7-4! Meaningful games in December! WTF!?!
1. Mike Smith, thank you for giving Professor Romer a tingly feeling by going for fourth and goal to ice the game. Thank you for putting the game in the hands of Michael Turner and the left side of the offensive line as opposed to your suspect defense. Thank you for making the decision favored by both balls and brains. After Turner's clinching touchdown, I had a good time imagining Smith reciting Tony Montana's "all I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break 'em for no one" speech.
2. One aspect of the game against Carolina that annoyed me: letting the Panthers throw the ball to Steve Smith at will. It's no secret that Smith is easily the most dangerous weapon on that Carolina offense. Smith reminds us all of this fact by gesticulating wildly and pointing to the roof of the Georgia Dome every time he makes a catch. So why is it that the Falcons didn't devote extra attention to him. I understand that the Falcons play a lot of zone and it's not as if they can double-cover a guy in zone. That said, there has to be a way to modify a cover-two to take into account the fact that an opponent has one great receiver. For instance, Carolina got a big third-and-long conversion on their drive to cut the Falcons' lead to 24-21 in the fourth quarter. Smith ran a post pattern into the gap between the linebackers and the safeties in the cover-two. He was wide open and Jake Delhomme had an easy throw for a long gain. In those circumstances, why wouldn't the Falcons' linebackers take deeper drops in Smith's area to prevent him from getting open behind them? This is all obvious in retrospect, but doesn't it make sense to force Delhomme out of his comfort zone?
3. Matt Ryan's success is causing me to do a little re-evaluation of the way I view college quarterback prospects. In retrospect, when I was proclaiming that Ryan was unimpressive at Boston College, I was not taking into account his mediocre receivers and running game. Those conditions forced him to throw the ball under pressure into tight spots. In other words, his college experience was not unlike what most pro quarterbacks face. The lesson might be that pro teams should stay away from quarterbacks from major college powers who are used to great protection and open receivers. The April 2006 Draft class backs this up. Jay Cutler is doing very well; Vince Young and Matt Leinart are not.
Now, you might be thinking the following: "Michael, as a Michigan fan, shouldn't you realize that your alma mater is both a college power and a quarterback factory?" It's true that Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, and Chad Henne were surrounded by excellent receivers and offensive linemen. However, Michigan fans have often joked about the Wolverines' incredibly predictable offense forcing quarterbacks to make throws into tiny windows. That would be great preparation for the NFL. Brady was probably overjoyed in his first years in the league to come up to the line without hearing opposing linebackers announcing the play that Michigan was about to run.
4. Please tell me that I wasn't the only one who read Sports Illustrated's profile of Albert Haynesworth and thought to myself "linchpin of the best defense in football...native of South Carolina...free agent at the end of the year...plays a position of need for the Falcons...reservations at Bones?" Arthur Blank, I'll take back all the jibes about you falling in love with Keith Brooking and paying him twice his value if you can charm Haynesworth into black and red.
5. There are three historically bad teams in the NFL this year: Detroit, St. Louis, and Kansas City. The Falcons play all three at home.