Ryan and I discuss 2012 free agency and going position by position to look at what prospective free agents that the Falcons could or should target. We each give a bevy of players that we think could be good additions to the team next year. During the course of our discussion, we touch on several current Falcons including Brent Grimes, Michael Palmer, Curtis Lofton, Ray Edwards, Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson, and Spencer Adkins.
I needed an extra day to process and get over this loss. Personally, I was very disappointed with how poorly the Falcons played in this game. But as usual with these reviews, upon re-watching the game, I’m not as upset.
Matt Ryan played very well in this game. The problem the Falcons had in this game offensively was that they had some critical mistakes, particularly penalties and pressure killing a couple of their drives. If there is any complaint I have about Ryan’s performance is that in the third quarter when the Falcons were down 18, I think Ryan started to play a bit too conservatively. Perhaps it was the pressure that was causing him to get rid of the ball a bit too quickly, but he seemed a bit too willing to check the ball down. And then the intentional grounding later that drive in the redzone, forced the team to settle for a field goal. But other than that series, he had one of his better performances.
The running game was a non-factor in this game, and part of that seemed to be by design. It looked like the Falcons entered this game with the intention of throwing the ball, and it was effective for the most part in terms of moving the ball. But drives stalled mainly because of penalties. Rodgers holding penalty was a killer in the second quarter, and the Falcons punting on that drive was probably the major momentum shift.
The Falcons had opportunities to get it back in the third quarter, but again penalties on Svitek and Clabo, as well as pressure given up by Clabo killed subsequent drives. I think Mularkey’s game plan was a pretty good one. Only two complaints were his play calls on 3rd & 1 in the 2nd quarter and 4th & 1 in the 4th, where the Falcons tried a pair of rollouts.
The blocking was not poor, as the Falcons only gave up 3 pressures on 52 dropbacks. But those pressures came at inopportune times. But overall, this was just your typical Falcons-Saints game. The Falcons managed to shoot themselves in the foot a few too many times, and the Saints were able to fully take advantage of those situations. And when the Saints made mistakes, the Falcons were unable to take advantage.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that cornerback Brent Grimes will miss ‘a couple of weeks’ due to minor surgery on his injured right knee that is scheduled to occur tomorrow. Grimes is expected to miss at least two weeks according to Charles Odum of the Associated Press. He left last Sunday’s game early in the first quarter due to the injury, that he suffered reportedly aginst the Lions in late October and has been sore since.
The Falcons are already thin at cornerback with Kelvin Hayden missing today’s practice due to a toe injury and likely to miss this Sunday’s upcoming game against the Houston Texans. Hayden missed last week’s game. In his absence, Chris Owens filled in at the nickel. But due to Grimes injury, Owens is expected to replace him at left cornerback, and Dominique Franks will likely slide into the nickel role.
Also held out of Wednesday’s practice were linebacker Stephen Nicholas (quad), wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring), running back Michael Turner (groin), and defensive tackle Vance Walker (groin). The team also sat defensive end John Abraham, center Todd McClure, and tight end Tony Gonzalez, but not for injury-related reasons. McClure had what was deemed a minor procedure on his knee in late August, and missed a total of three games and was limited in two others due to the injury.
Offensive tackle Sam Baker (back) was limited in Wednesday’s practice. Baker returned for last week’s game, after missing four games. Cornerback Dunta Robinson (neck) was able to fully participate in practice, after suffering a stinger early against the Vikings.
A solid performance for the offense, although there wasn’t anything great about. Matt Ryan had a solid game managing the offense, with only 1 poor throw on the day. Michael Turner had several nice runs and was his old powerful self, breaking tackles on some of them.
The Falcons were able to spread the ball around to different receivers with Julio Jones out of the lineup, with Michael Palmer and Eric Weems getting some action in the passing game. Roddy White had a nice bounce-back game from last week, although he still wasn’t perfect. But he made some nice grabs on the day. Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas also were solid.
The blocking was solid, with Ryan having good protection. Justin Blalock didn’t have a great day, missing 3 blocks, although it is worth noting most of them came when he was pulling or supposed to hit an assignment on the second level. Neither of those two things have ever really been his strength.
Overall, it was a solid performance for the offense. But nothing special. This is the type of game that is giong to be quickly forgotten because there really wasn’t anything notable to happen in it. The struggles the team had converting in the redzone are a chief concern, and it’s hopefully something that can be nipped in the bud.
The Falcons released their injury report this week, and Sam Baker was listed as questionable after limited participation in all three days of practice. Baker missed the past three games with a back injury. Two weeks ago he was reportedly expected to miss 3-4 weeks. He has been replaced by Will Svitek in the team’s past three outings.
Wide receiver Julio Jones was also listed as questionable, despite not practicing all week due to re-aggravating a hamstring injury in last week’s loss to the Saints. Jones suffered the original injury in a Week 5 loss against the Packers, missed two games, but then returned two weeks ago to have a big game against the Colts. If Jones is unable to go on Sunday, he will be replaced by Harry Douglas who is coming off a career high performance against New Orleans.
Expected to miss a second consecutive game is William Moore (quadricep), as he also did not practice this week. James Sanders will start in place of him at strong safety.
Several other players were listed as probable for this weekend’s game against the Tennessee Titans. Harry Douglas (thigh), Ray Edwards (knee), and Antone Smith (knee) all were able to participate fully in the past two days of practice and were probable. Brent Grimes (knee) and Jason Snelling (hamstring) were both limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but participated fully in Friday’s practice. Curtis Lofton (ankle) was added to the injury report after Thursday, but also went full bore on Friday. John Abraham and Todd McClure were also included on the injury report, but only because both were held out of Wednesday’s practice for non-injury related rest. They had full participation in both Thursday and Friday’s practices.
