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After the euphoria of last week the Falcons came crashing back to reality with an all too familiar lack luster against the Bengals. The Falcons were manhandled in what looked and felt like a replay of the 2013 season and after all the good work they seemingly did last week this team suddenly feels a million miles away from the playoff team many envisioned after last week’s victory. A full game review will be up later once the All 22 film comes out but for now here are my quick observations from the live watch of the game;
Run Defense looks as bad as ever. The Falcons gave up 170 yards on the ground and while the Bengals only averaged 3.0 YPC the stats are deceiving. The Bengals ran the ball pretty much at will and the Falcons were unable to ever really get a hold on either Gio Bernard or Jeremy Hill.
The Offensive Line took a step back vs the Bengals. Without watching the tape it’s impossible to know who or what is to blame but from just watching the game it seemed like the whole line struggled. Ryan was able to negate poor tackle play last week because the interior of the line gave him a clean pocket, this wasn’t the case vs the Bengals and as a result Ryan and the offense struggled to ever get going.
You live and die by the blitz. With the lack of a consistent pass rush fans have been clamoring for more aggressive play calling from Mike Nolan. In the 3rd quarter vs the Bengals Nolan did just that as he called a ‘casino blitz’, both safeties rushed the quarterback leaving the corners all alone with no cover behind. Andy Dalton saw the blitz coming and got the ball out quickly to Mohamed Sanu. Robert Alford could only get his fingertips to the ball and the result was a 76 yard TD pass that was ultimately the final nail in the Falcons coffin.
Alford will get a lot of heat for giving up the play and rightfully so, you can’t allow that to happen, but Alford isn’t the problem, the Falcons pass rush is. Through two games the Falcons have zero sacks and to be honest vs the Bengals they never really came close. We knew coming into this season the Falcons would struggle to put pressure on the QB but I don’t think anyone saw it being just this pitiful. If the Falcons want to win games this year they need to make a move for a pass rusher and they need to do it quickly.
Wide receivers seemingly failed to get open. It seemed that every time Ryan looked to throw down field he would read through his progressions and ultimately hang onto the ball suggesting no one was open. The one time Ryan did throw the ball downfield it was into double coverage, Julio did catch the ball but he was stripped by the Bengals safety. A poor play by Julio not to hang on? A good play by Iloka? You decide. After such an explosive debut last week it’s extremely disappointing that this high flying offense wasn’t able to function against a defense that had a lot of its star players either banged up or not playing.
Overall this game was a complete disaster. By the end of the game the Bengals were without a multitude of starters and yet the Falcons were still unable to make much of an impression. All the heart and resilience the Falcons showed last week had seemingly disappeared as the Falcons were once again made to look like the smaller, weaker choir boys being shoved around by the big bad bullies. All offseason the Falcons have preached toughness, they signed tougher players, the team got bigger, stronger and the coaches made it a point of emphasis to have the Falcons playing tougher football. Through two games this team looks as porous and feeble as ever. There are no excuses, it’s embarrassing. Undoubtedly the fans will want someone to blame just so they can aim their frustration at one particular individual. Is there one person to blame? No, there rarely ever is. What is abundantly clear is that this team is still haunted by the weaknesses of last year and unless things start changing soon heads could begin to fly.