Falcons Stumble in the Final Turn, Head down the Home Stretch in a Neck and Neck Race for the Playoffs

free-run

– The Time is Now

 

We are what we thought we were.

In the Cage’s “Season Predictions” post, our own Coop had the Falcons at 7-5 after 12 games. With four games remaining, the Falcons have a favorable schedule. None of the teams left on the schedule have a winning record. Coop predicted that our Falcons would finish the 2016 season with a 9-7 record and miss the playoffs on tie-breakers. Much to Cager Mr. B’s displeasure, it looks like the prospect of a Falcons playoff appearance (or at least their seeding) will come down to the last two games against our biggest divisional rivals – the last game of the season will mean something.

The Falcons once again managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against the Chiefs, much to the chagrin of their fans. The Chiefs lived up to their pre-game billing: mediocre offensively and defensively (except in the red zone, where their defense has been stout), but opportunistic with turnovers and special teams play. The Falcons also lived up to their pre-game billing: great offense, with a lousy but improving defense. It was a very entertaining game to watch.

The Falcons took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a touchdown. Good sign. Matty Automatic (Matt Bryant) added the PAT. The Falcons defense looked like swiss cheese when the Chiefs got the ball. The Chiefs scored quickly and easily. Fortunately, former second round pick Ra’Shede Hageman blocked the Chiefs extra point attempt to keep the lead at 7-6. Hageman is in his third season, has one year left on his contract, and needs to step up now if he wants to continue to be a Falcon. Hageman has a history of blocking kicks since his college days.

It seems the Falcons defense always looks terrible early in games. Sometimes they make adjustments and look better as the game goes on. The Chiefs game was no exception, with the Falcons defense allowing only one TD the rest of the way. (The Chiefs other two TD’s came via a pick six and a fake punt.) The defense still has no answer for opposing Tight Ends – even after all these years. On one occasion, I saw LB Campbell in coverage on TE Kelce. Campbell was in good position when Kelce got the ball, but took a poor angle and got beat for a big gain. I’ll chalk that up to a rookie mistake. More disturbing were the many plays where S Ricardo Allen had coverage on Kelce. Talk about a mismatch – NFL QB’s and OC’s will continue to exploit that match-up until the Falcons fix it (which probably won’t happen this year).

The Falcons offense proceeded to march down the field again, aided by local star and cancer survivor Eric Berry’s 40 yard pass interference penalty for mugging Julio, only to stall inside the 5 yard line and add a field goal. On the Chiefs’ next possession Beasley forced a turnover with a strip sack, recovered by Jarrett. The offense moved quickly down the field, but stalled again inside the 5 yard line and had to settle for another FG. I questioned Quinn’s decision to let time expire in the first quarter, rather than attack a defense that was reeling and had just given the Falcons 5 yards on a penalty with over 20 seconds left in the quarter. The KC defense was able to regroup during the break to change sides of the field, and kept the Falcons out of the end-zone.

Through this point of the game, it felt like the Falcons were dominating. Everything was going right. But the Falcons were only up by a TD, in spite of all the breaks going their way. Of course, KC immediately answered, driving 92 yards with frequent big gainers to the TE, to tie the game at 13.

After the two teams swapped punts, Eric Berry appeared again by jumping a pass thrown slightly behind Gabriel and taking it to the house. Another pick 6 for Ryan. KC 20 – ATL 13. Matty Automatic answered for the Falcons with a 59 yard field goal to close out the first half down 20-16.

After halftime, the Falcons defense came out inspired. They appeared to hold KC to a three and out around midfield. Alas, Andy Reid knew he couldn’t try to sit on a lead with these Falcons, so he called a fake punt on 4th and 1 resulting in a 55 yard TD. The Falcons, now down two scores, roared down the field but stalled at the 10 yard line. Quinn elected to respond to Reid’s aggressive call in kind and opted to go for the first down on 4th and 1 (a call I agreed with). Unfortunately, the attempt failed and the Falcons turned the ball over on downs.

