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Takeaways from Week 12

November 25th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Dimitroff Will Face Greater Scrutiny in 2014

Last week, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave head coach Mike Smith a vote of confidence. That was followed up on Thursday, with further elaboration that Blank fully intends to bring Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff back for 2014. Then later on Thursday, the Falcons played their best game since Week 7.

Maybe, Blank should have backed Smith a month ago.

Blank indicated in Silver’s report that regardless of how the Falcons finish this year, the Terrible Twosome in Smith and Dimitroff will be back. I guess that nips my belief that if the Falcons were to finish 2-14 or 3-13 that Smith would be fired. Although never say never. The Falcons could revert back to getting blown out for the final five games, and I think Blank would have to strongly consider making a change.

But truth be told, I don’t want the Falcons to blow things up. Or at least, I don’t want to feel like the Falcons have to blow things up.

What is most concerning about Blank’s comments is that it may lead to this team not making major changes to their “process.”

For the most part over the years, I have backed the so-called “process.” But the problem with the Falcons process is that it represents very little progress.

Complacency, more so than Injuries are Falcons Downfall

The story of this season will center on injuries and complacency. This team has obviously suffered a number of injuries which have limited their ability to field a competitive team. My personal opinion is that the amount of injuries doesn’t explain how uncompetitive this team has been since the bye week, but I’m sure that is going to be what the Falcons chalk their struggles up to this off-season.

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Falcons Lose Close One to Saints

November 22nd, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Bryant is disappointed after missing a 52-yard field goal late vs. Saints

The Atlanta Falcons showed a little signs of life, going the distance with the New Orleans Saints in a 17-13 loss. Despite now sporting a 2-9 record, the Falcons were able to hang with the rival Saints (now 9-2) and had opportunities to win the game late. It is a stark change from recent performances which have seen the Falcons get beat by at least two scores in four straight games.

Matt Ryan had an improved performance, completing 30 of 39 passes for 292 yards, but was held without a touchdown for the first time in 16 games. Steven Jackson scored the Falcons’ lone touchdown, leading the team with 16 carries for 63 yards on the ground. Harry Douglas led receivers with 9 catches for 79 yards. Darius Johnson (6 catches, 67 yards), Tony Gonzalez (4 catches, 43 yards), and Jackson (3 catches, 16 yards) had notable contributions in the passing game as well. Roddy White was held in check for the most part, catching just a pair of passes for 24 yards. Matt Bryant connected on two field goals from 39 and 24 yards out, but missed a 52-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. The kicked sailed wide left, giving the Saints the ball back and a chance to seal the game with their four-point lead. Matt Bosher punted 3 times for an average of 45.3 yards, with 1 punt placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned one punt for 10 yards. The Falcons third down offense improved this week, as they were able to convert on half of their 12 attempts. They were also able to score touchdowns on one of two red zone trips.

Defensively, the Falcons held the Saints to their second-lowest scoring output of the season. They gave up 374 total yards, including 103 on the ground. They were unable to provide adequate pressure, totaling only a single sack on Drew Brees, and struggled to get off the field on third downs. The Saints were successful at converting 54-percent of their 13 third down attempts. Paul Worrilow led the team in tackles for the fourth-consecutive week, tallying 9 stops on the night. Jonathan Babineaux (4 tackles); Joplo Bartu (7 tackles); Thomas DeCoud (7 tackles, 1 pass defended); Peria Jerry (3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack); Robert McClain (5 tackles); William Moore (5 tackles); Desmond Trufant (5 tackles, 3 passes defended); and Sean Weatherspoon (4 tackles) had notable performances.

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Bucs Streak Past Falcons in 41-28 Blowout

November 17th, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Vincent Jackson makes a one-handed catch over Asante Samuel

The Falcons got blasted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that featured a 32-point third quarter deficit, but ultimately resulted in a 41-28 win for the Bucs. Both teams records now stand at 2-8 at the bottom of the NFC South, but while the Bucs have won two straight, the Falcons have lost four straight.

