It's really an accomplishment for a player to accumulate 67 penalty yards on a 80-yard drive, but the Falcons' "star" corner managed that feat yesterday. Part of me feels like the refs overreacted to Hall. The 15-yard blow to the face penalty was marginal, at best, and I've never seen a player get flagged for talking shit to another player, especially when that second player is talking back. In general, the refs gave the impression that they had money on the Panthers in the game, as they carried out a campaign against Hall on the one hand and on the other, let the Panthers take cheap shots on John Abraham (Fox's cameras caught this on Carolina's go-ahead touchdown) and make late hits on Joey Harrington. And I cannot fathom how they flagged Hall for talking too much when Steve Smith couldn't shut his mouth for the entire game. Moral of the story: I hate the Panthers.
1st and 10 at CAR 20
(9:09) J.Delhomme pass incomplete deep left to
PENALTY on ATL-D.Hall, Defensive Pass Interference, 37
yards, enforced at CAR 20 - No Play.
1st and 10 at ATL 43
D.Williams right end to ATL 37 for 6 yards (C.Houston).
ATL-D.Hall, Personal Foul, 15 yards, enforced at ATL 37.
1st and 10
at ATL 22
(8:29) D.Williams right tackle to ATL 20 for 2 yards
2nd and 8 at ATL 20
(7:52) J.Delhomme pass
incomplete short middle to J.King.
3rd and 8 at ATL 20
J.Delhomme sacked at ATL 29 for -9 yards (J.Abraham).
CAR-T.Wharton, Offensive Holding, declined.
PENALTY on ATL-D.Hall,
Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced at ATL 29. Unsportsmanlike conduct
called after the play.
1st and 10 at ATL 14
right end pushed ob at ATL 5 for 9 yards (C.Crocker).
2nd and 1 at
(7:19) J.Delhomme pass short left to J.King for 5 yards,
J.Kasay extra point is GOOD, Holder-J.Baker.
All that said, DeAngelo put the refs in the position to screw him by totally losing his cool. It is the nature of the corner position that Hall is going to get beat every now and again. The fact that he completely lost his cool after Steve Smith beat him deep and then allowed his tantrum to affect the rest of the drive is unforgivable. Hall is no longer a rookie. This is his fourth year in the league, but he still acts like a child. He's a pretty good corner (although his technique is poor, as Rod Woodson explained on the radio last week), but he's a lousy teammate right now.
While Hall is a good player who can't control his id, Keith Brooking, another player who commands a good chunk of the Falcons' cap space, is simply not a very good player. If NFL Network re-runs the game, watch Brooking on DeShaun Foster's big runs. He's either blocked out of the plays or he over-runs them. Arthur Blank gets flak for getting too budd-buddy with Michael Vick, but Blank befriending and then overpaying Brooking might be a bigger sin.
All that said, there were a lot of positives for the Falcons yesterday, starting with Joey Harrington turning in a vintage Chris Miller-esque performance under center. Is this really the guy who was so bad in Detroit and Miami? He was accurate all day, he moved well in the pocket, and he didn't make mistakes. The slant pass that Roddy White turned into a long touchdown was something absent from the Falcons' arsenal when Mike Vick was the quarterback; he never hit receivers perfectly in stride like Harrington did on that play. Oh, and Harrington's 361 passing yards are 24 more than Vick's career high. Vick went over 300 yards passing exactly twice in four seasons as a starter. It took Harrington three games to do so. It's interesting that Harrington played so well in a week in which the Falcons brought in Byron Leftwich to push him for the position. G-d forbid, maybe competition at the quarterback position doesn't send football teams into emotional tailspins.
The rest of the offense played well around Harrington. Todd Weiner did a fine job on Julius Peppers and the rest of the offensive line blocked nicely for Harrington. The receivers made some plays, especially Roddy White, who has emerged as the go-to guy. The running game was fairly good in limited carries. Best of all, Bobby Petrino showed the ability to morph an offensive approach to an opponent; his pass-heavy game plan was very productive and would have produced a good number of points without a couple fumbles and a botched field goal.
And while his groin is still functional, how about a few nice words for John Abraham, who has been outstanding this year. He completely owned Travelle Wharton from start to finish. His performances have been excellent so far this season, although that doesn't really tell us anything we didn't know before. The rap on Abraham is that he plays this well and then gets hurt.
Overall, the Falcons are better than their record. They've been competitive in all three games. They're gaining almost as much yardage as they're giving up, so if you believe that yardage is a better indication of a team's merit than record, they look more like a 7-9 team than a 5-11 team. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they beat the Texans this week.