That was honestly one of the better pre-season games I've ever seen, for what that's worth.
To say that those of you who turned up at the open thread last night were concerned about the defense would be understating it, in the same sense that calling Chris Redman's performance "masterful" would be.
As usual, the offense looked pretty good against the Chargers. With each passing pre-season game, my respect for the strength of the 11 on that side of the ball grows, and even though it's just pre-season action, I can't really imagine a good reason to criticize Mike Mularkey's charges. The O alone is going to be enough to win us a few games this season. What the D does in conjunction with that will, in the end, determine whether we win the rest of them.
One way or the other, though, this was a very fun game to watch, though I only caught half of it. Rarely do you see a pitched battle like this in a pre-season game, and it speaks well to both teams. Because I'm a homer and because they won, I'm going to say the Falcons looked even better than the Chargers, but your mileage may vary.
Follow me into the jump, where we'll break this week's action down.
- Wow, Chris Redman. I don't think I need to say anything else, but as I'm unusually verbose, I will anyways. Redman proved again why he's one of the best backups in the league, running and gunning the Falcons to victory with the backup offense helping him out. I would hope he never sees the field because of what that would mean for Matt Ryan, but I have the utmost confidence in our backup. Game ball, right there. Matt Ryan was also good, but that's not something I needed to tell you.
- The receivers. Roddy White was his generally efficient self, but it was some guys lower on the depth chart that really proved their mettle today. Marty Booker was targeted frequently and wound up with six catches, Brian Finneran proved his reliability very reliably, and Eric Weems sewed up a roster spot by out-running the defensive back covering him and coming up with the game winning touchdown. There's a lot more to this group than originally suspected, and we could have a pretty complete set of quality receivers this season.
- While Michael Turner was awfully solid as usual, the back who caught my eye Saturday night was Jason Snelling. His final numbers don't tell the whole story here, as he proved his brick hands on an incomplete pass but otherwise looked fast, explosive and powerful. I'm rooting hard for Thomas Brown to make the roster somehow, but Snelling's done absolutely nothing to relinquish his death grip on the #3 spot.
- Michael Koenen continues to impress, booming four punts and landing one inside the 20. The kid's always had the leg and had the results last year, and field position is so critical to this team that he can't help but be a weapon.
- For the Falcons, defense is spelled C-U-R-T-I-S-L-O-F-T-O-N. The potent middle linebacker was everywhere, nearly picked a pass late in the game and hit like a train made of concrete. It's fair to say he's already delivering on potential, and I can't wait to see what he does in 2009.
- Brent Grimes had a sack, which sort of makes up for the secondary's performance. Sort of.
- Credit the coaching staff yet again. The playcalling on offense was spectacular in the second half, and you get the sense that Mike Mularkey will rely less on gimmicky plays this season. That can only be a good thing.
- Just one very long lowlight today, I think. While I like to believe you can only learn so much from the pre-season, the defense was consistently not very good on Saturday. The secondary in particular got picked to pieces by the Chargers, who are an excellent offensive team with tall receivers that still should not make our guys look like they belong on a Pop Warner team. I want very much to believe in Chris Houston and Brent Grimes, both of whom are athletic corners who clearly have a ton of physical talent. The results are clearly there in practice. They're just not there on the field, against living, breathing teams, and I think I'm starting to want a closer look at Chevis Jackson and Chris Owens. Are they the answer? Who knows, I say. I just think everyone should be getting a chance to get burnt to toast. The safeties also need to step up their game a bit and help out, and here I am thinking particularly of Thomas DeCoud.
A lot of people are inclined to defend the secondary for this team, and I am certainly one of them. The front seven also looked overmatched at times tonight, and they have to get their share of the blame. I would just hate for us to get into the season and find out our corners are going to be overmatched on a regular basis. Hopefully this will iron itself out in time for the final pre-season game.
- Okay, one more. Very unhappy to see Jerious Norwood leave and not return. I hope everything's okay, as we're really going to need him this year.
Game MVP: Gotta be Chris Redman. The dude was quite simply awesome against San Diego.
Game Theme Song: Anything by Redman, just for the heck of it.
One Thing To Take Away: Despite a host of defensive miscues, the Falcons still have what it takes to come back and win a close one. I think that's something we can all feel warm and fuzzy about.
Final Word: Hooray!