On the shifty Jacquizz Rodgers and the shifting Mike Smith

"Sometimes I go for it, Greg, and sometimes I don't." (AP photo)

"Sometimes I go for it, Greg, and sometimes I don't." (AP photo)

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

1. Jacquizz Rodgers injected some needed sizzle. Owing to his size (5-foot-6, 196 pounds), he’s often dismissed as a change-of-pace back, but his 49 yards on 10 rushes made him the star of a slightly upgraded ground game. Michael Turner had another in a series of indifferent games — 13 carries for 17 yards. On this day, however, the Falcons didn’t go as Turner goes (or doesn’t go). Rodgers gave them speed on the flanks and made the Buccaneers’ defense honor at least the concept of the run. He nearly outgained the heralded Tampa Bay tailback Doug Martin, who carried 21 times for his 50 yards. Could the Falcons have found their new feature back? It’s too early to make that leap, but this game was an indication that options exist beyond Turner.

2. Mike Smith got conservative at the end of the first half. The Falcons’ coach had his offense had his team wait until 22 seconds remained in the half to call timeout ahead of a third-and-11 play at the Tampa Bay 19. That might have been sound strategy, except that Matt Ryan found Julio Jones for 15 yards to the 4, meaning that the Falcons had cut it too fine. In trying to leave the opponent no time to respond, they left themselves too little time (15 seconds) after the conversion that didn’t yield a score. Ryan missed Jones on first-and-goal and threw it away on second down, leaving four seconds for Matt Bryant to try a 22-yard field goal for the lead. Which he missed. Ouch.

3. The same Mike Smith got daring near the end of the second half. Just when you think you’ve got Smitty pegged, he’ll make you rethink. With a minute left and the Falcons ahead by a point and the Buccaneers out of timeouts, the Falcons threw on third-and-18 from the Tampa Bay 37. An incompletion would have meant the Bucs could have gotten the ball back with roughly 50 seconds remaining. Asked if he worried about an incompletion, Matt Ryan said: “Every time I take a snap, I think I’m going to complete it.” Sure enough, he did — to Tony Gonzalez for seven yards. And now the Falcons had Bryant try a 48-yard field goal with 13 seconds left, when a pooch punt might have been the safer play. Bryant missed again, giving the Bucs the ball at their 38 with eight seconds to play. The game ended with Josh Freeman’s pass being batted away in the Falcons’ end zone. Whew.

By Mark Bradley

136 comments Add your comment

[...] reading: On the shifty Jacquizz Rodgers and the shifting Mike Smith. By Mark [...]

Paul

November 26th, 2012
5:45 am

Paul

November 26th, 2012
5:47 am

The Falcons would be 11-0 if they hadn’t relied on Turner around the Goal Line vs. the Saints. I hope they’ve learned that lesson for the playoffs.

Strange Murphy

November 26th, 2012
6:08 am

4th! WOOOHOOOOOOO!!!!

drew

November 26th, 2012
6:08 am

All’s well that ends well….but the FG attempt was not smart football. We should have punted, or better yet, just have Ryan drop back, roll out, kill as much time as possible, then throw it as high and far as possible, and you’d probably burn up that 13 seconds. But it’s all good.

Dc

November 26th, 2012
6:17 am

The pass and the fg try at the end made no sense at all. A punt out the back of the stadium wouldve given TB the ball at the 20 with under 15 secs to go. Baffling set of decisions

Jethro

November 26th, 2012
6:22 am

1. The Falcons need a punt return man with better JUDGMENT. Franks continued to disappoint by calling for a fair catch when there was no one within 15 yards of him.
2. Turner is easy to catch and hard to bring down, but the Quizzer is hard to catch in the first place – in space. The pitch plays to the Quizzer are game changers. Who says you have to run up the middle?
3. Don’t really know how good this team is, but the team and season are special. Don’t waste it by doubting every little thing along the way.

JSS

November 26th, 2012
6:30 am

Nothing Smith does is “baffling.” New Age Barney Rubble is tuning up for the post-season…

Sly Boarders

November 26th, 2012
6:42 am

Do you think Mr. Lofton is enjoying his NO money as much as he thought he would?

Larry

November 26th, 2012
7:09 am

JSS,

The Falcons are a missed opporutnity with four shots to score at first and goal from the one yard line from a perfect 11-0 record.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, sparky!

j

November 26th, 2012
7:09 am

FG try at end of the game was not smart football.
No way to defend it

Larry

November 26th, 2012
7:13 am

drew,

A 47 yard field goal attempt with an elite kicker to put you up by four with 12 seconds remaining IS smart football. Byrant simply missed, that’s all.

Do you remember what Matt Ryan did with 9 seconds left against the Bears in 2008? He hit Jenkins with a pass that set up a game winning 47 yard field goal.

A 4 point lead against a team with zero timeouts and 12 seconds left is very SMART football.

