I hate these “back in black” throwback uniforms. The Falcons are now officially 1-2 wearing them after falling to the Buffalo Bills 23-17 at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
I’m not sure the nostalgia in wanting to wear a uniform that doesn’t have that many pleasant memories. The black themed uniforms was the brainchild of former coach Jerry Glanville who had a less than stellar career coaching in the ATL. With the exception of the surprise Super Bowl run of 1998 there has never been that much to cheer about wearing the uniforms. When the Falcons updated their uniforms in 2003 with an updated logo and uniform design about halfway through the season after debuting a red version of the home jersey that fans went bonkers over the team reverted to red jerseys with rare exceptions like the throwbacks. Apparently they forgot they sucked back when they wore these uniforms.
Another thing the Falcons have problems with is the running quarterback. Coming into Sunday’s game they were below .500 against team with running QBs since 2001. (I begin with the Michael Vick era for this since he ushered this style of signal caller into the mainstream when he was drafted by Atlanta then.) Sunday was no different. Tyrod Taylor has been anything but impressive since being drafted by the Bills. He has flashes of brilliance at times while at others you are shaking your head. Taylor’s performance Sunday was a bit of both but he somehow was able to harness in the wildcard aspect of running instead of passing when he should pass and caught the Falcon secondary off guard a few times. The Falcons front did manage to sack Taylor three times over the course of the day and in reality only gave up 10 points. Turnovers that were non-existent the latter half of last season and first two game this have become a headache the last two games. Atlanta escaped last week in Detroit but not this time.
Matt Ryan will take the brunt of the blame for the turnovers Sunday. He indeed turned the ball over three times – twice via interception and once getting the ball knocked out of his hand a microsecond before his hand went forward attempting a pass. Ryan has thrown four interceptions the past two weeks. And while Ryan, the reigning league MVP is starting to catch flack from talking heads and others the problem with the offense should not rest entirely on his shoulders.
This Atlanta offense that set all sorts of records last season have yet to hit on all cylinders. The only difference between last year and this is the offensive coordinator. And I am not laying the blame here. There were growing pains two years ago in Kyle Shanihan’s first season and there are some with Steve Sarkisian. This is to be expected most of the time but a quarter of the way through the season we have yet to see much progression. They seem to address the problem from the week before while finding more issues the next. One major issue with the offense this season is their inability to stretch the field. Sure, the run game is going which usually helps the passing game but Ryan hasn’t hit many long passes or attempted that many. Of course with Julio Jones not at full speed to start the season and the lack of another long target that is dependable the results are clear.
Blocking has been a problem this season. The offensive line has suffered a number of injuries and Ryan is not getting the protection or time he needs to execute properly. The line has been riddle with injuries for the majority of the season and while Ryan isn’t getting sacked as much (yet) his timing is being thrown off and the stripped ball Sunday was a direct consequence of protection braking down. Adding to the confusion was whether or not it was a dead ball. Tre’Davious White picked up the loose ball for the Bills and ran 52 yards for the score that changed the direction of the game. Two weeks earlier against the Packers the Falcons were benefactors of a similar play.
Injuries are beginning to take a toll on the Falcons and this will be the first time coach Dan Quinn’s coaching will be put to the test. The Falcons lost both their number one (Jones) and two receiver (Mohammed Sanu) in the first half. None of the receivers stepped up late in the game as Taylor Gabriel dropped two potential first down receptions in the last drive. Of course many are curious with such a strong running game why did they not run on third and fourth and one. It was kind of reminiscent of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss to the Patriots a couple of years ago when Seattle was intercepted at the goal line instead of giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch. What ties these two together is Quinn was on Seattle’s staff that year.
“Obviously those guys are a big part of what we do. When you lose one of them, it’s tough and when you lose two of them, it’s difficult,” said Ryan.
Sunday’s game was hard to watch at times even though the outcomes wasn’t apparent until Ryan’s last incompletion with under a minute to play at the Buffalo ten-yard line. Buffalo should be credited for their tough defense that forced Ryan into having one of his worst days under center in years with a QB rating of 61.8. Their defensive front kept pressure on Ryan and secondary made few mistakes against the high-powered offense as they stifled the long pass as the longest completion for the Falcons was 18 yards.
“I was certainly disappointed for the fans here today and for the team. We certainly had our opportunities today and the story of today’s game was the ball. For us to finish minus-three, you know how hard that is to win. We were able to do that last week and today, not having any,” said Quinn. “Some of the drops and missed tackles plagued us at times. But the real story of the game was the turnover margin and that’s something that we know we can get corrected and we certainly will.”
The Falcons have a much needed bye this week as they will need to heal from injuries to their top two receivers, offensive line and defense as Vic Beasley is expected to be back for the game against the Dolphins in two weeks. With the loss the Falcons fall to 3-1 that is actually better than their Super Bowl opponents who are now 2-2 after losing to Carolina.
Atlanta’s next home game is October 15 with the kickoff scheduled for 1pm and the game will be aired on CBS.
– Dave Weinthal
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