I probably should have titled this one ‘Falcons IR Report’ but more on that in a minute. For now we will focus on everything negative about the Falcons 31-24 win over the St. Louis Rams.
Dating back to last year’s playoff, the Falcons find themselves in a pattern of building a lead, only to throttle things back and either hold on for a win, or cave in for a defeat. Seahawks, 49’ers, Saints and now the Rams. It amazes me that the Falcons jumped out to a 21-0 lead only to let the Rams crawl back into the game after the Falcons offense went almost 23 minutes into the second half without a score. Just plain ridiculous.
While I love winning more than losing, and would certainly not call for Coach Mike Smith’s head, at some point you have to say that the team has taken on the nice guy mentality of their head coach. As an example, right before the half, the Falcons were moving for another score. With the game at 21-3, the Falcons could have made a statement by going for a TD. Instead, on second or third down (I forget which) and 14 seconds left and no timeouts, the Falcons opted for a field goal to put the game at 24-3.
No matter what, Coach Smith will get second guessed. Go for the field goal, and armchair QBs (cough … writing this article … cough) criticize for not going for a TD. If the Falcons when for a TD, and Ryan was sacked or turned the ball over, everyone is up in arms for not putting the ‘safe’ three points on the board. When in the Dome, I would rather try to get the TD and fail, instead of sitting back, accepting the field goal, and then going scoreless for 23 minutes. Championship teams have a finishing mentality; the Falcons are still not able to close out games.
The AJC had some pretty harsh grades for the Falcons running backs and o-line; of course I agree with the assessment.
F – Running backs: The running backs rushed 16 times for 36 yards for a paltry 2.3 yards per carry. “We ran the ball six times in the first half; we weren’t very successful at it,” Smith said. “The way the team tried to defend us is going to dictate how we are going to attack them.”
F — Offensive Line: The line didn’t protect Ryan again and didn’t open many holes in the run game. He was sacked twice and hit on eight other plays. They are getting Ryan hit on nearly 25 percent of every pass attempt. Against the Saints he was sacked or hit on 9 of 38 (25.7 percent) drop backs and 10 of 43 (23.2 percent) against the Rams.
The lack of finishing knowhow and the F grades really weren’t the low points. That honor belongs to the IR report. The Falcons suffered a rash of injuries; losing Jackson and Ewing seemed to put the Falcons off balance, ultimately abandoning all attempts at a rushing attack:
Here’s how long the injured players lasted against the Rams — Fullback Bradie Ewing played two snaps, running back Steven Jackson played nine snaps, cornerback Asante Samuel played seven snaps, Weatherspoon played 31 snaps and linebacker Kroy Biermann played 30 snaps.
Unfortunately Ewing and Biermann were lost for the season. For Ewing, it was the second season ending injury in as many seasons. The loss of Ewing will be a blow to the Falcons plans to have some semblance of a ground game; Ewing is a tough blocker and can catch out of the backfield. Losing Biermann is going to be a bitter pill to swallow; ATL could ill afford to lose anyone on an already suspect defense. The d-line has been woefully inadequate, and now it will fall to the depths of being downright pathetic.
If the Ewing and Biermann announcements weren’t bad enough, Sean Weatherspoon will be out until week 11, which may be the one blow to the defense that is too difficult to overcome.
Up next; the Dolphins in Miami. Go Falcons!