To be honest, I thought my Falcons-induced alcoholism was finally under control. That ended last night. The team put in a performance that was reminiscent of the 2013 and 2014 squads. There were mind-boggling fumbles. Defensive collapses. Comically bad penalties and no-calls. Ultimately, though, the team just looked bad. Given that, here are some of the takeaways from the debacle on Thursday night.
The defense is only half way there
I'm not going to slam the defense too much for what happened in the second half, as they were on the field for an excessive amount of time. I do think we saw some things in the first half that give us an indication of where this D is at and what still needs to be fixed.
First, on the bright side, this defense is very good at stopping the run. The Saints just couldn't get anything going on the ground and we held Mark Ingram to 46 yards on 20 carries. Factoring in the other runs, the Saints produced only 81 rushing yards for a miserable 2.5 yards per carry. This is a huge improvement over last year, and a critical step in improving this defense over the long haul.
As for the bad? This defense still can't pressure the QB consistently. Beasley is a rookie and I still expect him to be fine in the long run, but he alone will not be the solution - nor should he be. More needs to be done this next off-season to continue to try and fix this pass rush. While our starting corners are playing very well, this team is still getting gashed in the middle of the field by tight ends and running backs. This continual failure has shown that the team still needs to find a long-term solution for a coverage linebacker and I expect it to be a high priority going into 2016.
Our offense could have dominated
Three fumbles in Saints territory. Three turnovers. While the offense struggled to do much of anything in the second half, the reality is that the Saints couldn't do a thing to stop the offense in the first half. Coleman and Freeman were running wild. Ryan was hitting multiple targets, from Julio to Roddy to Tamme to Toilolo. Were it not for those awful turnovers, this game may have gone quite differently.
So, while this game was ugly, it was not the end of the world for our offense. Playing from behind in the second half made the play-calling more predictable, which certainly hurt the effectiveness. If this team can clean up the mental mistakes and secure the football better, there's no reason our offense can't get back on track.
Our WR corps may not be what we thought it was
Julio Jones is amazing - so let's get that out of the way first. Even though he's playing hurt, he's still such a factor on the field. My concern is that our WRs beyond Julio are not as good as we initially thought. Even though Roddy caught a TD last night, it's clear he is in the tail end of his career. He is struggling to separate and just doesn't look like a great fit in this revised offense, run blocking aside. Leonard Hankerson would be so much better if it weren't for the 2 to 3 drops he seems to have every single game. If he doesn't improve, he just can't be our second WR option.
There's some hope that Justin Hardy can develop into a good option in the future, but it's clear the coaching staff just doesn't feel like he's ready to contribute. While the team could really use a guy like Devin Hester right now, even he isn't a long-term option nor a particularly good receiver to begin with. The Falcons will still need to address the WR position in 2016 if this team is going to have success in the passing game when Julio isn't 100%.
So what say you? What are your takeaways after the Thursday night game against the Saints?