The Falcons played their starters for nearly the entirety of a meaningless game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons looked horribly off-kilter offensively, and while they did a solid job defensively, the end result of having lost the final game of the regular season only adds insult to injury.
I say that the 22-17 defeat at the hands of the Buccaneers is insult, because the Falcons suffered two fairly significant injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Those injuries were to defensive end John Abraham, who looked to suffer an ankle injury and ended up being carted off the field. The other was to corner Dunta Robinson who suffered a head injury.
First, I’m not too terribly concerned about Robinson. It’s always a huge deal when a player suffers a head injury, especially this day and age. But I’ve watched every snap the Falcons have taken both offensively and defensively for the last several seasons, and they way that Robinson injured his head is the way he always plays. He always launches himself at receivers down the field, and isn’t afraid to drop his head when laying the lumber. With two weeks until the Falcons play again, there’s no doubt in my mind that Robinson will be ready for the first playoff game.
I am, however, going to express some serious concern about John Abraham’s ankle. According to post-game remarks by Smith, Abraham’s ankle injury is very minor. No real concern. Now I certainly, certainly hope that is the case, because Abraham is such a massive part of Atlanta’s pass-rush, and the Falcons absolutely can’t afford to not have Abe in the playoffs. And it’s also never a good thing to be carted off the field of play.
I understand having your starters in for most of the game, especially the entire first half, which is when an injury like Robinson’s took place. You can’t avoid injuries like that. But for a player as old as Abraham, who is as critical a piece of your defense as he is, you certainly can’t leave him on the field late in the 4th quarter. You just can’t do it. I know that Mike Smith said he would play to win the game, and if he did anything aside from that he’d make a liar out of himself. But you have to protect your players better than that. It’s not like the Falcons put up incredible offensive numbers to set a record, or were trying to stop Tampa to facilitate a win to get them into the playoffs. They put up a paltry performance, and in addition to the loss suffered injuries. It could turn out to be a major problem.