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A TDWII Observation: Concern about the tone & focus...


TheDirtyWordII
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Week 1 is always a time to overreact and under react. You're either undefeated or winless. The seasons slate is still black and white. But there have been some undertones around the Falcons over the course of the past month that have me a little uneasy with how this franchise is handling real significant expectations for the first time. I wonder if you feel the same.

One of the common themes that was repeated ad nauseum during TC by Coach Smith was as follows. The goal of our training camp is to come out of it as healthy as possible in Week 1. As an observer, what struck me about this statement was how cautious it was. Listen, I recognize that Coach Smith is a master of saying nothing when he talks. And this could have been one of those filler answers...but to hear that staying healthy is one of the goals was very awkward. What team doesn't want to come out healthy...? Right? It seemed very generic...it felt very safe.

So as we watched the pre-season progress, we watched the offense struggle to perform. While their time on the field was limited, they managed but one offensive TD. While the defense seemed to perform well, against their one true test against the New England Patriots, they were exposed. "Pre-season!" we were told. We haven't started game planning yet...once we start game planning, things will be different. Hmmm...OK. But what teams are game planning right now? Again, it seemed like a very cautious and measured response. And surely, you don't want people jumping off the bridge based off a pre-season performance. But just when it appeared Matt Ryan was about to push the 'let's get our a s s in gear' button after their particularly lackluster effort in Miami, the issue seemed to vanish.

As for Ryan, whenever you read a piece about him this off-season, the same storyline was beaten to death.

- Studying the great QB's in this league

- What I've learned is how much they check down - can't be afraid to do this.

The message was beaten to death. Except, the problem there is this. None of those QB's he studied (Manning, Brees, Brady, et al) had a 6.47 YPA in 2009. They aren't afraid to check down. But they also really stretch and test a defense and have proven that over a significant period of time. In short, they've earned their checkdown stripes. Ryan on the other hand has offered glimpses of this ability, particularly during his rookie year, he's not to a point where defenses are going to respect him enough to give him much room underneath. Adn so, against Pittsburgh...we saw him exit with a palrty 5.7 YPA.

One other thing has gnawed at me. Many of you have commented on Roddy's targets; 23. out of 44 attempts, that a ridiculously large percentage to go to one WR. I can't help but think that Ryan was baited by Polamalu on that INT. Knowing the amount of times he was going to White, Polamalu had to know by the 4th quarter what Ryan's bread and butter was. While it didn't ultimately cost the Falcons the game, it really was an opportunity lost. To be fair, Ryan was facing one of the better defenses in the NFL. But I never felt like Ryan was able to find any type of rhythm and unlock some of the secrets of beating the Steelers. Last night, I watched Joe Flacco get off to an extremely rough start but as the game progressed he took command of it and IMO was the reason the Ravens were able to beat the Jets and their vaunted defense. I saw him get better in a big game in a similar environment, perhaps even more challenging.

Ryan has most definitely had his moments. I harken back to the Giants and Jets games of last year where his grit was essential to getting into OT and the win respectively. But the Ryan we saw Sunday has not taken the next step in his game. That absolutely needs to happen if we are truly going to be SB contenders - no ifs ands or buts.

One last thing...I got the sense that when I was watching the Steelers, I was watching a desparate team. They've started the season with their backs against the wall with Big Ben out for their first 4 games. For them, you'd think that they would be the ones with the "we'll hold the fort" mentality. But I could not help but think that it was the Falcons who were not on the attack. The 4th & 1 decision was a prime example. Take away whether the decision was the right or the wrong one. What it was was the safe one. I wonder, if Mike Smith circa 2008 makes the same call.

I remain extremely optimistic about this season. I have a belief in how the Falcons are being run and the players that have been acquired and put in place to execute to an 11-12 win season. But these are burgeoning concerns that have been festering for the better part of a month and a half that I'm wondering if anyone is sharing to this specific degree.

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DirtyWord,

good stuff as always....Falcons organization as a whole is very vanilla and generic - by design. When times are good(2008) its barely noticeable and when times are more challenging-to-bad(2009 and 2010 pre-season and game#1) its more maddening as you want to see your head coach and GM act more pizzed off. As fans, we love to see the passion.

As a fanbase, maybe we are overreacting but I think why the action was so "over-the-top" if you will is that Game#1 validated most of our concerns that have been brewing over 2009 until now...

When the **** is Matt Ryan going to dominate? What is wrong w/ him? Is he not as good as we all thought he was going to be? Is it Mike Mularkey? I think these are all legit questions. I still believe in Matt but I do not believe in Mularkey - that train has left the station. Others are seeing it as well.

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Good writup, as usual.

