Greg Huseth’s Weekly Review


So here it is, my inaugural post as a writer for Blogging Dirty. As promised I will have a wrap up of the past weekend, so here goes.

What a week for the Falcons. The game for these Birds was as big as it could get, and the game lived up to its billing. The Matt Ryan vs. Michael Vick battle that was supposed to take place did, and the Falcons did what they needed to win the game: pressure Michael Vick, while keeping him in the pocket. First thing about the Eagles offense, nobody is going to hold them to a few points.

Now that I’ve said that, someone will in following weeks with Mike Kafka, but that’s just because Vick isn’t at quarterback. But the point is conceded, even if the secondary plays perfectly, and a lot of pressure is kept on the pocket, Vick will make plays to escape, get a first down, and live to fight another day. Mike Vick trying to stay in the pocket and go against what he has done for years is the reason he got hurt. He just isn’t a pocket passer. He’s at his best passing when he has designed roll outs, or simply extending the play to throw downfield. Sitting in the pocket in the red zone is not what he does best, and he suffered for it. I’m the biggest Falcons fan in the world, but I’m also a realist, and I fell that had Vick not been hurt, the outcome might have been different. Not saying a win would be impossible, but it would be very difficult.

Two things always stated, but I feel that they need to be said again because they are just so critical. 1. You must win the turnover battle. There are some variations on this rule (i.e. We need to make plays on defense….Ryan cannot throw picks…..Turner cannot fumble) but winning the turnover battle is key.  Mike Vick threw a pick and fumbled twice, compared to Ryan’s two picks. If you add the turnover on downs in the fourth quarter, that makes the turnover ratio Four-to-two in favor of the Falcons. That was so key to the success of the game, it cannot be understated.  2. Hold the other team to field goals. Without holding the Eagles to a field goal in the second quarter, that dramatic fourth quarter that Ryan led the Falcons on to give them a lead may not have happened. It may have simply tied the game. Holding the Eagles to a field goal there was crucial, but holding other teams to field goals is just as important to a bend don’t break philosophy as getting turnovers.

Now the offensive side of the ball.

This was the noted weakness of the Eagles defense was the middle. They have two great defensive ends, and the most complete corps of corners in the League. Their weakness (the weakness of the Wide 9 defense that they run) is that they spread their defensive line to get pressure on the quarterback, and are vulnerable to the running game and passing at the linebacker and safety levels. The Eagles are built to beat teams like the Packers, Patriots, and Saints, teams that don’t run the ball effectively, but spread it out and throw deep. It is basically the Colt’s defense of about four or five years ago when they allowed runs, but refused to let the passing game beat them. One of the Falcon’s biggest strengths is their power running game with Michael Turner. Putting stress on the defense by using the running game was the key to opening up Tony Gonzalez, and the fifteen yard passes to wide receivers that Ryan had. The trap block was the perfect way to spring Turner on that big fourth quarter run. And I promise to you that Asante Samuel wants no part of tackling Michael Turner.

Matt Ryan performed when it mattered most. It seemed like he was getting pummeled all night when he dropped straight back to pass. There were numerous hits, a couple sacks, and at one point in the third quarter, I thought he had suffered a slight knee injury. But I was wrong. Ryan is one tough cookie. He completed 60% of his passes despite being under tremendous pressure, and a couple of those passes were simply jump balls for Julio Jones that were covered absolutely perfectly by Philadelphia’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Between his coverage, and the pressure, Ryan had no shot at working those deep routes and “explosive” plays that the Falcons front office talked about so much. Sam Baker looked totally outmatched and got beaten horribly countless times. As a result Ryan made a poor decision on the pick by Asomugha. The pick by Samuel was not good, but it was also a horrible effort by Julio Jones to at least bat the ball down. I certainly expect more from the player who we traded five picks for.

I think that the best times are still ahead for this Falcon’s offense. Just imagine how they will stretch the field against teams without the three best corners in the league, or without a defensive scheme that is conducive for extreme pass rushing, or without both! This offense is solid. The running game is great, the passing game is effective, give Ryan time in the pocket, and he will find the open receivers. Julio Jones is young, Roddy White is a man, and Gonzalez is and all-time great. All that Atlanta needs to do is protect its most important asset, and he will distribute the ball effectively. Expect to see him do just that, with fewer mistakes next week against the Bucs.