Tech Actuary

November 26th, 2012
7:22 am

The pass play was one of the stupidest calls I’ve ever seen. The only real chance they had to win the game was for us to throw an imcomplete pass. Then they would have actually had time to get into field goal range. We then compounded this poor decision by kicking the field goal. Had we made the field goal, we would have been kicking off and there really wouldn’t have been enough time for them to get in field goal range anyway.

If we had just punted out the back of the endzone they would have had about 12 seconds left. They would have needed to complete a 40 yard pass and then a 56 yard field goal to win the game. The missed field goal meant they only needed one significantly shorter pass. I’m not sure why they didn’t try to get in field goal range but I’m happy they didn’t.

Also, why would we throw a screen pass to “lead shoes” Turner when we have Rodgers available? The Falcons need to learn on the job a little faster because our game management was terrible and will cost us in the playoffs.

Me Too

November 26th, 2012
7:29 am

Be prepared to loose in the playoffs because of this conservative coach.

c u later

November 26th, 2012
7:33 am

Michael Turner is washed up. He appears to be too fat, too slow, and too easy to go down to play a significant role at running back in the NFL. He is certainly not earning his “fat” paycheck with his play this year. RB should be a high priority in this year’s draft.

Peter

November 26th, 2012
7:33 am

Mike Smith prepared the Falcon’s for a hot Buccaneer’s team, and they won on the road…..

Ok then let’s keep complaining then !

yep

November 26th, 2012
7:35 am

Uhh may sound crazy but why not deal for Knowshon. Could get a killer deal for him out of Denver seeing as how they would love to get rid of him. I’m sure getting out of Denver would have a positive affect on him. Unlike Turner you can count on the 3 and 4 yd gains out of him…just sayin

Dave

November 26th, 2012
7:36 am

Why isn’t the safe play at the end of the game a play that will eat a lot of time, even if it doesn’t result in a first down? Say the Falcons had tried a reverse, handing to Rodgers who heads right before handing Jones headng back the other way. Even if Jones doesn’t break free for a first down, surely whatever time left will be miniscule allowing the Bucs only one play instead of the two they had. Jones might even be able to avoid being tackled or forced out of bounds before the end of the game. I don’t understand trying a long FG that, if missed, will give the Bucs field position where they only need 20 yards or so for a long FG of their own to win the game.

Satan smells

November 26th, 2012
7:44 am

WOW a lot of gripes from the experts about a coach that is in first place with only one loss. how is the team that you are coaching doing? Not a coach? Who would have guessed.

DC Dirty Bird

November 26th, 2012
7:48 am

I’m starting to think that Mike Smith is holding this team back. Les Miles gambles, but he has a track record of being successful. Mike Smith gambles when he shouldn’t and plays conservative when he should gamble.

In my opinion, the only reason why Mike Turner is still the starting RB is because Mike Smith still somehow thinks that power running wins in this league.

Whiskey Breath

November 26th, 2012
7:51 am

The game is neck and neck every year. The only mistake Smith made was sticking that kicker out the second time. He had already proved it wasn’t his day with the miss of the 22 yard kick.
Other than that, Smith out coached the Bucs. That great record is a testament to
Smith. And by the way, he doesn’t brag about his religion.

falcon

November 26th, 2012
7:53 am

I think Coach Smith is a heck of a coach, but I agree that wasting 20 seconds to end the 1st half, then trying for a long FG instead of punting were not the correct calls to make. I think Smitty was giving Bryant an opportunity to redeem himself after blowing the chip shot FG.

Mark Bradley

November 26th, 2012
7:55 am

Kudos, Paul.

GT

November 26th, 2012
7:55 am

Mike Smith is paid to win football games, and he does. He makes you have to watch the whole game, but at the end he usually wins.

Nativebird

November 26th, 2012
7:55 am

Good win on the road against a tough division foe. However, I am getting more than a little concerned about Matt Bryant. Can’t miss field goals when you have a field goal minded head coach. If we lose that card to play, it could spell trouble. On the other hand, it could help Smitty actually determine what his team can and can’t do….which is a historically blind spot of his.

DC Dirty Bird

November 26th, 2012
8:00 am

Larry, you are forgetting one important fact. Our elite kicker missed a 20 yarder earlier in the game. Also, the last i checked, a punt play with no return takes just as much if not more time than a FG. As such, you play the percentages. A team starts at the 20, with 8-12 seconds to go, no time outs, and a defense that knows that any play that doesn’t go out of bounds effectively ends the game. I think the probability of losing in that situation is a lot less than the probability of missing a 48 yd FG.

Tech actuary,
The Bucs did try and get into field goal range, unfortunately, the only pass play to get out of bounds was the short 7 yd pass to the TE. This all should have been happening from the 20 at worst.

Getaway

November 26th, 2012
8:01 am

Ho hum another win when they could of lost. This team… I swear, down by 9 in the 4th and I said, oh yeah, they got this.

