I want to repeat what I said earlier before I get into what I'm going to say today. The way the Falcons played and the way the Browns played, the Browns clearly deserved to win this game. The offense wasn't very good beyond the first half, but it didn't have to be, as the Browns built a lead and then held on to it. But my job as a Falcons blogger is not to praise the Browns (though I felt I should), but to point out where things went wrong for the Falcons. And it's a doozy of a list.
First of all, let's look at the defense. The Falcons finally managed to cobble together an effort that was not hideously embarassing, although the first half looked like it was going to be. The Falcons did get consistent pressure on Charlie Frye and nearly nailed him for a safety at one point, which might have sealed the game for the dirty birds. Instead, the call was upheld on review and the Falcons proceeded to dither away their remaining possessions in the worst manner possible. But the D succeeded in flashing good coverage skills despite the astonishing number of injuries, and the front seven did exactly what they were supposed to do, which was hit Charlie Frye. So I don't blame the defense so much for this; the Falcons are perfectly capable of scoring more than 17 points.
Or are they? The Falcons failed to establish the run early on in the game, and we were more or less doomed from there on out. Vick had thrown 22 passes by the end of the first half, and alarming number considering he had only completed 9 of them. Of course, the receiving corps was plagued by dropsies again, with Lelie whiffing on an almost certain TD. But really, I'm tired of making excuses for our mercurial QB. Vick was pretty awful yesterday, and if the coaching staff had been more reluctant to let him throw all those passes, maybe it could've been prevented. As it was, Vick threw 40 passes and completed only 16 of them, and his bizarre fumble at the end of the game was inexcusable. Vick is a fantastic runner, but he's got to stop holding the football out there like it's a flaming bag of crap, or he's going to bounce it off his knee occasionally or fumble it so violently that Romeo Crennel has a chance to pick it up. If I'm going to accept that, and accept that Vick will never be an excellent passer on a consistent basis, he has to at least be an above average passer on a consistent basis. And since that doesn't seem like anytime soon, I conclude that our season is going to be a tooth and nail fight for the playoffs.
And part of the problem is that the coaching staff isn't willing to stand up and point the finger. To whit, courtesy of ESPN.com:
No, actually, it would be pretty logical for you to criticize him for carrying the ball that way. But wait, you can't, because you've never made him carry the damn ball the right way. Perhaps if you had, he wouldn't have fumbled it away and you wouldn't have to talk to reporters and explain why you don't blame your $130 million quarterback. But there comes a point at which you have to assign blame, and since I assume you don't want to take it for not tailoring your game plan to Vick's strengths, you might as well blame Vick. But apparently even that's not enough. Quite frankly, until someone in that organization makes a better effort to hold Vick accountable for his mistakes, he doesn't seem to have a lot of incentive to change his ways, and that's a damn shame.
And somebody please work with the receivers. At this point, it's apparently fashionable for all of them to wear oven mitts, fishbowls, and foam fingers on their hands, and I think that should really be nipped in the bud. Thanks.
Game MVP: Charlie Frye by default, basically. He was pretty poised when he wasn't getting hit, and he played a solid game of football. Sean Jones is also a valid choice.
Game Theme Song: So Many Tears- 2pac
One Thing to Take Away: The Falcons are a 5-4 team. This is right where they should be. They might even be a 5-5 team by next week. This is bad news.
Next Week: Falcons are at Baltimore, which has a superb defense and not much of an offense. This is probably also not good news.
Final Word: An ugly loss for a Falcons team that is beginning to show signs of a shaky foundation. They'll need to pick up the play in order to have a fighting chance the rest of the season.