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Why Do Falcons Fans Feel So Nervous Or Unfulfilled?


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Atlanta Falcons: Birds Squeak by Raiders to 6-0

10:56 pm October 15, 2012, by Dawson Devitt (D3)

Another Win with a Sloppy Effort

The Atlanta Falcons are the only undefeated team in the NFL, so why do fans feel so nervous or unfulfilled? After roaring out of the gates to a 3-0 start and looking excellent in all phases of the game, the Birds have come back to Earth a bit and looking pedestrian in all areas of the game, especially on offense. On one hand, the team is showing mettle, heart, and determination in finding ways to win, even if very ugly. However, if it continues for several weeks, a disturbing trend begins to take shape and what once was a strength starts to become a weakness because the team is putting itself in positions to have to win at the last minute due to the overall poor play. The fact is that the Falcons are 6-0, even though they’ve not looked very good lately. But isn’t getting a win, however you attain it, better than losing? Many teams thought to be “dominant” by the media elite talking heads have suffered losses to teams believed to be at the bottom. That speaks to NFL’s parity and winning the first 6 games, however it’s done, is a testament to the Falcons, their coaches, and their players. Whether or not it will serve to benefit or harm in the future is yet to be determined, but the reality is that the Falcons are undefeated and 31 other teams are not. A look at the Raiders game……….

Once a Strength is Becoming a Weakness

At first, it was a great strength showing determination, mettle, and finding a way to win at the last second. The Falcons didn’t play great against an inspired Panthers team coming off a bye week. They willed themselves to a win with less than a minute. Then came a Redskins game that was filled with major mistakes, slogging around, until they finally put together a TD drive and subsequent defensive stand to win the game. OK, it’s on the road and the Redskins have shown a lot of promise. A third week in a row of not playing good is a disturbing trend and is now becoming a weakness. Fact is, the Falcons are putting themselves in these situations where they must scratch and claw from behind to win the game. No other series identifies it better: Asante Samuel makes a beautiful pick six to seemingly put the game away. Then the Raiders offense commences to go right down the field to score with two minutes and not needing any of their 3 timeouts. Once a great strength of character and will is simply becoming a product a weak and sloppy play.

Matt Ryan's Bad, Bad Day

Let’s all hope it was just one of those days because it was a really bad one. Ryan threw 3 interceptions (all weren’t necessarily his fault), but some were. He seemed to have happy feet due to poor offensive line play. Not all was on him, but he had plenty of bad throws and misfires all on his own. He missed open receivers, threw the ball high, and generally had an awful day all around. Maybe it was just a bad day against a well-schemed defense. Perhaps the play-calling didn’t help any. The lack of running game surely isn’t helping and neither are the drops. Ryan’s had an excellent year to date, but he needs a game like he had vs. San Diego to erase the Raiders performance.

Abraham the Ageless Wonder

Thank goodness the Falcons found a way to keep John Abraham. The guy is a complete stud and is warming up his Ring of Honor flag as we speak. We as fans always mention Tony Gonzalez when discussing a Falcon that defies age. But Abraham deserves that praise too. He turned 34 this year and many (including this author) wondered how much he had left in the tank. Well, he’s proving once and for all just how awesome he is and by default how anemic our pass rush is without him. He notched 3 sacks, forced a fumble at a crucial time, and got several holding calls against him. In short, he was unblockable. Already, he has 6 sacks in 6 games. Abraham is the man.

Does the Offensive Line Need a Shakeup?

No, it wasn’t the worst performance of the year (that would be Carolina with 7 sacks in one game), but this offensive line is causing heartburn for Falcons fans looking forward on the schedule when they play really good defensive lines. They weren’t outright terrible in pass blocking in the beginning of the season, but now they’re looking as bad as last year. And run blocking is another nightmare altogether. But really, how much should have been expected with the EXACT SAME starting offensive line as last year?

Baker is a little better, but not dominant. Blalock is the only rock on the team. Todd McClure is on the downside of 35. Garrett Reynolds is only slightly better than last year and that’s saying very little and many think he would be better at his natural position of tackle anyway. And then there’s Tyson Clabo. He has had an absolutely atrocious year. They’re just not getting it done and it shows. Sure, Michael Turner and the running backs aren’t making plays and the play-calling seems mediocre at best recently, but this is what most fans expected when literally no changes were made. Thomas Dimitroff deserves some criticism for the past of the this line, but he used his first two picks (2nd on Peter Konz, 3rd on Lamar Holmes) on offensive linemen. Why not try these guys out for a few series and see what happens? Why not mix it up some and move some of these guys around? Is one of the best overall linemen in the entire draft (Konz) really not good enough to start somewhere on this offensive line? Of all the issues that's most maddening fans: Mike Smith and the coaching staff's refusal to try anything different regarding the offensive line two years running.

