1. Was I the only one who watched the game yesterday and said to myself "how did this Rams team come in at 2-13?" I understand that their defense is horrendous, but Mark Bulger, Steven Jackson, and Torry Holt ought to be a good nucleus for an offense. The Rams have had injuries this year, especially to the offensive line, so I guess that explains a lot of their shortcomings, but the team on the field yesterday was not a bad team. They were helped by the fact that the Falcons' defensive line is not very good, especially with John Abraham not getting many snaps. That said...
2. I would normally deride the Falcons as being a lucky team for winning six of seven games decided by one score. In this case, there is one factor that makes the Falcons a good bet to win more than their share of close games: the substitutions on the defensive line. I've harped on this before, but the Falcons' rotation of eight defensive linemen allows the team to have a fourth quarter pass rush. In the last three weeks, the Falcons had gotten a big fourth quarter sack on the opponent's final drive all three times. John Abraham was the hero against Tampa and Minnesota; Chauncey Davis was the hero yesterday. Ask a Saints fan how their season would have been different with late sacks against the Bears and Panthers. The difference between teams in the NFL is very small, as yesterday's game between a 2-13 road team and a 10-5 home team illustrated. Having fresh defensive linemen in the fourth quarter provides a critical advantage for the Falcons against equivalent teams.
2a. That said, I'd love to see two or three new defensive linemen enter the rotation in free agency and the Draft.
2b. The embers of the 2008 regular season were still hot last night and ESPN was already running a projection for the first ten picks of the Draft on their crawl.
3. Mike Smith, you clearly understand the importance of using your depth when it comes to the offensive line. You're certainly a smart enough guy to notice the elite teams in the league using running back rotations. You have one of the best back-up running backs in the league, a guy who sends a charge through the crowd every time he touches the ball. So why oh why did Michael Turner get 376 carries this year and break the sacred rule of 370?
4. Matt Ryan is in a definite slump right now. He reminds me of Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. Like Roethlisberger, Ryan's problem is that he is making inaccurate throws. It isn't that opposing defenses are confusing Ryan and he's making bad reads, as one would expect from a rookie. Rather, Ryan has been missing high with the ball. Roethlisberger had a thumb injury that caused the ball to sail on him. I wouldn't be shocked if we hear after the season that Ryan also has some sort of hand injury that has affected his grip. It goes without saying that the Falcons aren't going to face too many defenses in January that will permit the Birds to run for 263 at 8.3 yards per carry, so Ryan needs to find the juice with which he was playing in the first three months of the season.
5. Does anyone have a problem with naming yesterday as Schadenfreude Sunday?