The Atlanta Falcons were at home, against a Jets team with a middling offense and with a lot on the line. They came out and played a lousy football game for far too long, and only a furious rally kept this one close. It was so close, but it was a loss that at least sized the Falcons up for a coffin. No nails yet.
There's no question that at 1-4, these Falcons are in grave trouble. The playoffs are not an impossible dream, but they are an unlikely one unless things turn around. The Falcons are playing mistake-filled football, they have no pass rush for long stretches, they have a bunch of injuries and their high-powered offense is sputtering out all too often behind a line that can't block. Add it all together and you've got a team that is not playing good football, or anything even vaguely resembling good football, for full games. It has cost them four times this season, and there's no reason to believe it will stop costing them.
The second half brought improvement after a lousy start that saw the Falcons fall behind 17-7, but it wasn't significant enough to lead to the win. That's becoming all too familiar. And here we are, at 1-4. They keep getting so close.
Look, I try to be a patient person. The first four games were deeply unpleasant, but if you squinted hard enough you could see a football team keeping it close and surviving despite injuries. You can still see that outline, but it's one game further into the hole. They need to get healthy and make an awful lot of fixes, and it needs to start immediately.
It's going to take this team digging extremely deep and making some changes to the way they play football, but it is possible that this team can get a wild card berth if things start breaking the other way. I can't, in good conscience, say it's likely. We just gotta hope for the best from here on out, because what are you going to do? Stop rooting for the Falcons? C'mon.
An abbreviated version of the usual individual breakdowns follows, because I just don't have the stomach for more than that.
- Despite once again facing heavy pressure, Matt Ryan managed to keep things moving in the passing game. You know by now there's going to be a couple of lousy passes per game as he navigates that pressure, but Ryan just gets rolling. Once again, he was supremely accurate and capable of finding the open man despite a complete lack of a running game.
He finished up with 36 completions for 319 yards and two touchdowns. It was a hell of a game for him.
- Jacquizz Rodgers is tough. So is Jason Snelling. They didn't find a lot of success throughout most of the game, but they ran tough behind a middling line and Rodgers managed to rumble for two touchdowns, the second one a beautiful run that showcased his agility. Love both of these guys, particularly when Rodgers is blocking a defensive tackle to the ground.
- Julio Jones is hustle in solid form. That play in the first quarter where he scooped up the fumble and advanced it was huge for the Falcons, who otherwise would have been flailing about well shy of the red zone. Then there were the catches, particularly the 46 yarder
- Tony Gonzalez has rounded into form in a spectacular way. Again and again he beat quality coverage to come up with first downs, as he always does. Whatever else this season brings, we're lucky to have one more chance to see the greatest tight end in NFL history play the game.
- The Falcons went back to Levine Toilolo at the end of the game in the end zone, and this time he made a beautiful catch facing good coverage. There's reason to believe that we're looking at our tight end of the future.
- The light came on a bit in the second half for the pass rush. Osi Umenyiora and Corey Peters came up with sacks—Osi had two, and continues to play inspired football—and the Falcons generally got better pressure than they've gotten much of the year.
- Matt Bosher isn't just a good punter, he's also the only guy on special teams who can tackle. Which is horrifying. But also, in a strange way, awesome.
- The offensive line was pitiable. Again. They couldn't hold back an admittedly effective Jets pass rush, they couldn't run block for Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers and sometimes they just fell down because the big men were scary. The Ryan fumble was a direct result of the line simply failing to even slow Muhammad Wilkerson down.
Lamar Holmes was solid. Justin Blalock did alright. The rest of the line was awful, and Peter Konz and Garrett Reynolds were embarrassed by the formidable Jets defensive tackles.
- When is this team going to learn how to rush the passer consistently? Geno Smith is playing behind a distinctly mediocre offensive line and is known for the panicked throws he makes under pressure, and the Falcons were dialing up the blitz and doing absolutely nothing for the entire first half. It's beyond frustrating, and it gave Smith the time to make things happen on offense.
Things got better in the second half, but it shouldn't take that long to get things going. You just gotta let your horses run sometimes.
- The Falcons have nothing at linebacker outside of Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow, and it shows. The Falcons simply don't have the experience, athleticism and frankly the skill there to mask some of the other weaknesses in the defense. They need 'Spoon and Dent back, fast.
- The secondary struggled mightily early on, as did the entire D in coverage. Thomas DeCoud was MIA. The Jets were able to pick up on Joplo Bartu with Jeff Cumberland. The points they put on the board in the first half wound up making the difference, though it's difficult to hang too much on the secondary when the pass rush couldn't do anything.
- The play calling was ugly again and again. The decision to go for it at the end of the first half wasn't terrible on its face, but the run for Jacquizz Rodgers was a bad call. Mike Smith's clock management at the end of the game was poor. Both coordinators should be hung out to dry for some of the lousy plays they called, dialing up poor runs and not enough blitzes.
- Bottom line: Either the Falcons are poorly coached or their talent level isn't nearly as high as we all would like to believe, or both. I can't imagine that everyone associated with this coaching staff and front office are going to have a pleasant week, at the very least.
Game MVP: Matt Ryan was nails. If you take away a quarterback's ground game and pass rush, he has to be damn good to keep you in a football game. Ryan is damn good. It just wasn't enough, in the end.
Game Theme Song: Just hum the saddest song you know while slowly shaking your head and you've got it.
One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons are too depleted, too weak along the lines and too generally lousy right now to beat quality football teams. That's painful.
Next Week: Mercifully, the bye week. I imagine we'll be taking stock of this team all week.
Final Word: Deflated.