Speed Needed at Running Back

This may just be an excuse in trying to make up reasons why the offense has been doing so poorly, but here goes: the Falcons need more speed in the backfield. It’s been well documented here in The Cage about Michael Turner and his slowing down or not fitting in this new offense among many other things. The Falcons coaching staff decided to go with Turner as their feature back this year and, even though a few times he’s done OK, mostly he’s looked completely out of sorts with this new offense. Gone are the days of one of the best lead blocking (and highest paid) fullbacks in the league clearing holes, the days of a power-run first offense, and offensive line opening “garage-sized holes” as Cage member SOMEBODY said. The best running backs in the league simply slow down as they approach 30 years old and especially with Turner having so many carries in such a short amount of time.

The issues go beyond Turner, however. Jacquizz Rodgers was thought to be somewhat of an answer and may even contend for close to 40-50% of Turner’s touches, but that surely has not been the case. Maybe it’s play-calling or just lack of playing time, but Rodgers has not turned into the player many fans expected. On the 3rd and 1 toss play to Rodgers, he had room to get the first down, but was easily caught and dropped for a loss. Even his specialty of catching the ball in space had issues when he bobbled a well-timed screen that could have gone for many yards. The odd man out has definitely been Jason Snelling. Many ream the call to give Snelling the ball on 3rd and short, but many times he tends to run just as hard as Turner and does a better job of hitting the hole. The cold truth is that the Falcon simply don’t have speed at running back and haven’t for quite some time. Antone Smith has shown some serious speed in pre-season only to never get touches in a game. What could it hurt? Look no further than Alfred Morris of the Redskins and Andre Brown of the Giants (filling in for Ahmad Bradshaw) tearing it up this year alone. Like the OL issue, that’s a major thorn for fans as well, a refusal to mix it up and give some guys a few chances. From where it stands now, running back surely could be a candidate for a 1st or 2nd round pick in 2013.

Defensive Tackle Could Use a Corey Peters Boost

Peria Jerry, Jonathan Babineaux, and Vance Walker have done a good job getting penetration in the backfield so far this season. Thought to be a possible weakness, they’ve done an admirable job overall. But they sure could use a boost, especially in the run game from a guy by the name of Corey Peters. Believed to be the best overall defensive tackle for the Falcons by many fans, Peters has been out the entire season going all the way back to training camp. He may not be ready for the Eagles game, but getting him back on a defense that could tighten up will be a nice shot in the arm.

More Issues at LB

Not having Stephen Nicholas at full strength really has shown just how fragile the Falcons linebacking corps is. Akeem Dent and Mike Peterson were on the field at the same time many times throughout the game, with Dent playing the entire game. Dent occasionally shows some promise as a very young player in the run game, but he’s just as lost as Curtis Lofton was in pass coverage. As the season wears on, the decision to not sign a linebacker for backup purposes may end up biting the Birds at some point.

Why is the Offense Digressing?

Is it the anemic run game? Is it the offensive line? Is Matt Ryan simply coming off his hot start? Are defenses figuring out what the Falcons want to do? Is it just execution, or is it bad play-calling? Who knows exactly why the Falcons have continued to devolve on offense the last three weeks, but this much is certain: it definitely has. The Falcons looked unstoppable against a pretty good San Diego defense, but has hit a wall of sorts since. They left many points on the board vs. Carolina and gave up 7 sacks. They played 3 quarters of weak offensive football in DC before finally getting it together. And they looked as bad as they ever have against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Whatever the reason, the coaching staff and offense better get some things figured out before a tough part of the schedule starts coming up.

Harry Douglas Needs More Snaps

This is nothing new and it has nothing to do with that spectacular off-the-helmet catch he made on the ground, but Harry Douglas should get not only more snaps on offense, but more touches as well. The idea is that it’s impossible to cover all of the Falcons aerial weapons, but despite only a few occurrences, Douglas just doesn’t get that many looks. Either that or Dirk Koetter doesn’t know how to use him correctly. Seemingly, it would be a coordinators dream to have such an explosive slot man (and to his credit, he’s giving him more looks than Mularkey did), but he never seems to get chances to do what he does best which is to catch and run in space. Perhaps this is more of a critique on formations (3 receiver, 1 TE, single back) sets than anything else, but if you’re going to be an explosive passing team, you have to maximize all your weapons and the slot doesn’t seem to be getting enough snaps or targets. No disrespect intended, but do we really want to see Mike Johnson / Joe Hawley as a 3rd TE, Lousaka Polite, or Tommy Gallarda get on the field instead of HD?