I think the Falcons are still going to be able to sneak up on teams because they have the most underrated defense in football.

Got to share this, yesterday was the first Falcons game my wife has watched this year. She thought Dunta Robinson was the best player on defense. Ha! He did look pretty good in the first half. Hope he and Assante recover quickly. But, how about McClain?

GTT

November 26th, 2012
8:02 am

I see no use for Michael Turner after this season, unless he’s a good coach.

Tim

November 26th, 2012
8:02 am

Amazing-the team is 10-1 and people are still being critical of the coach, the players, play calling, etc. Hey folks, you could be Kansas City.

Getaway

November 26th, 2012
8:04 am

Nativebird – Maybe it’ll make Smith think twice about playing for a field goal…

GTT

November 26th, 2012
8:04 am

Turner has become like an Orc in the Lord of the Rings. One light swipe and he’s down.

collegeballfan

November 26th, 2012
8:05 am

I have no idea what the problem is with the running game, but it is a problem. If it does not get fixed the Falcons will be a “one and done” in the playoffs.

GT

November 26th, 2012
8:05 am

The Falcons wear the opponent down, and I think Turner is part of that. The fourth quarter is usually ours.

cornjolio

November 26th, 2012
8:06 am

RB & kicker should be off-season priorities

BravesFan79

November 26th, 2012
8:08 am

I think Michael Dwyer of the Steelers would be a better fit for the Falcons than Moreno. Hes a really good backup for the Steelers, so doubt they would wanna get rid of him tho. But a Dwyer/ Rogers combo would be nasty!

AlanFalcon

November 26th, 2012
8:12 am

Smitty had an unusual day with two bad decisions, not sure where they came from but for sure it was out of charcter for him.
Glad for the win and the hard fought effort by the team.

cdbgolf

November 26th, 2012
8:13 am

When were the Falcons down nine at all in this game?
Just asking?

D man

November 26th, 2012
8:13 am

Why is anyone complaining about anything? We are the best team in the NFL this year. We are so good, that we can turn the ball over 6 times in a game and win. We have never seen 10&1 before. We have the most potent offense in the NFL and our Defense is playing stingy football. We just shut down the best running offense in the league. I can’t wait for Thursday night…

D man

November 26th, 2012
8:16 am

We are 10&1. :)

diamond-e

November 26th, 2012
8:22 am

I agree that tip toe must go,also it was good to see quizz get some reps and julio strut his stuff.Hats off to the o line for the time they gave ryan,another 300 plus game.The missed field goals in NO probably cost us the game,but money matt bryant has won us a few this year also.I feel good about the team and we’ll get a chance to see how good they are in the next 5 games..Peace Love and DIRTY BIRDS

4DaBirds

November 26th, 2012
8:27 am

Chris Ivory will be a FA.

Brandon Jacobs will probably be available and healthy.

We need a big fast bruiser who runs hard to the whole.

Bill

November 26th, 2012
8:28 am

Smith got away with one there. If the Bucs had converted the Hail Mary, Smith would have been torn a new on by fans and the media.. A pooch punt was the correct call. It would have had the Bucs start at the 20 at best with around 5 seconds left. That is no time to get a pass to a position where Freeman could have launched one into the end zone.

Hope Smitty got his bonehead call out of the way before the post season starts.

Ted M

November 26th, 2012
8:32 am

Time management was terrible at the end of the first half even if Smith has no faith in his defense and thought 15 secs was too much for them to defend.

Big Crimson 75

November 26th, 2012
8:34 am

There were some interesting decisions at the end of the Game!!
Was it not the proper call to punt at the end?
Thankfully for Smitty, another 5 secs went off the clock as Bryant sailed it wide right.

As for the constant harping on the running game & playoff victories, this isn’t your daddy’s NFL!!
Have you seen GB play? How bout the Giants?
They can’t run either!!

Joey

November 26th, 2012
8:34 am

Turner is terrible. Barely a shadow of his 1st season.

Ted M

November 26th, 2012
8:35 am

Moreno stinks. He was near last in every category the NFL combine except bench press.

Ted M

November 26th, 2012
8:38 am

Tech Actuary – I was thinking the same thing when they threw that screen pass to Turner.

Carzo

November 26th, 2012
8:38 am

I couldn’t believe we didn’t punt at the end. Smitty has been great but that was incredibly dumb. It is great , though, to whine a little and still be 10-1.

jerry

November 26th, 2012
8:46 am

Is Mike Smith actually losing some of his pigheadness by using Rodgers more? After all the failures of Turner to even gain a yard in critical situations and three playoff flops by him, it’s way past time to dump the least productive player on the team.

Sam

November 26th, 2012
8:49 am

Tech Actuary took the words right out of my mouth. In both situations I was thinking the same thing.

I hate seeing him run into the back of the offensive lineman for half a yard gains, but I think Turner can still be a good back for us. It’s all about the play-calling and whether the player does what he is supposed to or not. Better blocking would definitely help.