One issue I have is with the coach playing for overtime with 40 seconds left and decent field position. Has he forgotten the coin-toss overtime loss last year? Has he forgotten that Ryan won a game in 13 seconds in 2008?

That decision to play safe for overtime really is sticking in my craw. I don't want a weak, timid coach or team. And thats the way that felt to me.

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Good writup, as usual.

One issue I have is with the coach playing for overtime with 40 seconds left and decent field position. Has he forgotten the coin-toss overtime loss last year? Has he forgotten that Ryan won a game in 13 seconds in 2008?

That decision to play safe for overtime really is sticking in my craw. I don't want a weak, timid coach or team. And thats the way that felt to me.

I agree.

And it has stuck with me how conservative we looked the entire game. But that 4 and 1 really bothers me.

I'm not going to comment on individual players because individually, and as a team, i thought we played

pretty darn good.

But i feel like the coaching staff let us (and the team) down with their conservative approach to that game.

It seemed like every play Mularky was calling was the exact opposite play from what i thought he should have called-

I'd be yelling "run the darn ball!" and he'd pass. And when i said "test them deep!" he'd run three times ina row. :wacko:

Oh, and good write-up TDWII

Edited by HouseofEuphoria
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...

Ryan has most definitely had his moments. I harken back to the Giants and Jets games of last year where his grit was essential to getting into OT and the win respectively. But the Ryan we saw Sunday has not taken the next step in his game. That absolutely needs to happen if we are truly going to be SB contenders - no ifs ands or buts.

....

You could also refer back to the home Tampa game in 08 where he threw the game winning 4th quarter TD pass only to have the receiver fumble it at the goal line, the Chicago game, and the Denver game where he came really close to a miraculous last minute TD. Man is the real deal.

We absolutely do need him though, to "rise up" to coin a phrase. I kept expecting him to make the big play like he did in the Jets game.

So, was this just a misstep against a really good D or a sign he just isn't there yet? Don't know- we'll find out over the next few weeks.

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The team had no one to blame but itself, for fans being angry and critical for its poor play on Sunday. The team came out with this Rise Up promotion, even getting Samuel Jackson on board to help sell it to the fans. This is the 3 rd year that TD said he needed to get his guys in place. Blank said its time to start working on winning rings. They reached that several of their guys are ready to take their game to the next level. Like TDWII posted, they said don't worry about what happened in PS. We don't game plan and we don't show all our cards. We heard how MM was going to open things up, use more no-huddle and get the RB's more involved in the passing game.

Then week 1 comes and we look just liked we did in PS. Lost, out of sync, stale, predictable and just plain PS vanilla. Now some will say its just the 1st game, we have 15 more to go. Well that is true. But, this concern is not based off just this 1 game. It goes all the way back to the Arz playoff game, where many Arz players reported that they knew our snap count and what plays 2e would run. We heard other teams say that as well, like Vilma getting the int that killed our chance to win. No doubt that Troy knew exactly where Ryan was going on that int.

Something is seriously wrong and the team needs to respond. They set the expectations high for the fans. Time for them to live up to them. Rise Up!

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One last thing...I got the sense that when I was watching the Steelers, I was watching a desparate team. They've started the season with their backs against the wall with Big Ben out for their first 4 games. For them, you'd think that they would be the ones with the "we'll hold the fort" mentality. But I could not help but think that it was the Falcons who were not on the attack. The 4th & 1 decision was a prime example. Take away whether the decision was the right or the wrong one. What it was was the safe one. I wonder, if Mike Smith circa 2008 makes the same call.

I remain extremely optimistic about this season. I have a belief in how the Falcons are being run and the players that have been acquired and put in place to execute to an 11-12 win season. But these are burgeoning concerns that have been festering for the better part of a month and a half that I'm wondering if anyone is sharing to this specific degree.

Well said. We were the ones playing not to lose just like them. Yeah we were missing Babs but that wasn't the problem. If mularkey cannot instill in this offense the swagger and confidence we need to go into Pittsburg like we expect to win then he needs to be fired today.

I am amazed that we let one player, Troy Polamalu, dictate to our entire offense who was in charge out there. Unreal!!! You have to at least challenge the guy and take advantage of his aggressiveness. Instead, we threw away from him to the point that we looked like we had the 3rd string QB playing not to lose. I am still extremely angry. Make some dam adjustments during the dam game mularkey! 33 up the gut. F U Mularkey, run Norwood to the edges and get him some passes in the flanks and wear their ***** out. Man alive, what is it with this guy. Incompetent just like most of his career.

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I respect you as a poster, but i have to respectfully disagree. I think we're looking too much into everything. I think it would be best if a lot of us just scale back a lil bit.