The Tight End Cupboard is Bare After Gonzalez

This is really more about going forward than this year, but Sunday’s game brought to light just how bare the tight end cupboard will be when Gonzalez does finally hang up his cleats. Michael Palmer is hurt and there’s a belief that he can at least bridge a gap until a new tight end is developed, but after that, there’s not much. Tommy Gallarda is about exactly what he was coming out of college: an undrafted free agent. And this is really more on Dimitroff than anyone. He’s not invested any consequential draft picks on tight ends since 2008. In fact, the only tight end he’s ever drafted was Keith Zinger in the 7th round. Palmer may can get it done, but the position as a whole looks to be getting a huge hit when Gonzalez leaves.

Falcons Must Develop Another Defensive End

As mentioned above, thank goodness for John Abraham, because without him, the Falcons wouldn’t have much of any pass rush from the DE spot. As with tight end, the Falcons have failed to develop any significant production or player from the defensive end spot not named John Abraham. This is year 5 of the Mike Smith / Thomas Dimitroff regime and despite all the supposed talent at DE, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of promise. Ray Edwards appears to be looking more and more like a weak free agent move (as many fans, including this author admit through gritted teeth). Kroy Biermann should move permanently to linebacker, his natural position, most fans believe and is too light to make an impact at DE. Then there’s Lawrence Sidbury who some thought may see an increased role under Mike Nolan, only to continue his disappearing act in 2012. Jonathan Massaquoi and Cliff Matthews may hold some talent, but they’re always ending up on the inactive list every Sunday. The Falcons signed Abraham to a 3 year contract, so theoretically they have a few more years, but they’ve already had 5.

Fans Seem to Be Pretty Evenly Split

Here in The Cage, it appears to be pretty evenly split among fans and their beliefs / opinions. Some feel that the NFL is the most parity-driven sport in the entire world and that “Any Given Sunday” is a true reality in that each win is special in the National Football League. Hard to argue when you see teams like the Patriots, Packers, 49ers, and Steelers losing games many think they shouldn’t. The Falcons may not be flawless, but they’re finding ways to win and are, so far, the only undefeated team in the NFL. It’s hard to argue against that belief.

On the other hand, fans rightly point to similarities to 2010 when the Falcons were “finding ways to win” as they are now, while not playing great football, went 13-3, and got downright embarrassed in the Debacle in the Dome. In other words, not only losing in back-to-back playoff appearances, but getting blown out and humiliated has corroded the idea of “getting the benefit of the doubt.” There’s nothing the Falcons can do about the postseason right now but win and get there, but those 2010 Falcons seemed to be getting worse as the postseason approached, not better. It’s also hard to argue that point as well.

The Bird Cage Faithful's Turn

1) Simple Kickoff – where’s your confidence level after week 6?

2) Are the come-from-behind wins still a strength or are they now a weakness?

3) What was up with Matt Ryan’s bad day: one awful game or disturbing trend?

4) Is John Abraham nearing potential Ring of Honor status soon? Can he keep up this pace all season?

5) Is the Falcons offensive line finally due for a shakeup? What would your starting 5 be at Philly?

6) What should the Birds do @ RB? Is more speed desperately needed?

7) What’s your thoughts on the DT play?

8.) Are the LB issues keeping you up at night? Thoughts on Dent?

9) It’s an impossible question, but why is the offense digressing so bad?

10) Should Harry Douglas or others get more touches?

11) What should the Falcons do about TE after Gonzalez retires?

12) What is the deal with the Falcons failure to develop ANY OTHER defensive end?

13) What side do you fall on: happy to 6-0 and plenty of time to correct problems or seriously worried about what the future holds?

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Guest Negatorris

There are about 50 articles, and complaints about this. Smitty should just post it all over the locker room and let the players see it. Maybe the Falcons will stop regressing and making everyone go crazy.

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I was not surprised to see the last 3 games coming down to the wire. I also wasn't nervous for the Falcons. This years team looks more able to overcome their problems. Everything that has happened seems to be good for character building IMO. The Falcons are on a roll, and the players are thinking that they'll win no matter what.

