Photo credit: Keith Allison
Author: Joey Carr
It all started off so good; a new head coach was taking the reigns, all of the receivers were back healthy, and the defense looked like it was finally going to do some damage and help out their quarterback. And for a while, it looked like the Falcons were, at last, back to being a team atop the league standings like we’ve grown accustomed to in years past. They were 5-0, scoring a plethora of points game in and game out, and causing turnovers like it was their job (well it is their job but last year you would of thought that the Atlanta D were just a bunch of guys found on the street if you didn’t know any better). Things were going perfectly for new head coach Dan Quinn to start the season; but then, something happened. It wasn’t one specific aspect of the game or one player, but games started to go south for the Falcons real quick, and suddenly, they find themselves at 6-6, losing 5 straight and getting outplayed in most of their recent games. So what happened to the Atlanta Falcons?
Teams make mistakes. It’s what every sports team in the world does. Some make fewer than others, and those that make less, usually go on to win Championships. However, the 2015 Atlanta Falcons have made more costly mistakes than any other NFL team this year. Now I’m not talking about a fumble here and an interception there, no, the mistakes made by the Falcons are the definition of costly. For example: Matt Ryan and the offense have 8 red zone turnovers, the most in the league. Ryan has also thrown 13 interceptions and lost a few fumbles to go along with those picks. Not exactly the stats you want from your quarterback if you have any hope of making a playoff run, which looked like a possibility for the Falcons in the first few games.
However, let’s not get too carried away with the Dirty Bird’s fall from grace, as their 5-0 record may have been padded just a bit.
If you take a look at the Falcons schedule during their 5 game win streak, it’s very obvious that it would’ve taken a lot of mistakes to not be undefeated. They played a bad Eagles team, a clueless Giants squad, a Tony Romo-less Cowboys, a Texans team with no quarterback yet, and the Redskins, a game which they could’ve lost if not for a trip by a receiver that led to a pick-six in overtime. So, while they did go 5-0, it was mostly due to mistakes by the opposing team and a soft schedule. However, the Falcons still have the easiest schedule in all of football. Yet, they are currently on a 5 game losing streak. So what can they do to turn the tide and secure a wildcard spot? Be smart with the football.
Being smart with the football doesn’t just mean not turning the ball over, it also means to make smarter throws and come up with better plays on offense. Atlanta possesses possibly the best receiver in football in Julio Jones, but yet they seemingly refuse to throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield to him. Jones, who stands taller than most cornerbacks and safeties in the league, has proven that he is perfectly capable of catching the long ball and being a deep threat. In my mind, he’s just a taller Randy Moss, and we all saw how Moss was at going deep. Jones can be a
Randy Moss-caliber long ball receiver, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, known as the “QB Killer” for his misusing of the skills of NFL quarterbacks, has to trust Matt Ryan throwing the ball and Jones’ ability to catch it. The, “Throw it to Julio a yard short of the first down every time except when Devonta Freeman is open” method of offense might’ve worked against sub-par defenses, but when a solid defense stands on the other side, that method goes out the window, and the Falcons are left scrambling. Due to this play calling, Matt Ryan has not looked like himself these past couple of games; he’s making far too many mistakes and costing his team games almost single-handedly.
Matty Ice is a good quarterback. He’s one of the better play callers in the league, but he’s probably not going to get the Falcons to the Promise Land like Atlanta thought he would when they drafted him. However, he’s too good of a quarterback to replace; it’s an extremely sticky situation that the Falcons find themselves, but it’s the situation that they’ve gotten themselves in, and somehow have to find a way to win with Ryan as their quarterback. A dynamic run game would be a start, and it seems like they’ve found a forceful and speedy back in Devonta Freeman and, along with the quick Tevin Coleman, should help the Falcons out tremendously in the years to come. Another thing that all winning teams need is a trustworthy defense, and that’s not what Atlanta has. They possess a capable defense that sometimes can’t make the plays they need to win games. Take the latest game against Tampa Bay: The Bucs had 3rd and 20 and were down by 4; Jameis Winston started scrambling and it seemed like he ran into a cluster of Falcons that were surely going to tackle him; of course they didn’t and Winston ran for 20 yards, eventually leading to a Tampa touchdown and another Atlanta loss. If the Falcons make that tackle, the game is probably over, but they couldn’t make the play, and it’s another L in the loss column for ATL.
If the Falcons want any chance at making the playoffs they need to do three things: Win out, which might prove difficult as they play Carolina twice; they need to stop making so many costly mistakes on both sides of the ball, and the offense must start trusting the arm of Matt Ryan and the ability of Julio Jones. If they can go 9-7 this season, which means only losing once more, and start to turn things around offensively, they should be in good position to make the playoffs and maybe even make some noise come January.
Charity of the day: Veterans Support Foundation
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