On the ensuing KC possession, the Falcons allowed the Chiefs to move out to midfield. The defense then dodged a huge bullet when LB Campbell appeared to blow the coverage on RB Ware out of the backfield, but Alex Smith missed a wide open target that would have been a sure big gainer. The Falcons recovered to force a KC punt.

Still down two scores, with three minutes left in the third quarter, the Falcons needed to find the end zone in the worst way. Six minutes and 80 yards later, the Falcons had tightened the score to 27-22 with a touchdown. Quinn elected to go for two (a call I supported at the time), but the Falcons failed to convert.

The Falcons defense then got off the field in two and a half minutes after allowing 18 yards in 5 plays, setting up the opportunity for the Falcons to take back the lead with about nine minutes left in the game. Five minutes and 80 yards later a five yard Ryan TD pass to Aldrick Robinson put the Falcons up 28-27. Ironically, I heard the announcer say that Eric Berry blew the coverage to leave Robinson wide open in the end-zone. Berry atoned for his error on the two point conversion attempt (which I again supported) by taking a “pick 2” to the house for the final 29-28 margin.

The Falcons defense had two third down opportunities to get the ball back for Matty Ice and Matty Automatic, but couldn’t get the job done.

We are what we thought we were.

The Falcons have a dynamic offense, though not one that is going to score every time they touch the ball. The offense moves the ball most of the time, but settles for more field goals than we would like. Fortunately, the Falcons arguably have the best FG kicker, as well as the best QB, in franchise history. Yes, Ryan had two big interceptions returned for scores that “cost us” the game. Let us not forget that he also drove the team down the field to score the go ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter. Matty Ice is not this team’s problem. I love having a team that always has a chance in a shootout.

The Falcons have a young, and improving defense. They start poorly. They need a few more players (and did even before the injuries). But they do get some stops. Beasley is looking like an impact player with his penchant for strip sacks. The rookies look mostly good, but occasionally look like rookies.

The Falcons have an aggressive, young coach who is building a team personality that makes the Falcons an exciting team to root for. He believes his guys can step up when they have to, and shows that confidence with his game decisions. Confidence can be contagious. Our young coach makes some mistakes, but he is still learning, too.

The 2016 Falcons are a team nobody wants to see in the playoffs, but they haven’t made them yet. At  7-5, the Falcons need to win in December. The Falcons will need to win against opponents with losing records (currently), who are also bitter rivals (with the exception of the Gurley Rams and the Kaper 49ers). Many fans, myself included, believe that this edition of the Falcons is legit. Some fans, like the Cage’s own Grits Blitz (and probably Seminole Warrior), remain comfortably seated on the Missouri Express. These final four games (at the Rams, home vs. 49ers, at Carolina, home vs. Aints) will tell the tale of the 2016 Falcons – a team that is still missing some pieces, but that appears to be a dangerous opponent; a team that appears to be on a trajectory that will allow them to become consistent championship contenders in the coming years. This year ain’t over yet. Go Falcons!!!!!!!

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1,251 thoughts on “Falcons Stumble in the Final Turn, Head down the Home Stretch in a Neck and Neck Race for the Playoffs

    1. JB Falcon

      *looking ahead, as always. With more experience than our team now has plus an extra boost thru the draft and FA we should be an even more formidable foe next year. In order to be the team we want to be the schedule should not be of that much importance. Getting to be the team we want to be and staying there and maintaining the team will be our successful future.

      Reply
      1. Mr B

        Agree, since we won our division, we have to play the other 2 division winners in our 2 “other” games outside our NFC and AFC division match ups. The trappings of success.

        Reply
  1. Paddy O

    well, I’m pretty satisfied with this regular season. I also look at other potential HC’s we thought we were pursuing – Ryan and Bowles – and think NOW we made the best choice. I wholeheartedly support DQ’s speed kills mantra – now, if we could just get some super beef at the DT’s and improve the OG’s, and possibly some more speed/hitting power in the LB’s, we are set.

    Good season so far. Hope to see the first play off game.

    Reply
    1. Mr B

      Agree here, Ryan is a coach you just know your fire the day after you hire him, but he will sell a few tickets, and can energize a stagnant fan base….Bowles? he is in over his head, just not HC material. We dodged a bullet there.

