It’s been pretty bad the past two months if you are a Falcons fan. As a lifelong Houston Texans fan, I know a thing or two about bad football, and what the Falcons are playing is worse than that. Yesterday defined not just a new low of 2015, but quite possibly the entire Matt Ryan era. So what they heck is wrong with these guys?
People keep referring to the 5-0 start, often saying something like this:
“This team was 5-0,” Joe Falconsfan, “clearly the talent is there to succeed, it doesn’t make sense.”
That’s not really fair, because if you ask me this team never looked good. Remember that opening night Monday Night Football game? They were up 20-3 at the half, and it took everything they had to cross the 50-yard line in the second half to get the two field goals to hold on to a 26-24 victory.
The following week, it took a huge fourth quarter and some remarkable plays by Julio Jones to pull off a comeback against the New York Giants, who have proven to be the worst fourth quarter team in football this year. The week after that, Joseph Randle — a running back no longer in the NFL — nearly ran the Falcons into the ground, forcing Matty Ice and the defense to hunker down and lead another comeback.
So you see, five good quarters of football to start the season, but they could have easily been 0-3 as much as they were 3-0.
So what’s wrong?
3. They need a pass rush.
Yesterday Ra’Shede Hageman got into a fight with defensive line coach Bryan Cox on the sideline and it was the most life a Falcons defensive lineman had shown in weeks. Plus it shows a really low football IQ, considering Cox was a madman in his playing days and is the last person with whom you would want to fight.
The Falcons have modest numbers defensively. They have let up 295 points this season (22.7 points a game), while allowing 349 yards a game. Those are in the middle of the pack of NFL defenses, and are certainly numbers in which a team with an explosive offense like the Falcons are supposed to have can win.
But they don’t win. And a lot of that has to do with pressuring the quarterback — or a lack there of I should say. The Atlanta Falcons are tied for dead last in the NFL in sacks with 15.
Want to put that into perspective? J.J. Watt has 13.5 sacks this season and the team the Falcons are tied with — the New York Giants — best pass rusher has two fingers. You understand? A defensive line that essentially missing a hand is applying the same amount of pressure as the Falcons.
Dan Quinn has done wonders with the secondary as Ricardo Allen, Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant are solid pieces to build around. Vic Beasley has shown glimpses of greatness, but has slowed down in the second half. They need to go out and make some big signings or draft picks next year and get some pressure on the quarterback, because I am telling you right now that Blaine Gabbert should not beat this team.
2. The lore of the Shanahans is greater than their ability
Mike Shanahan was one of the most over rated coaches of all time in my opinion. His son’s offensive prowess as their coordinator is much of the same.
Mike Shanahan became known as one of the greatest offensive minds in football. Anyone who stepped into his backfield seemingly ran for 1,000 yards. Remember Mike Bell? Olandis Gary? Yea, most people don’t, but they ran for 1,000 yards under Shanahan.
Papa Shanahan became one of the greatest coaches ever because in only his fifth year as a head coach, he led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles. You know the Broncos team that had Hall of Famers in John Elway and Shannon Sharpe, the most dominant running back at the time — and Hall of Famer if injuries didn’t strike — Terrell Davis and the most consistent wide receiver in the game in Rod Smith. Let me give you a little hint… it wasn’t ALL Shanahan that made them good.
He never got back to the Super Bowl after Elway hung it up and TD got injured, did he? He was never really successful when he brought his scheme to Washington with two abysmal debut seasons, but many people blamed it on the fact that it was because he didn’t have the right personnel. His one good season came when he had RGIII and then he destroyed his career playing him injured in a close game. Well done.
Kyle is the same way. He comes out of the gate with 10 or 15 plays drawn up and that’s it. Once you figured them out, he seemingly has nowhere to go. While sitting at the Colts game, my brother, Nomi the Greek and myself were laughing at the fact that every first down was a stretch play. We would sit there and say, “ready for the stretch play?” AND IT WOULD BE A STRETCH PLAY! Hey coach, if three dudes in the upper level can figure out your game plan, guess what the Colts are doing?
Explain this to me. Yesterday, instead of taking a field goal late in the game, just to get points on the board for a moral victory, they went for it on fourth down inside the five. Julio Jones wasn’t even on the field. So, you are going to try for a touchdown, but you aren’t really going to try because you are leaving one of the best offensive weapons IN THE ENTIRE NFL on the sideline?
Got it. Makes perfect sense.
1. OVER RATED?
It’s not all Matt Ryan‘s fault, but there is something wrong with him. As we just said, he has the best running game he has had in a few years, and he also has — or at least had — one of the better lines he has had for most of his career.
He is putting up the numbers, but man, have you ever seen him look so lost? There have been games that he has had Julio wide open and he throws — or under throws is a better term — ducks and misses. The second pressure is put on him, he is flailing around making highly questionable decisions. This is Matty Ice people, a guy who made a living on pressure situations.
It doesn’t add up. Like I said to The Thread yesterday, there are one of two things happening. One, there may be something going afoul behind the scenes we aren’t privy to — perhaps he is being lulled to sleep by stretch plays. Or… he could be heading down a Matt Schaub slope and just watching the game slip away from him.
It happens people. Players sometimes simply regress and disappear into infamy, despite looking like they were once heading to the Hall of Fame. Remember Chuck Knoblauch?
That’s probably not the case. He has been under great duress of late and his receiving core is questionable. Leonard Hankerson is unreliable and Roddy White is getting long in the tooth. He is still good, but his separation skills are no longer what they used to be. Not having Tony Gonzalez at tight end — although Jacob Tamme has played well — has been a thorn in Ryan’s side since he retired.
Can the Falcons right the ship? Not this season, it’s not worth it. Shanahan was expected to become head coach material after this season, so some were not expecting him to return anyway. I wonder if they move on or if they chalk this year up to a learning experience, go out and make some big moves and look to compete in a very winnable NFC South next year.