Should the Falcons toss 2013 to the side? A search for bright spots in a disappointing year. By Bobby Decker.
This has not been a pleasant week for me as a fan of Atlanta’s sports teams. First, both the Falcons and Braves took the national spotlight on Monday night as an opportunity to give fans a punch to the gut. I was wondering if I had angered spirits by disturbing an ancient burial ground after Geno Smith led the Jets to a game-winning field goal while looking like Drew Brees and Juan Uribe looked like Miguel Cabrera while hitting the game-winning homer. The next morning, I knew I had provoked the wrath of spirits when I found that Julio Jones was going to miss the rest of the season. Add to the mix the undefeated record of the hated Saints, and it’s hard to find any sign of hope, particularly for a sports pessimist like myself. However, now that a couple of days have passed and I’ve cooled down, I feel a need to calm the masses who want to take drastic measures like trading Tony Gonzalez back to the Chiefs and hopefully find some glimmer of light in this season. Here’s some good news for a city desperately in need of some:
The Falcons are hardly getting blown out. Their four losses have been by a combined 19 points, and if just one of them had gone the other way, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now. 2-3 looks a heck of a lot better than 1-4.
Matt Ryan is still really, really good. He’s completing almost 70% of his passes and is third in the NFL in passing yards. A 10:3 touchdown to interception ratio is nothing to sneeze at either, and he’s been doing all of this with a poor (at best) offensive line, no Steven Jackson, and a hobbled Roddy White who has been serving essentially as a decoy for three weeks.
The schedule offers a modicum of hope. After a much needed bye this week, the Falcons play Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Carolina. After the Jets loss, nothing can be considered a guarantee, but that’s hardly a murderer’s row of opponents. For the sake of argument, let’s say they win those and move to 4-4. Then they play Seattle, and even though I’m a gigantic homer, I’m aware that that will likely make it 4-5. Assuming that it will take a 10-6 record to snag a wild card spot in the NFC, that leaves the Falcons with one loss to give in their last seven games, which are against Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Buffalo, Green Bay, Washington, San Francisco, and Carolina. The Saints, Packers, and 49ers will be extremely tough and don’t leave much room for error, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Falcons to get to 10-6.
However, let’s get to the bad news. That aforementioned offensive line? It can be painful to watch. Any time Matt Ryan drops back from under center, defenses salivate. Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz often look absolutely lost in run-blocking, which is part of the reason the Falcons are only averaging about 80 yards a game running the ball.
The defense has been ravaged by both injuries and rookies. Learning to play cornerback in the NFL is not easy, but any decent defense cannot let Geno Smith shred it in a two-minute situation. I don’t know how good Geno will be, but I’d be surprised if he put up 30 points on a consistent basis. Recievers were literally running uncovered down the seams on Mondaynight. Mike Nolan has the bye week to start figuring out how this mish-mash of undrafted rookies and mediocre veterans can become a league-average defense.
So what’s the verdict? Do I think the Falcons are a 1-4 football team, which would translate to something around 4-12 or 5-11? No, but I didn’t think that they were a 13-3 football team last year. The fact is, a season is a very small sample size for such a volatile game. The Falcons caught their fair share of breaks last year, and those aren’t going their way this year. Add some injuries and poor play, and it’s shaping up to be a disappointing season in the Georgia Dome.
I’ll continue to believe in the magic of Matty Ice, and who knows? Maybe this is the start of a storybook season that ends with Arthur Blank holding the Lombardi trophy in the New Meadowlands.
At any rate, I’ll avoid antagonizing any more spirits. It’s not good for my health.