      Reply
        1. Paddy O

          I’ve thought that the best drafting mantra – you can’t coach speed. Provided the guy is not a drug addict or head case. If you put big butt in the center of the D line, and stiffen the OG’s around Mack, we could be really dominant.

          Reply
  2. Flo-Ri-Duh

    Injury Report 12/28/16 (atlantafalcons.com)
    Did not participate in practice –
    Dwight Freeney (DE) – non injury related
    Taylor Gabriel (WR) – foot
    Austin Hooper (TE) – knee
    ……………………………………………………..
    Returned to practice – limited basis
    DeVondre Campbell (LB) – concussion
    ………………………………………………………
    Limited Practice –
    Robert Alford (CB) – toe
    Andy Levitre (G) – hip
    Keanu Neal (SS) – ?
    Julio Jones (WR) – toe sprain
    ………………………………………………………..

    Reply
      1. Mr B

        Luck was not the right word, KS knew. I think it falls more into he category of Shrewd, but I do agree we were lucky that Cleveland is run by a bunch on imbeciles. Its like Karma, or destiny, for he is everything I dreamed Mckissic could be. I wonder what happened with Mckissic, obviously DQ did not like what he saw on game day.

        Reply
          1. Mr B

            Yea I saw that, but I wonder why he got cut, you don’t keep guy around that long, put him on the active roster one week and cut him Monday unless you saw something Sunday you did not like. Was he unprepared? Did he forget his assignment? Were his shoes untied? I just wonder what DQ saw, because that was pretty harsh.

      1. Mr B

        IDK if he could be called the front runner, there are a lot of candidates…. I think Jason Garrett, Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase and Andy Reid are all turning in COY performances….Actually, I think DQ got out coached going head to head against Andy Reid, and DQ outreached JDR when they played so it will be interesting, but in the end, I think Darth Belichick will get if if Brady does not win MVP.

        Reply
  3. waynesworldreview

    Looking ahead to free agency–
    Re-sign Patrick Dimarco ASAP!
    Take from our NFC South rivals if possible:
    DT Kawaan Short, CAR
    DT Nick Fairly NO
    DE William Gholston TB
    I also like
    RG Larry Warford, DET
    OG Ronald Leary DAL
    DT Bennie Logan PHI
    Most of these guys would command big money but Ya’ll see where I want the $$$ spent–IN THE TRENCHES!!

    Reply
  4. John Waynesworld

    Sour grape jelly, just like the color of his clothes….

    Panthers QB Cam Newton was asked his pick for MVP, and he says it’s Raiders QB Derek Carr.

    Never mind the Pro Bowler in his own division who set an NFL record in passing THIS YEAR against HIS team.

    “WHERE’S MY SUCKER, WHAAA!” – Cammy

    Reply
  5. JJ

    CONGRATULATIONS 2016 SARAHB CAGE FFL CHAMPION:
    JOHN WAYNESWORLD

    CONGRATULATIONS 2016 RUNNER-UP:
    SW

    Sarah Brainerd / Cage FFL Final League Standings
    Season: 2016
    1 Run Julio Run – John Waynesworld
    2 SW’s Tribe – Roddy Nixon
    3 Slaughter House – Wayne Reid
    4 Team Crazy Bird – Steven bbbb
    5 Ajarns Avenging Aardvarks-Ajarn Bangkapi
    6 Texas Monstars – Michael Chastain
    7 JJ’s War Eagles – Jeffrey Jones
    8 Team Delmer – Mary Delmer
    9 Nuclear Doritos – Lawrence Hamblin
    10 Howlin Owls – Jeff Gillespie

    Reply
  6. JJ

    JWW CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM:
    QB – RUSSELL WILSON – 39.6PTS
    RB – DAVID JOHNSON – 45.6PTS
    RB – ALFRED BLUE – 27.5PTS
    RB/WR – DEVONTA FREEMAN – 19.3PTS
    WR – TY HILTON – 15.5PTS
    WR – JARVIS LANDRY – 7.4PTS
    TE – HUNTER HENRY – 0
    LB – RYAN SHAZIER – 12PTS
    DL – BRANDON GRAHAM – 4PTS
    DB – JOHNATHAN CRYPIEN – 6PTS
    K – RYAN SUCCOP – 5PTS

