Monday, December 29, 2008

Five Thoughts on 11-5

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?


Anonymous said...

I heard one of the radio idiots say something about Ryan's play the last few weeks that might actually have some merit. He noted that Ryan has probably never played more than 13 games in a football season before this year and he could be hitting a mental and physical wall.

Not sure if you could throw in the pre-season or not, but that would mean he is on game 20 now. There is such a small sample size of rookie quarterbacks who played meaningful games in weeks 14,15, and 16 that there probably isn't much comparison (other than Roethlisberger) available, but I thought it an interesting point.

Overthrows are very often a sign of fundamentals slipping, and fundamental slips are often a sign of fatigue. Almost all of his bad passes yesterday appeared to be overthrows.

Anonymous said...

How do you like our chances against the Cardinals?

Seems like they've totally laid down the last 4 weeks.
If it's close - the edge has to go to us correct?

Michael said...

I thought about that point yesterday, but Ryan played 14 games last year for BC and he hit the wall for the Falcons around game 14, so I don't think there's anything too unprecedented. Maybe Ryan is used to starting his season in August and the fact that he had to start playing hard for the Falcons in July is causing him to run out of steam.

Speaking of radio idiots, has Perry Laurentino admitted that maybe the Packers didn't make the biggest mistake in sports history when they went with Rodgers over Favre?

Ryno, I like the Falcons' chances on Saturday, although I am very worried about Warner and those receivers against a one-man pass rush and a mediocre secondary. If Ryan isn't throwing well, then the Falcons could be playing from behind. You have to figure that the crowd is going to be lively because the Cards haven't had a home playoff game in a million years.

You think that Steelers fans might be interested in Mularkey vs. Whisenhunt?

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that Ryan might be suffering from a dead arm. Rookie pitchers tend to hit a wall if they are used too much, I think Ryan is experiencing the same thing.

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