This game wasn't just a wakeup call for the Atlanta Falcons. It was a room full of alarms going off while a burly man beat the entire team with a pillow case full of quarters.
In many ways, this was a better game than when the Falcons got pummeled by the Bears. The score was closer, the Falcons came very close to at least tying it and the defense was stout throughout the game. Of course, sometimes the close losses sting worse, especially when it's a loss to a division rival that the team has recently dominated.
Especially when you lose like that. The Falcons had finally come to life on offense, even if just a bit, and they had the Buccaneers on a 4th and 1. A stop was going to be difficult, but not impossible. Then Corey Peters jumped offsides on the one play of the game where it is painfully obvious to everyone in the stadium and your smarter rocks that the Bucs are going to draw you offsides. That was the ballgame.
Yet you really can't blame the D, which held the Bucs to 16 points and managed a couple of timely turnovers. The Falcons' offense was anemic in this one, and that's really the reason they lost. Scoring 13 points against the Buccaneers is inexcusable for an offense as touted as the Falcons'. Sadly, those accolades appear premature, at best. At least until Atlanta can field an offensive line that doesn't do its best impression of an open field full of daisies.
The good news? Everything we saw is fixable. I firmly believe that. The Falcons will get to take their aggression out on a hapless Seattle Seahawks team next weekend, which is a plus. At some point, you have to believe the team will iron out its mistakes, as it always seems to when the going gets rough. Okay, almost always.
After the jump, a breakdown of individual performances.
- As always, I'm giving Matt Ryan props for what he did well. Pressured all game long, he still came up with a couple of very nice drives. He showed the best chemistry he's had all year with Roddy White and Julio Jones. So hey, props for that.
- Roddy White got open all game long. Nine catches for 140 yards is nothing to sneeze at, and it was good to see him catching deep passes today. Unfortunately, we have to come back to him later.
- This is what Julio Jones can do. Six catches for 115 yards. He looked smooth, fluid and athletic, and while he wasn't perfect, his route running seemed sharper to me. The Falcons need him to be this good on a regular basis if they're going to start winning football games through the air.
- Tony Gonzalez is red zone magic.
- It's a shame Jacquizz Rodgers didn't get more run. Two carries for seven yards, two catches for 19 yards and a couple of blocks so nice I raised my eyebrows twice. Rodgers is earning a bigger offensive role all the time.
- Harry Douglas quietly had a solid little game, catching five passes for 35 yards. I need to see more from him, but it's a start.
- Matt Bosher punted poorly again, but at least he looked good on kickoffs. Progress, people!
- Curtis Lofton continues to look incredibly sharp in coverage. Still one of the team's best run-stopping thumpers, a more balance Police is anathema to opposing offenses. He deserves all the kudos you can fling his way.
- Kroy Biermann very quietly played very well. I continue to be impressed with how hard he works out there. Ray Edwards and John Abraham were good against the run, at least.
- Thomas DeCoud took his benching last week hard. He was a dynamo against the Bucs, flying all over the field and picking off Josh Freeman. DeCoud needed a renaissance game and got one.
- William Moore gets props for his pick, too. Tremendously impressed with both safeties tonight.
- The whole secondary was great. Matter fact, the whole defense was good, aside from a couple of mistakes we will touch on in the next section. They held LaGarette Blount to 81 yards on 24 carries and Josh Freeman to 180 yards and no touchdown passes.
You can point a lot of fingers in this one, but leave BVG and the guys on the D out of it. They played their asses off and deserve to be recognized for it.
- Matt Bryant continues to be clutch. This is never news, but hey. I like to note it.
- You have to give Ryan a pass again because of the pressure he was under. The dude has now been sacked close to 15 times and hit as he threw at least twice as many. It's completely unacceptable.
That said, Ryan is still having problems finding the open man. He's still zipping at least one ill-advised pass a game into defenders' hands. I have to think he'll improve once he gets more time, but it's a concern.
- The line. My God, the line. How many games are Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey going to sit through, watching Matt Ryan get bludgeoned with a sledgehammer, before something improves? He was sacked four times and fumbled twice today thanks to blown blocking.
The bigger question is how they can improve. I'm not sure there's anyone on the open market who is a real upgrade over what the Falcons have. They can try Mike Johnson out instead of Garrett Reynolds, but there's a reason MJ's been inactive on game days. All they can really do is chip in more blockers and pray the line starts gelling. Otherwise, they could be without a franchise quarterback at some point in 2011, and that's a terrifying thought.
They didn't do Turner any favors today, either. This is about 1,500 pounds of Achilles heel, right here.
- Turner didn't do Turner any favors, either. He finished with a pathetic 11 carries for 20 yards and looked like the Turner we saw at times last year. With Mularkey running him up the middle, terrible blocking and his own struggles, Burner didn't stand a chance in this one.
- Roddy White had a couple of horrible drops. One led to a Ronde Barber interception and the other was a missed chance on a touchdown, so you could say they were damaging to the Falcons' chances.
This trait hasn't defined Roddy in quite some time, and he'll bounce back just fine. Brutal to watch, though.
- Tackling. Needs. To. Improve.
- I'd like to see more out of the pass rush. No sacks and not enough consistent pressure on Freeman.
- Poor Corey Peters made a dumb, dumb mistake. It's not his fault the Falcons lost the game, but it was an egregious play that made Brian Van Gorder shout words he might not use in his mother's presence.
This goes back to the Falcons making fundamental mistakes, which they've been doing dating back to the Green Bay Packers game. You cannot jump offsides on the one play where the defense is goading you into doing so. Peters will continue to be a valuable part of the defensive tackle rotation, but I doubt he makes that mistake twice.
Game MVP: Man, it's kind of tough to pick one for this game. I'll split the game ball between Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, I guess.
Game Theme Song:
One Thing To Take Away: The offense needs considerable work, particularly along the line. The Falcons either fix those woes soon or trudge through a long season.
Next Week: The Seattle Seahawks! I refuse to take them lightly, but they are by far the worst team the Falcons have on their schedule through the first four weeks. Check out Field Gulls for much more.
One Word: Soclose.