As I watched the game last night, I realized I was watching the ghosts of Falcons past. Unfortunately, it was not the ghosts of Nobis, Tuggle, or Andrews.
I sit here as a fan of a 1-3 team. A team that is 1-3 almost inexplicably. Injuries have depleted the team to the point where they'll be calling me any day now to play linebacker. Take note that I'm 5'11" 160. (Brian Banks, anyone?)
(By the way, if we start to tank for the season, we should totally bring him back)
As the injuries piled up on defense, I felt that if we could just keep the offense together, we could still win.
After watching the first quarter of the season, I can safely say I no longer feel that way. I went on record and said the season was over. After sleeping on it, I don't feel that it has quite reached that point, but if we lose to the Jets, you can forget it.
All these questions keep coming up. Is our offense as good as we thought? Are our receivers as good as we thought? How is our defense so bad? If Rob Ryan, who's not had a truly good defense at least in a while, can turn the Saints' D around, what in the hell are we doing?
Has our team been winning not by skill, but purely by luck? Is that even possible?
Well, I'll tell ya what I believe the problem to be.
1) The offense is too shallow. And by that I mean the greatest part of our offense isn't even being used. We used to kill teams with back shoulder throws and deep crossing routes, but we can't use those. Why is that? It's not because the protection sucks, it's because Matt doesn't know whether or not the protection will suck until he snaps the ball. The difference with the Pats last night is that Brady had all day and forever to throw, because he knew the protection was good. Remember the beginning of last year, when Matty went on an MVP-like tear? It's because he knew the protection was gonna be good. But that's not all of the problems. Let's continue.
2) Where's the fire? Let's play "Read Your Team's Post-game Comments", courtesy of Vaughn McClure, right here.
"We all understand where we're at," Ryan said. "Obviously, it's not where we want to be. We certainly would like to be sitting in a different position, but we are where we are. We know we've got a long haul in front of us. Twelve more games to go. A lot can happen during that time, but our mindset has to be on next week."
MEANWHILE, Ben Roethlisberger says,
"Right now, you could say we're the worst team in the league," the Steelers quarterback said after Pittsburgh fell 34-27 to the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. "That hurts."
Roethlisberger, who has won two Super Bowls with Pittsburgh, acknowledged that this is the lowest point of his career.
"We are in uncharted territory, and the water is dangerous right now," he said. "It stings. I have to hopa nd believe we can turn it around. That's the approach I'm going to take this week and next week. I'm going to do the best I can to lead these guys and let them see how I go about my job."
One sounds legitimately bothered. The other...well, you see where I'm going with this. Now it's easy to say, "Caleb, you're a stupid dumb. You think they aren't bothered by a loss?" Well, sure they are. I was an athlete once. I hated losing.
But, Falcons, I need you to show me. Guys, it's just like your girlfriend when you tell her you love her every day, that's not good enough. She needs you to show her, right?
I have an issue of Men's Health magazine with Drew Brees on the front. The main story is, of course, about Brees's workout in the offseason. One of the things he does (or used to do) was have playing cards thrown up in the air and he'd have to catch them. He'd have to catch a bunch of them (I have no idea how he did this), but if he missed a single one he would get angry.
Looking back, I thought it was kinda silly when I read it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's that drive for absolute perfection that makes him such a good QB. He gets angry when things go south, but it's not just that, it's how he channels that anger. It's one thing to get angry and abuse your teammates. It's another to get angry and channel it into motivation.
I have never seen Matty get angry at anyone on his team. Tom Brady gets furious when his team doesn't play well and they still bend over backwards for him. The lack of anger (or even emotion at all) suggests complacency to me. Matt doesn't get mad, the players think they're doing what they need to do, or that they're inferior, and they just keep trudging along.
Coaches always yell and get angry, so they may not even respond to that anymore. We might have injuries, but the backups should still be plenty capable of playing football on the professional level. If they're not, why are they even here? Why are we even entertaining them with a spot on the roster? Joplo Bartu is a perfect example of this. Our backups should be more like him and less like Kevin Cone, who never sees the field for whatever reason (Not hating on Cone's receiving ability, just saying)
3) Offensive Play Calling Isn't Creative. You have no idea how excited I got when HD lined up in the backfield and we actually faked the handoff to him. But why didn't we give him the ball? Folks, college offenses are more creative than this, and those kids "study". Well, some of them do. This is the pro game, there should be no reason not to have 100 billion different crazy combinations. One of the most unique things I ever saw was when the Patriots put Aaron Hernandez in the backfield and then hand the ball off to him on, if I recall right, an off-tackle run to the left. Nothing special about the run play other than who got the ball. The result? A 40-something yard gain, if memory serves. What's so difficult about that? We used to throw crazy reverse wacko pitch plays to Julio and run crazy motions to draw people offsides.
Where did that go? The answer is that it went with the offensive line, but you can still be creative even though you can't hang back there for long. Koetter's offensive philosophy is four verticals. I said this in one of the threads yesterday, but when one vertical is broken, one is 105 years old, one is invisible, and one is covered by 5 people, you generally don't get to do what you want to do!
4) 3-Man Rushes Should Be Illegal. I know ya'll saw that 3rd and 75 we gave up last night because we rushed three men. I brought up UGA several times yesterday, but the thing they did that impressed me the most was the exact opposite of what Nolan did last night. Todd Grantham (UGA DC) basically said, "If you're not covering somebody, go hit the quarterback" and LSU's Zach Mettenberger had no chance to complete a pass because of the pressure he faced.
What's so hard about that? Jam the receivers at the line, send everybody else. Worked in 1977 didn't it? That one play where the defense looked "confused", in the words of the NBC announcers, it looked like we were either in punt block mode or Gritz Blitz mode, either of which would been a better option than playing coverage against one of the best QBs of all time.
Fact of the matter is, winning football isn't being played in Atlanta. I'm not seeing any emotion from the players except when they're begging for a flag to be thrown, which by the way gets a flag only 10% of the time. Where's the fire at? Are you happy with where you're at? The fact that I even have to ask this question suggests to me there's not just a problem externally, but internally as well.