Initially, I only saw the first two-and-a-half quarters of this game, and I recognize that things really switched up a bit from there. Still, I think my reactions to what happened can be best summed up visually.
Basically, it was a game of extreme. Reading through the comments, you can see how people were excited, built up for success and then bitterly disappointed and openly weeping, sometimes in a matter of seconds. It was the kind of game that leaves you emotionally exhausted, and I was only able to track the score every few minutes from the ol' phone.
Unfortunately, the Falcons lost. That's what really makes this hard to swallow, because we've now hit the .500 mark more than halfway into the season. I've been chastised for basically giving up on the playoffs. It's true that we're not so far out of it that we can't come back. It's just that I don't think I can fool myself into thinking that this team, as constructed now, can run the table or pull off four out of five. I still believe that winning season can come and probably will come, but I'd be pretty hesitant to put any money down. It's been an up and down season, perfectly summed up by an up and down game we just couldn't win.
Join me after the jump and we'll break this one down further.
- Matt Ryan looked as though he had finally reached bottom during the first half Sunday, when he ran like a scared deer and tossed the ball away at every opportunity. When he went into the locker room, people were openly lobbying for Chris Redman to get some snaps. The man who we drafted to be our franchise savior looked, as he had for the last four games, to be anything but.
We'll probably never know what happened during the half, but Matt Ryan came out firing. It wasn't exactly an inspiring performance by the end of the night, but it was one that was mistake free and leaps and bounds ahead of where he had been. It showed the kind of poise and decision-making he had displayed throughout the early games of the season. It was hope for the hopeless, in many ways. It was also a reminder of why you can't give up on young franchise quarterbacks with limitless upside because of a few bad games. Let's hope we can all remember that.
- I thought, despite his fairly anemic average by the end of the game, that Jason Snelling did very well filling in for Michael Turner. He clearly wasn't Turner, no, and he wasn't Jerious Norwood, but he did about as well as he possibly could've without either of them around. The fact that he can punch it in when asked to gives him execution points that half our team is lacking.
- Tony Gonzalez continues to provide a reliable target for Matt Ryan. I do think that our tendency to force the ball to him has hurt us at times in past games, but here Gonzo was a great help to Ryan throughout and deserves to be recognized as such. He's on pace for some very nice numbers, and he remains our best red zone target.
- Eric Weems hauled in a touchdown and did well in the return game yet again. With our other options at receiver—excepting Roddy White, of course—either ineffective or injured, it amazes me that he isn't getting more run. One of these days, maybe the coaching staff will decide it's time to get him the rock.
- You say Curtis Lofton managed to be in on almost every play again and helped to make a critical goal-line stop that would've held if not for the secondary? Ho hum.
- Stephen Nicholas had a sack and a forced fumble? Big kudos there.
- Say what you want about Brent Grimes, but that dude can grab a pretty interception. I remain mystified as to why Grimes gets lumped in with the rest of the secondary when he's done very well most of the year. Hopefully he continues to get his chances to steal some passes.
- The offensive line was pretty good through most of the game, I thought. Credit where credit is due.
Michael Jenkins, what the hey hey happened to you? It's like he's reverted to the old days where you could count on him to drop a key pass every week. As great of a blocker as he is, we're paying the dude a lot of money to be a reliable third option in an offense where the opposing team is always going to be keying in on Roddy White and Gonzo. The fact that he's suddenly unable to get it done is really, really hurting us.
Jason Elam is a classy veteran and a guy who I'd probably love to have a beer with. I say this to soften the blow of what I'm going to say next: We need to cut ties with Jason Elam.
Whether you're going to replace him with an older kicker as a stop-gap or sign a young guy like Steve Hauschka, Graham Gano or Brandon Coutu, it's time to let Elam go. The kicks he's missed for us this year have been incredibly costly and have left me wondering if the coaching staff has any faith left in him. With a young kicker, at least we could tolerate the occasional miss because it's part of growth and development. With Elam, it can't really be anything but a sign of decline, and that worries me.
Michael Koenen was clearly just having a bad week, but you rarely see him look that terrible, and it was also very costly. If not for Special Weems, we'd be failing that entire unit.
- Let's say it one more time. The secondary really looks awful this season. If the Falcons aren't going to commit to bringing in a talented free agent or drafting a top-flight young cornerback, then someone over there in Flowery Branch has lost their minds.
- And yeah, we lost.
Game MVP: Hard to pick for a number of reasons, but let's go with Tony Gonzalez. Dude was consistent all game and really helped Matt Ryan get back in the saddle.
Game Theme Song: A shocked, speechless silence, followed by a sigh.
One Thing To Take Away: Sometimes even your best efforts at a stunning comeback aren't enough.
Next Week: We'll try to snap this losing streak against the woeful Tampa Bay Bucs, represented by our friends over at Buc 'Em. I don't dare take them lightly.
Final Word: Losingsucks.