Matt Ryan had another lackluster performance, completing 19 of 36 passes for 254 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, which included a pick-six. He gave way to Dominique Davis in the fourth quarter, who completed 5 of 7 passes for 34 yards, before he exited the game with an injury. Antone Smith led the team in rushing with 88 yards despite only a pair of carries. One of which he took to the house for a 50-yard scoring run. Steven Jackson added 41 yards on 11 carries. Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez each led the team with 6 receptions for 134 and 51 yards, respectively. Douglas caught an 80-yard touchdown. White scored the Falcons other touchdown, and finished the game with 3 catches for 36 yards. Matt Bryant hit on two of his field goal tries from 46 and 49 yards, while Matt Bosher punted twice. He had one punt blocked, and only had a 24-yard punt on his other one. Robert McClain averaged 8 yards on a pair of punt returns. The Falcons managed to convert only 1 of 7 third down conversion attempts.

Defensively the Falcons got gashed allowing 410 total yards, including 186 rushing yards. The Bucs only converted 3 of 11 third down attempts but had a number of big plays early. The Bucs had four plays of 20 or more yards in the second quarter, which helped them score 21 points. Paul Worrilow led the Falcons with 16 tackles, including one for a loss. Jonathan Massaquoi (4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Robert McClain (7 tackles, 1 pass defended); William Moore (7 tackles); Desmond Trufant (4 tackles); Osi Umenyiora (3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks); and Sean Weatherspoon (9 tackles) had notable games.

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Gonzalez Questionable in Week 11 vs. Bucs

November 15th, 2013 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced their injury report for this weekend’s upcoming matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and tight end Tony Gonzalez was among several players listed as questionable. Gonzalez injured his toe during last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks and was held out of practice this week on Wednesday and Thursday. He returned to practice on a limited basis today, but his status for Sunday’s game remains up in the air.

Also questionable on the injury report are wide receiver Harry Douglas (knee), and defensive tackles Peria Jerry (toe) and Corey Peters (knee). Douglas suffered his injury during the week, missing Thursday’s practice but returned to practice on a limited basis today. Both Jerry and Peters were able to play last week despite suffering from the same injuries. Jerry was limited in practice on all three days, while Peters missed Wednesday’s practice, but was limited on Thursday and Friday. Defensive end Malliciah Goodman (calf) will miss this week’s game as he was out all three days of practice.

Listed as probable are running back Steven Jackson (toe), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot), and wide receiver Roddy White (shoulder). Jackson and White have both been limited this year with other injuries. Jackson missed several games earlier in the season with a hamstring injury. White returned to the Falcons lineup last week for the first time since Week 5 after suffering from hamstring and ankle injuries. Weatherspoon was just elevated off the short-term injured reserve this week after suffering a foot injury earlier in the year.

Also appearing on the injury report is running back Jason Snelling. Snelling missed Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury, but was limited. He missed Friday’s practice with a non-injury related issue due to his arrest for possession of marijuana.

Notable injuries for the Buccaneers include guard Carl Nicks (foot) and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (concussion), who are out and questionable, respectively. Also listed on the injury report as probable are safety Mark Barron (knee), wide receiver Vincent Jackson (knee), guard Davin Joseph (knee), tackle Donald Penn (calf), and defensive tackle Akeem Spence (wrist).

Falcons Dominated by Seahawks in 33-10 Loss

November 10th, 2013 Comments off

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

William Moore gets stiff-armed by Marshawn Lynch

The Atlanta Falcons record falls to 2-7 with a 33-10 beat down by the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle got their revenge in a rematch of a Divisional Playoff matchup between the two teams last January. Then, the Falcons won to advance to the NFC Championship and end the Seahawks season. Now, the Seahawks got out to a 23-3 halftime lead and pounded the ball down the Falcons throats as the Falcons didn’t look competitive in the final three quarters.