Just like you said in the 1st paragraph...the first week is a time of overreacting and underreacting. It's a long season fellas!

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I agree.... In College.. Matt Ryan was a gun slinger.... I remember looking at a game where Matt Ryan throw a 50 yard bumb across to the opposite side of the field vs clemson.

I never wanted to throw Murlarkey under the bus but im starting to think he is holding Matt's progression up,... The OC is not opening up the offense enough... He is not using his weapons to there strongest abilities... Part of the blame is on Matt also tho....

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I agree there is a lot of conservative talk. Sort of run away live to fight another day. I was thinking of most of this as saying nothing because it's the offseason where every tiny morsel get's blown out of proportion.

Who is Bill Musgrave other than coaching Brunell. Does he have a conservative mindset and the organization builds around his student? Musgrave was the backup to some pretty big names but then again so was Jim Sorgi. Does that mean he's a good coach?

The new Falcons have become the Patriots south with information control. We all saw that when Meier went down and they said they will definitely not get another WR then Smith admitted he said that because technically they could not get another WR until Meier officially went on IR to open up the spot.

I think the concerns are just a whisper at best for me. If we are at Week 8 and the ball isn't rolling then it is year 3 of the new organization and there will be a lot more than the DBack coach and trainer changing residence.

Overall though, not concerned. This last game was fairly predictable. Let's see a few more to get a better assessment. I just hope were are not in Week 4 or 5 trying to get the run game started again.

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The question of whether or not Polamalu was baiting Ryan on

the interception is moot. He was not even supposed to be in the

area.

Which brings me to my hobby horse in this game which is that

Polamalu should not be allowed to free lance for a whole game

without us extracting a price from him! When he takes off across

the field he leaves a measurable amount of space open somewhere

else. We should have been looking to burn him whenever he left home.

Edited by LADBABY
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The question of whether or not Polamalu was baiting Ryan on

the interception is moot. He was not even supposed to be in the

area.

Which brings me to my hobby horse in this game which is that

Polamalu should not be allowed to free lance for a whole game

without us extracting a price from him! When he takes off across

the field he leaves a measurable amount of space open somewhere

else. We should have been looking to burn him whenever he left home.

Well said. I cannot believe we didnt attempt to bait him and gain some big ground when HD runs into TP vacant spot. The pass that Troy intercepted would have been the perfect time for Ryan to pump fake to Roddy....see TP bite and then hit HD in the space that TP vacated. TD....game over!!! We always take what teams give us, rather than us imposing our will on them.

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One last thing...I got the sense that when I was watching the Steelers, I was watching a desparate team. They've started the season with their backs against the wall with Big Ben out for their first 4 games. For them, you'd think that they would be the ones with the "we'll hold the fort" mentality. But I could not help but think that it was the Falcons who were not on the attack. The 4th & 1 decision was a prime example. Take away whether the decision was the right or the wrong one. What it was was the safe one. I wonder, if Mike Smith circa 2008 makes the same call.

Preaching to the choir.

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The question of whether or not Polamalu was baiting Ryan on

the interception is moot. He was not even supposed to be in the

area.

Which brings me to my hobby horse in this game which is that

Polamalu should not be allowed to free lance for a whole game

without us extracting a price from him! When he takes off across

the field he leaves a measurable amount of space open somewhere

else. We should have been looking to burn him whenever he left home.

But he was supposed to be in the area...That is why he is top knotch. HE knew where Ryan was going.....Our coaches have no effing idea where Troy will be....

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Not worried about the tone and focus, and I think taking the points against a defense that had stymied us all day long was absolutely the right call.

What I am concerned about is this offensive line. I'm not sure if the problem is schematic, physical or both, but this unit continues to get manhandled by good defenses, both in run blocking and in pass protection. Only when this O-line proves that it can get the tough yards against quality defenses on a regular basis will I question whether or not going for it on 4th and short is the correct decision.

Until then, I'm pocketing the sure points everytime and not thinking twice about it.

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Not worried about the tone and focus, and I think taking the points against a defense that had stymied us all day long was absolutely the right call.

What I am concerned about is this offensive line. I'm not sure if the problem is schematic, physical or both, but this unit continues to get manhandled by good defenses, both in run blocking and in pass protection. Only when this O-line proves that it can get the tough yards against quality defenses on a regular basis will I question whether or not going for it on 4th and short is the correct decision.

Until then, I'm pocketing the sure points everytime and not thinking twice about it.

Maybe we should all stop clamoring for a Vincent Jackson trade and beg TD to go after Marcus McNeil instead...

...what I wouldn't give to have McNeil at LT instead of Baker.

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TheDirtyWordII

Yes same way I felt about our play calling.

