Falcons continue to jog through the finish line
With Atlanta’s first game versus the Buccaneers being an outlier, the Falcons have continued to jump on teams through the first three quarters of football games, yet seem to get a little too cozy with their leads. Atlanta showed signs of this by letting the Saints, Panthers and Broncos hang around way longer than they were supposed to, and now it is starting to haunt them, as the Falcons have now blown back-to-back fourth quarter leads.
Everyone knows not to count Phillip Rivers out. Rivers might be the most competitive guy in the league and was a part of the only team to start the season 0-4 and make the playoffs. The guy simply does not quit. That is why even up 27-10, it was imperative the Falcons kept their foot on the pedal. The Atlanta defense struggled. Phillip Rivers shredded them, and 30 points should be enough for a team to win a football game, but I am not going to put this loss on the defense.
Atlanta’s season rides on the ability of their high flying offense, and that offense was absolutely dismal in the second half. Atlanta was unable to sustain their running effort in the second half and seemed to lose their aggressiveness. Even with the lead, I would have liked to see the Falcons run the no-huddle offense in the second half and continue to take shots down the field. With the Falcons defense at its current state, no lead should feel safe. This offense needs to keep trying to score points until the final whistle, and it definitely did not seem that way on Sunday.
The Falcons pass rush might just be here to stay
We have all had our fair share of poking fun at the Falcons pass rush. After all, they might have been the single worst unit in all of football over the past two seasons. Atlanta finished last in total sacks last year with just 19. Nothing seemed like it had changed over the first three games of this season, but everything has changed since. All of the sudden, Atlanta has been one of the best pass rushing teams over the last four weeks, and their success may be here to stay.
Dwight Freeney has continued to be an ageless wonder. The veteran pass rusher is not playing a lot of snaps, but when he is in there, his presence has been felt. Adrian Clayborne and Grady Jarrett have also been effective playing across the defensive line. However, nothing has been more presently surprising than the emergence of Vic Beasley. Considered by many to be a bust after his rookie season, Beasley has proven his naysayers wrong so far this season. He already has 6.5 sacks, 2 more than last season and is on pace to easily become the first Falcons player to record double digit sacks in a season since John Abraham in 2012. Beasley is not a bust people, and he is going to be the central piece to a unit that could be a force in the near future.
Stay patient and Believe
Remember when Aaron Rodgers gave his famous R-E-L-A-X speech? Well that is what I am asking fans to do here. These last two games have left fans with an all too familiar feeling. The Falcons shook up the football world by starting the season off 5-0 last year, only to go 3-8 in their final 11 games and end up outside of the playoff picture. The season was filled with tough losses, in which the Falcons seemingly found ways to give opponents games. Atlanta has been in control of the last two football games, and disappointingly lost, but I am not ready to jump ship.
There are just too many good things about this football team that were not their last year. Matt Ryan is playing at an elite level behind a revamped offensive line in the second season under OC Kyle Shanahan. The defense has struggled, but shown great improvement in areas that they have really needed to improve in. The linebacking core is more athletic and physical, Keanu Neal looks to be an absolute beast in the making and Vic Beasley may be the next stud pass rusher in the NFL. This team is legit and will be in the playoffs contending at season’s end.
Side note: I did not talk about the Dan Quinn decision because frankly I am not really sure what the right call is. I like the confidence Quinn displayed in his guys going for it but hated the play call. If you are going for it, put the ball in Matt Ryan’s hands.