Well folks, it's official. The Atlanta Falcons defense is terrible. Not just bad in that under-performs, split second late kind of way. No, they just aren't any good.
When Peyton Manning tosses almost 400 yards and three touchdowns you say, "That figures, it's Peyton." But this isn't Peyton, it's Eli! When Eli Manning has his best performance (FIRST 300 yard passing game) at home in his career then you need to scrap everything and start over.
Below I will include some suggestions. Brian Van Gorder is welcome to try any of them and he doesn't even have to give me credit. It will be my pleasure. But first, let's hear what it feels like to play a defense so bad that you can just sling passes deep at random for big gains.
"This was definitely a game I will remember for a while," said Eli Manning after the game. "It is a big win for us, we needed one at this time, and hopefully this will keep us going, get a little rally, and continue to play well."
"I knew we had moved the ball very well most of the game, especially in the second half. We had some drives, we were throwing it well, guys were protecting, we were running pretty well, so I felt good."
Translation: Everyone should play the Falcons defense at home!
Eli was being modest however. Sure, in the second half they did look pretty good on offense. But the Giants only had 227 total yards in the first half. Hardly worth mentioning...
I would be remissed if I titled the article something cool like "Who's the Boss?" and not discuss the studly tight-end Eli embarrassed the Falcons with in the red zone. So allow me to let others descibe the man simply known as Kevin Boss.
"He is a big target," said Manning. "He is 6’7”. On the second touchdown he just got inside the safety with his big body where you can just throw it. Another time I hit him on a seam. I really had the chance to hit him on a couple touchdowns on our first drive."
You heard Eli! On the first drive Manning could have scored multiple TDs with his tight end. Manning had to hold back to avoid scoring an impossible feat due to the defense he faced being so horrible.
"We have had the idea that this would be one way to help ourselves in the green zone," said coach Tom Coughlin. "It proved true today. Kevin made some big plays. The play before the touchdown to Madison was a big play."
Well, coach kind of took his thunder some. Lets hear from the man himself. The man who possibly could have scored two touchdowns on one drive!
"Coming in to today’s game, I knew I had a couple of plays that might be coming my way down in the Green Zone. Eli took advantage of it and threw me a couple of great balls."
Eli throws great balls. The New York Giants lost four straight coming into the game and had a bye week to prepare. That makes the fourth team this season that had a full bye week to prepare for the Falcons. Which prompts the question to the schedule makers.
Why do you hate the Falcons?
As great as the Giants felt offensively in the second half, the Falcons topped it. Coming out of halftime the Giants led 17-7 but the Falcons put up 24 points to force overtime.
What clicked? What was the difference from the first to second halves? It was the play of Matt Ryan. He settled down.
After giving up a ridiculous fumble in the first half, Ryan came out and systematically moved the Falcons downfield the entire second half. One drive was 18 plays that led to Jason Elam actually making a field goal.
"You get one or two cracks a game at it (kicking) and you have to do the best you can with it," said Elam. "So far, it hasn’t worked out too well for me the past few weeks, but we’re going to keep fighting."
Saying it hasn't worked out too well is like saying, "The Caveman TV show had promise." It's worked out less than 60 percent of the time, Jason. There are quarterbacks that complete higher percentages of passes than you make field goals. That's embarrassing.
The good news is punter Michael Koenan never came out in the second half.
"Guys looked at each other on both sides of the ball at halftime and said we’ve got to step up and improve the execution in the second half," said Matt Ryan after the game. "And I thought we did that. We gave ourselves a chance to win but we fell short."
The Falcons defense couldn't keep the Giants from taking the overtime kickoff and scoring the winning field goal. I say defense, but after a 29 yard pass to Manningham it was one person in particular. See below.
GOATS OF WEEK 11
I could go through the entire Falcons defense and call them all goats. When you allow 34 points you deserve to take the heat for a loss. But there are special offenders in this case.
Chris Houston begins our conversation. He played about as poorly as I've ever seen him play. That is saying a lot because he's never great. He refuses to learn to turn his head and get after the ball. He's not bad at covering, but he's terrible at playing the ball. It's a sad day when he's your best cornerback.
Brent Grimes we discussed earlier. He's the Rudy of the team and thanks to his coverage of Mario Manningham at the end of the game. He too played terrible Sunday. But that pass in overtime wasn't even close. Manningham made Grimes look like Rihanna after a night of binge drinking with Chris Brown.
