I almost think the blowout is less painful than the game you coulda, woulda, shoulda won. The Atlanta Falcons marched into Bank of America Stadium and blew the game against the Carolina Panthers thanks to a pitiful performance from the offense. While the numbers show a mediocre performance, the truth is much worse.
The Falcons played a bad game of football Sunday. Let's sort through the wreckage after the jump, shall we?
- Roddy White. I'd like to see Laurent Robinson or Harry Douglas emerge this year, because White deserves some help out there. It's a testament to his talent that other teams know he's the Falcons' best option by an incredibly wide margin and he still manages to pile up catches and yardage. He's living proof that late bloomers do exist in the NFL, and I hope he's in Atlanta for a long time yet.
- Jerious Norwood only had 1 yard on four catches, but his 51 yards on three carries is really impressive. When Turner is spinning his wheels, the coaching staff should be getting Norwood the ball more often. Again, Matt Ryan should never be throwing 41 passes in a game where the Falcons are down by less than 20. Norwood is also pretty effective on kickoff returns, which increases his value for this team.
- Jason Elam was a fantastic signing for this team. That is all.
- The offensive line killed, killed, killed the Falcons today. Harvey Dahl is obviously going through a learning curve, but he's averaging a boneheaded penalty a week and it's time for the team to start coming down on him. You can have all the physical talent in the world, but if you can't back that up by making smart plays, you don't belong on the football field. Not to say that Dahl was the only reason the line did poorly. To the contrary. They just did not block well.
Michael Turner couldn't get holes, Matt Ryan got sacked twice and rarely had a ton of time in the pocket, and the offense just struggled all day long. That's on every piece of the offense, but a poor performance begins and ends on the line. This was a game where I don't just wish we had Sam Baker, I also wish we had picked up another lineman in the draft.
- Michael Turner. Is he Jekyll or Hyde? I can't decide. The evidence before us thus far tells us that he only does well against bad teams, which sets a bad precedent for the rest of the season. Again, I don't think you can separate Turner's performance entirely from the line, but he's going to have to using some of that bulk to turn bad carries into good ones or he's going to get branded as a vulture, picking on the weak meat of the NFL. I still think he's virtually a lock to pile up over 1,000 yards and will probably get going later in the season.
- Brent Grimes and Chris Houston got toasted so badly I wanted to smear marmalade on my monitor. Grimes made a lot of tackles, but unfortunately he and Houston were playing catch-up the whole game. Steve Smith I understand, since he's still one of the league's better receivers, but Muhsin Muhammad is aging, kinda slow and arguably not even the second best option on the Panthers. This illustrates how much work the duo still has to do, and I have to think that Grimes--a coaching staff favorite--will get more time to learn on the job than Houston, especially with Chevis Jackson waiting in the wings.
- Matt Ryan should get a mention here for floating some throws. He must--must!--start planting his feet and rocking through his throwing motion. Those off-the-back-foot throws work decently on Madden 2009, but in real life you're setting yourself up for incompletions and interceptions. He was actually pretty decent for the most part, though.
- The defense gets a stern talking to in general. Jake Delhomme was never sacked, never picked off and by all accounts had time to choreograph a musical in the backfield. Abraham gets a little bit of a free pass because of his superlative effort through the rest of the year, butat some point someone else on this team is going to have to get to the QB. We didn't draft Jamaal Anderson so he could do his best ghost impression weekly, and I'm pretty sure Michael Boley, Curtis Lofton and Keith Brooking aren't getting paid to avoid getting past the line. It's been frustrating to watch our pass rush this year.
Game MVP: Gotta be Elam, for once again hitting three field goals in a losing effort. I'd like to point out that we've only had two MVPs this season, with Turner taking over the game in two and Elam scoring all or most of our points in the other two. A diverse team, I guess.
Game Theme Song: Incredibly loud static. It's boring, it grates on you, it fits this situation.
One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons go to pieces against decent defenses. This does not bode well, as pretty much everyone we face from here on out has a decent defense.
Next Week: The struggling Green Bay Packers, who are looking for a team to vent two weeks' worth of frustration on. In a related news story, uh oh.
Final Word: At 2-2, we're still ahead of expectations. It's just a shame that our offense falls apart against good defenses. We still have to expect a growing process, but I'd really like to see them get an offensive touchdown against a real NFL team.