In case you missed this week’s edition of Monday Night Football, the Atlanta Falcons had an absolutely dismal game against the New York Jets, which concluded on a 43 yard field goal by Nick Folk that gave the Jets, who came into the matchup as ten point underdogs according to ESPN, a surprising 30-28 victory, dropping one of the favorites to reach Super Bowl XLVIII to 1-4 on the season.
At this point, things look incredibly bleak for the NFC South favorites, as the team is already four games behind the rejuvenated New Orleans Saints in the division and will have to fight like crazy for a wild card considering that teams like the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers, and the Chicago Bears are currently in the running for these spots. As if the hill was not steep enough for Atlanta, the team found out on Tuesday that star wide receiver Julio Jones could very well miss the rest of the 2013 season due to a foot injury, giving Atlanta fans even more reasons to grieve.
Falcons HC Mike Smith today confirmed they fear Julio is lost for the season. They are holding out hope 2nd opinion changes things
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) October 8, 2013
While we can contemplate about what the remaining eleven games hold in store for the Falcons, let’s instead try and look back at last night’s loss; namely, why in the world did Atlanta not rise to the occasion and defeat the Rex Ryan-led Jets? There are several different possible parties at fault for this loss, which we will now explore:
Option #1: The Falcons’ defense. Still missing linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons have yet to establish an identity as a defense, and they definitely did not do so in this game. Facing rookie quarterback Geno Smith, the Falcons left the game dazed and confused, allowing the former Mountaineer to complete sixteen passes on twenty attempts (with a QB rating of 147.7) for 199 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Although Atlanta was able to get to Smith several times (combined for four sacks), they never rattled the QB, probably because he had all sorts of throwing lanes to target. Atlanta’s pass coverage has been nothing short of deplorable through five games this year, and Monday night’s loss was just another example.
Option #2: Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s play-calling. The Falcons had a handful of big plays (one of the biggest was a heads-up play by Julio Jones on a fumble that netted eighteen yards), but Koetter’s attempts to set up the screen game just never came close to helping the Falcons hit the big play. Running the ball was also a struggle in this game (2.9 yards per carry), yet the team did not go to their 2012 route of nearly avoiding the ground game altogether, instead opting to just keep trying and hope that either Jacquizz Rodgers or Jason Snelling could break a big play. This became a major problem near the goal line, a place the Falcons have reached plenty but have failed again and again to make the most of, as the team often tried pounding the rock in before getting trapped for a loss. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result; if this is the case, someone needs to grab a straightjacket for Coach Koetter.
Option #3: Head Coach Mike Smith’s decision-making. It may be just me, but I think that the fans or the media got in Coach Smith’s head earlier in the year when he opted to just take the points instead of going for it on fourth down in a loss to the Dolphins, so now he’s just going to go for it each and every time there might be a reason to send out Matt Bryant. There are definitely situations where going for it is the right call (see: the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game), but there are also times when you just bite the bullet and take the three points. The Falcons found themselves down 17-7 just before halftime, and they just lucked up on a defensive pass interference call on fourth down to move the ball to the Jets’ 1 yard line. Considering the fact that the Jets have not been slowed down by your defense and will get the ball to start the second half, there truly should not be a choice in the matter: you kick the field goal and make it 17-10 going into the locker room. Instead, the offense stayed on the field and chose to run 5’6” Jacquizz Rodgers to the right, where he was immediately stopped for no gain. Coach Smith has done a fantastic job in his six seasons as Falcons head coach, but he was truly outcoached and outsmarted by Rex Ryan–yes, you read that correctly–in this game.
Is the 2013 season now over for the Atlanta Falcons? No, it is still very far from it. However, continue at this pace, and we may ultimately see the Dirty Birds sneak into the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes.