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After being in fantasyland for an entire week, Atlanta fell back to reality in a crushing defeating to Cincinnati. They were once again pushed around on a consistent basis inside the trenches. They weren’t able to force any turnovers or take advantage of A.J. Green being injured. The “new-and-improved” defensive line that was supposed to bring toughness was disappointing.
The same defensive flaws that were evident against New Orleans were shown again. What wasn’t repeated from last Sunday was the offense’s performance. It was very reminiscent of 2013 where Matt Ryan was hit repeatedly. The offensive line struggled mightily, particularly Lamar Holmes against Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry.
It was a harsh reminder to the fan base that this team can’t rely on their offense to score 30 points every game. The limitations on the offensive line and overall ability from the opposing defense can’t be disregarded because of all the weapons at Matt Ryan’s disposal. Just like every quarterback, Ryan needs time in the pocket to look through his reads and make the right throw. He was unable to do that and it cost him on many occasions. Here are other particular issues from yesterday’s loss in Cincinnati.
Lack of coaching adjustments
It may seem odd to criticize coaching, considering the game was one-sided. I’m still frustrated by the lack of adjustments that both coordinators made, along with Mike Smith. Cincinnati was consistently blitzing to cause Matt Ryan to throw the ball out quick. It was a genius game plan, considering the Bengals cornerback depth is an issue.
They knew if they can get in Ryan’s face, he would have to rush and throw to his first target immediately. It worked several times, as he was reduced to throwing to Harry Douglas and Roddy White on short out-routes or slants that were ineffective. Why offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn’t use any of his running backs to either block more or receive out of the backfield was baffling. The likes of Antoine Smith and Jacquizz Rodgers have made defenses pay on numerous occasions when given space. There should have always been a running back in the backfield for Ryan to check down to. Opportunities were there and they didn’t capitalize on it.
I’ve always been an advocate for Mike Nolan and his ability to get the best out of certain players. That ability seems to be wearing off, as he’s gone to desperate lengths and strange formations to stop the run. He’s still persistent on keeping Jonathan Babineaux at defensive end in a 4-3 base defense. As solid as Babineaux is, he’s a natural defensive tackle in a 4-3 base defense. Then he decides to call an all-out blitz on third down to create some spark. It failed miserably, as no safety help was there to aid Robert Alford on the long touchdown pass. You can criticize Alford for taking a risk by diving to deflect the pass from being completed. In the end, it was a good effort in trying to make a big play. Nolan should be criticized for the horrendous play call. The pass rush was non-existent, but you need to have at least one safety in coverage on third down.
An answer is needed for the non-existent pass rush
What many feared for the Falcons going into the season was they’re being no proven pass rush. Osi Umenyiora is designated as a pass rusher only at this point. That label is very generous, considering his anonymous performances so far this year. Kroy Biermann is a role player at best, who is simply playing too many downs. He’s never been a great pass rusher and is relatively undersized at defensive end.
While fans are calling to see more of Jonathan Massaquoi and Stansly Maponga, it’s hard to place expectations on them. Maponga is still relatively raw as a player. Massaquoi showed flashes last year, but seems to be another role player. The lack of a dependable pass rusher couldn’t be more apparent. The organization failed to address this situation, which has been an ongoing issue for years. I can’t stress enough how you need two consistent pass-rushing threats to be at least a decent pass rushing team. Atlanta hasn’t had that in over a decade. John Abraham was a one-man wrecking crew that saved the pass rush from being an abomination for six years.
Biermann and Umenyiora can’t be depended on any longer to play significant snaps. There needs to be some trade that Atlanta can make to create a much-needed spark. They’ve yet to record a sack in two games and have possibly hit the opposing quarterback three times. This pass rush is in dire need of an upgrade. Whether that player is Brandon Graham or someone more established, someone needs to be acquired. Thomas Dimitroff is doing the Atlanta fan base an injustice by not bringing a capable pass rusher in. The hole couldn’t be more glaring in the base defense. The secondary features young talent, yet they are forced to cover for 10-12 seconds because of a non-existent pass rush. Enough is enough; it’s long overdue to be aggressive otherwise Dimitroff could be looking for employment next off-season.
The end of the Lamar Holmes project could be drawing near
I’ve tried to remain patient with Lamar Holmes throughout his tenure in Atlanta. He played left tackle throughout high school and college. There was going to be an adjustment period of him being used to right tackle and being able to patch up his footwork. It has been over a year now and Holmes still remains to be a major liability.
Nobody can deny that Carlos Dunlap is one of the better defensive ends in the league. He can play the run, as well as he rushes the quarterback. Then Wallace Gilberry has started to develop into a solid speed rusher. That still doesn’t make it justifiable for Holmes to be getting beaten on a consistent basis. Whether it was dealing with Gilberry’s speed or Dunlap’s bull rush, Holmes couldn’t have looked more hopeless.
With a short week coming up and Jake Matthews likely out, Holmes will certainly get another opportunity. Still the patience has to be wearing thin on the coaching staff. He’s still relatively slow and doesn’t have good footwork to handle good speed rushers. A swim move fools him far too easily at times. His “decent” performance against New Orleans was fairly overblown. This horrific performance proved that. I’ll be anxiously waiting on how Pro Football Focus rates and criticizes him.
Breakout performance of the game
Nobody gets this award in what was a dreadful performance. It was very reminiscent of the 2012 playoff loss to the New York Giants. They were getting beaten in the trenches without much resistance. Matt Ryan was being pressured all game long and couldn’t throw downfield. The defense kept getting gashed for long gains on far too many occasions.
Then just like Hakeem Nicks broke Dunta Robinson’s tackle for a long touchdown to break out that game, Mohamed Sanu evaded Robert Alford to score a 76-yard touchdown. The only difference in this game was that Julio Jones scored a consolation touchdown. On a personal note, another major difference was not wasting 270 dollars to watch yesterday’s game unlike the playoff game (it still burns).
Most disappointing performance of the game
It’s hard to choose one, but I’ll point out some disappointing players on defense. Kroy Biermann is another player that seems to be wearing thin on everyone. For his reputation in having a relentless motor and being versatile, he’s failed to make any impact despite receiving countless opportunities.
Paul Worrilow will get praise for constantly leading the Falcons in tackles. What the stat sheet doesn’t show are his multiple missed tackles in the open field to allow first downs. It won’t show you the poor angles he took on several plays. It was disastrous day for him, which made me wonder if only Sean Weatherspoon could stay healthy?
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to see if the Falcons have an answer for their issues. They’ll be hosting Tampa Bay on Thursday night in a very winnable matchup. As horrific as that performance was, Atlanta has a great opportunity to go 4-1. Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and the New York Giants are among the weakest teams in the NFC.
If the offensive line can hold it together until Matthews comes back and a pass rusher could be brought in, it would make 4-1 seem extremely realistic. This was a tough loss to endure, but thankfully it happened early in the season. It showed that this team isn’t ready to play with physically imposing teams. Hopefully adjustments will be made against a Tampa Bay that is searching for all sorts of answers.