1. Did anyone else feel like they were watching the Georgia game all over again? The Falcons and Dawgs both lost because they couldn’t punch in touchdowns. They also seemed to struggle because their offensive coordinators employed bland game plans that barely threatened the opposing defense down the field. I know it’s total cliche to rip on an offensive coordinator for being conservative, but my complaint about Mike Mularkey remains the same. The Falcons were at the bottom of the NFL last year in plays over 20 yards and they got only one such play on Sunday. I know that the Steelers have a great defense and it’s not easy to get big gainers against them, but does it make any more sense to try to nickel and dime a great defense all the way down the field? It’s jarring to watch the Saints and then the Falcons. The Saints start with a great quarterback and then they spread the ball around to a million different receivers and runners. Sean Payton is murder on fantasy teams, but his team is so hard to defend because they do all sorts of things with all sorts of players. The Falcons run one runner and throw to two receivers. When’s the last time anyone saw a play run by the Falcons (or the Dawgs, for that matter) and said “wow, that was creative” or “wow, that was set up nicely” or “touchdown!”? Falcoholic, take it away:
If Mularkey were an artist, he'd be one in a fine studio, surrounded by high quality canvases, paints, and brushes. He'd thoughtfully stare at a canvas for a while, take out a plain brush and some black paint, draw a line on said canvas, and end his day. Except in small doses, he seems to entirely lack imagination. It's unforgivable to give Turner nineteen carries when so many of them are lazy up the gut runs or off-tackles that make not effort to confuse a sharp defensive front seven. That's to say nothing of his unwillingness to go for it on fourth down, and Mike Smith has to be included in the blame for that. Smith also earns anti-kudos for diddling around at the end of the first half.
The one disagreement I have with Falcoholic is on the fourth down call at the five. Normally, I’m as much of a Romer advocate as the next guy. In this instance, I had no confidence that the Falcons could run for a yard on fourth and one. That’s an indictment of the coaches in its own right, but more as a matter of design than a matter of tactical decision-making.
2. Matt Ryan caught some flak for what should have been the game-losing interception, but he doesn’t deserve blame for that pick. Troy Polamalu made a ridiculous play. I can’t remember ever seeing a deep safety in a cover-two crash down on a 12-yard sideline out to make a pick. That was nothing more than a smart, athletic superstar making an incredible play. If the Falcons were to be beaten, then they should have no problems getting beaten by that.
2a. That said, with the Falcons forcing the ball into White the way the Patriots used to force the ball to Ben Coates, Polamalu didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to jump that route. Why don’t we agree that the interception was the combination of a great player taking advantage of a predictable situation.
2b. So here’s the question: does Ryan force the ball to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez by design or is he below-average at moving off of his primary receiver? Is this a talent or coaching issue?
3. And now a compliment to the Falcons’ brain trust: listening to Jim Mora on Sunday, they made the right decision getting rid of him. It’s a little jarring that Mora coached this team for years and had nothing interesting to say about the team.
4. In the realm of inauspicious debuts, Dunta Robinson got worked by Hines Ward on a pattern (you’d think that Dunta would be motivated to blanket Ward, given that Ward went to the school that Dunta wanted to attend, but couldn’t), then turned around to complain to the official about G-d knows what while Ward got up off the ground and gained an additional five yards. That said, Robinson played a pretty good game. Depending on how Dennis Dixon pans out (and I was fairly impressed with him in his start against the Ravens last year, although some of that might be PTSD from his performance in Ann Arbor on September 8, 2007), the Falcons’ defensive effort might turn out to be a good one.
5. I heart Curtis Lofton.