The Falcons desperately needed a win against the Jets last night to get back on the Road to MetLife Stadium, and it didn't happen, for a number of reasons. Coaching, play calling, execution, dumb mistakes, the Atlanta sports curse--it's not hard to enumerate what went wrong for the Falcons last night.
The offense put up solid numbers, including a marked improvement in red zone efficiency, converting four of five red zone trips into touchdowns. The one time that the Falcons did not convert a red zone trip into a touchdown came at the end of the first half, when head coach Mike Smith opted to go for it on fourth down. Tony Gonzalez was interfered with egregiously in the end zone, giving the Falcons a fresh set of downs, but just one second on the clock, and the Falcons used that limited time to rush Jacquizz Rodgers behind right tackle Jeremy Trueblood for no gain. After losing by two points, leaving points on the field in that scenario was extremely costly.
The defense struggled at times against the Jets' rookie quarterback Geno Smith. The Falcons did manage to wrap up four sacks, plus eleven quarterback hurries, but the pressure they did bring was not enough to disrupt Smith's game significantly. Smith finished the day with an 80% completion percentage, unreal considering that his average completion percentage going into Monday's game was just 57.3%. Three of Smith's seven passing touchdowns this season came last night, and the Falcons defense created zero turnovers against an offense that has a -9 turnover differential.
Do we even want to talk about special teams? A blocked punt didn't help the Falcons at all, and the fact that Matt Bosher apparently has to tackle any and all punt or kick returners may be a problem for Atlanta. Bosher even very nearly tackled a member of the Jets staff for no apparent reason on the sideline, which was funny, at least.
Despite the outcome, and all of the frustrating things that led to the loss, we certainly hope our #Road2MetLifeStadium ticket winners, Terrell James and Duncan Trumble, had a great time at the game.
Today is mostly filled with doom and gloom, but the reality is, the Falcons are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and anything can happen after the bye week. Bear in mind how much of an impact the injuries to Kroy Biermann, Sean Weatherspoon and Akeem Dent are having on this defense. The Falcons won't get Biermann back this season, but Spoon will be back in a few weeks, and Dent will hopefully return after the bye. Getting Steven Jackson back on offense will hopefully help to balance out the offensive approach as well.
As difficult as it is to take encouragement from last night's game, the Jets' defense is actually quite good, and the Falcons' success in the red zone against them is a huge step in the right direction. Atlanta has to find a way to bring more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and protect their own quarterback more effectively. They need someone to step up as a true defensive leader in Spoon's absence, and they need to establish some kind of consistent and effective rushing attack to balance out the offense, because averaging 78.4 rushing yards per game isn't cutting it.
The Falcons can get back on the Road to MetLife Stadium, although it certainly won't be easy.
In the spirit of full-disclosure, MetLife, as part of the Road to MetLife Stadium Preferred Blogger Program, has provided me access to MetLife Stadium-related events and reader giveaways prizes. However, no payment was given or expected for posting about the program, and as always, all opinions given here are fully my own.