If you're looking for words of encouragement, this may not be the article for you. The embarrassing play of the defense on Sunday could only be topped by the utter dismay at the number of injuries our team suffered in a single game. It was a disastrous showing to be sure, but it still only counts as one loss. What matters now is how this team rebounds and how severe the injuries are. While we can't get that loss back, the team can look forward and try to improve.
With that said, here are my three key takeaways from the game:
1. The defense is really, really bad
This is probably the biggest "DUH" takeaway, but there was some hope that the game against the Bucs showed some improvement, but alas, that was a mirage. The Falcons gave up 558 yards of offense. Against a rookie QB in his first start. Against a team missing their All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson. Against a team missing their starting TE Kyle Rudolph. Against a team with a poor offensive line.
Ever heard of Matt Asiata? Me either. But he went off for 78 rushing yards and 3TDs. How about Jarius Wright? No? Well, he torched our team for 132 yards receiving and had more receiving yards than either Julio or Roddy. The Vikings, who hadn't scored an offensive TD in 7 straight quarters coming into this game did not have to punt until the third quarter.
The ridiculousness of the game just goes on and on. The Vikings had 241 rushing yards with a healthy 5.5 ypc average. Bridgewater threw the ball for over 300 yards. At one point, Bridgewater once had a pocket for so long, that he delivered three children while also cooking a five course meal. If I were to pen a book called "Horrible, Unbelievable Ways for this Falcons Team to Disappoint Us", this would be the opening salvo.
This defense has absolutely no pass rush. The one thing we thought we had fixed - the run defense - has actually been far worse. And short of our offense putting up 40 points per game, this D looks like it is so bad that it will make any team we play look like they have the top offense in the league.
I don't know what the fix is, or if there is even one to be had this season. Let's hope our coaches figure it out and surprise us all, because at this point, the defense we're fielding could be the worst in the NFL.
2. The injuries are very concerning at this point
William Moore. Justin Blaylock. Joe Hawley. Lamar Holmes. And that was just this game. Don't forget, we already have lost Sam Baker and Sean Weatherspoon this season. The Falcons were literally starting a Tight End at Right Tackle due to the number of injuries. That's not even touching on possible injuries to Matt Bosher, Kemal Ishmael and Devin Hester.
The early word on Moore - according to Vaughn McClure - is that he could be out for the season. Both Hawley and Holmes left on crutches. You can begin crying now.
Most people agree that 2013 was largely due to a rash of injuries to key positions across the roster, and the hope was that the 2014 version would stay a bit healthier. Well, through 4 games, that may not be holding up as well as we would have liked. Depending on the status of guys like Hawley and Holmes, we may be starting two more new starters on our OL - and this is just four games into the season.
The Falcons can't afford any more injuries, but this is the NFL - it's likely to happen at some point. We can only hope it's at a position of depth, but I'm not even sure what position that would be now. These injuries are very concerning.
3. The offense was quietly good
Lost in the debacle was how good our offense performed, despite numerous drops and horrifying injuries. The Vikings have a pretty good defense, and a defensive minded coach in Mike Zimmer. Yet, our offense - on the road, mind you - was able to put up 411 yards of offense and 28 total points. The running game looked solid, with Steven Jackson regularly trucking guys for extra yards. Antone Smith took one to the house - again. And overall, the team averaged a healthy 5.6 ypc.
Despite the drops and the rash of injuries on the OL, Ryan was able to put up 298 yards for 3TDs and 2 INTs (though one was a garbage time end of game INT). Ryan hit 8 different receivers, with Hester doing very well in Douglas' place. In fact, the offense put up those 28 points in the first three quarters. It's easy to overlook the lack of scores in the fourth quarter considering Toilolo was our RT at that point.
It's nice to know that the fixes made in the off-season for our offense have paid dividends. Now only if we could do the same for the other side of the ball.
While there's very little good to take away from this game, it was just one game. I won't try and convince you that this team is going to suddenly field a competent defense, so feel free to share your own thoughts below.