The more this awful season goes on, the more I fall back on the following: 1) Same old Falcons, to the point where Dan Quinn’s job ought to be in question at least a little bit. 2) The blame here for the offensive problem starts, and maybe even ends, with Shanahan leaving. If you don’t like that thought, too bad. 3) All we had to do is run the ball 3 times and kick a field goal and I guarantee none of us care 25% as much as we do this season. We were so close, and now we’re stressing because we feel like the team HAS TO get back to the SB this year, because this team is virtually the same one that made it. If we start messing with that formula, we may never make it.
Well, you and I have watched the same team for 8 games now. Guess what? It’s not going back to the Super Bowl this year. It might not go back ever, at this point. I see nothing from the team that suggests they’re going to even make the playoffs. I currently expect us to get swept by the Panthers and Saints and maybe take one from the Bucs. Maybe. We will not beat Dallas and I doubt we beat Seattle. The offense, good as it should be, is as poor an offense (performance-wise) as I can recall seeing from an ATL team. The defense, going into this week, had forced the fewest turnovers in the league. (Believe it or not, ATL is on the better end of offensive giveaways). Sean McVay turned the garbage hole Rams into world beaters. Don’t tell me coaching isn’t involved in this, either. We can’t even assume Sark (if he stays) will turn the offense into something even remotely respectable NEXT YEAR.
This is not winning football. This isn’t even football. This is 0-16, JV level football mitigated by Super Bowl level talent, and that will never win anything worthwhile.
The primary difference between the 2017 Falcons and the endlessly frustrating 2013, 2014, and 2015 teams we endured not all that long ago is this: This Falcons team is talented enough to keep all these games close, minus that Patriots fiasco. Atlanta’s not getting blown out in any of these contests, and in fact, you only need to change the outcome of a single play in many instances for them to actually win. Fresh off a Super Bowl season, that makes this team extraordinarily maddening, because they defy easy diagnosis and easy fixes. They have all year long.
In all likelihood, this team bumbles its way to a finish that’s in the neighborhood of .500, misses the playoffs, and has a long offseason to face the music. They’re not that far away from being a good football team again, but time is running out to actually show it.
The world looks a little different after Sunday’s loss, particularly after the Falcons blew yet another lead to yet another team it is arguably better than, and hit .500. The team is still struggling to find itself after Super Bowl 51, and going 1-4 after their promising 3-0 start should concern us all. It’s time to seriously question whether or not the Birds are just trapped in a down year. No easy cure for that.The scary part of it all is that it’s entirely possible the Falcons themselves aren’t exactly sure what all ails them. Losing Kyle Shanahan and Steve Sarkisian’s underwhelming game plans will be atop the list of excuses if this all goes south, but no player, coach or front office member is above criticism at the moment. It’s not time to worry about the future -- Quinn already showed in 2015 he knows how to make the necessary adjustments when things aren’t going as well as planned, and this is still a dang good, young roster -- but it is time to show pause as to what his Falcons can do in the meantime. With the schedule what it is and the … Saints … on a six-game win streak (screams into pillow), it might be time to press fast-forward if this is the best Atlanta can do. But, stranger things have happened.
For all the criticism of Steve Sarkisian, there are players underperforming in multiple areas. The Falcons had so much success with their tight ends last season. Kyle Shanahan’s ability to manufacture big plays for them was remarkable. They still did a fine job on their own by making plays in traffic and handling run blocking responsibilities. That isn’t the case this year. Austin Hooper has made several mistakes. From dropping passes on third down to missing blocking assignments, the second-year player is underperforming.
Sarkisian is doing his best to get him more involved in the offense, yet it hasn’t translated towards more success. Hooper’s lack of concentration continues to hurt the offense. Look no further than Matt Ryan’s interception, as he ran the wrong route. Levine Toilolo’s run blocking isn’t cutting it either. After being rewarded with a nice contract last March, the massive tight end continues to get overpowered. A limited player like Toilolo needs to make an impact in the running game. He isn’t even playing at an average level right now. After being a huge asset in Shanahan’s offense last season, Toilolo has reverted back to his old disappointing ways.
For sure this was about as disappointing a loss as any another one that the Falcons have had this season. Simply because the Panthers is a team that has talent in certain spots but playing this Carolina team is in fact winnable. To make matters worse, the game presented a rare (and I mean RARE) sighting of Julio Jones dropping a touchdown pass where he was at least 10 yards away from the nearest defender and essentially was a major difference in the outcome. There is more than enough talent for the Falcons to overcome this funk and get to the playoffs. My biggest question mark coming into the season was their mental aspect. After eight games, it is still in question.