Matt Ryan had another lackluster effort, with a season-low 172 yards passing while completing 23 of 36 attempts with a touchdown. On the ground, Jacquizz Rodgers led the team with 31 yards on 3 carries. Ryan added 15 yards on 3 scrambles, out-rushing starting running back Steven Jackson, who finished with 9 carries and 11 yards. Harry Douglas led Falcon recievers with 7 catches for 49 yards. Darius Johnson caught the team’s lone touchdown on his lone grab of the day for 12 yards. Rodgers (5 catches, 28 yards) and Tony Gonzalez (3 catches, 29 yards) also contributed. Matt Bryant connected on his lone field goal try from 53 yards. Matt Bosher punted 5 times for an average of 53.7 yards, with 1 punt placed inside the 20-yard line. Rodgers had three kickoff returns for an average of 21.3 yards. The Falcons struggled to convert on third downs, with only 4 conversions on 12 attempts. They began the game converting only 1 of 7 third downs in the first half. The Falcons did score on their lone trip to the red zone.

Defensively, the Falcons allowed 490 total yards of offense by the Seahawks, including a season-high 211 rushing yards. Seattle also converted 9 of 15 third downs and scored touchdowns on both of their red zone trips. Paul Worrilow led the defense with 19 tackles, matching his season-high from last week. Jonathan Babineaux (8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss); Joplo Bartu (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss); Thomas DeCoud (4 tackles); Akeem Dent (6 tackles); Jonathan Massaquoi (4 tackles); William Moore (6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Asante Samuel (6 tackles); Desmond Trufant (6 tackles, 2 pass deflections); and Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles, 1 pass deflection) had notable games.

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 9 Review

November 5th, 2013 Comments off

Upon further review, Matt Ryan was not as bad as I initially thought.

Obviously, he had the three interceptions and those were not good plays for the Falcons. Two of them were definitely his fault. But one of them I can’t get too mad over. The first interception was on Ryan. He stared down Tony Gonzalez, who tried a double move against Luke Kuechly. Kuechly didn’t bite and Ryan threw it right at him. Because Ryan staring down Gonzalez, the safety left Patrick DiMarco wide open down the sideline. The other interception that was obviously Ryan’s fault was the final one where he tried to throw a quick curl to Drew Davis at the end of the game. The corner read the play the whole way and jumped it.

But I don’t really blame Ryan on the second interception. He could have made a better throw, but it was a good read and a nice anticipatory throw where he threw to a spot. The problem was Harry Douglas was a half-step slow in getting to that spot. Sure, there were a lot of blue jerseys in the vicinity of the throw, but really none of them were in a position to make a play on the throw. The fact that Quintin Mikell was able to get his hand on the throw was sheer luck, more the result of a desperation swipe than because he was in position. Looking back on the play, I have little to no doubt that had that been Roddy White or Julio Jones, they would have caught the ball.

But all that said, it doesn’t mean Ryan played well. I thought he was very tentative in the early going of the game, looking for the checkdown a bit too quickly. On the first third down of the game, he checked down to Steven Jackson, when I think he could have converted on a first down to Douglas. On the opening play of the third possession, he didn’t even look downfield for a throw, just immediately decided to throw to Jacquizz Rodgers in the flat (ultimately for a 1-yard gain). He could have potentially had Douglas on that play on a downfield throw. Also, on the 32-yard pass he threw to Douglas in the third quarter, he under threw him on the out-and-up. It could have been a much bigger gain with better ball placement throwing over Douglas’ outside shoulder.

Other than that play and the 16-yard throw Ryan made over the middle to Douglas that turned in a 41-yard gain thanks to his ability after the catch, I didn’t really see the Falcons try to go deep at all. That was very disappointing after the things I saw last week.

I’m sure you’re noticing how on these missed opportunities, the receiver I’m mentioning is Douglas, and not Davis or Darius Johnson. Well, the obvious reason for that is because neither player really got open. I don’t quite understand why those two receivers are getting so many snaps, while Levine Toilolo is in the single digits. I understand that the playbook that Dirk Koetter developed upon his arrival in Atlanta was going to feature a lot more 3-wide receiver sets due to the presences of White, Jones, and Douglas, alongside Gonzalez. But Jones and White are not playing, and the Falcons need to utilize more two tight end sets. Toilolo is poised to be the incumbent to start at tight end next year, and the Falcons need to find out what they have in him. The Falcons have a fairly good idea what they have in Davis and Johnson: special teamers. But even still, they aren’t in a position where they are going to be logging significant reps anytime soon once this season is over. I know Koetter used to utilize a lot of two-tight end sets during his days at Arizona State, so it’s not like it’s a foreign concept to him. Toilolo played 10 snaps on Sunday, after a combined 15 the two previous weeks. It should be noted that in Jacksonville under Koetter, the No. 2 tight end averaged roughly 20 snaps a game. It makes no sense for Toilolo to be spending so much time on the bench as it’s hurting this team both short-term and long-term.

