Falcons vs. Saints: What Could Have Been

Here are a very few thoughts from the tough, tough loss for the Falcons yesterday:

1.Red Zone efficiency. The Falcons offense was very effective at getting into the red zone, and ultimately getting into the endzone. The Falcons were 2nd in the league. Scoring in 25 of 28 opportunities in the red zone is good, and having 18 red zone touchdowns is outstanding. Combine that with the fact that New Orleans’ red zone defense was not very good coming into the game, and you have a formula for scoring a lot of points. If there was only one red zone opportunity where a field goal was taken in interest of only taking the points, that would make sense, but on three opportunities in the red zone, at least one of those needs to be turned into 7. It is not just useful, but necessary. The way I see it, the Falcons left 12 points on the board. A general theme I saw in these red zone chances is too great a focus on getting the ball to Gonzalez, and not enough accuracy. Gonzalez really is the ultimate red zone target, surpassed by only Calvin Johnson perhaps, but he cannot be the only option for targeted passes. Ryan needs to be confident to put the ball up in the air, and get it to one of the receivers on the outside, especially Jones. He also needs to improve his general accuracy in completing passes to his receivers. That being said, he is smart enough to know when to throw the ball away, and did not turn it over in the red zone.  There is another great target in this area, but ill address Mr. White later.

2. Pressuring the quarterback up the middle. The Falcons were getting a great pass rush from the outside, and were holding up their end of the bargain on the back end (for the most part anyways). While Abraham, Edwards, the Biermann & Co. were effective off the edges, the defensive line needs to have very complete pass rushing ability, and that includes the defensive tackles. Peters had been doing a great job in all facets of the position, but he was extremely quiet today. In fact, look closely at the box score. If I’m not overlooking something, he doesn’t even show up in the box score. For someone whose performance has been so key all year long, he needs to show up, stuff the run, and create a push up the middle, not a clean pocket for Brees to step up into. Granted, the Saints have two of the best guards in the game, but if it all starts up front, a little more results are required from the tackles.

3. The injury to William Moore really hurt the Falcons secondary. I texted a buddy of mine during the game after Thomas DeCoud got burnt by Robert Meachem, and told him we needed to put James Sanders in. I forgot that Moore was out, and man did it show. I personally think that Sanders is a much better safety than DeCoud is, but when Moore was hurt, Thomas was pressed into service along with Sanders. DeCoud rarely takes the right angle, seems to never turn  and run quick enough on the deep routes, and as I think I’ve said before, he just seems to get beaten regularly. The Falcons are a mostly cover-2 team, and the safety position is one that has to play those receivers that come over the deep middle. If they can’t do that, they probably don’t need to play. It really shows the lack of depth Atlanta has at the position, and other teams are starting to figure the DeCoud can get beaten regularly. In a nutshell, he doesn’t make enough big plays when compared to the huge ones he gives up.

4.I promised there was another offensive target we needed to talk about, and now we will. I feel like I don’t even know Roddy White anymore. It seems like nothing that he does seems to turn out well, and very rarely does he show the brilliance that he did last year. 4 catches for 62 yards is beginning to represent the standard day for Roddy these days. Rare is the occasion that he scores a touchdown, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get him the ball. When he does actually get open, he doesn’t make the catch. This man seems to have nothing going for him. In fact, he looks absolutely pedestrian and not at all the Pro Bowl receiver who we are used to. His butter fingers are losing downs without any yardage, and when what used to be very easy catches turn into turnovers, that is absolutely unacceptable.  At least twice this season I have seen easy catches tipped by him for interceptions. I’m not saying Roddy needs to go, but he certainly need to do some soul searching into his woes, whether they be lack of focus, injury, whatever they may be. I grow weary of watching the game, seeing turnovers as a result of White, or seeing huge plays dropped for incompletions. We need and deserve a whole lot more from White.

5.Julio Jones has to stay healthy. This is absolutely baffling how such an elite athlete cannot stay healthy and whose hamstrings have been bothering him so much. Maybe it is so baffling to me because I am not an elite athlete. But the presence of Julio Jones changes the complexion of the Falcons offense. Without Jones that offense became very stale. He has to stay on the field to become a large part of the offense, because after what we saw in the game against the Colts, he can be a huge game changer. We wish him the best of health, and the Falcons have proven they can win without Jones, but he can be a lot more effective if he actually plays.

6. I just mentioned that the Falcons offense got stale without Jones in the lineup, and that has got to change. I really cannot imagine who else to put this on besides Mike Mularkey. It seems that scoring and truly effective drives only take place during the scripted first plays of the game, and when Matt Ryan is calling the plays in the no-huddle offense. At all other times the only person calling plays is Mike Mularkey. It just seems like he isn’t getting it done. I don’t want to seem like I am petitioning to remove Mularkey from his post, but during the next offseason, I would not be surprised to see him replaced. Honestly, it’s really needed.

7. The Falcons defense did a really good job holding Drew Brees and the Saints offense to the number of points they did. Obviously there was a big, big play to Meachem, and a complete blown coverage leaving Jimmy Graham completely alone in the endzone. That being said, credit must be given to the Falcons to holding Darren Sproles to only 7 yards on the day, and a fairly solid job on third down. The only problem was not such a great job was done on first and second down. It is also disappointing that the defense could not turn over the football. If I had to point one thing the defense could have truly done better to win the game, it would be to take the ball away from Brees. That’s only obvious, but Brees has a penchant for doing that recently, and it is highly disappointing they could not create a turnover.

All in all that was a very rough game. I hate losing to nobody more than I do those sorry guys. They even took a picture on the bird at the 50 yard line after the game again. My message is clear: I really really despise the Saints. But we have to be honest, they are a very good team, we played them down to the wire, and in the end we beat ourselves. I’m not even going to go into the whole Mike Smith overtime situation, because that was simply a debacle. The bright shining light is the schedule for the rest of the season is very easy, and we get another shot at the Saints. So strap in Falcons fans, root for your team. Let’s hope they win all the games they should, the Lions lose as many games as possible, Julio Jones recovers his health, and we can go down to New Orleans on December 26, and dance on that crusty nasty fleur de lis.

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