COMMENTARY | The Atlanta Falcons of the Mike Smith/Thomas Dimitroff era have been sturdy like a rock. This season, however, they're 1-2 and couldn't finish off the undefeated Miami Dolphins. Having so many injuries may make their latest campaign a wobbly house of cards. Despite injuries to several starters, the Falcons played in three close games so far this season. But how much more punishment can quarterback Matt Ryan take?
Coming into the game against the Miami Dolphins, the Falcons have passed the ball 81 times out of 116 total plays, almost 70 percent. At certain times, Ryan played the gunslinger with shotgun and spread formations. However, the running game led by Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers was working that afternoon. They had a 4.8 yards per carry average, a combined 29 rushes for 139 yards.
Here's a turning point against the Dolphins. After a key Falcons interception, the offense went three-and-out with passing plays. Falcons fans didn't need to see the offense pretending to be the 1990s run-and-shoot attack in key moments.
Having so many injuries are one reason these are trying times. On offense, Matt Ryan didn't have Steven Jackson at all, and Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Julio Jones. It's amazing Julio Jones delivered with 115 yards on 9 receptions even if he had to sit out several plays. Where the Falcons are ailing the most is the offensive line. Left tackle Sam Baker, who has struggled with injuries since his rookie year, didn't play.
For Matt Ryan to be effective, he needs an excellent offensive line. Ryan's not Drew Brees, who can make plays outside the pocket. Ryan's definitely not a read-option guy. Though the offensive line didn't allow a sack against the Dolphins, Ryan still got hit and pressured. I'd love for my team to have the ultimate adaptive quarterback with max abilities in accuracy and speed. However, Matt Ryan's here for the long haul and it's important to build a line that will keep his jersey clean.
On offense, Dimitroff has given preference to skill players. I suspect his theory is that the Falcons' weapons will blow away opponents with All-Pro awesomeness. Last Sunday in Miami, the Falcons' red zone performance wasn't awesome. It was awful watching the supposedly high-powered offense settle for field goals again and again. I'm having flashbacks to Super Bowl XXXIII where the Falcons offense could only muster four field goals. Terrific.
I'm torn about offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. He is an improvement on Mike Mularkey, but he's not good at adjusting. Koetter has thankfully implemented screen passes in the Falcons gameplan. But the Falcons offense needs more than that. Where are the wide receiver slants? Will anyone teach Matt Ryan to pump fake?
I have my gripes about the depleted defense, too. Yes, they did alright until Ryan Tannehill unleashed his inner Dan Marino. The defense blitzed a few too many times in the last Dolphins drive. Thomas DeCoud and McClain standing around can cause a rise in blood pressure. I'll excuse the defense this time since it was a learning experience for those newcomers who stepped up.
The Falcons' offensive performance is baffling. How much more disappointment can I take from these guys?
C.A. Riley is a long-time, and long-suffering, fan of the Atlanta Falcons. He ran the now-defunct website, FalconsZone, during the 1998 Super Bowl season.
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