The Titans linebacker corps is shaken up with starters Gerald McRath (hamstring) and Barrett Ruud (groin) both listed as questionable on their injury report. Both were able to practice fully on Friday. Backup linebacker Colin McCarthy (knee) is also questionable after missing the last two days of practice. Defensive end Dave Ball will miss the game with a concussion.
Here are my picks for the Falcons players most deserving of these superlative awards through the first half of the 2011 season:
Offensive MVP: Tony Gonzalez
This was tough because in recent games, Michael Turner is probably the most valuable player on offense. When Turner runs well, the Falcons tend to win. But I thought Gonzo is deserving because he’s been consistent throughout the entire first half of the season. Turner was pretty average through the first 4 games of the year, although part of that could be blamed on the changes up front. But he just didn’t look like the same Michael Turner that he has been in the past month. He’s now running harder than he was early on, and thus part of his struggles were on him. With that said, Gonzo has been money throughout the year, particularly in the redzone where he is basically our entire redzone offense. Another reason for putting him here, is because I was one of those people that thought after last year, Gonzo was done. Still a solid, productive tight end, but no longer one of the best at his position. Boy, has he shown me I was dead wrong. He still has the best hands in the business, and while his explosiveness isn’t what it once was, he still has made a number of big plays at critical moments in games.
Defensive MVP: Sean Weatherspoon
If you had to pick one Falcon defender that is truly deserving of making the Pro Bowl this year, then it’s definitely Spoon. He’s been playing lights out all year long, making plays vs. the run, as a pass rusher, and in coverage. He’s been a valuable every down defender. While Spoon hasn’t been perfect, like Gonzalez on offense he has made his presence known in virtually every game. While he flashed this level of ability early on as a rookie, he’s taken things to a brand new level. And if he maintains this level of play in the second half of the season, he should definitely be on his way to Hawaii. If I had to choose a runner-up, it would probably be Brent Grimes. But he’s not having quite the impact he was having a year ago, partially because teams are not throwing at him as often as they did a year ago. But Grimes is staying playing at a fairly high level, just isn’t getting as many opportunities to make those big, game-changing impact players like he was a year ago.
Special Teams MVP: Matt Bryant
Who else would you pick? “Money” Matt Bryant has been everything his nickname indicates he should be.
The Falcons were effective with their ball control attack in this game. The secret to their success was mainly their defense, but more on that later. It was a good day and a good win, and we might look back at it later this season and might say this one salvaged our 2011 season. That is of course, if the Falcons can build off this win after the bye and have some momentum going into the second half of the season.
Michael Turner had a solid day rushing, and Jacquizz Rodgers had a nice run to finish the game. I know I sound like a broken record, but I still wonder why the Falcons don’t use him more. Every time he touches the ball, good things seem to happen.
Matt Ryan did not have a great game. He did well early on third downs, but in the second half his accuracy, touch, and timing started to deteriorate, which is why he had the high number of poor throws (10). It’s been a while since Ryan had that many off throws in a game. He had some nice throws and plays (notably his TD pass to White), but overall it was a very hot and cold, inconsistent performance. I’m sure the ankle injury didn’t really help matters in the second half.
And the Falcons did a fairly good job handling the Lions pass rush. Their problem was the amount of missed blocks in the ground game. Garrett Reynolds really struggled in this game with a bunch of missed blocks and his penalties. Part of it was blocking Suh, part of it was his bum ankle, but most of it was just him not being that good. Outside the play where he stepped on Ryan’s ankle, Svitek had a solid game filling in for Sam Baker.
Congratulations are due to Tony Gonzalez for his his accomplishment as the game’s second leading all-time receiver. He had a solid game. Both White and Douglas also had solid games as well.
Probably a no-brainer this week. Has to be Corey Peters’ one-handed grab for the INT to pretty much seal the win for the Falcons in the fourth quarter.
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.
Tom Van Riper of Forbes.com lists Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson as the second most overpaid player in the league, behind New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Atlanta Falcons’ cornerback Dunta Robinson, whose $5.5 million salary places him in the top ten at his position despite the fact that he’s never made All Pro and who is ranked by ESPN as the NFL’s 19th best corner.
I wonder if Van Riper factored in the $40,000 hit that Robinson’s salary took this week?
Is Robinson overpaid? Yes. The Falcons paid him to be a premiere No. 1 corner, and he is not, nor is he ever going to be. That ship sailed a long time ago. But Robinson does contribute to this team despite a less than stellar performance last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Part of the problem is that Robinson probably won’t ever reach his full potential in the Falcons defensive scheme. Robinson shined as a press man corner with the Houston Texans, but the Falcons seem to like to put him in a lot more zone and off coverage.
But even if the Falcons did play a lot more press man, that still wouldn’t change the fact that Robinson is making more money than he’s worth. But the truth is the Falcons weren’t paying Robinson based on his ability, they were paying him based on stability. While Robinson certainly isn’t a Top 10 No. 1 corner like he’s being paid like, he is one of the better No. 2 corners around the league. And with Brent Grimes on the other side, who definitely has performed like a Top 10 No. 1 corner at various points during the past year or so, it gives the Falcons a very good pair of starting corners.
Now if only the Falcons can stabilize their nickel cornerback situation, things will be looking very good for them in the secondary. Kelvin Hayden definitely gave them reason for optimism last week.