This post is an adjunct to the game column, which can be found by clicking here.
1. Offensively, the Falcons were offensive. Matt Ryan’s longest completion — in 44 throws — was for 28 yards, this against an opponent that ranked last in the NFL in pass defense. Their longest run was a 17-yard touchdown burst by Michael Turner, who finished with only 18 yards on six carries. They converted three of 14 third downs. They managed but 278 total yards, their second-lowest yield of the season, and 17 points, a seasonal low. Good thing they played the starters, eh?
2. Defensively, they weren’t much better. The Falcons didn’t muster a sack. They intercepted only one pass by Josh Freeman, who’d thrown eight in the past two games. After holding the smallish rookie Doug Martin to 50 yards in a narrow victory in Tampa on Nov. 25, they saw him rush for 142 yards on 28 carries Sunday, including a rather galling 40-yard touchdown ramble. Good thing they played the starters, eh?
3. About his contingency plans for those starters, coach Mike Smith was vague. It wasn’t clear whether his plan was to stick with them for the duration or to lift them if the Falcons got a lead, which they didn’t. “I can’t say (he’d have played them) all the way through,” Smith said, and then: “If we felt the game was won, then we would make the decision to take players out.” What happened was close to a worst-case scenario: The Falcons played their starters, lost anyway and saw John Abraham and Dunta Robinson injured.
By Mark Bradley