I don't have to tell you how horrible that game was. The torrent of venom toward the team in the open thread probably clued you off to it, unless you were actually watching the game. In that case, you're probably blind.
The Atlanta Falcons just did not look prepared for the Chicago Bears. The offense was an embarrassment, the defense was good in stretches and mediocre in others and special teams was a non-factor. This may have been the worst game I've seen the Falcons play since Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith took over. Really.
Yet let's not forget that this is only one game. It's impossible to have the proper amount of perspective after you've just watched your team get brutally slaughtered in front of your eyes, and I recognize that. But there are 15 games to go, and the Falcons didn't go from a 13-3 team this year to a 3-13 team in 2011. It's just not happening.
To beat the Eagles--and the Packers, and the Saints, and so on--the Falcons will have to be much better. That means doing more than sighing and talking about improving execution in a post-game press conference. It means opening up the offense, playing a much tighter zone on defense and not getting listless the moment the team starts trailing. It means all those things and more, but it's doable.
You might also want to remember that Todd McClure and Corey Peters were out for this game, and Ovie Mughelli and Jonathan Babineaux went out with injuries. The team clearly missed all four, especially McClure and Mughelli.
Enough. What's done is done, and I want to get down to the particulars. After the jump, I'll break down the individual performances, and then we'll turn our eyes to the Eagles.
- Good ol' Tony Gonzalez. No matter what happens, it seems Gonzo gets open and rumbles for an extra yard. He finished with five receptions for 72 yards.
- Julio Jones disappeared during the first half, but had a couple of nice catches in the late going. Unfortunately, it was too late to make a difference, but it was nice to see him come on a little bit.
- Michael Turner ran very well today, which almost no one noticed because the Falcons were getting blown out so badly. He finished his day with 100 yards on 10 carries and two catches (!), and while he got dragged down from behind on a long run, he looked better than he has since early 2010. Encouraging.
- John Abraham is a beast. He piled up two-and-a-half sacks and looked solid against the run. You can pin the blame on this one on any number of players, but Abe most certainly isn't one of them.
- Neither is Kroy Biermann. A sack and an interception returned for a touchdown makes him more or less the default MVP. Everyone who honestly thought Biermann was a subpar starter last year missed the boat. It was great to see him step up on a day when Ray Edwards was as quiet as a church mouse.
- Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton were all over the field, getting 10 and 8 tackles, respectively. Weatherspoon had a terrible, terrible missed tackle against Matt Forte, but he looked sharp for the rest of the game. Big things ahead for 'Spoon.
- Matt Bryant is clutch. Always.
- Matt Ryan's final line--31 of 47 for 319 yards and an interception--was not great, but not horrible. The problem was that the numbers obscured, to some degree, what happened against the Bears.
Under constant pressure (more on that in a minute) Ryan was forced to move out of his comfort zone. Unfortunately, he reacted by locking on to receivers, making bad throws and letting go of the ball on an ugly fumble that led to a Bear touchdown.
Again, Ryan got no help. He just needs to be a lot better against the Eagles if the Falcons are going to have a prayer. Having Todd McClure back would make a big difference.
- Oh yeah, the offensive line. Suffice to say they were overmatched from end to end, with Garrett Reynolds and Joe Hawley looking especially lost. It's understandable, given that both are fairly new, but the blocking was abysmal. Henry Melton absolutely abused both of them.
Case in point: In the second half, down by 24, the Falcons should have been able to pass the ball just a little against a relaxing defense. Instead, the Bears mounted a relentless pass rush that forced Ryan to settle for short throws or goading him into making egregious mistakes. Chicago has a talented front seven, but that just shouldn't happen.
- The tackling was god-awful. We're in our fourth season under Mike Smith and Brian Van Gorder, and in that time, the Falcons have never been a team that wraps up well. If you want to point at a concern that is going to persist throughout the season, this is it.
- Roy Williams is more or less washed up. Unless he plays the Falcons, apparently, where he can get open and catch the ball at will. The secondary had some real problems in coverage, and Thomas DeCoud butterfingered a pair of interceptions.
- Matt Bosher didn't punt all that well. The Falcons badly needed to nail Devin Hester down in the end zone and just couldn't do it.
- Eric Weems made a couple of poor decisions on returns, calling for a fair catch and letting it roll on one and taking it back on another and getting crushed after a yard.
- The coaching staff deserves to be highlighted, because the complaints that have been tossed their way for years endured yesterday.
First, Mike Mularkey. Even when the Falcons went down by a lot, Mularkey wasn't calling the big plays the team so clearly needed. Whether it was sending Jacquizz Rodgers up the middle twice in a row or having guys run shallow routes, he seems pathologically afraid of opening up the offense. I do think it's fair to recognize the extent to which the offensive line held back the offense, but Mularkey needs to be mentioned.
The offense may have more of the blame than the defense, but Brian Van Gorder's scheming was even more egregious. Far too often, the team was sending three men after Jay Cutler, against an offensive line widely considered to be only average. Even worse, he continues to stick with a zone so soft that it makes melted butter look like concrete. The Falcons have athletic cornerbacks with ball skills. Why is coordinator wasting them?
Mike Smith can't escape criticism here, either. The coaching staff has to find a way to be more aggressive. You can't play offense with Mularkey's conservatism unless you have a defense like the Steelers, and you can't play defense like BVG likes to unless you have an offense like the Packers. Right now, this team has neither.
Game MVP: Kroy Biermann. That interception and return was a thing of beauty. Biermann may well have another big year, even with Edwards on board.
Game Theme Song: Something extremely angry. Our own Adam Schultz may be able to help us out in this regard.
One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons have a lot of work to do.
Final Word: Badnewsbears.