If you don’t put any pressure on the defense then they will put all the pressure on your offense. They will hold everyone closer to the line. Makes for a shorter field lot less ground to cover, you won’t get as tired quicker to the ball. I can go on and on about it. You should see where I am going with this.

You don’t have to hit the long pass every time, just make sure they know it cloud be used on any play. If you did hit a few long passes GREAT. Then watch how soft the defense gets they will play looking for the chance the team goes deep. They have to make sure no open wide out gets behind them. Guess what that keeps them from cheating up to the line.

If I were a D-Coach about to play Atlanta. I would tell the defense to play tight watch the underneath stuff. Take on the O-Line on every play and stuff the run. If they try and go deep we will adjust. If they don’t we will make them pay. We will beat on them every play.

I tell you a DEFENSE in the NFL will not be tired if you don’t make them run. You play a short game you had better have the biggest players on the field. That way you can blow them up. Atlanta is built for SPEED PEOPLE... COACH!!!

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It's not just this game that Smith has been too conservative IMO. I would like to go back

to a Saints/Falcons game in 2008. Yeah I know, old news, but bare with me. Approximatly

3:00min to go in the 4th quarter,the Falcons down by 4, 4th and 5 on the 35yrd line . The Saints had moved the

ball with ease all game long as did the Falcons. Matt was having a good day throwing the ball.

For those of you that saw the game knows what happened next. Falcons kick the ball, the Saints

get 2 first downs, game over. Ok, your the coach, make the call and tell me what you would do.

In no way was this intended to hijack this great thread. Just trying to make a point about

Mike Smiths play calling.

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Good thread DWII. There is a couple of things that need to concern us as Falcons fans,

1) It is clear that Mike Mularky's play calling harkens to some of the great non-innovators of our recent past with Dan Reeves calling plays too conservative until we were losing a game (Run on 1st down, run on 2nd down or throw to the TE, draw play or throw on 3rd and ten), Greg Knapp was more of the same with a vanilla type offense that was way too predictable to be effective. His typical third down draw plays still make me nauseated. If Mularky cannot perform better than he has then a change needs to be instituted immediately.

2) Our snap counts need to be altered because there was way too many times that the Steelers were in the backfield before Ryan got the ball situated. This happened in the Arizona game in the playoffs as well. Anybody notice that Ryan used to get teams to jump offsides but has not been able to recently? Someone is tipping the snap to the opposing team. Our coaches need to find out what other teams are reading.

3) Whoever said that Jenkins is a liability need only look at how many times Ryan threw the ball to Douglas and he was wide open more times than Ryan threw to him. We did not exploit that enough and neither do we when Jenkins is in there. I believe the steps of progression goes from Gonzo to White to the nearest running back. Why did we not use Norwood more against Pittsburgh? His speed showed that he could move the ball against Pittsburgh.

4)Is it because our offensive line is not as good as we think and I have concerns about the play where Dahl was manhandled and plays where Baker was less than adequate along with the holding call against him. We could not run the ball with Turner or Snelling against the Steelers and we didn't have much time to pass. Is it the O-Line or is it that Gonzalez, as good as he is, has stunted Ryan's growth. As much as I hate to admit it, Ryan has depended too much on Gonzo and it hurts his progression because he doesn't appear to seek out his third or fourth options when he is scanning the field.

5) Defense looked good and I give Van Gorder kudos. That run by Mendenhall should have been called back on Hines Ward for holding Coleman. That was blatant and was not called. BVG needs to blitz more and disguise them better before the snap. I saw times where we showed our hand too early but can't complain too much there based on the results.

6) I will echo what everyone has been saying about Matt Bryant. It would be nice to have a kicker who it is a surprise that they miss a field goal like Morten Andersen instead of the current state of affairs where we are on edge until he makes the kick and nothing is sure until then.

7) While I am on my soapbox I have to say this is the absolute worst I have seen our message board on the look and not being able to post during a game. It is ridiculous to me that in all the incantations of this board we have to be subjected to the conditions this board has deteriorated to on game day. Come on now, surely someone can right this issue immediately. After all, this is 2010 and not the days of DOS.

</endofpost>

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Disagree with you on the Flacco comment. Flacco's specialty is the deep ball. He's bound to get it sometimes. Cam Cameron's willingness to use it getting PI calls on Jet CBs helped them win that game, but Flacco sure as **** wasn't the reason. He looked like hot garbage. Save the ridiculous amount of penalties and the Jets playing Martyball jr. That should have been a massacre.

Dustin Keller running out before the 1st down marker on 4th epitomizes the reason the Ravens won that game. The Ravens offense were given the only TD they got.

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