I'm normally a pretty optimistic person. I try to find the positives in things when most people are spitting venom. Yet, the game against the woeful 49ers may have actually taken that from me. Going into this article, I'm finding it very hard to reconcile what I saw on Sunday with my hopes for this team. It wasn't just the loss - it was the nature of it that was very troubling. With that, here are my three key takeaways from the "performance" on Sunday.
The offense has become predictable
When Kyle Shanahan was brought in, one of the main things you heard about him was that he was a creative play-caller. While we definitely saw that in the first several games of the season, the results in the past 4 to 5 games have been less than impressive - with the ultimate let-down coming against the 49ers.
While Julio Jones continues to find ways to get open, it appears that - other than Jacob Tamme - the offense just doesn't know that anyone else exists. I'd be remiss if I didn't put some of this on Matt Ryan's shoulders either, as he is the one on the field. Ryan is "locking on" to certain targets and often does not go through his reads. Sometimes this is by design, sometimes it's due to lack of time, but Ryan has also squandered opportunities in good pockets as well.
The one thing that had been working pretty consistently was the running game, but even that was stifled on Sunday. The 49ers seemingly knew when the Falcons were going to run and they all but shut down that facet of the game as well.
I've heard several people say that the NFL has "caught up" with the Falcons offense. After what I saw on Sunday, I don't know that I can argue with them.
Coaching issues have crept up
I don't want to blow this out of proportion, because rookie head coaches are just as likely to make mistakes as are rookie football players. I still think Dan Quinn can become a phenomenal head coach, and I love his approach to coaching, preparation and player engagement. However, on the field, it's clear that he still has many lessons to learn.
A couple of things stood out from Sunday. First, the challenge of the spot on a first down conversion mid-way through the fourth quarter. It is very rare that these challenges succeed, and the cost of losing that challenge is a timeout - which is extremely important in close games, and would prove to be so in this game.
Second, the call for the field goal that would still leave the Falcons down by 1 with a little over 3 minutes left in the game. Quinn explained his reasoning - trusting his defense to get the stop - but with the ball on the 2 yard line, it almost seemed like an indictment of the offense as much as his trust in the defense. It's a decision Quinn will likely be questioned over for the rest of the season.
It's easy to forget that Quinn is as new to all of this as his own players. I have no doubt he'll learn and get better, but it's still frustrating to see nevertheless.
Thank goodness for the bye week
I'll be honest - I'm glad I don't have to watch the Falcons play football for 2 weeks, and I hate saying that. What we've seen over the past 4 or 5 weeks has been sloppy, disheartening and discouraging. With that said, I still believe this team can turn it around. There is still the promise of good players returning to form (Ryan), players getting healthy again (Hankerson, Alford, Hester) and just the hope that this coaching staff will find a way to right the ship. The bye will also be good for my liver, which has taken a severe beating the past several weeks.
What are your takeaways from the latest game by the Falcons?