In the past 12 quarters of Packers/Falcons football, the Packers have punted the ball exactly four times. To put that in perspective, Bosher punted five times last night, and Koenen punted four times in the regular season matchup last year. I'm not even going to look at the playoff game.
What that suggests to me is not offensive woes, not defensive woes, not even special teams woes, it is total team failure. And the fault for that lies on everyone, from coaching, to the players.
That's all I'm saying before the jump. Jump with me to get a little bit of question-asking, as well as the good, bad, and super bad.
I decided to sleep on it this time instead of writing another frustrated rant (one that would have been much less angry, admittedly.) I wrote down some notes last night of what I thought the problems might be, and I'll lay them out here.
1) Mike Smith is not in control of this football team. The absolute perfect example I can think of is Mike Tomlin, coach of the Steelers. When the Steelers play poorly, people will say "Oh Mike Tomlin won't stand for this, he'll take care of business and get that team straightened out." Not every team can say that, but a well-coached one can.
Can you say that about Mike Smith? Does anyone think, at this point, that Mike Smith is in control enough, like a Tomlin or Belichick, to really alter where this team is headed? The answer right now is no, he isn't. I think that's a huge difference from last year. Last year, Smitty was fiery, passionate, a player's coach. Now, he's almost tranquil, like he just wants to ride the pine.
Mike Smith puts on a very good, professional press conference. He does not throw anyone under the bus, but at some point you have to ask, "Are you able to even do anything?" If a coach had control over his team, he'd be pissed as all hell, promising fire and brimstone to every player who didn't do their job. Instead, we get the weak "We tried everything, it didn't work." or "We have to stop failing to execute." Well, yeah.
No, Smitty. Everything was what you threw in the first half, and it was brilliant. Garbage is what you threw in the second half, and it was terrible. Love what you've done for us so far, but you're going to lose this fanbase real quick if things don't get better soon.
2) We're a good team with a LOT of problems. Saw this from a comment on ESPN. I think this is more accurate than "We're not a good football team." because I really think that we are a good team who's struggling to find their identity, much like the 18-22 year old who sets out to find their own identity, and can often times find that to be really difficult.
However, we're not playing like a good team. Our two wins have been agonizingly close, and we're a couple flops from being 0-5. Yeah, winless. We're also a couple flops from being 3-2, which a lot of us predicted before the season anyway. We're only a game behind that. The world is not over, but I can see the four horsemen of the apocalypse riding toward us.
Good teams don't make the same mistakes as us. That doesn't mean we won't end up as a good team, but right now, we're not a good team. Plain and simple.
3) Matty's arm strength is a small cause for concern. He has plenty of arm, but I'll argue that he thinks he has more arm than he actually does. Arm strength is more than just about how far you can throw, it's also about how fast you throw, but more importantly, how fast you throw while evading pressure and throwing off of your back foot. I remember Urlacher's INT specifically, where he made a hell of a play on the ball. That was only possible because Matty threw a duck that hung in the air for eternity at Gonzo because threw while he was off balance, taking all of his strength out of the pass.
I've seen Matt throw some missiles, but he only throws that way when he's fundamentally sound and not being rushed. I believe Brady is the same way.
Watch this video starting at 2:27. Stafford, while retreating straight back, flicks the ball 45 yards in the air, not only hitting Calvin Johnson, but pretty much hitting him in stride. Can Matt do that? I don't think he can. That's not a knock on Matt, but we can't expect this to happen from Matt. He's not that kind of guy, which brings the whole "explosive offense" idea into question.
To compare, someone linked a college video of Matt in a throwing competition where, getting a semi running start, only threw the ball 62 yards or so. Yeah, that's a long way, but I haven't seen it do us much good this year.
He's an extremely intelligent QB, and I wouldn't want anyone else, but we're not surrounding him with the right type of talent. We need better O-linemen, and we just traded away a good one for Julio. Love Julio, wouldn't trade him for anything, but right now, those picks we gave up are looking uglier by the day.
3) It seems that good teams are going the way of two receiving threat TEs. This isn't the first time I've mentioned this. Why in the hell is Cam Newton so good? It has a lot to do with Shockey and Olsen, who can both block and catch, and are often on the field at the same time. It would be essentially like us having two Gonzos on the field. That would be just dumb.
The Panthers have Steve Smith (elite WR), Shockey and Olsen at TE, who can both block and catch well, and Legedu Naanee, a Davone Bess type as far as being underrated goes. They also have the best 1-2 RB combo in the nation, and their D isn't terrible.
The two TEs make that happen. One can stay and block, one can run a route. The D will have no idea which one will go out, so they have to account for both. If one stays and blocks, that's one defender who is out of position for the defense of the pass play, and they're both good enough receivers that LB coverage probably still isn't enough for one of them, and there's two of them!
We have Gonzo, who is Superman, but why even have Reggie Kelly or Palmer on the field if you're not going to use them? Does Matt not trust them? If they're open, throw to them! Hell, we threw to Marty Booker at some point in this regime.
Speaking of Marty Booker, what about Kerry Meier? Dude hasn't gotten a single catch this year. It's like we're trying to run a spread out pass attack but without our big possession receiver. It's like we're trying to run two offenses at once, and since we don't know what we're running, we run it so poorly, defenses don't have to defend it worth a darn, we defend it for them.
4) This team has no intensity whatsoever. I remember hearing that Matt was a real fireball on the sidelines, getting his team pumped up. I see no fire from anyone, almost like they don't want to be out there, except for Spoon, who's just a boss. I love his sack celebration. Oh, and Mo Pete for laying a destructo-hammer on Randall Cobb.
Anywho, to the brief edition of the good/bad/etc.
My God, the first half. We looked like a team hellbent on showing everyone we were the real deal, and boy, did they convince a lot of people.
Bosher's kickoffs. You kicked them 5-6 yards deep in the endzone every time that I watched. That's an improvement.
Kickoff coverage, good job containing Cobb. You held the Packers to miserable field position most of the night, but it's too bad because it didn't matter, thanks to
Second half defense. I said it a couple times in the game threads, but this game felt so eerily similar to the playoff game to me. We could not stop the Packers offense. They had a couple timely (for us) drops, and we held them out of the end zone, but you could just tell that the freight train was going to come eventually. And it did, just like in the playoff game. The Falcons teased us a bit by being in the game early, but I'm not so sure we were ever in it. The only difference is that we played a bit better than in the playoffs, but clearly, Rodgers had no problem destroying our defense.
Second half offense. After blowing the water out of Lake Lanier, you decided to take a vacation. The entire offense gets the blame from me, from Smitty, to Mularkey, to Matty, to the rest of them. Stupid penalties won't win in this league, neither will going stale in the second half. None of you get a pass from me, especially Sam Baker.
Matt's deep ball. I forgot last night that Julio and Ryan spent all summer together learning the playbook and, more than likely, playing pitch-and-catch. Yet, their deep connection has been rough, if only because Julio has had to sacrifice himself for the ball every time it's thrown up there. That won't cut it. That won't get teams to respect the deep ball. We need to actually complete it more often.
Bosher's punting: Mike Smith actually praised Bosher yesterday, saying "the arrow is pointing up". While Bosher was a bit better, a lot of it was still ugly. Urgh.
Game MVP: My MVP goes to Spoon, who had a sack and a couple good pass deflections. He's playing really well this year.
Image of the game: This image is the embodiment of Atlanta sports.
In a word: Rematch.