Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The team still looks like its playing hard for Mike Smith, but the seven penalties on Sunday were uncharacteristic of the teams that Smith had in his first four seasons in Atlanta.
Atlanta's defensive gameplan against Cam Newton looked much better than it did last season, and the defense didn't allow a play of over 40 yards for the first time this year.
Still, Smith and his staff look like they've struggled to come up with a plan for this offense without Julio Jones and Roddy White. Sure, young receivers need to step up, but the players the Falcons currently have at receiver need to be put in the right position to make that happen, because they aren't going to win solely on their physicality and athleticism like Jones and White did.
Most importantly, it really doesn't matter who the Falcons have at receiver if they can't run the ball. The stud first-round lineman that many Falcons fans may be clamoring for isn't coming through the door in the next eight weeks.
Smith has to find a way to get the most out of the linemen that he has now if the Falcons are going to be respectable over their last eight games.