At this point, there's nothing I can say about the 2013 Atlanta Falcons that hasn't been said. They are a whirling tornado of craptacular football, with only occasional stretches of quality play to remind us that they were a pretty good team just a year ago. Oh, there is one thing, though: They just won a close football game.
One of those stretches happened Sunday. The Falcons couldn't quite give the game away, and in overtime, they managed to pull out that narrow win. I know some of you want the Falcons to lose every game to ensure they get the first pick, but frankly, I've wanted to see a win for weeks now. They did just enough on both sides of the ball to pull off a wild 34-31 win, bringing their record to 3-9 on the year.
Going forward, though, who knows? That's why this one felt so good for me. The Falcons have now played two decent weeks of football in a row and will avoid making my entire December hellish with their losing. I'll take it, especially since they almost gave it away.
The only way to watch this team now is to have no expectations whatsoever. The Redskins are the only team left they seem remotely likely to beat, and that's basically because their defense is useless. Any team with a competent pass rush is going to beat this offensive line like a drum. Any time with a competent offense is going to move the ball effectively against this sieve-like defense. Relief will come in 2014, and no earlier. If you didn't enjoy today's win, it's possible you won't be enjoying another one this season.
The long touchdown drives today showed you a glimpse of what this team can do with regularity when the blocking is in place, part of the reason I believe we're headed for better days. With everyone back in action, the Falcons aren't this abysmal next season, and with some quality draft picks and free agents, they should at least be watchable. That would qualify as an upgrade on this season, at least.
Right now, we've got four games left to watch before the season ends. I don't know how they're going to end up, but we'll have eight full months to sort through this season and what the Falcons are going to look like in 2014 before they ever play a regular season game. Let's just cruise through this and see what tomorrow brings.
Brief breakdowns below. If I missed your favorite player, share their performance in the comments.
- Matt Ryan was sharp when he had time, which wasn't as often as any of us would like. It was definitely a step toward his better games of the past, with a notable caveat in the next section.Going over 300 yards with no turnovers qualifies as a major success in 2013.
- Steven Jackson didn't exactly look amazing through long stretches, but he ran tough and scored two touchdowns. It's a reminder that injuries really have sapped this team's effectiveness in 2013.
- Antone Smith hits home runs, period. He had a 50 yard kick return and busted a 38 yard touchdown run in the second quarter to bring the Falcons within three points. I had assumed for a long time that Smith's special teams value and previous fumbles were enough to keep him out of the lineup, but it appears the Falcons foolishly kept a legitimate weapon on the bench all this time and are continuing to do so. Aggravating, to say the least, but it's good to see him thriving.
- Roddy White finally looked healthy in this game, and he exploded like the Roddy of old. There are reasons to believe his injury will linger throughout the rest of the season, but he's making real strides. You don't go off for 11 catches and 151 yards by accident, people.
- When the offense was actually given time by the offensive line, they were impressive. That touchdown drive in the first quarter featured a couple of deep passes and a Steven Jackson rumble up the middle that was perfectly blocked.
The skill players are there, especially if Roddy's getting past his injuries at last. It's just the line being a crippling problem at times. More on that a little later.
- Tony Gonzalez didn't have the huge game I hoped he would, but it was plenty good enough. Four grabs for 42 yards and a touchdown is nothing to sneeze at. He helped keep the team in this game with timely catches.
- I don't understand the "Paul Worrilow is padding his stats" talk. The guy is the surest tackler on the team and he finds a way to be around the ball. He had over 10 tackles again yesterday.
- Big props to William Moore and Robert McClain for forcing two crucial fumbles late in the game. Huge kudos for Robert Alford picking one up, and even bigger kudos for his lateral to Desmond Trufant that gave the Falcons excellent field position. This secondary can be a hell of a lot of fun sometimes.
- Sharp coverage from the rookie cornerbacks yesterday. They were balling. Too bad the run defense couldn't follow suit.
- Matt Bryant is dollar dollar bill, y'all.
- If the Falcons do one thing this off-season in-house, it better be working with Ryan to change his approach to pressure. He sailed throws or underthrew the ball at least four times yesterday, and for a quarterback with his ability, that's at least two too many.
- The line is infuriating, but it got immediately better when Ryan Schraeder checked into the game in place of Jeremy Trueblood. Then Trueblood came back. Then Peter Konz was destroyed repeatedly. Ryan can't keep absorbing six sacks, even though he's somehow hung in this long.
- The tackling has been a persistent issue in Atlanta for years now, and even in a lost season the Falcons can't seem to make fixing it a priority. EJ Manuel's a big dude, but William Moore gently trying to nudge him out of bounds doesn't cut it. They've got to work on this.
- Last year, we spent a ton of time and energy complaining about the pass defense and very little on the run defense. This year, the run defense has been abysmal for weeks, and it's not clear how the Falcons can fix it.
- Speaking of Moore, he's having a lackluster season, by and large. Between that tackling and his unnecessary roughness penalty, he's had some costly mistakes of late.The forced fumble was huge, though.
- This is still a team making baby steps. Again, what we're hoping for is 2014 success, but week-in and week-out, they'll need to improve more if they're going to spare our poor, overworked eyes.
- It's not clear the coaching staff understands that it's not necessary to give Steven Jackson about 20 carries when he's averaging under four yards a carry and Antone Smith is averaging, I dunno, 38. I hate to beat a dead horse, but it was asking for it.
Game MVP: Antone Smith, because he had two plays he actually had the ball for and they accounted for 88 yards and a touchdown. He is pure. Untainted. Roddy White also goes here, because I'm bending the rules and it was great to see him bounce back like that.
Game Theme Song: The song and video are appropriate metaphors.
One Thing To Take Away: Roddy White is back! The Falcons should be able to keep things relatively competitive from here on out.
Final Word: Onemonthleft.