As for the Falcons’ game itself: It was pretty crummy, too

The Falcons stopped Doug Martin once, but not this time. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Falcons stopped Doug Martin the first time around, but not the second. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

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




196 comments Add your comment

FANtastic

December 31st, 2012
8:53 am

Ostrich Racer

December 31st, 2012
8:55 am

Hard to decide who you want to pull for next week — the team with the quarterback no one can stop, or the team with the running back no one can stop.

[...] Further reading: As for the game itself, it was pretty crummy, too. [...]

renova

December 31st, 2012
9:02 am

If the game meant nothing, why didn’t smith put in all second string guys to get some experience instead of guys who might well be playing hurt now.

Screwball

December 31st, 2012
9:05 am

Among the six playoff teams, even playing at home, the Falcons right now would probably be favored only vs. the Vikings. Sorry, it just is. They have a perception problem that won’t go away until they get that first win.

Mark Bradley

December 31st, 2012
9:06 am

FANtastic is kudo’ed.

TommyP

December 31st, 2012
9:08 am

Only the Pack worries me.

But if our DBs are fully healthy, we can take care of business.

Dawgdad (The Original)

December 31st, 2012
9:09 am

They surely now have doubts in their mind about ability to protect Ryan and ability to stop the run, not things you want to be thinking about going into the playoffs. I thought Smith made the right decision to play his starters and try to win, but when he did that, he set himself up for the worst outcome possible, as you said Mark. Give him credit for not playing it safe, but that will also be used against him if they lose.

Their opponent is surely going to take advantage of the things the Bucs did successfully.

The old balls coach

December 31st, 2012
9:09 am

This isn’t college with 90 man rosters. With 45 guys, there aren’t enough to play “all” second stringers. I agree with resting your “skeels” players. As Strahan said, when your line isn’t motivated, it’s time to get the QB out of the game. McKown should have played the 2d half and thrown to the backup tight ends.

Dawgdad (The Original)

December 31st, 2012
9:10 am

If I am the Falcons opponent, I am going all in on pressure on Ryan. TB demonstrated that pressure works, if he has time, with those talented receivers, he is going to complete passes. TB demonstrated that the only way to stop Ryan is with pressure.

AD

December 31st, 2012
9:13 am

Not worried at all provided Abe is ok. For whatever reason, georgia teams need some sort of extra motivation to play well (see the dawgs with the def callout etc). We never lose back to back, we will be at home following a bye (smitty is typically grwat following one) with the place rockin like the giants game, not the snooze fest that was yesterday. We will have willymo back, and frankly there was no way we were winning that game. The teams were playing at different speeds. None of these teams are all that good. To borrow from the sports guy( horrible I know), but we will be playing the nobody believes in us card and the win one for Gonzales card. I think we definitely get the divisional win. The NFC championship is another ball game.

The Root

December 31st, 2012
9:14 am

That was the poorest job of coaching in a very long time. Time to remember A B’ s comments from a year ago. Time to start theSmith watch

McNasty

December 31st, 2012
9:16 am

The Know it All Knuckleheads are striking AGAIN! No one got seriously hurt!
Have all you second guessers even considered that it may have been supreme confidence and (maybe a little arrogant!) that the Falcons used HALF a game plan on both sides of the ball and still expected to beat the Bucs. They know what they have after showing it to the Giants. Look for those Falcons the 13th.

4DaBirds

December 31st, 2012
9:19 am

On to the playoffs.

Yes the game yesterday was lack luster and boring. Yes, the fans were uninspired and couldn’t be bothered with cheering. Yes, we could have done better. Who cares? The game meant nothing. You’ll of forgotten about it by this time next week.

The Falcons are the number 1 seed in the NFC, and all you hear and see are people complaining. News outlets complaining, and running commercials about the stadium debate. Just shut up and enjoy the fact that we have one of the better teams in football. Instead of trying to create drama by casting a dark cloud, maybe you should find a way to be positive about a positive situation.

Rob

December 31st, 2012
9:21 am

As a life long Falcons fan, I definitely want them to get to the Super Bowl. But, please just win at least one playoff game to quiet the critics and put the talk to bed. We are all tired of hearing it.

Charles Jackson

December 31st, 2012
9:26 am

From what I saw yesterday, the Falcons may well be one and done again in two weeks.