    Reply
  7. The Time is NOW

    NFL.com rates the MVP candidates:

    “1) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons quarterback: The national media spent the season promoting lesser MVP candidates as Ryan remained steady as a metronome, steering the NFL’s premier offense through injuries and a grueling schedule. Distributing the ball like Steph Curry in Kyle Shanahan’s spread-the-wealth offense, Ryan is the first player in history to throw touchdowns to 13 different players. Per Football Outsiders’ metrics, he has been the season’s best passer on short throws as well as bombs. The Falcons averaged 35 points during their 4-1 start, 30.1 points in a 3-4 midseason “skid” and 38.7 points in three December blowouts. Compensating for a porous Atlanta defense, he has consistently put his team in position to win, going 14 consecutive games with a fourth-quarter lead.

    Not convinced that Ryan should run away with the award? The Falcons lead the league in points per game (33.5), yards per play (6.6) and big plays (115). They are one of three teams since 1991 to score on more than half of their drives. Ryan’s average of 9.26 yards per attempt is the highest in history for any player with 400 or more pass attempts. He’s on pace to become just the fourth quarterback ever to average 300 or more passing yards per game with a passer rating over 115. The other three members of that exclusive club (2013 Peyton Manning, 2011 Aaron Rodgers and 2007 Tom Brady) were all honored with the MVP award. While Ryan certainly benefits from the presence of physical marvel Julio Jones at receiver, his passer rating (122) and completion rate (74) are actually higher when he’s targeting other receivers. By any fair measure, Ryan is the NFL’s most valuable player of 2016.”

    http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000765396/article/position-rankings-matt-ryan-leads-mvp-candidates

    Reply
      1. The Time is NOW

        You’ve been calling for 35 since I’ve been here, my friend. It’s good to see the Falcons finally find a way to make it happen. I missed your voice recently. Hope you had a good Christmas.

        Reply
        1. Paddy O

          thank you ! Same to you – and, have a great new year ! I was visiting family in NJ, and could not access the cage off my friends computer – missed 2 games while in NJ.

          Reply
          1. Paddy O

            NJ is a lot greener than folks think – the REvolution was fought heavily in the state, and there are a slew of historical places – plus the NJ shore. You can also visit the USS NJ – a great battleship moored in Camden – right across the river is Philly, which is a REALLY great place to visit. However, traffic is a nightmare pretty much everywhere – and NJ drivers are profound a holes.

  8. JJ

    JWW, Congrats again on winning our championship from the 8th seed, unprecedented!
    Picking up Blue was a stroke of genius/luck!

    – Pick out any authentic NFL jersey, color and size.
    – What name do you want on trophy?
    – Our CF0 (LRD) will take care of it in the next week or two.
    – Using our league email, send LRD an address to ship to.

    Once again, Congrats!!!

    ps- Looking to add 2 more cagers to next yrs league. Fee is only $25 and due before our draft, last sunday in aug.

    Reply
    1. John Waynesworld

      Thanks, JJ. Yea, I had to make that switch right before kickoff. I can’t lie, winning it all from my lowly regular season spot was a tad embarrassing (My second-guessing lost at least 2 games) but I hadn’t won anything in so long…I’ll take it!!! Thanks again for your FFL efforts, JJ & LRD.

      Reply
      1. JJ

        No embarrassment, getting hot during the playoffs is the key. Always re-post what our esteemed SW said 10 yrs ago: ” Get in to the dance and anyone can win”. IMHO, the draft is 25%, waiver wire is 25% and luck (injuries, bad gm’s) is 50%. Does not mean it’s all luck, good drafts and ww pick ups are huge. But once you get to the single elimination playoffs…luck is huge!

        Reply
      1. JJ

        Flo, if you want to join then HM will take the 11th spot and you will take the 12th spot. The amt of time is very little, few minutes to select your starters each week. My fav part (which I think you will love) is the draft and the research leading up to it. You can also just let the espn computer select your draft team. We’ve had 1 champ that way.

