The Atlanta Falcons enter the midway point of the 2013 season out of balance. With a 2 – 5 record they trail a majority of teams for the right to play in January. When Matt Ryan has to throw sixty one times in a game and the rushing attack is worse than last season, it has to be written on the locker room blackboard and in Dirks’ playbook that the equilibrium of the Falcons is alarmingly unstable. No matter who the quarterback is, from Ryan to any legend you want to insert, the one dimensional approach will eventually be exposed on a tightened playing field and constrict most attempts at success.
Against the Arizona Cardinals the offensive line faced a tough test and did not get a grade for even future hope. It was the second game in a row the offense could not gain even thirty yards on the ground. With Stephen Jackson finally returning and an elusive Jaquizz in the backfield there is no blame other than the offensive line. It is not lack of hard work, or poor schemes. We are at the half way mark of the season, and the listing balance has made Ryan a sitting target where he took eleven hits, four sacks and threw four interceptions while running for his life. (His thirteen yard run was the best the team gained on foot).
It is discouraging knowing how tough and smart Ryan is, seeing Harry Douglas step up in two Julio like games, and Drew Davis ( 77 yards and a touchdown against the Cards) showing stability over a hobbled Roddy in the passing game along with Darius Johnson responding to call up and insertion rather well. But without line protection and no running lanes even middle of the pack defenses will gain an upper hand. The rushing totals for the last two games are 45 yards on 32 attempts, a signal to the league there is no longer a element of surprise, a threat or any concern on the ground from where Ryan stands calling the play.
When balance shifts it has a ill affect on surrounding unstable items. The Atlanta defense has been unstable at times, but being on the field with an offense going three and out or turning the ball over just weakens the chance at success. The defense felt the domino affect after Asante’s interception could produce only a field goal and after the turnovers started the second quarter collapse in Phoenix sealed the defeat. The offensive line has been the albatross that has derailed the season, but it was also heartbreaking to see John Abraham outshine all but Babs and Peters in the defensive trenches. The writing is on the wall.
I would have liked to see Tony G. go to Kansas city, a move discussed for days and one that could benefit all parties, and if the Birds brass has hope, then why no moves at the deadline ? The patriots picked up the Eagles Sopoaga for a fifth round pick. A move like that would have had me in a better mood.
There are 16 NFC teams and Atlanta has 10 of them in front of them. That is not a popularity ranking but hard won loss facts. The Birds lack of balance will not enable them to fly ahead of enough of those teams to reach a playoff spot. If that miracle did happen, the balance would be exposed against top tier teams on the road. Vince Lombardi once said, “ the harder you work the harder it is to surrender”.
The Falcons have worked hard to over come youth injection, injuries, unfortunate luck and lack of giants on the offensive line, but forward progress has not been achieved. The season is surrendering to the wrong side of the balance scale. Moving Forward without a solution will just get Atlanta a draft pick out of balance of what we envisioned at the start of the year.
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