Saturday, November 24, 2007

Smoked Bird

When I finished my yardwork around 3:00 last Sunday and eagerly plopped onto the couch to watch the last part of the second half of the Falcons-Bucs game, I was initially annoyed to see the Falcons punting with a 24-0 deficit and the crowd booing lustily. After I had a few moments to think about the situation, I was happy for two reasons:

1. This Falcons team is obviously not going anywhere, so it's probably good to lose some games to put the team closer to the Jake Long-Darren McFadden range.

2. It meant that tickets to the Colts game would drop in value and I would get a chance to see Peyton Manning play live. I'm one of those fools who always wants to say that he saw great players play in person. I've seen Tom Brady play live. Specifically, I got to see his first pass in college, which came at the tail end of a blowout of UCLA in 1996 and was returned for a touchdown for UCLA's only touchdown of the game. With the Falcons out of contention, I got to see Manning in the flesh without paying through the nose.

Seeing Manning in person isn't that different from seeing him on TV: he's really good. His internal clock for how long he has to throw is unbelievable. His ability to make accurate throws off his back foot or while being mauled is outstanding. That said, he's not playing at the same level this year that he has for the past several years. My best guess is that he is a little unsettled without Tarik Glenn protecting his backside and thinking more about pressure than on his reads down the field. He made at least two throws that he never made in previous years. The first was on a post pattern to Reggie Wayne in the second quarter. Manning had hit Wayne for the Colts' first touchdown after Wayne had roasted Chris Houston on a post pattern. (Welcome to the NFL, Chris. Houston didn't play badly when you take into account the fact that he was being targeted by QB1 or QB1a in the League.) The Colts ran the same play when they were threatening for their second score. On this occasion, Mike Zimmer had the right call on and had Chris Crocker providing deep help for Houston. Manning didn't see the safety (how often do you see that?) and threw a ball that Crocker should have intercepted, but didn't. The second instance in which Manning made a bad decision was on the first drive of the third quarter when he underthrew a ball in DeAngelo Hall's direction and was picked off. The play was in the opposite corner of the stadium and I didn't get a great look but the throw defeintely looked as if it lacked Manning's normal zip. Aside from those two mistakes, Manning played well. Maybe I'm being excessively harsh and assuming that Manning never threw bad passes before, but the enduring image I took from the game was Manning failing to look off a safety because it was so surprising.

As for the Falcons, they played well for about 20 minutes and then rolled over when they got jobbed on a running into the kicker call. The offense doesn't really threaten its opponents down the field when Joey Harrington is in the game. Harrington did have a nice deep touchdown pass to Roddy White when he caught the Colts out of their customary cover-two and White burned Dante Hughes down the sideline, but otherwise, the Falcons tried precious little down the field. You can see why Bobby Petrino wanted Byron Leftwich to start. The Falcons' tackles are not good, but we knew that already. On defense, John Abraham and Keith Brooking did precious little and they're the two most highly-compensated Falcons on defense, so what does that say. Abraham has played very well this year, so he gets a pass. Brooking, not so much. Michael Boley was the Falcons' best player on the field, although Mike Zimmer deserves some credit for dialing up blitzes that freed Boley up on blitzes.
One other thought: the crowd was really good for the game. I hadn't been to a Falcons game since the 2003 debacle, in part because my recollection was that the atmosphere in the Dome was really drab. Despite the fact that the team is poor, that was not the case on Thursday night. The crowd was lively from the start before reality beat it down. The noise on the Colts' first series when the Falcons got a lot of pressure and forced a three-and-out was positively SEC-esque. (OK, it was more Arkansas or Kentucky than LSU or Florida, but still.) The Dome was also full, which was nice, although the prevalence of Colts fans in the building certainly helped.

1 comment:

jim said...

Peyton's, pretty damn excellent, especially when he's not acting. The Colts' #1 draft pick QB worked out almost as well as the Atlanta's #1 QB pick, aka [name redacted].

Not only has Manning lost Glenn, but he has been playing w/o this year's starting LT (Ugoh?) the past 2-3 weeks. I think he deserves a pass, especially w/ his team cruising to another 12-4 year w/ the rash of injuries they've had. I don't empathize for his loss of supporting talent, but clearly the Colts are a timing-based offense (no-huddle, etc) and the different personnel screws things up.

My only criticism of Peyton: Does he really the money that bad to appear in so many commercials?