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I don't get the winning ugly argument. All teams have expectations. All teams have paid coaches and players. All teams have owners who hold their coaches and staff accountable.

We're 6-0. The regular season is there to settle out playoff seedings. This isn't college ball where the difference between programs is so distant. There are no homecoming games on an NFL schedule. The Panthers had plenty of 'experts' who thought they would challenge for the division this year. Ask anyone on the Steelers' staff what kind of pushover the Oakland Raiders are this season.

A football game is made up of roughly 120-140 plays. One dropped pass, one missed kick, one fumble or one interception can decide the outcome of an NFL contest. One game doesn't dictate who you are as a football team during the regular season. How many 'upsets' were there last Sunday? Take the Patriots game for instance. Do you think the Patriots are a good team? Do you think losing to the Seahawks means the Hawks are a better team than the Pats? If you had to pick one team to play in the SB between the Hawks and the Pats who would you choose?

Six weeks into the regular season and you have the pundits talking about playoff failures. How the heck are we suppose to win a playoff game in October?

I'll take being 6-0 over any other alternative six weeks into the season.

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1. My confidence level after week 6 is at the lowest point of the season. The bright promise of the first three huge wins has not been slightly tarnished, it's been totally trashed.

2. The come-from-behind wins are a sign of weakness. They could only be signs of strength if they were against the top-tier teams in the league. They were not.

3. Matt Ryan is playing very poorly over the past three games. Much below what would be expected of a top-tier QB with more than four seasons as a starter under his belt. Even considering the crappy OLine and the pitiful pass protection, Ryan needs to cut down on the rookie-level mistakes like the ill-considered interceptions and getting sacked instead of getting rid of the ball.

4. John Abraham has already earned his place in the Ring of Honor even if he were to never get another sack in his career.

5. Not only is it time for a shake-up of this offensive line, serious consideration should be given to a complete dismantling and give the second-string and rookies a shot. They couldn't possibly be much worse. Clabo has been a major disappointment. He and Reynolds should give back three-fourths of their paychecks and voluntarily give up their positions as starting linemen. Smith and Pat Hill need to quit coddling this bunch of pretenders and sit at least half of them down and give others a chance. They're pathetic.

6. The coaches need to sort out the steaming pile that is the OL before they try to figure out what's going on at RB. The RB's may not be as big a problem as it appears.

7. The defensive tackles have really not distinguished themselves, but there are some bright spots with Babineaux and Walker. I'd like to see how things go when Peters returns.

8. The MLB position for the Falcons right now is basically null and void. Dent is light-years away from even being an Arena Football League 'backer. Get him the hail outta here.

9. The offense has regressed because the offensive schemes have been poor to flat-out pathetic, Ryan's play has plummeted, the WRs are dropping passes and the RBs have not played well enough to motivate the OL to play harder and give them more room to run. The whole offensive ball of wax has swirled down the toilet and nobody on the coaching staff seems to have done anything to sound the alarm and get the fire re-lit under these players, especially the OL.

10. Yes, unquestionably HD should get more touches. Ryan needs to start looking for people other than TG, RW and JJ. He's hurting his team and making things easier for the defense by simply choosing who he's going to throw to the minute the ball is snapped. Even with OL problems, he still has time to find his secondary receivers, he's just gotten too lazy and complacent with what has worked up to this point in the season. He's a veteran QB now, he needs to start showing it with a more cerebral approach to moving the ball.

11. The Falcons are going to have to invest a high draft pick to get another premium TE when TG retires. That's Ryan's go-to whenever he's in trouble and the if Falcons don't have somebody up to the task, Ryan and the offense are going to have serious trouble getting first downs and sustaining drives.

12. The failure to develop any DE's behind Abraham must be laid at the doorstep of Dimitroff and Smith. They have known for years the pass rush is non-existent beyond Abe. Even more damning of the coaches is they haven't even bothered to give Massaquoi or Matthews a shot just to see what they can do. Not having the cap room to go out and buy a proven DE is one thing, to not give the young players on your team a chance is just stupid and inexcusable.

13. Needless to say, the 6-0 record doesn't mean squat considering the way this team has performed the past three weeks. That 6-0 start is going to turn into a bittersweet reminder of the promise this team started this season with if they continue to slide backward in all phases of the game as they're doing now. At the moment Matt Bryant is bout the only star on this team who is showing up and performing like a real champion. Yes, there is time left to correct the problems, only so far we haven't seen any corrections and the overall play is getting steadily worse. There comes a point where no matter how hard the coaches try to plug the leaks, the dyke just gives way from massive weaknesses and the whole season could wash away into another year of disappointment and failure.