The offensive line played pretty well. Sam Baker had a solid game in his first back in the lineup. He gave up a hurry on the final drive, but otherwise had a solid game. Lamar Holmes gave up his sack and pressure in the fourth quarter, both to Charles Johnson. You have to give both tackles credit for holding up fairly well against Johnson and Greg Hardy. The interior struggled to block Star Lotulelei one-on-one in the run game, but at times neutralized him with double teams.

I have to give Patrick DiMarco credit, he absolutely destroyed Luke Kuechly on the first play of the fourth quarter. It ultimately was only a one-yard gain by Rodgers on the sweep because he cut it up early, and Peter Konz didn’t maintain his block on Colin Cole. But DiMarco knocked Kuechly silly and that is probably going to be the highlight of his season. Reminded me of Ovie Mughelli in his heyday.

I credited Douglas with the illegal formation that was attributed to Holmes. Douglas wasn’t on the line of scrimmage, while Holmes was.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Steven Jackson$0$8$2$0$0$0$10.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$6$0$0$0$6.00
Matt Ryan$6$0$0$0$0$0$6.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$4$0$0-$1$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$3$0-$1$2.00
Sam Baker$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$1$0$0-$2$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Patrick DiMarco$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00

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Takeaways from Week 9

November 4th, 2013 Comments off
http://www.sportingcharts.com/dictionary/nfl/adjusted-net-yards-per-pass-attempt.aspx

How Much of the Falcons struggles are on Matt Ryan?

It’s the halfway mark of the season and the Falcons sit at 2-6. The 2013 season is clearly upside down, as I projected before the season that they would be 6-2 at this point.

The Falcons were competitive on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers through three and a half quarters, but things got away from them in the final nine minutes. The final 34-10 score was not quite an accurate reflection of the game in its entirety.

This was definitely a winnable game for the Falcons. Through the first 51 minutes of the game, there was only 2 minutes where the Panthers held anything more than a one-score lead. But the Falcons offense could not really get anything going throughout the game. They had a total of six possessions where they could have taken a lead and failed to do so.

Three of those drives were three-and-outs, two ended on Matt Ryan interceptions, and one resulted in a field goal that should have been a touchdown but for a holding call on Garrett Reynolds negating a Steven Jackson touchdown run.

Throw in the multiple first downs that the Falcons gave up on defense on penalties and 3rd-and-longs, and the Falcons seemed to keep getting in their own way.

The Falcons aren’t a well-coached team right now as they are playing with little passion and fire. They look like a bad team as opposed to a good team that is playing badly.

There still is a little semblance of hope in the forms of the expected returns of wide receiver Roddy White and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon in the near future. Hopefully White comes back next week against Seattle, and Weatherspoon the following week against Tampa Bay.

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All-22 Breakdown: Falcons Offense Needs the Vertical Strike

November 1st, 2013 Comments off

One of the main topics I hit in this past week’s game review and podcast (roughly around the 40-minute mark) was the Falcons inability to stretch the Arizona Cardinal’s defense, and how that must change if the Falcons want to beat the Carolina Panthers this weekend. It’s one thing to read or listen to what I’m seeing, but thanks to the power of screenshots and photo-editing software, I can now show you what I’m talking about.

The Falcons have become a one-dimensional offense thanks to their inability to run the ball effectively. But that hasn’t been a new development in Atlanta, as they were one of the league’s weakest rushing teams a year ago. But they were able to compensate with an efficient passing attack, thanks in part due to the big play potential offered by Julio Jones and Roddy White. A year ago, that pair of receivers combined for 35 catches of 20 or more yards, and 9 catches of 40 or more yards.

