There are so many angles to tackle here that I don't think I can get them all in one post. For now we'll start with the overview of a very ugly loss; runningback and I shared our mutual disgust and near-coronaries in the open thread already, but there's so much more to say. None of it is good.
Let's start with the horrible playcalling. You can question whether or not Alge Crumpler should've taken Petrino to the court of public opinion, but you can't deny he has a valid point. The Falcons didn't run when they should've and they refused to go downfield despite Harrington's success doing exactly that the last two weeks. Somehow the team decided that the Titans' average secondary was so fearsome that they couldn't be challenged; the one time Harrington did he had an interception returned for a touchdown. The most frustrating sequence of the entire game involved supposed savior Byron Leftwich practically falling down on a pitch to Warrick Dunn that never should've happened in the first place. With four goddamn downs to score from the 1 yard line, you absolutely do not attempt a pitch to the outside. Instead, you hand the ball to Dunn, Mughelli or Pinner and have them go right up the middle until they punch it in. Maybe you even try for the surprise pass in the endzone. With the tie within reach, every coach except Norv Turner knows you don't screw around.
Yet here I am, bitterly recalling a game we should have won. I don't want to take too much away from the Titans, who won thanks to some solid defense and some heroics from Vince Young. You know what, though?
The Falcons should have won that game. The Artose Pinner rumble on the fake punt was inspired lunacy, Norwood brought the Falcons within easy striking distance on a beautiful return, and the Falcons got turnover after turnover with ease. The defense and special teams, in short, did more than enough to pull out a victory. The offense quite simply let them down in a disgustingly spectacular fashion.
Had this post been on Monday, I likely would've been a lot angrier. With a day and the loss of Internet use to settle me down, I'd rather look at the possible solutions to the general offensive malaise we saw on Sunday. What can cure what ails the Falcons?
1. Let the defense play on both sides of the ball. They can't possibly do any worse, and more than likely the running game would be a lot more effective. I would not advocate allowing the offense even attempt to play D, though.
2. Develop the @*#&@#ing running game. When the passing game fails, no matter what the reason, the ground game should be there to pick up the slack. That has not been the case at all thus far. We were spoiled the last several years with a competent rushing attack that was insanely effective and picked up the slack for Vick's misfirings. If Warrick Dunn is right and the problems this ground game is having aren't due to him simply being old, then the offensive line needs to be whipped into shape post haste and Petrino and Hue Jackson have to make some better calls. Right now would help.
3. Call a better game. This links up to the last one, of course, but I'm focusing on the passing game here. There's no reason for the Falcons to be calling pass plays that only get them two yards at a time. The whole point of having Joey Harrington throw the ball is that he can move us anywhere from five to seventy five yards at a time; if we want two yards, we can always just put it in the hands of the running game. I'm sick and tired of being conservative, and now that we're a 1-4 team there's absolutely no use in playing it safe. Against a team with a suspect secondary like the Giants, the Falcons had better start airing it out early and often.
With the crap this team has gone through so far, we might as well go down in a burst of glory.