnwell of ESPN’s Grantland on why Mike Smith should have gone for two.

Further still: Chase Stuart of Football Perspective — I really like Football Perspective, by the way — on why Mike Smith should have gone for two.

And even further: Jason Lisk of The Big Lead on why Mike Smith’s bigger error was on the next possession.

And further again: A Football Commentary chart on when you really should go for two.

By Mark Bradley

197 comments Add your comment

[...] Further reading: Here’s why Mike Smith should have gone for two. [...]

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

November 12th, 2012
5:54 am

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

November 12th, 2012
5:56 am

Back after a long absence. Good to be back Mark totally agree with you on this

Mark Bradley

November 12th, 2012
5:58 am

Kudos, South Ga. Good to hear from you again.

BlahBlahBlah

November 12th, 2012
6:07 am

I hope everyone can refrain from kneejerk overreactions. The supposedly mighty Niners couldn’t beat the Rams at home, and the Bengals destroyed Eli and company. These things happen. Their next game is at home vs. a team (Arizona) that’s lost 5 in a row. Take care of business, and then go down to Tampa after Thanksgiving and put the Bucs in their place and the division (and a bye) will be almost a certainty.

ERMAHGERD GERGER BERDERGS

November 12th, 2012
6:16 am

With how the Falcons played at the goal line, a 2 pointer would be a long shot.

George

November 12th, 2012
6:17 am

They should have scored on that last drive within the five yard line. Pass plays such as they ran in that situation don’t usually work (for us). Why they did not try a sweep play at least once is beyond me.

falcon

November 12th, 2012
6:18 am

I agree and said that Smith should have gone for 2 also. Michael Turner and his 15 yards on 13 carries is a big problem. I hope Thomas Dimitroff is taking notes. We need to improve at the RB position.

Samuel

November 12th, 2012
6:20 am

Ashante Samuels needs to calm down way too much testosterone released when he makes a play. It’s like look at me. Keep your eye on the prize fool. It seem like Drew Davis was way too nervous when he went in for Julio Jones. Run blocking was horrible and not enough plays on defense. Mike Smith can’t seem to fix these problems with the Saints. This has been going on for a long time.

Dan E

November 12th, 2012
6:20 am

Hopefully, everyone now sees that the Falcons have one of the best teams in the NFL with one of the most washed-up running backs in the game. I am sorry to say it, but Michael Turner has seen his best days. Please Mike Smith….start Snelling or Rodgers. The Falcons are too good to let the “Burner” send the season up in flames.

HardyFalcon

November 12th, 2012
6:23 am

Same old Falcons, they let the Aint’s of all Teams beat them, when will Mike Smith realize Turner is Burned-Out and quit trying to run him, look at all the amazing running back the Aints have and we have 1, Rodgers. Our defense never did put Breeze under pressure and the LB Corp really sucked today.

DeepDiver

November 12th, 2012
6:23 am

I don’t mind the decision not to go at all. Firstly, it’s hard to pass it in from the 2 when the defense is looking pass, as we demonstrated late in the game. I highly doubt the Falcons would have tried a run in that spot given the recent failures.

Secondly, Smith is right that you do get on the wrong side of the score there if you don’t convert. They could have easily scored a touchdown on that late drive and handing the ball to Drew Brees needing only a field goal to beat you is an unenviable spot.

Don’t mind that call at all.

itpdude

November 12th, 2012
6:25 am

Smith should have gone for two. It was the 4th quarter. What harm was it if you’re 5 pts down instead of 4 when you could be a FG away? It made no sense.

But that wasn’t the big problem. The big problem was the run-game.

Felix

November 12th, 2012
6:41 am

a couple of big problems. a lot of missed tackles, run blocking was not there. LB corp could not cover or tackle. RB can not run through hole that are not there.

Tom1

November 12th, 2012
6:42 am

Agree Dan E, Michael Turner not being able to effectively make short, crucial yardage when needed has been an ongoing problem for a couple of years now. This game in particular could have and should have been won. We all know the problem by heart: too slow to the line, too easy to hit and bring down, usually for a loss. This was once a team with a priority running scheme that wore the other team down. True he doesn’t have the greatest offensive line to break him open, but he has to have the ability to adapt to the situation he has. The coaching staff have been racking their brains trying get him open. MT has done well for us for a long time and has had a fine career to be proud of but it is time to sit him down now. This is a business and I’m sure he realizes it.

