"There is no such thing as an ugly win. All wins are beautiful." -Devonta Freeman
The team has strung together a few games of infuriating football, but I think we need to go back and remind ourselves that not only are we in an incredibly enviable position, we're doing all of this under a completely new head coach, new offensive system, and new defensive system, all while using patchwork players that came over from teams that weren't so successful themselves. We're not rebuilding but we ARE retooling a lot of areas, and we should keep that in mind going forward. We all may have "expected a playoff berth", but after 2013 and 2014 I think any of us would have taken 6 wins in 7 games regardless of how they looked.
Kyle Shanahan refuses to be predictable.
If you're like me, then you were banging your head against the wall for the first quarter and a half of Sunday's game. "Why won't you run the ball?!" I repeated screamed, drawing a curious look from my dog who was otherwise occupied licking himself. It just didn't make sense. (The play calling, not my dog's self-bathing habits.) The Falcons have the best rushing offense in the league. The Titans have one of the worst rushing defenses in the league. And yet Shanny repeatedly called pass plays, in one instance calling three pass plays on a three-and-out. But he's a tactician, and I trust that he knows how to run the offense. In the second half, we saw a lot more of Devonta Freeman. Maybe that's how he had it planned out in his mind all along. One thing is irrefutable: Shanny is not going to do what you expect him to do, just because you expect him to do it.
Our Falcons are currently in quite the rut.
For the last few weeks, Atlanta has been starting games flat and uninspired. Washington, New Orleans, and Tennessee have all benefited from a Falcons team that is playing its worst football of the season. With that said, this team came out of those contests 2-1; just 1 game behind first place. The fact that they can play this bad, and win, is promising. Luckily, Week 7 is just wrapping up, not Week 17. Coach Quinn and Shanahan have more than ample time to get this team where it needs to be for a playoff push.
The defense has a knack for the dramatic.
Ricardo Allen. Robenson Therezie. Robert Alford. The common link between all three, besides the fact that they're Falcons defensive backs and handsome fellows, is that they've had huge interceptions that have directly led to wins for Atlanta. This isn't the most inspiring defense week to week, and the pass rush needs to get better, but this is one hell of an opportunistic secondary with thousand pound brass bollocks to spare. I love ‘em.
The pass rush won't likely be "fixed" this year
With some nice off-season additions, the Falcons looked poised to improve from their bottom-3 pass rush of 2014. So far, the results haven't been inspiring. Going against some banged-up and less talented offensive lines the past few weeks, the Falcons are getting "close" but are still failing to bring down the QB consistently. Beasley looks like a rookie while our interior D has been unable to consistently generate a push. While the defense has done a very good job of shutting down the run, the pass rush improvement will likely need another off-season to really kick into gear. There's no need to panic, but expectations for this pass rush should probably be kept in check for this year.
There is something wrong with this passing offense, and it is not injury-related.
Like many, I feel as if yesterday's win was bittersweet. The Falcons won and improved to 6-1. At the same time, the pass game has not clicked the last three games. Many are becoming concerned with the team's ability to win if they reach the playoffs. I was prepared to give them a mulligan against the Washington Redskins. Playing a rivalry game against the Saints on a short week can be tough. But faltering against the Titans on an extended week? Ugh. Julio Jones is off of the injury report, the offensive line has provided Matt Ryan with plenty of protection, and the team has a very dominant run game. How has Ryan regressed with so much help around him? I cannot easily explain it, but I hope the coaching can figure it out soon.
Thank goodness the Falcons have a strong rushing attack.
Matt Ryan clearly isn't himself right now. Maybe he's not quite comfortable yet in the new scheme, but he's been missing throws he normally makes. Even Julio Jones has looked merely human in some games after a scorching start to the season. Granted, he was dealing with the hamstring injury for a bit, but he's still had his share of drops. Since he's started, Devonta Freeman has been consistently great. Atlanta just needs to start clicking in the passing game.
Robert Alford will time to adjust into new third down role.
One of the forgotten things about Sunday's victory was Jalen Collins holding down the right cornerback spot on third downs. It was somewhat unexpected, considering Collins hasn't played much this season. Dan Quinn has talked publicly about utilizing the second-round rookie more often. With this particular move, Robert Alford moved into the slot and had arguably his worst game of the season. Kendall Wright beat him on several occasions, although that didn't translate into huge production, due to Zach Mettenberger constantly overthrowing his receivers. Covering most slot receivers is difficult in general, let alone an above-average player like Wright. With Atlanta's pass rush not exactly flourishing, this is a risky move. It will definitely be one to watch for closely, since the left side of the field isn't being targeted with Desmond Trufant blanketing opposing wide receivers.