Buddy Landel

December 31st, 2012
9:27 am

Seattle scraped by St. Louis yesterday IN A GAME THAT HAD A CHANCE TO EFFECT SEEDING. What if we’d scraped by the Rams in similar circumstances? The media would’ve demanded we be excluded fom the playoffs. But because Seattle has a rookie QB and they are the flavor of the month, you won’t hear anything about it.

Buckhead Benny

December 31st, 2012
9:32 am

Mark,

One of the worst Falcons games i have ever watched- Watching Matt Ryan get beat like that on almost every play and play the whole game and lose was very painful- like being tortured as a fan watching your starters go down to for a meaningless game such a painful and gut wrenching game to watch-

In addition, Mark why doesn’t anybody ask Smitty why let the clock run down the first half and leave a time out left going into half time when you were inside Tampa’s fifty yard line and we run down the clock to try a hail mary like we are in fear of their great defense then Matt Ryan gets pummeled going into half time? I thought right there that meant we were taking our starters out.

I thought that signanled us waiving the white flag going into half time and almost felt like Arthur Blank encouraged this playing the starters the whole game to try a different concept than years past- I think we had a good chance with our new coordinators since they are less predictable than Mularkey and Van Gorder going into this playoffs thats why this was so puzzling to see.

Your right this was like worst case scenario you could draw up for a team as a first round bye and number one seed- hurt your confidence, hurt your starters, and now you know the starters have to be questioning the football intellect of their coach now.

single white dove

December 31st, 2012
9:33 am

Look, if the offensive line cant do their jobs…gee whiz, the defense was not at fault. being out in the game for such a long time. Shame on the Falcons offense, not even a sub par play performance. We could have still won that game with two minutes left….

Big Al

December 31st, 2012
9:35 am

Falcons are rounding into post season form. They will not be around the playoffs for long.

Confused but not scared

December 31st, 2012
9:36 am

Good (and true) comments AD and Buddy Landel. As frustrating as yesterday was, think back to the Carolina game and how we came out the following week. We will blow doors on the Skins or Vikings, and will handle Seattle — it doesn’t matter who we face in that game. It couldn’t be set up better for us to get to the Super Bowl. Two wins in the Dome against NFC teams that all (including GB and SF) have flaws and we’re in. It’s now or never for the Smitty regime.

Crappy start time for the divisional game – Sunday 1pm, but we all need to get there early and make the Dome rock.

Flo- Ri - Duh

December 31st, 2012
9:37 am

Bradley – quit your whining. The only way you would have been satisfied is a 40 point blowout at half time and resting the starters the way. Tampa has a pretty decent team – not like they are Cleveland.

jw

December 31st, 2012
9:37 am

So – EZ chair coaches – what were you supposed to do yesterday? Do you have the league gripe and fine the team for not playing the starters? Do you have the fans gripe and complain because they paid money to see the starters, not jw at tight end and Mark Bradley at QB? Do you have the Falcon Nation gripe and complain because you threw in the towel at halftime? Do you try to win an ugly game to shut up the fickle fan base and media?

To me, yesterday looked like one of those scrimmages that the Falcons do at your local high school each year – all yesterday did was create fodder for you guys, the press and everyone else that refuses to take a seat on the Falcons bandwagon. Bet that changes if we make it to the Super Bowl – and that stinks – either all in or go away -

Worse thing – it’s Monday and deja vu’ all over again –

The Falcons can’t do anything that is satisfactory to the fans in this town. Y’all are a fickle bunch – its a no win situation – guess the only pleasing you would have been a 50 to 0 shellacking with the final score coming with no time on the clock and Ryan running it down their throat. Probably still would have fussed about starters playing too much in that scenario – they can’t win no matter what.

How about supporting this team? – it’s a pretty good one – the Smith (as coach) that is attached to the current Atlanta Falcons has done a whole lot more for the team than the Smith (as owners) that used to be attached to the Falcons – come on – all in or all out – quit the whining and complaining.

At least there is a 17th game – and now it’s expected every year – the fans of the past never saw many 15 or 17 game seasons. Come on – let’s get on board with this bunch. It could be a special year – stick your neck out there and stick up for this team.

Charles Jackson

December 31st, 2012
9:38 am

And from what I saw yesterday and read about the other NFC playoff bound teams, I’d rank the Falcons dead last: 1. SF, 2. Seattle, 3. Green bay, 4. Washington, 5. Minnesota 6. Atlanta.

Lil' Barry Bailout

December 31st, 2012
9:39 am

ANY playoff caliber opponent should worry Falcons fans.