Edited by PokerSteve
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Kind of like the Braves fans in the 90's, impressive in the regular season but come playoff time, there was an expectation that they were going to disappoint. I hope that isn't the case this year.

From a Mark Bradley article:

"The only stat that matters is wins and losses. That’s true. Also true is this: The 11-5 Falcons of 2008 were beaten in the playoffs by the 9-7 Cardinals; the 13-3 Falcons of 2010 were upset in the playoffs by the 10-6 Packers, and the 10-6 Falcons of 2011 were undone by the 9-7 Giants. So sometimes you aren’t quite what your record says you are."

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From a Mark Bradley article:

"The only stat that matters is wins and losses. That’s true. Also true is this: The 11-5 Falcons of 2008 were beaten in the playoffs by the 9-7 Cardinals; the 13-3 Falcons of 2010 were upset in the playoffs by the 10-6 Packers, and the 10-6 Falcons of 2011 were undone by the 9-7 Giants. So sometimes you aren’t quite what your record says you are."

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I am sick of the 2010 thing. If anyone remembers how they felt in week 6 of 2010 you will remember this feels NOTHING LIKE THAT.

We were 4-2.

We had 3 offensive flops but 2 of those ended in losses. Not just losses, HUMILIATING losses.

Our one win in that set required a miracle save by Roddy.

We had 2 convincing wins against scrub QBs. We lost to a scrub QB too because we could not score an offensive TD. happy.png

Our best outing was against the Saints but another is a series of special team 3-stoogeries gave them a chance to win. Luckily they declined the offer.

The only game we really should have lost (like the Saints game that year) was the Panthers game. Ryan's last minute drive against Oakland didn't save the game it just prevented it from being decided in OT.

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Except t

Kind of like the Braves fans in the 90's, impressive in the regular season but come playoff time, there was an expectation that they were going to disappoint. I hope that isn't the case this year.

Except the Braves made it to the World series pretty much everytime in the 90s. 5 times from like 92-99. Something along those lines.

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Were nervous because we have been let down multiple times. sad.png

I can understand this question coming from a Falcon fan not from Atlanta, but I think it's completely normal to be skeptical as an Atlanta sports fan. We have been let down do many times whether its GA getting a lot of hype, only to blow it in a must win, big time game. Or whether it's the Braves losing year after year with the best pitching rotation in baseball,and to inferior teams. Or, whether it's the Falcons letting us down. We've had some great teams here in Atlanta, but every year, they somehow find a way to get your hopes up. The Falcons are doing a great job of changing the perception, but this shaky 6-0 start doesn't equate to post-season success. We've proven we can get to the playoffs, much like the Braves and Hawks, but winning beyond the regular season is another thing. I can never blame a local fan for being skeptical.

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Falcons went 13-3 and was number 1 seed in 2010 played a opponent we beat in regular season only to be thoroughly embarrassed in playoffs. Some fans feel nothing has changed . Yes the coordinators have changed and we all feel Nolan is much better then BVG ever was . Falcons are 6-0 but some serious holes that can be exploited in playoffs . We are not dominant 6-0 team . Some fans feel the NYG and GB have a higher ceiling and when they need to have that top performance from team as whole they elevate there play . The Giants and Packers also have clutch and better QB play and that is important in playoffs. Yes Ryan is clutch in 2 mins but he has not been clutch in playoffs while ELI AND RODGERS have so until Ryan and Falcons have post season success Im sure there is guarded optimism about what lies ahead

Falcons will either take the next step as a franchise in playoffs or we will fall back to mediocrity like the SD CHARGERS who never took that next step and get to that Super Bowl team while being a regular season consistent winner

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Falcons went 13-3 and was number 1 seed in 2010 played a opponent we beat in regular season only to be thoroughly embarrassed in playoffs. Some fans feel nothing has changed . Yes the coordinators have changed and we all feel Nolan is much better then BVG ever was . Falcons are 6-0 but some serious holes that can be exploited in playoffs .

Do you remember what it was like week 6 of 2010? Stop projecting how you feel about the entire season because you have NO idea what you will feel like later this year. If you don't see a massive improvement through 6 weeks of this year compared to 2010 you are blind.

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