The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
That was more like it.
We saw some flashes of brilliance from the offense and some quality special teams play against the Miami Dolphins last night. That's all well and good. With so much concern for our defense after the first two pre-season games, the D had to come out and make a statement. After that game, I'm reasonably certain they've conveyed a message, and it rhymes with "snuck foo core flouting pus!"
Above all else, I'm extremely encouraged by the performance of the front seven. There's a plethora of talent arrayed up there, and while Sean Weatherspoon is probably going to have a steep learning curve as a rookie starter, he'll be propped up by the awesome power of Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Babineaux, John Abraham, Curtis Lofton and others. When was the last time you got this excited about a Falcons defense?
You're here for a recap, though. Obviously, there's a gap in my direct knowledge of this game, because I had to head out to cover a fire for my day (night?) job. So I'll note any happenings in the third quarter and early fourth quarter that I only know about thanks to you guys and stats. But I think we can still get this thing done proper.
Hurdle the jump and hear my words, friends!
- Despite Jason's complaints that he didn't strip the ball from Chad Henne after almost ending his life, you gotta give Kroy Biermann props. The Duff Man wasn't guaranteed a starting job out of training camp, but he's almost certainly got one now after absolutely mauling quarterbacks in the first three pre-season games.
He could have a breakout season and flirt with double digit sacks, and I wouldn't even blink.
- Speaking of awesome defensive ends, Lawrence Sidbury is heating up. He's not going to unseat the venerable John Abraham in 2010, but he's the future at Abe's position. Get excited.
- Eric Weems is stone solid as a returner. After his brush with the law—no, not Curtis Lofton—and the team's addition of Kerry Meier, I honestly thought he was doomed. But he's taken advantage of his opportunities and he's clearly the most well-rounded guy the Falcons have in terms of bringing back kicks. If his season numbers even approach tonight's averages (26.5 yards per kick return, 15.0 per punt return), he'll put the team in nice spots more often than not.
- I told you to watch Jerious Norwood. His five carries for 22 yards weren't exceptional, but he showed his trademark burst on one nine yard carry, and he scampered around for a nice eight yard catch, too. He didn't distinguish himself from Jason Snelling in any meaningful way (Big Snell also had 5 carries for 22 yards), but he looked healthy and I'm eager to see him break a few long runs against Pittsburgh.
- Michael Turner is ready for the season. Ignore the fumble. 'Nuff said.
- Chris Redman was pretty good in relief. I know not everyone is all that fond of Rojohombre, but he's a quality backup, at least for this season. No offense to John Parker Wilson, but I don't want him one injury away from starting for the Atlanta Falcons.
Roddy White had a couple of really dumb, stupid drops that were ugly and also bad. But he also caught several, including a pass from Matt Ryan in the end zone that looked like it was airlifted in by angels. Drops will always be a concern, but Roddy's option Numero Uno in this offense.
Honorable mention to Harry Douglas, who looked healthy and ready to contribute. Sweet!
- Curtis Lofton is nasty. If he ever picks up coverage in a meaningful way or is asked to rush the passer.....well, he's going to the Pro Bowl. No questions asked. He's already a monstrosity against the run.
Speaking of being monstrous against the run, the entire defense killed this game. Just spectacular. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams ended up looking like a couple of geezers.
- I barely saw William Moore play, but I did see he was getting rave reviews from some of you. I never doubt my readers. The fact that he played at all and didn't explode is good enough for me.
- I couldn't let the Mike Peterson to Erik Coleman connection pass. There's probably not two guys on the defense more roundly maligned than Peterson and Coleman, and yet thanks to the tip tap from Mo Pete and the pick by Coleman, they're getting some love today. I wish we could see that kind of thing from them more often.
- Wow, Matt Ryan looked bad. By the third pre-season game you generally start to see some semblance of regular season form, but Matty Snowballs looked like he wasn't even attached to his own feet. He overthrew, underthrew, missed and threw one of the most half-hearted interceptions I'll ever care to see. He also tried to force the ball to Roddy White an excruciating number of times. Blech.
Once again, I'm going to chalk this up to pre-season, because I don't really have a choice. I simply can't believe Ryan could be anywhere near that bad in a regular season game, unless he's got like horse flu or something.
- Hey, Chevis Jackson got six tackles! That's pretty cool.
Then you realize Chevis Jackson got six tackles because he was being burnt to a crisp out there. I missed a few, so you can tell me if I'm being grossly unfair, but I did watch Chad Pennington of all people float a couple zeppelins by him.
- Brian Finneran had a nice touchdown grab. He also looked very, very slow, and had an unfortunate crackback penalty called on him. I don't know how many times I have to say this, but I love Finn. I also hope he's coaching for the Falcons in 2010, instead of playing for them.
Matt Bryant hit a 26 yard field goal and only one of two extra points. Think you might have jumped the gun by removing all his competition after the first pre-season game, coaching staff? What's that? You don't?
Game MVP: Let's give it to the entire defense. They shut down a very potent Dolphins ground game all night long. Credit goes where credit's due.
Game Theme Song: For the Comrade!
One Thing To Take Away: We might be seeing the best Falcons defense of the last several years getting warmed up. I can't stress how awesome that is.
Final Word: Defense!