After watching Sunday nights game a lot of things stick out, but one thing is certain, the Falcons are for real. After a worrisome week one, Ryan and company bounced back in one of the most thrilling games that I’ve seen in some time. With lots of scoring, lead changes, turnovers, and hard hits the game definitely lived up to its prime time placement.
The Falcons defense came out looking like they were going to have a big game vs the Eagles with only one first down on their first drive, capped off with a tackle for loss by second year linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. The Eagles second drive was even better for the Falcons D, ending in a three and out, despite the Falcons only having ten men on the field for third down.
On the third drive however, the Eagles showed their dangerous team speed with a thirteen play drive ending in a TD reception to Eagles receiver Maclin. From that point on it looked like Philly was going to be able to move the ball at will, which they pretty much were. If it wasn’t for a very resilient Mike Smith coached team stepping up to make some huge plays at crucial moments, we could have been looking at the worst start to a season under this regime.
I’m so impressed with the gritty toughness that oozes from every player on this defense. It is quite obvious that there is going to be one theme when you play the Falcons, strap on your big boy pants today fellas. Jeremy Maclin soon found that out when he rocked by Dunta Robinson. They may not be the best in coverage or be in the right place at all times but they will not give up at any point. It seems that almost every player on the defense made a big play at some point in the game.
The off season acquisition of DE Ray Edwards looks to be a nice fit and paying off. He was in Vick’s face all night, had several tackles for loss and was part of the play of the game, recovering a fumble and returning it for 64 yards. He may need a few more sprint reps during the week though, he looked pretty gassed at the end of the play! The nickel spot seems to be getting worked out also, as Kelvin Hayden had a good night and Chris Owens didn’t give up any monster plays in his limited playing time.
Well the Falcons were expected to be an offensive juggernaut this year, but so far that’s not quite the case. Until the offensive line starts playing well, it will not be the case. Although, there were some definite major improvements from last week, there is still a long way to go.
Matt Ryan is going to get a lot of well deserved praise for his tough guy performance on Sunday, but there are some criticisms that need to go out as well. Matt is developing a bad habit of holding onto the ball for way too long. The line might be giving up pressure too soon and he may not have any wide open receivers, but he has to know where his quick outlet is more often. Other than that, he had a stellar performance with 4 TD passes for the first time in his already illustrious career.
Tony Gonzalez obviously still has it. With his amazing one-handed TD grab going on most of the highlight reels for the game. The Falcons should look to keep him involved in the passing game for the remainder of the season.
Ahhhh, a divisional game with Tampa up next. Although since Ryan’s arrival the Falcons have been pewter people eaters, we know that the Bucs are no longer a push over. Josh Freeman is developing into an excellent QB with lots of weapons around him. Tampa has really built up it’s D-line over the past two years as well, which should cause Matty Ice some problems. In a recent interview, I heard Bucs Head Coach Raheem Morris express his hatred for the Falcons, I say we make that hatred grow with a win in his backyard.
Offensive game plan:
With this team already having 8 fourth quarter comebacks under their belt with Freeman at the helm, it is not only imperative to start fast, but to keep the pedal floored once a lead is established. This should be a good game to get the deep threat established. Minnesota was able make multiple explosive plays against the Bucs last week. Another heavy dose of Micheal Turner should be applied as well, since they gave up 186 yards on the ground to the Vikings. Tampa deeply misses and regrets letting long time MLB Barrett Ruud get away during the off season.
Since center Todd McClure, will likely miss this weeks game, it will be very important for Joe Hawley to step up his game. He can not continue to draw holding penalties and get beat. Sam Baker won’t have quite the task that he did last week, but he has to keep Ryan cleaner.
Defensive game plan:
I expect Atlanta to come out in its normal four man rush scheme. There will definitely be some blitzes mixed in, but not to the degree that we saw against Philadelphia. Probably not the corner blitzes either, since Freeman is 6’6″ 248lbs and hard for a corner to bring down. Tampa has some speedy receivers, so we probably are going to see a two high safety look quite often. That will leave it up MLB Curtis Lofton and crew to tend to TE Kellen Davis and to stop a hefty RB in Legarrette Blount from breaking any long runs.