The Falcons 10-6 season ended in suitable fashion: the team struggled offensively, gave up a long, painful touchdown drive on defense and repeatedly shot itself in the foot through penalties, drops and head-scratching play calls. Here are some other key takeaways from the 10th win of the season over the Panthers.
If the Falcons are going to have success in the post-season this year, the defense has to step up. The offense is clearly not the 2016 version and can’t carry the load by itself. The good news is that they appear to be capable of doing so. All three levels of the defense played well on the day. The defensive front pressured Cam Newton and mostly stymied their running game. Guys like Grady Jarrett and Takk McKinley were regulars in the backfield.
Deion Jones was a force of nature in this game as well, constantly in the right position and stopping running plays and short passes dead in their tracks. The entire secondary was outstanding as well, with Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford shutting down the Panthers receivers and Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen adding interceptions to the mix. It was a very encouraging performance from a talented, but inconsistent unit.
It’s almost comical at this point, but the 2017 Falcons may be known for their penalties as much as anything. I don’t want to get into an argument over the quality of the penalty calls (especially the phantom defensive holding call against Poe), but this team cannot get out of it’s own way.
Let’s face it - the 2017 Falcons offense is not capable of overcoming penalties and drops like they did a year ago. That’s why the repeated penalties on special teams are so painful. The Falcons have the worst starting field position in the NFL, and much of that is due to penalties that cost them return yards with negative yards to boot.
Additionally, the false starts coming from veteran players on the offensive line are simply unacceptable. Going from third and one to third and six completely alters what options are available to you and gives the defense - particularly good defenses like the Panthers have - an edge in figuring out what you’re going to do.
The penalties have to get under control or this team could be one and done in the playoffs this year.
The drops have to stop, right?
The Falcons led the league in 2016 with the fewest drops in the NFL. With the exact same personnel in 2017 they are now the worst. That is an extreme variance with very little turn-over in terms of the players on the field. It’s one of the most mind-baffling aspects of this 2017 team. This trend also has to slow down in the playoffs, particularly from key guys like Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, who have both been repeat offenders in this regard.
What are your takeaways from the game?