CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 10: Linebacker Stephen Nicholas #54 (L) of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates with Curtis Lofton #50 and Sam Baker #72 after intercepting the ball against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
If there's one big play that has summarized how crazy and fun this Falcons season has been, it was Kroy Biermann's.
Look at that sequence again. Biermann tips the pass, makes a desperate dive for it, has the presence of mind to tuck the football under him and ensure he's got the catch and then gets up and starts running, brushes off Chansi Stuckey like a fly and scores the touchdown, giving the Falcons a 20-10 lead. It was an awesome, gutsy effort, the kind the Falcons have been spoiling us with all season long. Now they're 4-1, still atop the NFC South and with one of the stoutest defenses I can ever remember the Dirty Birds fielding.
The defense deserves direct credit for this win after scoring as much as the offense and limiting the Browns to 10 points. As I said earlier this year, the Falcons are going to win games through the strength of their D, and they've certainly done so. Here's hoping they don't have to do it every game.
It's a good thing we have the win, the defensive effort and that moment, because the offense continued to struggle through the air. At some point, the Falcons are going to have to come out and utterly savage a team like they did to the Cardinals in order to dispel some of the lingering concerns with the offensive line, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Mike Mularkey. It just wasn't this week.
Except for Turner. He sort of ran all over the place.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, the win is the thing here. The Falcons are in an excellent position atop the NFC South and have to be brimming with confidence against the Eagles next week. While they prepare, join me after the jump for some of my patented brand of analysis.
- Kroy Biermann. He's been able to pressure the quarterback often, but aside from his one sack he hasn't been coming up with the big plays that ESPN loves to highlight. Apparently he was just saving up.
It killed me to see people referring to Biermann as a rookie, and it's mostly because he was a relative unknown outside of Atlanta and Montana to this point. I think people know who he is now.
- Michael Turner finally cast off the shackles of mediocrity and danced the dance of doom for the Browns, who melted in front of him as he plowed up 140 yards worth of turf. Turner still had some carries where he just bounced around and got stopped after a short gain, but he also rattled off two huge carries and bowled over defenders in a most impressive fashion. With a great matchup against a suspect Eagles run defense, he could hang 100+ yards on them easy.
For those wondering why the Falcons limited Jason Snelling's carries, I'd argue you go with the hot hand, and Turner was it. It also wouldn't hurt to keep Snelling fresh for later in the year, when Turner's got 300 carries on him and could use a breather.
- John Abraham is beastly. The Predator gutted the Browns offensive line and came up with a pair of big sacks, adding three tackles to that total. He's quietly gotten four on the season and he'll be matched up against the Eagles next week, who have allowed Kevin Kolb to get killed by the pass rush on the left side of the line. That's delightful.
- I like to imagine that when teams watch tape of Roddy White, they see White covered, the film mysteriously jumps ahead a couple of seconds and White is open. There just seems to be no way to stop this guy for four quarters, and he piled up five receptions, 101 yards and a touchdown again today. White's having a season for the ages.
- Great team effort from the defense today. Stephen Nicholas continues to make a case to start with a pick and four tackles, Jamaal Anderson picked up a sack (!), Jonathan Babineaux forces a fumble and William Moore continues to blow people up while also scooping up the aforementioned fumble. It wasn't the greatest day for the secondary today, but they tackled well and limited the damage. Couldn't be more proud of the defensive effort thus far in 2010.
- Michael Palmer. Yes, Tony Gonzalez had five catches for 41 yards and that's better, so he must be credited. Yes, Justin Peelle had one very nice catch. But it's Michael Palmer! C'mon!
- I'm going to put Matt Ryan, the offensive line and Mike Mularkey all under the same umbrella. Despite facing nearly constant pressure, Ryan managed to avoid throwing a pick, so he deserves credit for that. He did fumble the ball and take some monster hits, and you can point a finger at the offensive line for that. When you look at his final numbers—16 for 28, 187 yards, 1 TD—remember how poorly he started out the game. His second half was actually pretty studly.
We can debate all day if Ryan takes too long or Mularkey handicaps him by calling breathtakingly stupid plays, but I have a feeling they'd succeed despite themselves if Ryan ever had time to throw. Sam Baker is taking a justified beating for not protecting Ice's blind side, but this entire line has shown a staggering inability to hold their ground at the point of attack. The Eagles have historically loved to blitz, and it's going to be a very long day if the Falcons can't slow them down.
So what to do? I defer to the coaching staff, but it seems to me that a thorough review of the line is in order. Anybody who they feel isn't producing ought to ride the pine for at least a game. I don't usually buy into motivational tactics like that, but the fear of losing one's job can be a pretty powerful wake up call. The Falcons have to do something before they get Ryan killed.
- The Eagles have a much better pass attack than the Browns. I don't want to see nearly 18 tackles out of our top three cornerbacks again. That doesn't speak well to how many catches they were allowing against guys like Chansi Stuckey, who sounds more like a Pokemon than a person.
- Oh, special teams. The latest in a series of comical misfires by this unit was Matt Bryant's blocked field goal. I laughed so heartily, I did. It was real flarking funny.
Game MVP: Compelling arguments to be made for more than one person, which warms my heart. But let's give it to Biermann. The man will someday bounce his grandkids on his knee, dive and catch them before they hit the ground and stiff-arm his wife on the way to the kitchen.
Game Theme Song: Solely for the name.
One Thing To Take Away: There's a lot of work to be done, but this defense is the greatest thing since Norm Van Brocklin stacked furniture with the Devil.
Final Word: Kroymazing!