My vitriol for the play-calling on both sides of the ball in this game has subsided somewhat after reviewing the game. But I’m going to use this entry for Moneyball to vent a little about what I think are some of the problems that have plagued the Falcons this year, which are reasons why I think they have yet to reach their full potential on either side of the ball.
What disappoints me the most is that the Falcons did an excellent job with misdirection plays on their first two series, but pretty much stopped doing that as the game wore on and went back to a more traditional gameplan of just trying to “out-execute” the Packers defense, and it did not work. Ryan missed on a couple of throws, and the offensive line essentially could not handle that gameplan. Tyson Clabo had two drive-killing penalties on 3rd downs, Roddy White had another, Harry Douglas had a catch overturned.
Mularkey did a better job using guys like Douglas, Weems, and White to manufacture yards and stay on schedule in early downs, replacing rushing yards. The Falcons need to continue to do this. While Turner and the ground attack was effective early in the game, in the second half it stopped because just like the Seahawks, the Packers began to stack the box and the Falcons offensive line was unable to get enough push to spring a slow back like Turner. But Mularkey needs to do more of this with screens and quick throws to receivers in the flat. Doing this 2 or 3 times a game is not going to be enough given the Falcons blocking issues.
The offensive line had a nice game, giving Ryan much more time than he’s seen most of this year, but when push came to shove there were too many instances where Ryan was pressured which led to incompletions. Sam Baker’s missed block on Desmond Bishop on 1st down in the fourth quarter was the lone sack the team allowed. But it put the Falcons in a 2nd & 21, and Ryan got too greedy on the next play trying to get it all back and his throw to Gonzo was a few inches overthrown and led to the interception that pretty much ended the game.
I don’t even know why guys like Michael Palmer and Reggie Kelly are on the team. They have contributed next to nothing to this offense. The Falcons just need to go out and sign someone like Alge Crumpler, Ben Patrick, Chris Baker to try and add something to this offense as a second tight end.
The Falcons need to get Jacquizz Rodgers more involved. His quickness can potentially be an asset because he might be able to squeeze through those smaller creases that the offensive line can create that Turner cannot.
Defensively, you have to give the unit kudos for holding the Packers offense to 25 points. They were rock-solid in the redzone, and were able to get pressure on Rodgers at various times in the first half and on the opening drive of the third quarter. Unfortunately, after that point the Falcons got no pressure. The Falcons tried to bring five rushers after that point on a few occasions, but it was ineffective because of breakdowns in coverage. Almost any time the Falcons put Lofton on Finley, the Packers were successful. Robinson and DeCoud made their share of mistakes. James Sanders was able to break up two passes, but one of them should have been an interception. Up front guys like Vance Walker and Corey Peters were able to generate some pressure up the middle which was necessary. Ray Edwards got a sack late, but he was pretty quiet most of the game. Babineaux and Biermann were also fairly quiet, although Babs struggles were to be expected given he’s still trying to get back into shape from his knee injury. The fact that Biermann and Edwards could not do much against Newhouse and Sherrod is worrisome.
The Falcons refusal to play press man coverage is bothersome, because it’s what Dunta Robinson does best. And if he’s not doing that, then he’s not really bringing anything more to the table than what Chris Houston used to, which was not very much. The Packers scored their 2nd touchdown essentially because of two straight plays where Grimes was off the line, and had he been in press coverage they probably don’t convert the 3rd & 3 to Randall Cobb on a quick slant, and then he probably jams Jennings better to prevent that easy throw for Rodgers on the 29-yard touchdown on the next play.
I also don’t get why the Falcons continue to play Chris Owens. His ball skills and awareness are minimal at best. And while Kelvin Hayden has yet to play like a superstar, he is significantly better in both of those areas. Even if he’s still not completely comfortable with the scheme, he’s going to be much more effective because of the superior awareness and ball skills.
On special teams, the Falcons can’t win field position because of inconsistent punting of Matt Bosher. He’s the worst punter in the league, and there’s no reason for teh Falcons to think he’s going to get significantly better the rest of the way. The fact of the matter is that he’s really basically our version of Matt Dodge, and eventually he’s going to be off the time if/when there is a point when the Falcons actually make a minimal attempt to get better on special teams.
Advanced Stats from Week 5:
Poor Throws (4): Ryan
Drops (2): Douglas, White
Key Blocks (5): Blalock (2), Clabo (1), Douglas (1), Reynolds (1)
Sacks Allowed (1): Baker
Missed Blocks (2): Hawley, Kelly
QB Pressures Allowed (5): Baker, Blalock, Kelly, Reynolds, Turner
Tackles for Loss (5): Peters (1.5), Weatherspoon (1.5), Lofton (1), Biermann (0.5), Edwards (0.5)
QB Sacks (4): Edwards, Peters, Sidbury, Weatherspoon
QB Pressures (2): Walker
QB Hits (1): DeCoud
Passes Defended (5): Hayden (2), Sanders (2), Grimes (1)
Blown Coverages (8): Grimes (2), Lofton (2), DeCoud (1), Owens (1), Sanders (1), Weatherspoon (1)
Missed Tackles (4): Robinson (2.5), Lofton (1) DeCoud (0.5)
Key Blocked (5): Weatherspoon (2), DeCoud (1), Lofton (1), Nicholas (1)