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Falcons Must Bounce Back Quickly For Saints Clash


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Falcons must bounce back quickly for Saints clash

JOHN MANASSO |

Published: Monday, November 18, 2013, 6:14pm

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith might have hedged last week when asked if he would go to young players during the team’s bitterly disappointing season.

But after the club's latest non-competitive loss, major personnel changes — as signified late in the game — could be on the way.

The Falcons don't have much time to regroup before their Thursday home meeting with the New Orleans Saints. Smith and his staff also won't have much time to extensively evaluate the Sunday film. However, the coach said the Falcons still have "to look at all options."

The 2-8 Falcons are coming off a 41-28 loss to the Buccaneers, a winless team just eight days ago.

After Sunday's debacle, in which the Falcons trailed by 32 points late in the third quarter, owner Arthur Blank publicly expressed confidence in both Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff — citing their shared history of four playoff appearances in their first five seasons.

In short, Blank believes Smith and Dimitroff merit more time to turn things around.

Smith appreciates the support of Blank, CEO Rich McKay and Dimitroff, but he's also too focused on Thursday's game, which may include more lineup changes.

"I felt like the moves helped us in some areas and hindered us in others," Smith said on Monday, "so we will continue to tweak the play time of our players as we move through this last part of the season. We've got to find a combination where we feel we give ourselves the best opportunity to win."

Among the most worrisome personnel changes from Sundasy involved offensive lineman Peter Konz, the team's highest draft pick in 2012 (the Falcons didn't have a first-rounder that year).

Konz, who started 10 games last season at right guard and this year's first nine games at center, started on Sunday at right guard, with Joe Hawley replacing him at center. Konz lasted only 17 plays, helping to allow three sacks in Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

The Falcons benched Konz for the remainder of the game, replacing him with Garrett Reynolds.

For the upcoming offseason, one of Atlanta's biggest projects will be to rebuild the offensive line, which ranks 31st in the NFL in rushing and has been unable to protect quarterback Matt Ryan adequately. If the Falcons eventually give up on Konz, it would represent a major bust with an important pick.

When asked if Konz has regressed, Smith said when the Falcons made the change, they put their five best offensive linemen on the field. Apparently, that group did not include Konz.

"We made a switch on Sunday in terms of moving some guys around," Smith said. "We were trying to put what we felt like was our best five through our evaluation. We didn't get the production that we’d like. Our quarterback got hit three times. He got hit early in the ballgame after a fairly fast start in moving the ball down the field; we gave up two sacks and it knocked us out of field goal range.

"Peter was playing a different position, a position he had played last year for the most part and it was a combination that we put out there and we ended up changing it as the game progressed," Smith said.

Konz, in comments distributed by the team after the game, said he needs to do a better job of learning from his mistakes.

"Right now, it's really not about me," he said. "It's about the team and how we can all move forward."

Prior to Sunday, Hawley hadn't started a game since the 2011 campaign. He was one of only three linemen to play 100 percent of the snaps against the Bucs, the other two being left tackle Lamar Holmes and left guard Justin Blalock.

Smith thought Hawley did a "nice job" at center.

Ryan Schraeder, an undrafted free agent out of Division II Valdosta State, also got some snaps on Sunday. He replaced Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle and played 22 snaps.

Smith also said that Antone Smith, mostly a special-teams player in four seasons with the Falcons, would get more opportunities on offense. Smith ran the ball twice for 88 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown.

"I think it's going to be imperative to get Antone incorporated into our offense," Smith said, "You saw his speed and his ability to make people miss."

On defense, free safety Thomas Decoud's job could be in jeopardy. DeCoud was replaced by 2013 seventh-round pick Zeke Motta, who was inactive for three of the season's first four games.

Motta played 26 snaps, or 38 percent, totaling one sack.

At 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, Motta is more of a strong safety but the Falcons had him play the free safety spot, opposite William Moore.

"I thought he did OK in that spot," Smith said. "He's a guy that has body type more of a strong safety, but he has some athleticism to play free safety. ... I thought he did a pretty good job. It was the first time he had any significant play time in the regular season."

As for other changes, one potentially explosive one would be if the Falcons elected to bench left cornerback Asante Samuel, in favor of rookie Robert Alford.

The Falcons made that change late in the game Sunday. Samuel possesses a sharp tongue and can be prone to his share of antics. If the Falcons choose to bench Samuel, they could risk a major outburst from the veteran.

Such are the perils of a season turned completely upside down.

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Bounce back? , Should be no problem with our "resilient bunch" right Smitty ? When you are praising O-linemen for doing a "nice job" after getting your azz handed to you that's a sure fire sign of being delusional and oblivious to what is going on in front of your own eyes. Both TD and Smitty cant seem to see clearly what is really going on with schemes, talent level, play calling, its like they are satisfied and are in need of a few healthy players back and a patch here and there and they'll be fine.

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Bounce back quickly? How 'bout bouncing back period?! angry.png

you ever seen a basketball that has no pimples left its just a smooth brownish color ball........ and it goes flat all the time HeII we need to put some air in the ball before we try to bounce anywhere..... then next year we just get a new ball!!!!

bouce back to what......? i could see us at 7-1 with back to back loses making us 7-3 then yeah we gotta bounce back but 2-8 blown out in last 4 games

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MB says team has no heart and mailed it in. Says we're tanking the season. Team says we're going take pride in yourselves, fight back and try to bounce back. MB asks why, says to just lay down, continue to get embarrassed and laughed at. We're fine with being a joke. Having backups post pro bowl numbers against us is acceptable. Let's tuck tail and get whipped like rented mules all in the pursuit of a high draft pick. We all know we only need this 1 top 3 pick to turn this thing around.

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Shoot the only thing bouncing back for the Falcons is going to be tickets come next year.

People should just mail Blank a blank check with void on it next year and tell him when you put a team on the field then we will pay to come see it. Plus please send me a refund for last years crap team you let play.

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On defense, free safety Thomas Decoud's job could be in jeopardy. DeCoud was replaced by 2013 seventh-round pick Zeke Motta, who was inactive for three of the season's first four games.

All of those non and missed tackles, touchdowns yielded directly or indirectly and it's still only 'could be in jeopardy.' I guess that could be good news.

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It looks like Smitty has no confidence whatsoever in Konz and pretty much said he is not one of starters going forward. We are probably taking this time to see if Hawley has what it takes to play center. I dont care if about Samuel mouthing off if we bench him, he has played terrible. It is about time that Smitty stop accepting terrible play from his players and continuing to play them just because they are vets and had been starters. We need to Let Holmes and Schroder play the tackle positions.

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