Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Falcons to Embrace the Role of "Spoiler"

If it hasn't hit you yet...this is it. The Atlanta Falcons are mathematically disqualified from playoff contention and Tony Gonzalez is going to play the last 6 games of his career in the next 1 and 1/2 months. During halftime of the Falcons-Bucs game, Michael Strahan said the Falcons look like they just wanted to get this season over with. I believe him.

The Falcons didn't just lack good defensive play, good offensive execution (when it mattered), and good mental decisions; they lacked heart. The Falcons played as if they just gave up on football. For most of theses guys, this is uncharted territory. Guys like Matt Ryan, Harry Douglas, Sean Weatherspoon, Thomas Decoud, and William Moore have never experienced a regular season in which Atlanta lost 8 or more games. In fact, Weatherspoon has never had a season in which Atlanta hasn't WON less than 10 games. With that being said, I can understand their frustration and desire to get 2013 over with.

But think about this: veterans like Roddy White, Jonathon Babineaux, Tony Gonzalez, and Steven Jackson have been on teams that were just awful. More specifically, Steven Jackson has NOT been on a team that won at least 9 games since 2005. These are the guys that the entire Falcons' locker room need to turn to in order to stay positive in a very negative season. These guys need to step up and make sure the team prepares for the last 6 games the same way they did for the first 2 or so games of this season.

Preparing properly is very vital this week because the Falcons host rival New Orleans on Thursday. It's not possible for Atlanta to win the NFC South this year but they can spoil the seeding of whoever the new NFC South champ is. At this point in the season, it's either New Orleans or Carolina. With a match-up against the Carolina Panthers in week 17, who knows what Atlanta could spoil in that game. Of course, this implies that the Falcons have to play well enough to win. And to be honest, if Atlanta continues to play the way they have since beating Tampa Bay on Oct. 20, they won't get another win.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Falcons fall to 2-7 and Mike Smith "going nowhere"

After losing to the Seattle Seahawks 33-10, the Atlanta Falcons are at their worst 9-game start to a season since 2003. 2003 is the year Michael Vick broke his leg in the 3rd game of the preseason and did not return until week 14 of that year. Doug Johnson and Kurt Kittner combined for a 2-10 record in Vick's absence. Ten years later, the Falcons are facing a similar problem: injuries to key players.

The most notable of the Falcons injuries is Julio Jones being out for the year with a foot injury. Also, Roddy White has not been 100% as well as Steven Jackson. Offensive linemen, Mike Johnson's, leg injury has proved to hurt the Falcons offense more than most thought. Needless to say, the offensive line has played terribly most of this season; and I would like to think that having Mike Johnson would have helped Atlanta tremendously. Asante Samuel not being 100%, earlier this year, hurt Atlanta's sub-par secondary. Injuries to linebackers, Sean Weatherspoon, Stephan Nicholas, and Akeem Dent, forced two undrafted, rookie-free agents to start a number of games so far. I think the injury to Kroy Biermann is one of the most important. He was supposed to have a breakout season and be a force at defensive end. Without him, Atlanta has failed to create pressure against opposing quarterbacks. So, clearly, the injury "bug" has been inside the Falcons' locker room in 2013.

There has been plenty of talk about head coach Mike Smith possibly getting fired this year. After the loss to Seattle, general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, said that coach Smith is "going nowhere." This made quite a bit of fans upset. But why are they upset? The injuries I've pointed out are not coach Smith's fault, as well as Atlanta's lack of execution. Smith has made some terrible decisions this season, especially on 4th down. But those decisions should not overshadow that he's the winningest coach in Falcons history, he has led a team (who had never had back-to-back winning seasons) to 5 straight winning seasons that include 3 consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins, and he's pretty much the reason the Falcons are getting a new stadium in a few years.

So despite the demands of fans, Mike Smith will not be fired any time soon. Atlanta has found themselves behind the 8-ball with a plethora of injuries and a 2-7 start; but at least our quarterback isn't in prison.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Falcons Start 2-6 for First Time Since '07 "Welp..."

After having  a defecit of only 4 points at halftime, the Atlanta Falcons failed to score in the second half en route to a 34-10 loss to their NFC South rival, Carolina Panthers. This loss drops Atlanta to a 2-6 record for the first time since 2007. For those of you who may not know, the 2007 year was a dark one for the Falcons franchise. That was the season Mike Vick was sent to prison, head coach, Bobby Petrino, quit on the team in the middle of the season, and the Falcons lacked talent on offense and defense. The Falcons finished that year 4-12, which is tied for the worst finish in franchise history. The worst finish could be lowered if the Falcons continue to play the way they have in the past two weeks.

Atlanta played terribly on defense. Luckily, Cam Newton was not having the best day in terms of his accuracy or else this game could have been worse. Atlanta also allowed over 100 yards rushing for the 2nd consecutive week. Atlanta could not stop the screen plays and had too much trouble with guarding Greg Olsen. On a positive note: Congratulations to Desmond Trufant on getting his first career interception and Paul Worrilow did a great job tackling today with a total of 19 tackles. Also, Robert Alford's interception at the end of the first half was very impressive.

Offensively, today was an overall weak effort. Matt Ryan has thrown 7 interceptions (3 vs. Carolina) in the past two games. This is the first time Matt Ryan has thrown 3 or more interceptions in consecutive games. The offensive line played pretty poorly with too many penalties. Garret Reynolds holding penalty cost Atlanta a first-quarter touchdown that would have tied the game. The line also failed to get a push in the run game.

So what does Atlanta do now? Simple...keep playing football. As professional football players, they should never give up. In an interview following the loss to Carolina, Tony Gonzalez said, "You have to just go to  work." He's right; Atlanta just has to keep working and taking it one game at a time. Of course, that's easier said than done.

Atlanta hosts the Seattle Seahawks next week in a rematch of last season's divisional playoff game. I'll be the first to say it; this game WILL NOT go as it did last year. Take that however you want it.

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