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Jeff Schultz - Losses Like This Are On Smith


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Falcons’ losses like this are on Smith

Posted: 9:39 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014

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By Jeff Schultz - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



MINNEAPOLIS — These are the kinds of games where you look beyond a team’s obvious physical limitations and address other issues.

These are games where you ask: What is going on between the ears? What has everybody been doing since the last game 10 days ago — straining muscles from excessive back-slapping, getting fat and cocky about a win over Tampa Bay?

What does a 41-28 loss to the remains of the Minnesota Vikings, whose offense was missing its best player (Adrian Peterson), was directed by a rookie quarterback and yet still managed 558 yards in offense, say about how the Falcons were coached and prepared?

These are the new and improved, rough and tumble, punch-you-in-the-face Falcons, right?

Or was that only on stage, when there are producers and scripts but no actual opponents?

What we witnessed Sunday were actual hard knocks.

“We were flat,” said defensive tackle Tyson Jackson.

“For them to run all over us like that — that’s about us. And without A.P. That sucks,” said linebacker Prince Shembo.

“It’s about the whole entire way you’re supposed to play a football game,” coach Mike Smith said.

At least everybody was on the same page after Sunday’s game.

For four quarters, their minds were elsewhere. Matt Ryan and the offense did all they could to keep pace. Unfortunately for them, the Falcons have devolved into an Arena League team. They scored four touchdowns and had 411 yards in offense, despite losing three offensive linemen during the game, and they still were dwarfed in the end.

“We need to get three-and-outs,” Jackson said.

Three-and-outs? How about just force a punt more than every full moon? (Minnesota did that only twice in 11 possessions.)

This isn’t an aberration. The 56-14 win over Tampa Bay was the aberration. The Falcons have been body-slammed in two road games by Cincinnati and Minnesota, neither of which had “Super Bowl” stamped on their foreheads at the start of the season. The Bengals, at least, are good. But even they lost A.J. Green early in their walkover against Team Mush.

The Vikings received 135 rushing yards from one rookie (Jerick McKinnon) and 317 yards passing from another (Terry Bridgewater). I’m assuming the two kids expected the NFL to be a step up.

This is the same Falcons defense that lost games to quarterbacks Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Matt Flynn and Ryan Tannehill last season, and were fortunate to escape with wins over E.J. Manuel and Kirk Cousins.

Atlanta’s defense: Land of opportunity.

Minnesota’s 558 yards follows the 472 by Cincinnati and 472 by New Orleans. I suggest we all just ignore the Tampa Bay game. The Falcons had three sacks that night. It’s must’ve been a dream.

What has happened since that Thursday night game? Smith had 10 days to prepare his players. This was the result?

In Jackson’s words, when any opponent, let alone a mediocre and wounded one like Minnesota, puts up 558 yards in offense, “It means you got your butt whipped. No excuses.”

Minnesota wasn’t a team before Sunday, it was a soap opera. Peterson is out, in relative handcuffs, after being indicted on child abuse charges. Quarterback Matt Cassel suffered a broken foot last week, forcing Bridgewater’s promotion earlier than expected. The Vikings lost their last two games, without Peterson, by a combined score of 50-16, scoring one touchdown in eight quarters. One touchdown.

They had five Sunday.

Minnesota scored on five of its first six possessions (three TDs, two field goals, one missed field goal). They scored on eight of 11 drives overall. They had one apparent touchdown overturned on replay.

This is on Smith. This is on his coaching staff. This has always been somewhat on general manager Thomas Dimitroff because of a roster with a weak front seven and defense so clearly devoid of pass rushers. But Sunday’s game wasn’t just about talent. It wasn’t just about getting beat down physically.

“It’s a mentality,” Shembo said. “There are times we have guys in the right position but missing tackles.”

If you cower every time you step into a visiting stadium, it’s also a problem. A team’s actual toughness and resilience isn’t tested at home, it’s tested on the road.

The Falcons have looked awful in two road games and they just began a stretch where they’ll play only one of seven games in the Georgia Dome (road games at Minnesota, New York, Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Carolina and a “home” game against Detroit in London).

And about that decision to give away a home game in the name of expanding the NFL’s footprint in England: not looking to wise right now.

The Falcons play seven games in the Georgia Dome. Right now they look like a stretch to win seven games.

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Another good talking point, we really do look NERVOUS when we go to opposing stadiums. Our D just sucks but our offense looks nervous

The most common play on the road for us seems to be Matt dropping back in the pocket, pretty good protection, then a pass to roddy on a curl route that the DB has no problem slapping down or breaking up

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Schultz has been calling coaches out lately. 'Bout time the local writers woke the **** up.

Seriously, I just said to myself "Atlanta sports reporters FINALLY taking the coaches to task? It's a new day!"

It always irks me how local coverage tries to avoid calling coaches out like any other major city. It's like they don't want to anger them. It's silly to me. I understand not trolling but when a guy is doing a piss poor job it's ok to say so.

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Seriously, I just said to myself "Atlanta sports reporters FINALLY taking the coaches to task? It's a new day!"

It always irks me how local coverage tries to avoid calling coaches out like any other major city. It's like they don't want to anger them. It's silly to me. I understand not trolling but when a guy is doing a piss poor job it's ok to say so.

I like it as a sports fan. And if the coach doesn't like it, just hang up on Chuck & Chernoff on air and never talk with them again ala Fredi Gonzalez.
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I like it as a sports fan. And if the coach doesn't like it, just hang up on Chuck & Chernoff on air and never talk with them again ala Fredi Gonzalez.

Exactly! That unfortunately is the problem. Guys get a little tough with them and guys like Fredi get pissy and hang up. In an effort to not alienate themselves the local talent avoids doing it. I had forgot about Fredi hanging up on them this year but I think things like that influences their shows and their reluctance to call them out. Fredi probably never did another interview with them during the season.

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Exactly! That unfortunately is the problem. Guys get a little tough with them and guys like Fredi get pissy and hang up. In an effort to not alienate themselves the local talent avoids doing it. I had forgot about Fredi hanging up on them this year but I think things like that influences their shows and their reluctance to call them out. Fredi probably never did another interview with them during the season.

I listen to a ton of sports talk radio and never heard Fredi on with Chuck & Chernoff again. He was on the station since it's the flagship, but not with the guys who questioned his bullpen usage. Unless the host/reporter is being a troll or disrespectful, I think it's the sign of a weak coach to pull a move like that.
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I listen to a ton of sports talk radio and never heard Fredi on with Chuck & Chernoff again. He was on the station since it's the flagship, but not with the guys who questioned his bullpen usage. Unless the host/reporter is being a troll or disrespectful, I think it's the sign of a weak coach to pull a move like that.

I agree, but in a town like Atlanta where you can get away with that I'm not surprised. I live in the DC area and NONE of these guys (especially when it comes to the Redskins) are afraid to go IN on a coach and poor decisions, etc. If the coach even attempted to get pissy about it he'd get ROASTED and it would be viewed as a sign of weakness. They had no issues going in on Shanahan, Zorn or Spurrier. Gibbs might have been criticized but as the guy that brought them three Super Bowls he was so revered that rarely happened and it wasn't overly critical.

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