Dec 9, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith reacts on the sidelines. The Panthers defeated the Falcons 30-20 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
In every game there are lessons to be learned. Win or lose, a good Team and Coaching staff will learn
from that days lessons. On Sunday in Carolina, the Falcons learned that you need to come to play from the opening kickoff and that teams are going to play their hardest against a team on top.
This game was lost in the first half, looking in a lot of ways like the Falcon team we saw in the Playoff game last year against the Giants. Atlanta is in line for a bye going into this years playoffs and hopefully the mini bye of ten days prior to this match will be a lesson to the team that did not come out sharp, fell behind at the very outset and played catch up all day only to fall short exhausted in a game that ended not as close as the final score indicated. The mini bye did little in preparation, never added a new wrinkle in attack or helped with any energy level until the middle of the Third period. I look to the offense for taking most of the blame. Just like the Falcons previous game against New Orleans, the defense did the job, not by getting those game saving interceptions but by holding the Carolina attack to three field goals in the first half that could have been game over at the break. The defense played a good half even without Asante and Moore. They were on the field for all but six minutes of the first half as the Atlanta offense managed only two first downs, none via the pass and zero points. Too much talent on the Falcon offense to have those statistics at half time after the ten days of preparation against a team that is good, but not going to the playoffs. The lesson of Mental prep must be learned and retained before we start in January.
I hope another lesson, shown to the coaching staff, is the rushing game is just not there. Thirty five yards is horrible, and although the birds were playing catch up, that means also the Carolina defense was playing for more the pass. At this stage of the season, the lesson has been closed. With the score Panthers 7 and Falcons 0 in the first quarter on our first possession, the first play called was ‘Turner up the middle’. With the score Panthers 10 and Falcons 0 in the second quarter on our second possession , the first play called was ‘Turner up the middle’. Both plays combined for three yards gained. The lesson has been taught and the lesson must be learned or we repeat the class over – and Falcon fans don’t want that repeat playoff summer homework again. I also found it interesting that Jaquizz was our leading receiver in the first half.
Was this by design ? Were we trying out a new page in the playbook ? Was the offense so out of sync and unfocused after taking the NFC South title that this was what we had to offer ?
Coming out in the second half and running five quick plays only put the defense back on the field and when Cam ran for a seventy two yard score it was over. I’m sure the team knows there is no lesson need be taught that Twenty three points is very hard to overcome on the road against any team, and in the playoffs would be even more of an uphill climb. This is a game that could have been as ugly as that playoff loss to the Giants last year. When down by more than three touchdowns the team is not just battling to be perfect offensively, but has to get exhausting defensive stops nearly every time out and they must go up against the clock. Maybe another quarter and Atlanta pulls out this game, the lesson being that there are only four quarters when trailing , but a look at the second half and there were bright spots that can be taken from this loss. Even after Newton’s touchdown run on Carolina’s first possession in the second half, Atlanta still outscored the Panthers in the half. They showed life , although too late, with the passing game we saw many times this year. That is the lesson to be taken from this game. The passing game can carry this team, Turner must learn to block first and run second to give Matt the time he needs. As bad as the first half was, Matt Ryan still threw for 342 yards, threw for two touchdowns, and hit nine different receivers.
Roddy ended with 117 yards receiving and Tony G had 8 catches for an average of 7.5 yards, and Rodgers doubled his rushing yardage in the passing game – nearly all these stats coming in the second half. Close the conservative run playbook, Atlanta will take the next step in the playoffs when the Air attack goes in full throttle motion. No better time to test it all out with the Super Bowl Giants coming to the dome next Sunday. Hope they do the necessary homework.