Rob L

November 12th, 2012
6:50 am

I agree with George… when the Falcons run sweeps, they stretch out the opponent’s defense, and usually gain 3 or more yards. It’s so frustrating to see them try to pound it through the middle of the line, especially when they’re near the goal line.

Buckeye

November 12th, 2012
6:51 am

The Mo flipped on Asante’s 4 point penalty. With 7 there, the 2 point conversion became moot.

By the way, did anyone else’/s comcast HD get stuck on the chicago channel movie after the emergency alert? I missed the end starting after the Douglas play at the 1.

Perhaps that was a good thing,

Go Falcons!

Buckeye

November 12th, 2012
6:53 am

Do we ever see Turner and Quizz in the same backfield? More options from the one!

BubbaDaBaller

November 12th, 2012
6:55 am

Deja Vu all over again…couldn’t execute in last years game to pick up needed “yard”… Although this year the Aint’s are giving up 400+ /Game…youda thought one wouldn’t be that hard..
Harbinger of things to come…What’s that whirring noise? Sounds like a “Buzz Saw”, don’t know who it is but it will be bestowed on the team that comes in and wins in the Dome in January…

Ken Norman

November 12th, 2012
6:55 am

The Falcons needed to be humbled by the Saints, because they were focusing their frustration with their so call lack of respect through the media instead of on the field. The issues moving forward are the same as we had a year ago, the inability to score or gain positive yards on short yard situations. If this happens again and we loss another game because of it, especially a playoff game, then Mike Smith will be looking for another job like Mike Brown. Mike Smith might not be good enough to get the Falcons to the next level (Super Bowl Championship). This team better start showing some sense of urgency or there will be major chances to come.

Buckeye

November 12th, 2012
7:00 am

The 49ers tie will loom large come home field throughout

Nativebird

November 12th, 2012
7:03 am

For being one of the great team leaders and team organizers and motivators in the NFL, Mike Smith is one of THE worst in game managers I have ever seen in the NFL. no ability or even a desire to step on a neck when he has them down, tries to sit on slims leads and run out a clock started AT HALFTIME, his fourth down play calling is attrocious and intimely, his instant replay calls are always crapshoots, and he consistently misses the opportunity to setup the point gaps favorable to his late game efforts.

Willy

November 12th, 2012
7:05 am

@ Ken Norman, thinking a lack of a run game this year would cost Mike Smith his job is utterly ridiculous.

Willy

November 12th, 2012
7:08 am

Actually, I think Smith has a better than average record on replay calls. It surprised me to hear that, but I heard it during a Falcons telecast, so I’m assuming its true

Willy

November 12th, 2012
7:09 am

And Turner running out of gas WILL NOT cost Smith his job. That’s pretty silly

Reality

November 12th, 2012
7:09 am

Bradley, this is why you are a writer and not a coach. First of all you are not held accountable for you ignorant comments. Second, the game had over 13 min left and to panic then would have been stupid. Wake up and continue to write garbage….

William Banks

November 12th, 2012
7:17 am

Ken Norman, don’t forget about Leeman Bennett days when the Falcons reached a supposedly plateau. Need to stay with Coach Smith.

Joey

November 12th, 2012
7:21 am

Did I see Snelling on the KO team?

Why is he not running the ball some?

Bill

November 12th, 2012
7:21 am

This was a great game. In the end, the Falcons simply lost at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Chip

November 12th, 2012
7:25 am

Get rid of Michael Turner

BobDawg

November 12th, 2012
7:26 am

I agree with BLAH that we can still take care of Biz and get the Bye….. that being said…. I want to see more of Julio in the backfield… Dude can take it up the middle or sweep wide as many are saying and who will catch him??? Even an end around from him… no one could stay with him….especially on the goal line….

Shelt99

November 12th, 2012
7:28 am

Falcons must play better in goal line situation. We are making the same mistakes from a year ago.

CW

November 12th, 2012
7:28 am

Enter your comments here

CW

November 12th, 2012
7:31 am

Not a big fan of going for two until you have to. If the Falcons had gone for 2 and missed, their next touchdown leaves them ahead by only 2 instead of three…so now they would have to go for 2 again…

BobDawg

November 12th, 2012
7:32 am

Once Quiz got us down there with 2 minutes left in the game.. I would have opted for a run on 2nd down…. run clock if we get stuffed. Then run a sweep on 3rd down with Julio… If we get stopped or even stuffed, backed up for 4th down…We operate better with more field for the 4th down pass… Smitty is great as Coach… He ain’t going no where nor should he… It was a great game with both teams knocking down haymakers all game long… Both tight ends were awesome….