Before I put defensive end John Abrahams face on a milk carton, can someone tell me if he still plays for the Falcons?
Whoever was supposed to cover Kevin Boss makes this weeks goat. I believe I saw DeCoud try and cover him which was a joke. I also spotted Coleman and Peterson trying their hand at it. I tell you what, lets just say the entire defense was bad and move on.
Michael Jenkins has been a fixture on the goat list of late. That sure touchdown he missed prior to the Elam field goal should have put him on the bench for the rest of the game. Granted, he stepped up in the second half and made some key third-down catches to keep the sticks moving. But dropping that pass in inexcusable.
Jerious Norwood makes the list this week as well. He and Abraham need to start playing football again. Once two of our ace playmakers, both are wasting a roster spot this season. I could complain about Jamaal Anderson but I don't expect much out of him. Those two are just disappointments. That will teach me not to buy players' jerseys anymore.
Jason Elam needs to retire. Hell, I'm getting too old to watch him kick. My heart can't take the strain. Find someone that is a sure three points from 45 yards or less and I will survive. Do we still have Morton Anderson's phone number?
STUDS OF THE WEEK
After a poor showing in the first half, the Falcons offense woke up and started imposing their will on the Giants defense. I've been saying it for ages and this week they actually do it. Too bad they waited until there was only 30 minutes of regulation time remaining.
Matt Ryan settled down and stopped moving around so much. Once he started going through his reads and planting his feet his accuracy increased dramatically. He played like a leader in the second half rather than that scared kid we have seen the past few weeks.
Jason Snelling filled in admirably for injured Michael Turner. There were a couple of his runs I though to myself had Turner been in the game, it would have been a big play. But he did the best with what he had and he's become a true utility player. Much like Kevin Faulk for the New England Patriots.
Tony Gonzalez is the man. No doubt about it, he's the Falcons most clutch player at present. He came up with some huge plays in the second half and was a major reason the Falcons tied the score. Now if he could mentor Jenkins on how to catch the ball away from his body, he'd be Superman.
OBSERVATIONS FROM THE COUCH
Sitting at home, watching the games on television somehow in my mind makes me an expert on the Falcons. I guess you could say I watch enough film throughout the week to qualify me as a semi-expert. So here are some things that are glaring issues I witness on a weekly basis.
- Do the Falcons really need multiple tight ends running downfield catching passes? I can kind of understand if they stay in to block but they are all running routes. It wasn't until the second half the Falcons put more receivers on the field than tight ends. The result? A 17 point increase.
- Matt Ryan does run like a wounded giraffe. I beileve it was Ovie Mughelli that made that comment earlier this season. There is no reason he should be trying to pick up yards with his feet. He makes me uncomfortable just watching it.
- What happened to the blitz? Are the Falcons that bad at it that when they do it I still feel like I'm watching a four man rush? Here are some clues for you Van Gorder. No pressure on Romo, loss. No pressure on Delhomme, loss. No pressure on Manning, loss. You seeing the trend here? Fix it! Send nine people if you need but put the quarterback on his rear a few times. When you allow almost 400 yards passing, it's time for plan "B" if there is such a thing. Cover two zone isn't doing the trick.
- Atlanta can put teams in third downs all day long. That's when the Falcons rush four, give the quarterback ten seconds to find someone open and allow the opponent to move the chains. They must learn to get off the field on third downs. But we did establish the defense just isn't any good so I realize it's asking much.
I know it's a bit late to start screaming for new players to replace old ones but the Falcons are dead in the water with that secondary and that lack of pass rush. Even with talent like Curtis Lofton, Jonathan Babineaux and John Abraham, the defense is in shambles.
It's like those days you have to go to Wal-Mart to get some shopping done. You cross your fingers when you grab your cart that all four wheels will come together but inevitably it will pull to the left. That's what it's like when you watch the Falcons defense take the field.
Typically by the time you get moving towards your goal the whole thing goes wide right. Then you get some stuff in it, the weight distributes some and the pull is less. But by the time you're ready to check out, you're pulling it from the front to avoid killing one of the blue haired ladies blocking the pizza isle. It's just discouraging.
Next week is the Buccaneers in Atlanta. The good news is the Falcons are 4-0 at home this season. The bad news is they are about to give Tampa fans a reason to cheer for Josh Freeman.