Let’s see how many clichés I can think of to write here. Put a fork in them; they’re done. The fat lady’s singing. They’re on the outside looking in. They’re behind the eight ball. They’ve got their back up against the wall. They’re on the ropes. They have to get back on track. They have to circle the wagons. When it rains it pours. That’s a nail in the coffin. The wheels have fallen off. This is a train wreck. You get the idea.
The Falcons showed up Sunday to play the Carolina Panthers Sunday. They were there in body but in no other sense that day. Using another sports cliché, they ran into a buzz saw as they were beaten down convincingly 38-0. The Falcons looked like a bunch of tackling dummies or the Washington Generals when they play the Harlem Globetrotters – except the Generals were able to put at least a couple of points on the board.
With the loss the Falcons lost their sixth in a row, something they haven’t done since the days of Bobby Petrino and Michael Vick being sent to the federal penitentiary.
With the loss the Falcons fall to 6-7 and clinch a first round bye for the Panthers. They remain in third place in the division and only by one game with three games remaining and the New Orleans Saints now breathing down their neck. Unlike last year when the Falcons won all but one game against their divisional foes, so far this season they have lost all and if there is a tiebreaker since they are still technically mathematically eligible for the playoffs they have that going against them. But they are technically still alive for the playoffs going into this Sunday’s game. Therefore I will quote the late, great senator John Blutaski here:
Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no. And it ain’t over now. Newton? Dead man. Brees? Dead. (This part I’m changing the names a little from the original speech). Who’s with me? Let’s gooooooo!
There is really no use in going over this game. If you watched it I’m sorry. I know I was. So are the Falcons. The offense played sorry. The defense played sorry. And the coaching… well they are sorry – in more ways than one.
The seat has already started to warm up for coach Dan Quinn. After starting 5-0 they have gone an unceremonious 1-7. The person that is going to take the fall for him will be Thomas Dimitroff. And that’s kind of unfair. After five years of being the toast of Atlanta, the GM has become their whipping boy. Last year’s sacrificial lamb was coach Mike Smith. They brought in “defensive genius” Dan Quinn fresh off of consecutive Super Bowl appearances with the Seattle Seahawks to turn the defense around. People forget once defensive coaches become head coaches usually it’s the offense that succeeds with the defense faltering.
Since everyone has short-term memory these days I’ll refresh it for you. Mike Smith was a successful defensive coordinator before becoming the head coach in Atlanta. He had one of the best and highest scoring offenses in the league and was the toast of the town until two consecutive losing seasons. People forget the five consecutive winning seasons he had and the fact he was the first coach in franchise history to have back-to-back winning seasons – in fact the only coach. Tony Dungy was a defensive genius, however it was his defense in Indianapolis that was his liability as to why they only made one Super Bowl appearance. Former Falcons coach and now UCLA head coach Jim Mora was a defensive coach but once again the defense and an offense that was too one dimensional (relying too much on Michael Vick and the run game) that cost him his job. Let us not forget Bill Belichick was a defensive coach before taking the reins of the New England Patriots where he is known best for their offense and of course franchise quarterback Tom Brady. And maybe the dean of this example Hall of Fame coach and the coach with most wins, Don Shula had the most powerful offense in the NFL in the ‘80s and ‘90s but his defense was unable to stop anyone. Shula was a defensive coach before becoming a head coach.
What is my point?
Just because a coach is a great defensive coordinator or coach doesn’t mean when he becomes a head coach that all of a sudden that team will become a great defensive team. True, the Falcons defense has improved this year, but they still haven’t put much pressure on the quarterback and are at the bottom of the league when it comes to quarterback sacks. And the past couple of weeks they have forgotten how to play until the whistle is blown giving up big plays.
And the offense… once the smoothest running machine in the league is a train wreck. Of course you know whom I blame for that if you read my last article. Hopefully that mistake will be come after this season comes to a close. Three years later and this offensive line is still a mess. The once impressive running game has taken multiple steps back and despite blame being put on Matt Ryan I see the look in his eyes of frustration running the offense this season. The only time I see him comfortable under center is when he’s running the no-huddle and a faster pace offense which he has done his entire career – until this season. The play calling has been atrocious this year. In years past Ryan would complete passes to eight or nine different receivers while now it’s about half of that and the only time Roddy White gets the ball is when Shanihan has him targeted to shut up those of us who are wondering why the holder of all the franchise’s receiving records rarely gets the ball thrown his way. Sure, he’s 33 but he’s still better than most of the receivers in the league and quite frankly I trust him to catch the ball in key situations than I do Julio Jones – not to take anything away from Julio.
The Falcons have three games to get through before you know what hits the fan and heads start to roll unless they can get their act together starting Sunday when they visit Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars who are coming off a big win routing the Colts 51-16 and pull within a game of first place in the AFC South. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and the game will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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