Here are some of our quick, happy takeaways from Tuesday’s game. Then we turn our baleful gaze to the Saints tomorrow.
Offense showed great promise, but the defense is concerning
The offense we all hoped for finally showed up in a big way against the Panthers. The creativity and execution were spot-on for most of the game and it came against a defense that has typically given us issues. However, that good news was offset by the reality that replacing Deion Jones and Keanu Neal is not going to be an easy endeavor. Duke Riley struggled throughout the game and the defense as a whole let the Panthers creep back in late in the fourth quarter. I’m not writing off the defense just yet, but there’s clearly work to do if they’re even going to finish as a top-20 ish defense for the season.
I think we all expected the defense to take a fairly significant step back after the losses of Keanu Neal and Deion Jones. What we didn’t know was whether or not the offense would step up to the plate and make up the difference. At least for one week, that was the case, with Ryan playing a great game, Calvin Ridley making a big contribution, and the duo of Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith looking excellent. There are still pieces on the defense that keep it from being a huge liability, but they’ll need to continue to show growth in the coming weeks. Expecting and/or needing the offense to score 30+ points a week is not a recipe for sustained success.
Football is only fun when the Falcons are good.
My biggest takeaway is I love watching the Falcons play great football. There were still a ton of problems that will definitely continue throughout the season, but I don’t think that matters right now. Atlanta beat one of the better teams in the league, and at times looked dominant. That was fun as hell, and the offense showed they could get it together.
This team is just gonna keep on keepin on.
That was a fun game to watch. I’d be lying if I said I’m not concerned about the defense going forward, because the Falcons will surely face teams more talented than the Carolina Panthers this season. But the entire team, all three phases, showed a lot of heart yesterday. Matt Ryan attempted to channel Michael Vick during that leaping touchdown, which I hope he never does again. (Unless a Super Bowl victory hangs in the balance, in which case he’s free to get as acrobatic as he wishes.) Ryan effectively shut down anyone doubting his abilities and Calvin Ridley officially introduced himself to the National Football League. For now I’m going to enjoy the win and convince myself there’s no way the Falcons could possibly lose to the Saints on Sunday.
Division games are critical, and we won.
We knew it would be tough for the defense to play without Keanu Neal and Deion Jones. We weren’t expecting them to play without Damontae Kazee as well, or for the offense to be without Andy Levitre. But the Falcons got it done and came away from the first of the six divisional games with a “W”, and for now that’s all that matters.
The play that jumped out at me most was the cringe-inducing fumble in the red zone late in the game. That sort of thing is exactly what killed the Falcons in the red zone last year, and for that matter all the way back to the later years under Mike Smith. We’ve seen that movie too many times - the other team recovers, drives down the field to tie the game and goes on to win. But this time, Atlanta recovered its own fumble and punched in what turned out to be the game-deciding score. Maybe our luck is changing.
The Falcons offense looked like it should look with this myriad of talent Sunday, and the Falcons defense looked like it was probably going to with its myriad of injuries. Really, this is what you can, or should, expect from Atlanta until Deion Jones gets back. He’s that crucial to what they’re trying to do on defense that it’s going to be mightily hard to hold teams back to much of anything in crunch time without him on the field. They could win out in agonizing fashion to his return if they keep playing and coaching on offense like this, though. They looked sharp as a tack. For now, enjoy the win, and wrap your favorite Falcon in bubble wrap.
This win was a good sign, but the 2018 Falcons are still a work in progress.
The Falcons needed to win this game and did. At the end of the day, that’s the most essential thing, and no matter how injured Carolina might have been, Atlanta was also banged up and managed to triumph. The offense looked as good as it will need to be, the defense looked very much like a work in progress minus two of its best players, and the Falcons were good enough to grab a narrow victory.
We don’t know if this is going to be the norm, especially with more Falcons injured, but we do know the offense isn’t going to swoon all year after an encouraging performance against a quality defense. If the D can tread water until Jones gets back, it’ll be time to get excited again.