In a Week 6 23-20 victory,the Atlanta Falcons needed a last-second field goal to overcome the Oakland Raiders. The game was far closer than many experts predicted, due in large part to poor execution by the Falcons.
The Falcons defense let Carson Palmer, Darren McFadden and the rest of the Raiders offense tear off huge chunks of yards after contact. The Falcons defense often managed to lay a shoulder on runners, but failed to wrap up most of the time. The good news for the Falcons is that those issues can be coached and fixed.
Unfortunately, coaching may not fix the most disconcerting thing I saw on Sunday.
Carson Palmer Punks Kroy Biermann
In the second half, Atlanta Falcons DE Kroy Biermann found himself alone in the backfield with Oakland Raiders QB Carlson Palmer. Biermann had come virtually untouched off the left edge, and Carson Palmer was slowly backpedaling.
Kroy Biermann had Palmer dead to rights. Then Palmer looked Biermann's way. This is where a virtually guaranteed sack became an important first down for the Raiders.
When Palmer looked to his left, Biermann froze. Palmer continued his slow backpedal, and Biermann inexplicably threw his hands up to block a pass that was never thrown. Palmer keyed in on this. Palmer again forced an awkward jump from Biermann with a pump fake. Having bought enough time for a receiver to get open, Palmer fires the ball downfield.
Does Brady Still Cross Biermann's Mind?
In Week 3 of the 2009 season, the Atlanta Falcons suffered a loss to the New England Patriots. During the game, Kroy Biermann was flagged for roughing the quarterback. The "hit" was actually Biermann attempting not to run into Tom Brady. The ball was long gone, and Kroy Biermann was trying to slow his momentum. Biermann's hands touched Brady's back, and Brady barely moved. But the flag was thrown, and possibly Biermann's killer instinct was thrown with it.
Kroy Biermann was drafted as a high-motor speed rusher by the Falcons in 2008. He flashed plenty of potential in his rookie year, and his speed has kept him as a versatile weapon in DC Mike Nolan's arsenal.
Yet Biermann appears to pull his punches in the backfield. Over the past four years, I have witnessed him slow down as he approaches a quarterback numerous times.
Good News, Bad News
The fact that Biermann can be so visible in an opponent's backfield is a credit to his speed and athleticism. The coaches are also putting him in the right positions to succeed. Almost all signs point to Biermann being ready to take the next step.
The bad news is that he is not ready. Biermann must learn to be determined when attacking the quarterback. Fellow Falcons defensive end John Abraham puts on a clinic for determination every Sunday. Not only does Abraham get to quarterback, he often does it while wearing an offensive lineman like a cape.
If Biermann ever puts his trepidation aside, he will not just be productive. He will be downright scary.