        If anyone else wants to join, we will go with 13th and 14th. You will never experience the NFL season the same way!

        Reply
          1. JJ

            League offices are open (by espn) in mid-july. Thats when I will send out invitations. I will need your and HM email address then. I will get back to you soon about your draft position, which you will need to run mock drafts. Hundreds of web sites about FF but my top 2: – fftoday.com (esp the “Board Forum” and rotoworld.com. FFL mags come out in june at grocery stores. We draft 17 players thus its a 17 rd draft. We start 11 each week. Take a look at JWW’s champ team above. We are a .5 ppr (points per reception, so RB that catch are golden) and a IDP (LB, DL, DB ) vs just picking a team DEFENSE.

  9. John Waynesworld

    Sain’ts #3 CB Ken Crawley got injured in practice this week. He is out for Sunday.

    Who da heck is at backup SS…..did anyone know that the Sain’ts picked up Robenson Therezie?

    Scoundrel…they probably offered him money to join their sordid band!

    Reply
    1. JB Falcon

      Same thing that happened to McKissic. Maybe the fact that our rejects are getting snatched up quickly is a sign of our strength, or maybe we’re just stupid.

      Reply
      1. Flo-Ri-Duh

        Does it look like DQ & Co. are making stupid decisions? They’re adjusting the roster for injuries and depth for this playoff run. Didn’t need McKissic now. Sorry to see him go though. They have their 7th Rd draft choice – a WR on injured reserve as I recall – Robinson? They were going to try him at retunring kicks but got injured and never played past preseason.

        Reply
  10. Arno

    This Sunday’s game with the Saints has quite a backstory. At the beginning of the season, the game had the huge significance of it being the last Falcons game to be played in the Dome. Who foresaw we’d be trying to secure the second seed in the NFC? And by winning, we’ll have one more game in the Dome as we host in the playoffs? Enter proud Payton (yet again deflecting rumors that he’s moving on), who’s trying to avoid a third straight 7-9 season, and his brilliant but aging QB snubbed for the Pro-bowl. He’ll be drooling like a crawfish to rob ‘little brother’ (since the Smitty days he’s 11-6 against us) of our playoff position, make sure Brees outguns MVP candidate Ryan, and spoil the Dome’s last contest. But I think Quinn has our guys plenty hungry and focused. We’ll take our little crawfish in a nice spicy gumbo.

    Reply
    1. JB Falcon

      I agree. As strong as our rivalry has been over the years, this game has a little extra hot sauce on it. Peyton would like nothing better while trying to save face and get to play spoiler on our playoff run. I agree also that we are the better team and will win the game in a shoot out. I am really looking forward to it!

      Reply
    2. Flo-Ri-Duh

      Falcons playing late (4:25 pm) in the JawJa Dome and the Aint’s with nothing to win in a hostile environment. I’m expecting a “W” for the Birds to keep the positive momentum going towards a bye week and the PLAYOFFS.

      Reply
  11. Flo-Ri-Duh

    Julio Jones played 39 offensive snaps (62%) and had 4 receptions for 60 yards on 7 targets vs the Panties. He’s still not 100% recovered from his toe injury. JJ is “limited” in practice this week. Austin Hooper (TE) is still out with a knee injury. Taylor Gabriel (WR) has been “limited” so far in practice this week with a foot “strain”. Of course Tamme (TE) is lost for the season. Sanu had some timely catches last week but may have to be the primary target vs the Aint’s. I expect more passes to the RB’s this week also and don’t be surprised to see Tevin Coleman (RB) split out wide while Freeman is in the game at RB. All hands on deck! Getting 100 + yards from the run game will be good. No turnovers – no dumb penalties and hopefully no major injuries. Not getting greedy here – a 1 point “W” will do.

    Reply
  12. Coop

    I am so thrilled about how this team has fought this season. A couple of almost games against the Seahawks, Chargers, and Chiefs stick in my craw, but this team has grown. The D has improved and Matt has led the best offense of all time, We could really do some damage and in a way, I think we are better than 2012. So why can’t I shake the feeling that we will get boat raced by the Aints and wind up in the 4th seed. Falcon fan-itis. Just don’t want to wake up Monday saying, Same ol’ sorry @ss Falcons.