While the Falcons generated five 20-plus yard plays against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sans Jones and White, that number fell to two against Arizona. One of the reasons why the Falcons were able to beat the Bucs despite the running backs rushing for a combined 30 yards, was because they were able to generate those big plays in the passing game. The rushing attack only got worse against the Cardinals, with backs combining for a pathetic 14 yards. And without the big plays to compensate, it resulted last Sunday in one of the worst offensive performances of the Falcons and Matt Ryan in years.

I want to outline two plays using screenshots from NFL Game Rewind’s All-22 view to illustrate what I mean by the Falcons inability to get big plays. I think these two plays, if the outcomes are different would have a vastly different impact on the outcome of the Falcons-Cardinals game. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Falcons win the game, but they certainly would have made it much closer and more competitive. And more importantly, moving forward they have to do a better job of taking advantage of similar opportunities when they present themselves.

The first play I want to examine is the very first offensive snap the Falcons had in the second half. Had the Falcons executed on this play as I believe it was drawn up, it certainly would have started the second half with a bang and potentially made the game a one-score game rather than the three-score lead Arizona was able to build shortly after.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 45 “Something’s Gotta Give”

November 1st, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I recap the Falcons disappointing loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, considering it one of the most disheartening losses for the Falcons in years. We also discuss the sense of complacency that seems to surround the Falcons franchise over the years, and this current regime in particular. Other topics: Steven Jackson and the historically bad Falcons running game; Sam Baker vs. Duane Brown; Darius Johnson’s future; Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford headline a stronger 2013 draft class. We then switch focus to the Falcons upcoming matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 9 and look at: the formidable matchup between the Falcons offensive line and the Panthers front seven; break down Cam Newton’s strengths and weaknesses; and whether the Falcons need to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball to get the win.

Ep. 45: Something’s Gotta Give [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 4 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Takeaways from Week 8

October 28th, 2013 2 comments
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

How Much Change Will Arthur Blank Demand in 2014?

The big question last week was whether or not Atlanta’s win over Tampa Bay was because they caught a bad team on the verge of collapse or because the Falcons were finally showing signs of life after a disappointing start to their 2013 season.

Well, judging from their performance on Sunday in their 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, it certainly doesn’t appear to be the latter.

The Falcons season appears to be done as the team now falls to 2-5 and with upcoming matchups against better teams than Arizona in Carolina, Seattle, and New Orleans over the next four games, they will be hard-pressed to get back to .500. While anything is possible on any given Sunday, the Falcons would need so many things to go their way to pull victories over those teams. And very little has gone the Falcons way this year.

Time for the Youth Movement

We’ve reached the point in the year where the main focus is going to be evaluating much of the young talent on the roster. But thanks to the plethora of injuries the Falcons have suffered this year, they already are evaluating a lot of their younger players. Players like Jonathan Massaquoi, Joplo Bartu, Paul Worrilow, Desmond Trufant, and Robert Alford are now logging serious reps on defense. And the Falcons are going to get long looks at their young receivers such as Drew Davis, Darius Johnson, and Levine Toilolo going forward. The positive is that the experience gained by these players should make them better NFL players. Unfortunately for the Falcons, that likely won’t really pay off until 2014 and beyond.

But the Falcons will need to start mixing in other young players more. I’d like to see Ryan Schraeder get mixed into the lineups on game day. He shouldn’t supplant any starter, but he should be given a couple of series here and there. Let’s face it, Jeremy Trueblood is not a long-term option for the Falcons. As explained two weeks ago, due to price tag and draft status, the Falcons have a vested interest in Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes, respectively, seeing the field. But that is not the case with Trueblood even though he hasn’t been the weakest link among the Falcons starting five, he is the most expendable of the group. The Falcons should try to give Schraeder a couple of series in the coming weeks, and see how he handles going up against players like Charles Johnson, Chris Clemons, and Cameron Jordan as an important evaluation tool on his future.

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