Hot Read: Penalties and Dropped Passes
The Atlanta Falcons have not been the same team this year as they have been in previous seasons. Last year, the Falcons were one of the most disciplined teams in the league and our receivers were much better at catching the ball than they have been so far this year. These two aspects were made painfully evident during the loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon. During the game, two defensive touchdowns were called back on penalties as well as several promising drives being stalled because of our receivers inability to secure catches. If the Falcons want to make it deep into the playoffs, they are going to have to mend these problem areas very quickly.
The first issue that needs to be fixed is penalties. This has been a problem throughout the season but until Sunday, it did not seem to hurt the team as much. During the first half of the game on Sunday, T.J. Yates lost a fumble on a questionable call by the referees. The call came when Yates arm was hit by a Falcons defender and the ball came loose. In real time it looked as though his arm was going forward but the refs never blew the play dead. James Sanders, understanding that the play was still live, quickly picked up the ball and ran it the length of the field for a touchdown. However, during the return members from both teams had run onto the field thinking that it was an incomplete pass. The refs took another look at the play after the challenge booth requested they looked at it.
After a few minutes, the refs came back and upheld the ruling. But since both teams had extra men on the field, the ball was returned to the spot of the recovery and the Falcons retained the ball. The next penalty that hurt us was on the interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Again, this touchdown was turned over because of a defensive holding call by one of the Falcons Cornerbacks. This was the most crucial penalty because not only did it eliminate a touchdown for the Falcons, it also gave the Texans another chance and they did not waste that chance. The Texans eventually took the ball all the way down the field and eventually scored the winning touchdown.
The next issue that has plagued the Falcons this year is dropped passes. The Falcons receivers this year have been among the worst in the league in dropped passes. Leading the way is the usually sure handed Roddy White. However, in this game it was key drops made by the rookie phenom Julio Jones that cost the Falcons big time. Even though Roddy and Tony G. had drops, Julio was the biggest culprit with the biggest drop coming on the last play of the game that would have possibly tied the game depending on the extra-point by Matt Bryant.
Julio has shown signs of greatness this year but he has also been sidelined by injuries. In this game, Julio pulled in 4 grabs for over 60 yards including a rather impressive grab near the sidelines late in the game. Unfortunately, Julio could not grab the most important pass that would have tied the game. On this play, Matt Ryan through the ball towards the back corner of the endzone where Julio and a defender were both waiting. The Texans defender did not impede the actions of Julio as much as he probably should which is why this drop was such a demoralizing play. Julio out jumped the defender and got both hands on the ball. He was nowhere near the sideline when he came down but on the way down, the ball came loose and fell to the ground as an incomplete pass and the Texans escaped with a victory.
There is no doubt in my mind that if Julio would have caught that pass then the Falcons could have won the game in overtime. In the remaining games, the Falcons must become more disciplined as a whole and the receivers need to concentrate on catching the ball rather than trying to turn up field and make a bigger play. If they do these things, I believe that the Falcons will not only make it to the playoffs, they will be able to go deep as well.