Lil' Barry Bailout

December 31st, 2012
9:40 am

Not sure you can put Minnesota obave Atlanta…

SirReal

December 31st, 2012
9:41 am

I still think it was stupid to have your starters in for that long in a game where we truly had no stake. Dumb coaching decision. As long as Abe and Dunta can go then I guess we’ll be ok…..Kudos to the D overall. This “high-powered” offense better rediscover its voltage…

Mark Bradley

December 31st, 2012
9:42 am

Buckhead Benny, they ran the clock down to five seconds because it was fourth down. Had the Falcons called timeout at, say, 15 seconds, and gotten sacked on fourth down — which is what happened — the Bucs would have taken possession and, with one completion, kicked a field goal.

Go Vols

December 31st, 2012
9:44 am

I’m not normally a big Falcons supporter, but I don’t see another team in the NFC that’s good on both sides of the ball. SF and Seattle are strong on defense but not consistently good on offense (yes, I know Seattle had that huge outburst recently). GB’s D looked awful last night. Falcons should be able to score enough to win in the playoffs. Super Bowl seems achievable to me.

bama52

December 31st, 2012
9:44 am

Didn’t watch the game because we didn’t need it. Our road to glory is on Matt Ryan,the offensive line and who we starts in the backfield. I’m not against Turner but J Rodgers is our best Running Back right now. Our coaches decision will also effect how far we go, yesterday decision is behind us, with the bye we may have time to recover. It’s time to play championship football and we must be aggressive.

KC

December 31st, 2012
9:45 am

This is great. We had the same negativity after the Carolina game, and responded by demolishing the Giants. Maybe it’s the gameplan! Besides we don’t lose two in a row, remember! Be positive folks! Enjoy this ride. There are worse things in life.

Buddy Landel

December 31st, 2012
9:48 am

Charles Jackson- If I hadn’t seen a game all year until yesterday, I’d think the same. But most of us have been following the season since the start and most objective people would rank them much differently than you. Be reminded that San Fran couldn’t beat the lowly Rams this year (and were recently destroyed by Seattle who you have ranked below them), Atlanta already defeated Washington this year, Seattle was gifted a win vs the Packers on that Hail Mary fiasco and have lost to the Cardinals, Lions, and Dolphins this year and are 3-5 on the road. Troll on!

Ted M

December 31st, 2012
9:54 am

Maybe it was for the best and will light a fire under their butts. I still think Smith should have played the starters. But if I’m the Falcons opponent why even bother with the run just go after Ryan.

I fear the 17 yard TD run is gonna cause Smith to call MT’s number too much. I can’t think of a worse starting RB in the NFL. Can any one else?

LKW4

December 31st, 2012
9:56 am

All you Ryan lovers tell me how ghood he was last night! He still stinks! If we weren’t going to play to win why did we play the first string? They play like this in post season we can kiss it! Maybe they will get rid of Ryan if we lose post season – AGAIN!

Jimmy Crack

December 31st, 2012
9:58 am

Coach Smith has a doctor’s appointment Monday with the “20/20 Hindsight Proctology Office”.

Ted M

December 31st, 2012
9:58 am

I think Adrian Peterson will set the record for playoff rushing yards if they play the Falcons.

Confused but not scared

December 31st, 2012
9:59 am

KC – exactly!

Ted M – there are MANY worse starting backs: Stephens-Howling (or whoever carries for the Cards), the Steelers RBs, Jags RBs, Leshoure (Lions), Shonn Greene, Patriots trio of RBs, just to name a few. When the line lets four defenders get into the backfield before Turner gets the ball he doesn’t have much of a chance. I agree that he’s lost a step (or ten), but he’s not getting much to work with. While Quizz shows flashes, he’s gobbled up in the backfield more often than not, too.

steve brown

December 31st, 2012
10:00 am

My biggest concern is that this staff and management is not as bright as I thought they were.
1) Yes they got beat the last 2 times in the playoffs but they were beaten by the ultimate Super Bowl Champ so why they buy into the national media’s BS is beyond me.
2) This is not tennis, golf, etc. You do not risk key players in a meaningless game you let them heal from 15 prior games of violence. Three starters on defense went down and if anyone has the audacity to gloss over the stupidity of the thinking that went into this scenario unfolding they just aren’t very bright. Period.

D man

December 31st, 2012
10:03 am

I guess they didn’t learn in Carolina. I was at the game and it felt as if they were just going through the motions. They didn’t have that spark. I’m not worried because they have shown several times this season that hey can turn it on when it matters most.