We burn some cajun food

November 12th, 2012
7:36 am

Matt Ryan played his by far greatest game as QB as for Michael turner he has quit runnin like some one upset him in coach’s staff n front office…He acts like that baby runnin back at chargers had cryin over not gettin more carry’s….8-1 so lets go on vs arizona and win over Cards easy say 45-7 sunday show fans and Media in Ny city we are still here!

BobDawg

November 12th, 2012
7:38 am

…Witherspoon is really missed… I think our D is no where near as porous if he was in there… MarkB. when does he get back???

sherlock

November 12th, 2012
7:38 am

Saints game ball goes to .. Michael Turner

Herschel Talker

November 12th, 2012
7:45 am

MB:

You are WRONG. It’s way too early at that point. If he goes for 2 and misses, and then the Saints tack on a FG, then you’re down 8, not 7 and then you need a TD and a 2-pt conv to win. When you start chasing points too early, it will bite you more than not.

The bottom line is that with 1st and goal from the one, the blame lies with fat Sam Baker and fat Michael Turner for being bums, not with Mike Smith for kicking an extra point 13 minutes earlier in the game.

HT

loyal falcon

November 12th, 2012
7:45 am

CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL THE DEFENSE TO STOP TRYING TO TACKLE HIGH! ALL THAT DOES IS ALLOW THE PERSON TO GAIN MORE YARDAGE WHILE THE DEFENDER IS TRYING TO TAKE THEM DOWN. ( THE CHRIS IVORY TD!!!!!) COME ON DEFENSE!!!!!!

Monday Morning

November 12th, 2012
7:46 am

love the Falcons, Mike Smith, etc. etc. but damn, get a short yardage play. Turner is not a short yardage back- no first step and the d line chops hime at the knees every time. Ryan sucks at qb sneak. Roll Ryan out.

danny

November 12th, 2012
7:46 am

The reason the falcons lost is because we have a 250 pound running back who tiptoes up to the line and can’t get 3 feet!!!!!! Please get rid of Turner. We don’t need him to get 100 yards but we need him to be able to get 2 or 3 crucial yards and he CANNOT do it

Ted M

November 12th, 2012
7:47 am

Michael Turner stinks…thats why they lost. He never makes a play on his own. Smith should not have given him the ball on 3rd and short at the goal line. It takes him 5 seconds to get to the line of scrimmage and unless there is a giant hole he gets nothing.

papadawg

November 12th, 2012
7:47 am

BULL—, They loss by not scoring TDs instead of FGs plus if you can’t score from the one take your sorry butts home.

AlanFalcon

November 12th, 2012
7:48 am

I hope the Falcons look at this as a learning situation, #1-They still don’t have a ground game, Turner just can’t get the job done, turn it over to Snelling and Rogers, both a better fit with our lack of and OL push. #2-The players, not the coaches have got to understand how bad it affects our game when they create lousy penalties, Mike Smith has preach and continues to preach this, maybe the guys are just to proud and think they have to do stupid things even if it does cost the team as it did yesterday. #3-Now that we have lost and know that we are not a perfect team we can move forward and learn from our mistakes .
Good luck, time is on our side, don’t look pass the next two opponents, the rematch will come soon enough with N.O., in the mean time lets be 10-1 when they come to our house.

G-Man

November 12th, 2012
7:52 am

Couldn’t convert on multiple 3-1s. Bad tackling. No pass rush. Asante acting like an idiot. This was not all on Turner.

punk

November 12th, 2012
7:53 am

Turner is terrible, but the o-line didn’t do much on runs either.

Kennesaw David

November 12th, 2012
7:53 am

Red zone offense has been shaky all year. That is an area that has to be improved moving forward. Needs to be a focus. Need TDs down there.

Esquire

November 12th, 2012
7:55 am

Going for 2? Hell, we couldn’t even score 6 when it counted.

let's go

November 12th, 2012
7:56 am

I hate monday morning quarterbacks. Smith is right, it was too early to think about two at that point with so much time left especially with the way the offenses were moving the ball. The Falcons got the ball back 3 more times after that (twice with plenty of time left) and couldn’t score a touchdown. 46 rushing yards is what cost this team the victory because by the 4th quarter the Falcons had all but given up on the run so all the Saints had to do was drop back and defend the pass. I’m not sure if it’s Turner, the offensive line or the play calling but something has to change if this team is to advance into the playoffs.