Do Da Dirty Bird: Previewing Week 15, Falcons @ Jets

John McCurdyCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2009

I was really quite proud of myself. I didn't get angry; I didn't throw a remote, kick a table, or even punch a pillow. I took the Falcons' loss to the Saints with, dare I say it, dignity .

Not saying our performance was anything special; a lot of teams have made it close with Nawlins, and such squeakers should be expected in the midst of a 13-game win streak (and especially if that win streak is occurring in the NFL). Gotta ask, though: Who expected us to move the ball at all without Michael Turner and Matt Ryan?

Anyway, here's to me swallowing my pride for another Sunday and understanding that there are things in life other than the Falcons ending the drought and earning a second consecutive winning season. Because, see, I'm not holding out hope as we travel (we're 1-5 on the road this year) to a defensive powerhouse (you saw how we did against the Eagles, right?).

Besides, the Jets are on a three-game win streak, making them the sizzle to our..."room temperature?"

Hey, I'm tryin' here.


New York Rush Offense v. Atlanta Rush Defense

I wonder, what will the Jets will try against us? They're only the No. 1 rushing team in the league, fifth in rush touchdowns, and third in first downs on the ground.

Not like they've got anything to be scared about. The Atlanta stuffage has steady slipped since I bragged about the D-line way back when, and we're fresh off putting everything we had into last week's game...only to still give up nearly 100.

The only reservation I'd have about NYJ's running attack is how much it relies on Thomas Jones. He's making a few people eat words for doubting his ability to produce after turning 30, but should he go down, there's really little behind him.

Sound familiar, ATLiens?

After Leon Washington went down in October, Shonn Greene was charged with the change-of-pace duties. He's only just now catching on, as before he'd been wildly inconsistent.

Wait, that rings a bell, too.

But besides the backs, let's give a little credit to this line. Yeah, that Sporting News cover a couple summers ago was premature, but it was also prophetic. Alan Faneca's seemingly whipped them into shape and has D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Damien Woody finally playing to their potential.

Staring them down from our side of the trenches are those same folks I keep badmouthing, at least until Jonathan Babineaux gets convicted. And that wasn't at all sarcastic; it was more melancholy than anything.

For what it's worth (and that's not much at all), Jamaal Anderson has made this into his best season yet by getting the occasional stop at the line.


Atlanta Rush Offense v. New York Rush Defense

You could stick the domes of Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling on the same body, making one of those so-called "two-headed monster" rushers, but it wouldn't really help. They just don't amount to a lead back together, and that's not a knock on them, but a blatantly obvious conclusion to draw from the past few weeks.

With them taking the handoffs, it's as though our offense is flip-flopped. Last year, we ran, ran, and ran some more, occasionally tossing the pigskin to keep the opposition honest. Now, the ground game is sprinkled in only sparingly, and when we need a first down, you better believe we're going to the air.

So just how will our replacements fare against a run defense that, while not the pride of its team, still is sharp enough to have not let up one play of more than 35 yards?

If you're a Falcons fan, you might wanna get like me and just take a deep breath.

As you might expect, Rex Ryan has his inside linebackers absolutely smashing some mouths: David Harris and Bart Scott have 187 tackles between them. Beyond that, the line (featuring breakout Marques Douglas) is clearly doing their job pretty well if there have been so few game-breaking rushes against this club.

For us, it's no longer a matter of receivers sucking it up and making the blocks—they're doing that, but for naught, as Snell and Wood simply can't make it that far out. Seems to me that doubt has not just crept into their minds, but it has taken up permanent residence.

Oh, and play calling can't solve it either, though I thought so at one point. Mixing it up has largely failed. Remember that reverse we tried to run with Eric Weems in the fourth quarter on Sunday?


New York Pass Offense v. Atlanta Pass Defense

No reason to get excited about being on equal footing, backup quarterback v. backup quarterback: As of this writing, Mark Sanchez is more likely to go than not.

And though at the beginning of the season I would have given you the big eye-roll regarding his status, it's become apparent that the team's success has a lot to do with his.

That is...

How would one serve crow, if one were to eat it? Would you fry it, or bake it, or put it on...

OK, fine, Sanchez is looking good, and might just be a pro-starter. He actually has reminded me of Ryan as a rookie at times, as he plays well beyond his years, maintaining poise no matter who's coming at him.

His numbers aren't stellar and the Jets are near the cellar in terms of pass yards per game, but what does that matter when he's playing smart with the ball and the running game is working as well as it is?

His targets are many, though Jerricho Cotchery takes the cake as the one to worry about with his all-around game. Braylon Edwards is panning out a lot better than I thought he would, and all of a sudden Danny Woodhead is making some waves from deep down.

Toss in Dustin Keller and you see where I'm going with this. Dirty Birds, you can only do your best.

What I hated most about our performance against the New Orleans receiving corps was how our defensive backs let Drew Brees spread the ball around like warm butter. Seven, count 'em seven, different guys got over 30 yards receiving.

I'm sure Sanchez would like nothing more than to complete a pass no matter who he chucks it to, just as Brees did last week. If we could isolate one man and make him beat us, that'd be one thing. But it's a lost cause when only Brent Grimes can play man-to-man and only Chris Houston has any sort of field vision.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, that O-line I was talking about can block, too. Jets quarterbacks go down only two times per game this year.

Not like we can get after anyone!


Atlanta Pass Offense v. New York Pass Defense

To only throw one pick against the Saints is actually pretty good, considering they average almost two per game.

And to throw for more yards than Drew Brees in the same game is really quite nice, seeing as how he leads the league in that category.

Chris Redman is no stud, but he's getting the job done better than our second- and third-string running backs. Sure, he's got a wealth of great receivers around him while Jason and Jerious have a banged-up line to block for them, but there's something to be said for putting oneself on the line for three straight weeks (including one against the Eagles!) and not looking like a total buffoon.

Now for the real test of doofus-ness: How you lookin' against the best pass defense around?

All of seven balls have flown into the end zone for scores against these Jets, and this team's average yardage per completed pass against is the only in the league below six. No, they don't get after picks as often as, say, our last foes, but who needs turnovers when you can waste clock and force a punt?

The roles are pretty defined in the N.Y. defensive backfield: You've got your hitters in Darrelle Revis and Jim Leonhard and your hawk in Lito Sheppard. As a Falcons fan, I've got to envy the kind of precision with which the unit operates.

I do like that Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White tower over Leonhard, but that's not going to mean a whole lot if Harris or Shaun Ellis are getting after the darn-near stationary Redman. New York doesn't rack up the sacks big-time, but both of those fellows have the sort of athleticism that lets them surprise an O-line.

There could be a lot of rushed, low throws, as it seems there always are when "Rojohombre" is involved.


Prediction: Jets 27, Falcons 21

It won't be a blow-out, but it won't come down to a final possession the way our most recent matchups with Tampa and New Orleans did. The Jets are not a vastly superior team to the Falcons, but they're clearly clicking better than our banged-up bunch is at this point.

Were the Atlanta team that started the season still out there, I wouldn't hesitate to predict a win, as I did when I first analyzed this game so long ago.

Just goes to show that paper does not translate to field and that a lot can happen in the course of a football season.


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