The Falcons played some lackluster, apathetic football yesterday. There’s no sugarcoating it. In a perfect world, it’s the smack in the mouth they need to be competitive in 2019. In a not so perfect world, it’s a sign of things to come; and 2019 will get real ugly, real fast. For now, I bring you this week’s version of 3 up, 3 down.
Barner showed us yesterday why he won the return job. He averaged 11.5 yards/punt return and 22 yards/kickoff return. His punt returns were a showcase of his football intelligence and quickness. Barner’s name was bandied about a fair amount when the Falcons decided to keep five running backs on the roster. Yesterday Barner showed us why, at least with respect to his particular skill set, he’s an absolutely essential part of this team.
Ito basically picked up right where he left off last season. He lead the team in rushing with 31 rushing yards on 6 attempts (5.2 yards/carry). He looked like a poised veteran, patiently seeking out holes and taking runs for more yards than they were really blocked for. He’s not going to threaten Devonta Freeman’s job security any time soon, but it’s reassuring to know that last year wasn’t a fluke. This kid can play.
Hooper led the team in receiving yards, nabbing 9 receptions and racking up 77 receiving yards. What’s nuts is that it took the Falcons a long time to start feeding him the ball yesterday. That’s on the coaching staff, and it’s something that’ll warrant an explanation if they keep doing it going forward.
The buck stops here. While Quinn’s ability to connect with individual players and scout talent is undeniable, his seat just got a whole lot warmer. The Vikings started fast and the Falcons could never recover. They look uninspired. Quinn has to get everyone on the same page as soon as possible, or the road ahead will get incredibly bumpy.
Matthews looked downright silly trying to stop Everson Griffin’s spin move yesterday. In fact, Matthews gave up a sack on the first offensive play of the game. If any defensive coordinators were still curious what Matthews’ kryptonite looks like, he put a lot of it on tape yesterday. Matthews is a consummate professional, and I trust that he will make the necessary corrections, but yesterday’s performance fell far short of the mark.
Oliver has a ton of potential and the coaching staff is obviously fond of him, but his performance yesterday raised some real questions. He got manhandled trying to defend the run and Adam Thielen made him look downright foolish on that first quarter touchdown. In many ways, that Thielen play set the tone and the Falcons never bounced back. In Oliver’s defense, there’s a strong argument to be made that he never should’ve been on Thielen in the first place. But that’s how Dan Quinn’s defense is designed, and he’ll just need to figure it out going forward.
Look, I get it, yesterday’s game was not fun to watch. There are plenty of reasons to be frustrated. But there’s a lot of football left to play this year, folks. Jumping ship now is ill-advised. So for now, simply locate your life vest, secure your belongings, and await further instructions.