GTT

December 31st, 2012
10:04 am

On the bad side, this looked like a Carolina kind of effort from four weeks ago. On the bright side, they almost never lose two in a row and maybe the next game will look like the effort against the Giants three weeks ago.

Ted M

December 31st, 2012
10:05 am

Maurice Jones-Drew is 10 times better then MT so is Rashard Mendenhall for the Steelers

Ted M

December 31st, 2012
10:07 am

Shonn Greene ave. 3.9yds/carry and broke a 1000 yds for a crappy team.

okeetee

December 31st, 2012
10:07 am

Ok, Falcon fans, here’s the bottom line: We’ve beaten some very good teams at home this year, including the Bronco’s, the Giants and the Saints! We lost one meaningless game at home to the Bucs, who we beat on the road in a VERY meaningful game to them! We have shown the ability to rise up for the occasion when a win was absolutely necessary! Yesterdays loss was mystifying in many ways. Seemed like Smith wanted to win the game but many of our starters said “what for?” Trouble was most of those not interested in winning the game and not playing hard were on the offensive line and since we were playing tackle football….it almost got our quarterback killed! We lost two starters and that was not good! But it is what it is. NOW our defensive coordinator must come up with a game plan to derail a rookie quarterback coming into OUR house and playing only the second playoff game of his life! Seattle or Washington, no matter who wins, will bring in a rookie quarterback to our house! Even if the Vikings upset the Packers, that kid is a rookie quarterback, too, right? We rest up this week and hope our coaches can come up with a plan to accentuate our talents and minimize our flaws! EVERY team in this tournament is FLAWED! Let’s just hope they are more flawed than we are!

D man

December 31st, 2012
10:08 am

LKW4 – really? Please explain why Ryan is a terrible QB without saying anything about the 0&3 post season. Keep in mind, all of the great QBs started out slower than Ryan… I’m listening…

colelinski

December 31st, 2012
10:10 am

The Falcons make any low ranked team look like Super Bowl champs. I heard Kory b say they
came out flat. Someone else said they did,t come to play. What in Sam Hill do these grown men
get paid for. It sure looks like another one and out.
If your o-line can,t block, you get beat. And yes the defense played well enough to win. Ihave been a Falcon fan since 1966 and it just seems there is a curse on this franchise. No matter the players or
coaches or GMs, it always seems the Falcons are inept. Could’nt beat their grannys when it gets to the nitty gritty. I am not sure the Falcons can beat anyone in the playoffs.

Falcon James

December 31st, 2012
10:13 am

The starters should have played maybe one quarter. There was nothing to gain by playing them the whole game. The players were going through the motions yesterday and I didn’t really see a game plan. Why was this the first game all season that our receivers could not out run the CB’s? My guess is that they were running half speed. Everything the Falcons did was vanilla. It has been a great season, but the real game is in 2 weeks. No doubt in my mind that we will see them at there best and crush the other team.

Turtsnap

December 31st, 2012
10:16 am

The end to this season mirrors 2010. In 2010, the “experts” didn’t get behind the Falcons, but the fan base felt confident in our team….. and then late in the season, we lost – at home – against the Saints, and the doubts began….. Now this year, same story, and we lose in week 17 to a very inferior team, at home…… and now the doubts begin!! Since it was pretty obvious to me that the players were playing, not to get hurt, more than to win, why did we play them?

"Chef" Tim Dix

December 31st, 2012
10:19 am

Now with all the posturing over, we have reached the point that both organization and fans will have the important questions answered.

DP

December 31st, 2012
10:20 am

Uh oh, I sense the perenially front running Mark Bradley is starting to backpedal on his declaration that the Falcons will win the Super Bowl. But maybe whoever beats them will win the Super Bowl and Bradley can declare if not for that game the Falcons would have won the Super Bowl, like they would have won the Super Bowl 2 years ago if Green Bay hadn’t routed them 48-21 in the Georgia Dome.

Vegas has Atlanta and Houston tied for 7th among the 12 playoff teams on the odds to win the Super Bowl at 7:1. They have Seattle ahead of the Falcons at 6:1 even though Seattle probably has to win 3 games on the road to the get to the Super Bowl and the Falcons only have to win 2 at home.

VinceVanGo

December 31st, 2012
10:20 am

Kontz has been dominated by the defender on him for the past 2-3 games. Have the Falcons got anybody decent to replace him? How about Hawley?