What happened in the Georgia Dome on Sunday was painful. Not just because of the nature of the loss, but because of something deeper. There was - for the first time in a long time - a sense that this Falcons team just can't compete. Whether it's the mounting injuries taking its toll on the collective team psyche, or an even more perilous loss of confidence across the board, this team is looking like it can't compete - mentally or physically.
Let's be honest - what was displayed on the field on Sunday was terrible. On both sides of the ball, too. At the beginning of the year, the losses were close and could have easily been wins, were it not for a few plays here and there. That's not what we saw on Sunday, though. We saw a team get manhandled on both offense and defense.
But as with many things in life, there are some positives if you care to look for them.
On the offensive side of the ball, there were a couple of positives. Lamar Holmes continues to improve. In a year where he's been asked to swing back and forth between left and right tackle, he's showing notable improvements each game. Along with Blalock, he was our only positively scored lineman on Sunday according to PFF. Additionally, his run blocking has shown significant improvement. As an effectively first year player, Holmes could end up being the type of player we've been hoping to see at the tackle spot.
Also, UDFA receiver Darius Johnson - a pre-season fan favorite - caught his first regular season touchdown. Johnson has already blown past Kevin Cone on the receiver depth chart and it looks like he may be pushing Drew Davis now as well (he took 24 snaps versus Davis 16). If he continues to develop, he could be yet another weapon for the long-term.
On defense, our young guys continued to impress. First off, if there's a better find than Paul Worrilow during free agency, I'd be hard-pressed to believe it. As an undrafted rookie, Worrilow racked up 19 tackles for the second game in a row and continues to show great instincts. He took twice as many snaps as veteran Akeem Dent and was one of our few positively graded defensive players. He's been an amazing bright spot in a very difficult year.
Additionally, Desmond Trufant just continues to play well in his first NFL season. He's already a clear upgrade over Dunta Robinson and his continued improvement shows an even higher ceiling. Many people were critical of the pick, but Trufant looks like the real deal and will be a cornerstone for our secondary for years to come.
And I'd be hard-pressed to not mention the dominant game Jonathan Babineaux had. He was a run stopping machine on Sunday and a continual headache for the Seahawks offensive line. Given his age and likely salary demands, it's quite possible that this will be the last year we see the USS Babs in a Falcons uni. We should enjoy these performances while we can, because he is still one of the best (and most underrated) defensive tackles in the league.
But while these individual performances give us some hope for the future of this team, the present is nothing short of a mess. The play of the team is actually getting worse, and there are legitimate questions about whether this team can even win another game this season. While some would love to finally have another high draft pick again, the long-term implications of finishing with 2 or 3 wins could be notable. One has to wonder how safe Smitty and Dimitroff will be if the team loses out and continues to put forth uninspiring performances.
With a game against the Bucaneers looming, much attention will be paid not only on how individual players perform in the coming weeks, but also on how the team as a whole does. If the Falcons can't show some level of improvement, we could be in for some big shake-ups this off-season.