    Come on Matt, make this your time. Refuse to lose. We are NEVER out of the fight!

    Reply
    1. The Time is NOW

      He popped in a short while ago, BM. SW promised to come back after the season with his view on the state of the Falcons, as well as his vision for our team moving forward. I, too, look forward to hearing from our Cage brother…

      Reply
    1. Flo-Ri-Duh

      OK . Don’t know why this link doesn’t work. Basically this guy raped a 13 year old girl in the US after he had been deported back to Mexico 16 times!
      We need immigrants that respect the laws of the US. We don’t need immigrants that won’t abide by our laws. Another reason I was looking for a change in DC.

      Reply
  13. Flo-Ri-Duh

    PFF’s Top 10 NFL rookies:
    #1 Ezekiel Elliott (RB)
    #2 Dak Prescott (QB)
    #3 Jack Conklin (RT)
    #4 Joey Bosa (DE)
    #5 Chris Jones (DT)
    #6 Jordan Howard (RB)
    #7 Michael Thomas (WR)
    #8 Tyreek Hill (WR)
    #9 Jalen Ramsey (CB)
    #10 Keanu Neal (S)

    Reply
  14. Flo-Ri-Duh

    DeVondre Campbell (LB) will play Sunday. (espn.com Vaughn McClure)
    Julio Jones only got one catch the last time the Falcos played the Aint’s. Hpefully he is healthy enough to have a big impact this week.

    Reply
  15. JB Falcon

    Just finished watching most of the Dawg’s game. Took a nap in first half but pulled it out in the second. That QB has a loooot of improvement to go.

    Reply
    1. JB Falcon

      Thanks MnM
      I seldom watch film clips but that one was indeed very interesting. I’ve never cared for KS but maybe he will turn out to be decent after all.

      Reply
    2. Wings

      Time, a great link!!! Matt is the only quarterback that KS has ever had to understand and execute this offense. Matt Ryan may cause KS to bypass one of those “sorry” head coaching jobs.

      Reply
  16. PoolerSpirit

    Best game I’ve seen so far was Indiana vs. Utah. That running back for Utah, Joe Williams, had a great game… 220+ yards rushing… I’d love to be able to grab him in the 2017 draft, even though we don’t need one with Free and Teco… this guy would just be amazing in Shan’s system. And I wasn’t impressed with Feeney, the guard for Indiana. They had him playing right tackle… maybe he’s better at guard, cause he didn’t show much in pass pro at tackle, though I’ll admit he can move some defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage in the run game.

    Reply
    1. Flo-Ri-Duh

      PS – Don’t know why Feeney was at OT when he has played all four years at guard- injury I guess? A stat I read was that Feeney had given up only two sacks in four years. Admit I have not had much chance to watch Feeney but what I saw very good.

      Reply
      1. PoolerSpirit

        He is definitely not a tackle… have no idea why he was there in that bowl game… probably an injury like you said…

        Reply
    2. PoolerSpirit

      By the way, Utah’s left guard… I think his name was Asiamoto or something like that… He looked good… Might be a good 5th or 6th round pick…

      Reply
  17. Flo-Ri-Duh

    http://www.drafttek.com Mock Draft 12/30/16 [5 Rounds]
    Falcons Pick: I like this draft
    1st Rd (27th) Taco Charlton (DE-edge), Michigan, 6’6″ 285 lb
    2nd Rd (59th) Caleb Brantley (DL1T), Florida, 6’2″ 319 lb.
    3rd Rd (91st) Tyrone Crowder (OG), Clemson, 6’2″ 330 lb.
    4th Rd (123rd) David Jones (FS). Richmond, 6’2″ 210 lb.
    5th Rd (155th) David Njoku (TE), Miami, 6’4″ 240 lb.

    Reply
    1. waynesworldreview

      suits me fine–guy is an AH. Haven’t forgotten how he whined to the media after he got hurt vs Jake Matthews when they stole that game from us earlier in the season. I would LOVE to knock them out of the playoffs (on our way to a SB win in Feb)!!!

      Reply

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