I think many of us were feeling pretty good about the Falcons after the first week of the season. After all, though we knew the Lions were an awful team, we beat them so thoroughly that it seemed as though we should at least be able to hang in the game with most of the average teams in the league.
This week, cruel reality intervened. Sadly, we'll have to expect more games like this, filled with struggles and an agonizing sense that this team is just not all that good. It's not fun, but it is part of the growth process for this young team.
So here's early impressions of the game, after the jump.
- The receiving corps deserves props. Roddy White had a bad drop early in the game and they weren't completely up to snuff, but Laurent Robinson and Harry Douglas turned a lot of heads today. Douglas is incredibly fast and Robinson has come a long ways as a receiver, and I'd be astonished if we weren't seeing a lot more of both of them by the end of the season. Roddy is clearly our #1 receiver and will remain so as long as he can limit himself to one or fewer boneheaded mistakes a game. I think that's a reasonable expectation.
- John Abraham. He does exactly one thing well, and it's hit the QB so hard his teeth rattle like pennies in a jar. With another sack and a forced fumble (not to mention his awesome flip to avoid serious injury), Abraham showed why he's such a coveted pass rusher when he's healthy. He's a very real threat to put up double digit sacks this season.
- The defense deserves a hat tip for really being very good for much of the game. It's useful to remember that of the Bucs' three touchdowns, two were in short yardage to begin with and the other was on a huge Earnest Graham run. Otherwise, the Bucs managed a couple longer drives which stalled out and quite a few stops. It is depressing that we couldn't pick Brian Griese, though.
- Finally, Matt Ryan deserves some kudos for the way he picked himself up after the half. He wasn't even close to good for much of today, but he showed a lot today just by pulling himself together and turning in a decent second half performance. Let's hope he learns a little from this, as it's not a good idea to panic against a good defense.
- Oh, we're back at Matt Ryan. A combination of poor playcalling that asked Ryan to pass too often and some truly awful throws meant Ryan was 0 for his first 9, sporting a pair of interceptions and having putting the Falcons into a two touchdown hole they'd never get out of. They really need to avoid calling his number at the beginning of the game, when the running game should be getting established and our rookie QB shouldn't be called upon to make important throws. That may sound like babying, but after the happy feet and overthrowing we saw today, he may need a little of that.
- The offensive line was putrid awful a damn travesty today. Costly penalties from the likes of Todd Weiner (who really oughta know better) and Harvey Dahl, terrible blocking for our running backs and even worse blocking toward the end of the game for young Matt Ryan was a recipe for disaster. The Bucs are much better than the Lions, but you can't let holes like that open up against anybody if you want to win football games. No cookies for you guys!
- Michael Turner is definitely better than he looked today, but aside from one 17 yard burst he was pretty ineffective out there. Unfortunately, a poor performance from the line meant doom for Ryan, Turner and Norwood, but they also failed to pick up the slack and as a result our offense was just a mess. For some reason, I find myself wanting to wash out my eyes.
- The team in general earns lowlight points for looking so bad against the Bucs. I hate the Bucs!
GAME MVP: Jason Elam, for nailing three field goals. Unfortunately, those were the only points the Falcons would get.
Game Theme Song: We Built This City By Jefferson Starship (because it sucks.)
One Thing To Take Away: A good defensive team is going to be very tough for the Falcons to beat this year. I'm not looking forward to facing the Bucs again later this season.
Next Week: The hapless Kansas City Chiefs, who might be our golden ticket to Winland.
Final Word: Cheer up, guys. We're not as good as we looked in the Lions game and we're not as bad as we looked in this one. Next week will hopefully bring us a happier, more watchable product on the field.