There were high expectations for the Falcons going into Sunday’s matchup against the Saints. Riding a 3-1 recond under interim head coach Raheem Morris, some were already calling for Morris to transition into a full-time role entering the offseason. Two weeks ago, Peter Schrager on Good Morning Football explained his thought process on why Morris deserves to be the head coach in 2021.
"Raheem Morris should be the @AtlantaFalcons head coach of the future." — @PSchrags with a passionate take on why the "interim" tag should be lifted in the ATL. pic.twitter.com/IlbD9FfXfm
— GMFB (@gmfb) November 10, 2020
In an article about the Falcons remaining schedule being difficult, I wrote — during last week’s bye — about how Atlanta’s performance against these playoff contenders would reveal whether or not a total rebuild is imminent. In the same article, I noted that two wins out of the four divisional games left would yield a new regime keeping the roster mostly intact.
I attempted to hedge out of that statement to convince myself and others this roster deserves a season with a competent head coach. With the idea that even if the Falcons did not win two of those four NFC South matchups, but they performed inspiringly, there could be cause to maintain the roster for a run in 2021.
“If they perform well, regardless of the outcome, against the Saints, Bucs, and Chiefs, I would almost guarantee that the next regime will try a one-offseason retool to reach the 2021 playoffs. If they perform poorly, then it is evident the Falcons are not as close as I think, and they are likely headed for a total rebuild.”
Leading up to the game against the Saints, the chips seemed to all be falling the Falcons way. Atlanta was coming off a bye week and returning many injured players, while New Orleans entered the game with a quarterback — Taysom Hill — who had only attempted 20 something passes and without their top corner — Marshon Lattimore. It seemed primed for an underdog victory over a playoff-bound division rival, or at least a competitive matchup.
Instead, the Falcons struggled in every facet of the game and lost embarrassingly. The defense — unable to stop Hill — clearly needs additional pieces. The offensive line was mauled, giving up eight sacks, leading to the offense’s worst performance as a group this season, largely due to Dirk Koetter‘s inept scheme and play-calling. What is most apparent about the loss is that Raheem Morris is clearly not the answer Arthur Blank and fans are searching for.
First and foremost, if Morris was the right choice for the vacant head coaching position, he would have replaced Dirk Koetter immediately. Secondly, the coaching staff had an extra week to gameplan compared to the Saints coaching staff. But as the game progressed, it was clear that the Falcons coaches were outmatched on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball.
The offense had no answer for the Saints’ constant blitzing that totaled eight sacks by the end of the game. What is so infuriating is Koetter made no adjustments to counteract New Orleans’ aggressive nature, either. No quick routes, screens, or anything else that would take advantage of the Saints attacking style defense.
Instead of sticking with a similar attacking style defense that utilizes blitzes to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks, Morris drifted towards a more lethargic approach. The Falcons seemed to revert back to Dan Quinn‘s style of sitting back, allowing opposing quarterbacks to feel comfortable and find a rhythm. What is different about the defense is they pressured Hill in the first half and were successful sacking him three times, then just abandoned it altogether in the second half.
Obviously, the Saints defense out-schemed the Falcons offense but that can be directly attributed to Koetter. What is incredibly frustrating is that Payton out schemed Morris after the Saints struggled to find success in the first half. Payton made the halftime adjustments necessary to kickstart an otherwise stagnant offense, to which Morris failed to respond.
For the Falcons to not be able to shut down a first-time starter is extremely disheartening. It not only emphasizes the weaknesses of this team but surrounds their strengths with doubt. With a competent coaching staff, I still believe this roster can win ten games, but the further we get into Morris’ interim, the further away I get from that belief.
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