When it comes down to it, the Atlanta Falcons' starter switches at two of the three most important offensive positions were inevitable and unavoidable.
A team can simply not stick with a kicker who misses half of his attempts between 30 and 39 yards and has a penchant for choking under pressure. In fact, those two attributes would be the exact opposite of what a club would desire.
Also, a team can simply not expect their star quarterback to remain healthy indefinitely. Indeed, considering the position comes with the honor of being the most hunted player on the field, a perpetually ready-to-go QB would be the exact opposite of a realistic demand.
The Dirty Birds are doing their best to get (or at least look) prepared for Sunday's critical battle with the Eagles, despite the turnover.
They picked up Brandon Coutu last week to hopefully push incumbent PK Jason Elam a bit (exciting this former Bulldog to no end), and then acted swiftly when the latter didn't respond in the Tampa game by signing Matt Bryant on Dec. 1.
And when Matt Ryan went down with a turf toe injury, the team looked immediately to 2007 starter-turned-trusty backup Chris Redman with no hesitation. He played well enough to eke out a win over the Bucs.
So what should the viewer expect from this slightly-new-look bunch?
Place Kicker: It's All Smiles and Rainbows
Mr. Elam, I am proud to say you graduated from my high school (word to the 'Wood...Brookwood!) and that you returned to the hometown team after years in the foreign countries known as Hawaii and Denver. But I am perhaps more proud to say this:
You (whether by choice or not) have stepped down once your effectiveness has ceased. These missed field goals this year, they caused me such pain.
The whiff in Week One was forgivable, if a head-scratcher: How could such a reliable vet manage that? , I wondered. You "answered" me a few weeks later with the performance against New Orleans, and then proceeded to dig your own grave in Weeks 10 through 12.
I really would rather not go into analyzing whether or not the Falcons might have pulled out the Carolina and Giants games—for me, the pain is still too near—but it was pretty obvious that Elam wasn't performing at the level expected of a pro booter. It was probably due after the Panthers bout, but now Atlanta has finally come around to replacing him.
The man to step into the spotlight is the aforementioned Bryant, who played in NFL Europa and then for those same Buccaneers for four years (thanks for the info, Falcoholic). He's had solid mid-range accuracy in the past, but that should be true of all kickers.
Cough cough , Elam.
I look forward to breathing easy when we get within 30 yards. At least on his first kick, that is.
Clean slate, Matt, clean slate.
Quarterback: Just Pretend It's the Preseason, Chris
This past Sunday is just that—past. It turned out a win, so in my mind, there's no need to go into the "ifs" surrounding what might have happened had Matty Ice not got hurt, had Redman not had the luxury of throwing to Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White, etc.
Instead, let us look forward to what having Redman on the field means for the next contest, one of even greater import. After all, a win here pulls us into, at worst, a three-way tie with Philly and N.Y., and we have the easiest remaining schedule of the three.
Obviously, offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey is going to be a bit more reserved with the playcalling considering the franchise arm will be on the sideline, but he won't forget that half of the magical hookup—meaning, Gonzo and Rod—are doing just fine. There's no need to overcompensate with the run, especially considering the turmoil at tailback.
Simplification of the pass game is barely necessary, either. What viewers saw in the final Falcons drive against the Bucs can happen against the Eagles, if the team feels the pressure of this semi-play-in and Tony G and White down lose that super hand strength.
Oh wait, that second thing will never happen.
Chris has the accuracy to place the ball, and note that though his attempts were numerous this past week (41), he threw a rather low number of interceptions (0). Specifically, a quick release and low, short passes served him well, even if catches had to be made on around hip-level.
It'll be nice to have someone not prone to giving the ball up, even if he has much less penchant for the big play or high completion percentage. Of course, with Asante Samuel in the defensive backfield, no one is safe...
But now I'm just teasing the game preview. Look for it in the next DDDB !