After today's game, I'm completely at a loss. I've watched my beloved Falcons go from a good team struggling with certain aspects of the game, to a team that looks lazy, undisciplined, and spoiled. I've been trying to sort my thoughts out for a rousing post-game thread comment, but there's just too much going on to fit in that forum. After the jump, I'll try to sort out the anger, the frustration, and the sadness into some sort of coherent analysis of the current state of our Atlanta Falcons.
First, I'd like to look at our receivers. Roddy White has a case of the drops, so does Julio Jones. I've been wary of Julio's attitude ever since he checked himself out on the Jumbotron on his first TD reception. I fear that both he and Roddy have been lacking work ethic this year and it has showed up in the amount of balls they're dropping. Roddy is a veteran and we've seen him have a marvelous season in 2010, I have faith that he'll pull it together and continue to be a valuable part of our offense. Julio on the other hand, worries me. He's a rookie, if he doesn't have good work ethic now, it's unlikely that he's going to learn how to put in work as his career progresses.
Matt Ryan is beginning to be a cause for concern as well. I think he has the ability to be a good, if not great, NFL quarterback, but it seems like this year he's struggling to find his receivers, which is resulting in incomplete passes and interceptions. Let's not forget that before Roddy and Julio started playing dropsies, Ryan missed two passes for huge gains. He also turned the ball over twice. He was outplayed by a third-string rookie. I'll repeat that, Matt Ryan, our franchise QB, was outplayed by a third-string QB, starting his first game in the NFL. That's not good. I'm not sure if Matt's work ethic isn't what it used to be, if the play calling is hurting his game, or if it's just bad luck.
Stupid penalties. That's it. Stupid holding penalties, stupid false starts, stupid penalties. I watched two touchdowns get called back due to holding penalties. We were the least penalized team in the league last year, this year we're 14th. Let's just stop and think where that game would have gone had Dunta not been draped all over the receiver during the pick-6. I'm not even going to raise the question about the fumble recovery, because like it or not, that was an incomplete pass. The defensive penalties are bad enough, but our offensive line has offended as well. False starts and holding kill drives. When our new, explosive offense has the power of baking soda and vinegar, 5 or 10 yards is the difference between a 3 and out and a sustained drive.
Though I'm not a reactionary, "Ax the Coach!" person, I'm beginning to wonder whether Smitty has what it takes to move the Falcons to the next level of elite NFL teams. Work ethic needs to be instilled by our coaching staff. Our players are not going to put in the work unless someone makes them. Mike Smith's standard, "We need to do better, we've got a few things to work on," ain't cutting it. Maybe his personality is different in the locker room, but what I've seen from him in post-game press conferences is weak. Come out and yell a little, throw some stuff, put some starters on the bench, drop an f-bomb or two. Let people know you care!
My concerns with coaching don't end with team motivation. I'm suspicious of BVG's soft zone. I think that our defensive success has more to do with our players on that side of the ball playing out of their heads than BVG's brilliant play calling. Mike effin' Mularkey. I loathe his offense. Run up the middle, run up the middle, incomplete pass on third down (or a drop, or interception). I've watched the same ideas, if not the same plays, week after week. Want to know what play MM is going to call in any given situation? Check the game tape from last week, he's not doing anything different. Throw a wrinkle in there from time to time, dammit! Get Quizz involved out of the backfield, try a draw or an outside run, or maybe even a screen pass. The best offense we've seen all season is when he lets MR take over. Maybe our Comrade will think about that during the offseason and do something about it.
Amazingly, it was a close game. We had a chance to tie it at the end (dropsies again Julio?). If either of our defensive touchdowns counted, we would have been in it. I think that this is the cause of a huge amount of frustration among Falcon fans. We played like crap today and still had a chance. Just think what could happen if the stupid mistakes were stopped. We have the weapons and the defense to make a great run in the playoffs, but I'm doubtful if we'll get there this year. Let's face it. Gonzo and the Burner aren't going to last forever. We've already seen Turner be a little bit slower this year. At some point they retire and I don't trust that we will have the draft picks to replace them. We went all in for the super bowl this year and it hasn't been working. I don't know what the solution is, but if we don't pull this thing together, we'll have missed the opportunity.
I think that's all I've got, its been cathartic. Thanks to Dave Choate and everyone else at the Falcoholic for giving Falcon fans a place to commiserate during these challenging times. I'm going to drop a Rojohombre because it may be the best name ever. If you have any comments, I'd love to read them.