Take a look at the headlines on the AJC's site today and feast on the litany of miseries. Everything from "Harrington feels heat" to "Sanders targeted, burned" awaits you, and it's not hard to understand why. That was a terrible game, and there's no way to avoid the inevitable fact about this team. A fact that no amount of pining for Vick or Leftwich or Bartkowski can rescue us from. A fact so simple and so devastating....
The Atlanta Falcons absolutely suck right now.
I guess I should start by saying that Joey Harrington actually looked decent again. No interceptions, and if he was guilty of anything it was holding on to the ball too long. That's where the good news ends, unfortunately. Harrington was harassed, sacked and generally treated like crap all day as the offensive line took a giant dump on the field. The shift in coaching philosophy is the only reasonable explanation for a line that was very good last year and has suddenly become goddamn awful. If this keeps up, Harrington would be on pace to be sacked 100 times this year. That wouldn't actually happen, though, because the poor bastard would probably be dead by the time he hit 70 or 80. Petrino's vaunted offense is doomed to fail if the team can't get even an ounce of blocking up front.
Make no mistake, it has to be the line. The receivers were already suspect, but when a running game that features two talented backs suddenly stops working, it's instructive to look at why it's happening. From what I've seen it's 75% or more due to inept blocking, missed assignments or holes not opening up. It's still a two game sample, but I don't know how the Falcons can possibly succeed on offense if they can't block a living soul.
The margin for error in this game was even smaller than the Vikings game, which didn't help. The Jaguars have an active defensive front with a lot of power and just made the line look like a bunch of clowns. That's always a great feeling. Harrington did manage to keep the ball out of the clutches of Rashean Mathis, but the team still just stalled out. When you only have one drive over 60 yards, you're setting yourself up to suck.
The defense acquitted themselves fairly well, showing the kind of bend but don't break philosophy that normally works. Any time you hold a team to 13 points you've done a reasonable job, even when that team happens to be the equally inept David Garrard. It helped that Babineaux and Grady Jackson piled up three sacks in the middle and pressured Garrard enough to make him less than totally effective. Unfortunately he was still good enough to lead his team to victory, but that really didn't take much.
It would've taken more if Matt Prater hadn't screwed up so badly. It's not like I want the guy to fail, but if he's going to continue to do so I'd really like it to be somewhere else. Missing field goals under 30 yards is the one thing a kicker can do to make me abandon all hope, and Prater did his damndest to do so. If the Falcons don't have another kicker by gametime next weekend, I'd be amazed. He's just run out of chances in my mind.
So there you have it. With any luck this will be the worst of it, but I'm not convinced.