Seems like it's the same old, same old for the Falcons issues carrying over from the preaseason to the regular season. The same issues we worried about over the course of the preseason and over the Smith/Dimitroff/Ryan regime reared its ugly head once more yesterday.
The Falcons are a good football team, but their flaws are constantly exposed. Unfortunately, it seems like year after year, some of the same issues always cause the Falcons downfall, and Thomas Dimitroff and Coach Mike Smith don't do enough to fix them.
The Falcons are running in circles again, trying the same thing over and over without improvement. They did fix some things, particularly in getting Steven Jackson to really improve the running game.
But those nagging issues on defense in terms of a a lack of pass rush persist, and the lack of attention in improving the offensive line after losing Tyson Clabo and Todd McClure are also painfully clear.
But there were some good things to take note of as well, so we'll mix the two together and see what we've got.
STEVEN JACKSON IS A VAST IMPROVEMENT OVER MICHAEL TURNER
We've been singing his praises all preseason, and it has carried over to the regular season. On just 11 rushes, Jackson rushed for 77 yards, and he also had five catches for 45 yards.
Despite dropping a potential game winning touchdown pass in the Falcons final drive, Jackson had an outstanding game. His speed and power is still in tact and he looked far better than Michael Turner ever did last season. He will be an upgrade over the long haul for sure, and made his presence known yesterday.
OH OFFENSIVE LINE, WHERE ART THOU?
The offensive line gave up three sacks yesterday, but what was worse was just the inability to allow Matt Ryan a chance to go through his reads, particularly on third down. Ryan threw for over 300 yards, but on too many drives he seemed to have two or three Saints in his face with regularity.
Last season, according to profootballfocus.com, Ryan's passer rating drops when he's under pressure from 110.9 to 67.5.
This was in full effect yesterday as the 100 million dollar man struggled to get into a consistent rhythm because Lamar Holmes and company could not protect him.
In order for the Falcons to succeed this year, the offensive line must improve, and improve quickly. Things don't get any easier from here. With games against Seattle, Carolina and San Francisco on the horizon, those front sevens are far more physical than New Orleans.
NO PRESSURE= MORE PROBLEMS
While Matt Ryan was constantly on edge this week with defenders in his face, Drew Brees could just relax. The Falcons sacked Brees twice all game and got virtually zero pressure on him, particularly in the second half. Brees could take at least four or five seconds to go through his reads and find the open man.
This isn't on the secondary, it's on defensive coordinator Mike Nolan who refuses to send extra pass rushers with any regularity. Blitzing too much can be dangerous, but not blitzing at all is questionable. That is, unless your front four can generate a pass rush by themselves, which Kroy Biermann, Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters simply can't do.
New Orleans has a good offensive line, but Falcons fans have seen this for years. A poor pass rush, with very little to no blitzing. A finesse style defense that puts all the pressure on the secondary to shut down opposing teams which will eventually fail if the opposing quarterback has all the time in the world to wait for receivers to get open. If that's the case, it doesn't matter how good your coverage is.
THIRD DOWN INEPTITUDE
The Falcons were 3-11 on third down conversions. This factors into the offensive line letting down Ryan. Just about every third down, the Saints sent pressure, and on almost every third down, the Falcons tried to pass. Ryan's O-line couldn't stave off the pressure, forcing Ryan to make rushed and inaccurate throws.
Ryan could improve his mobility, but it's hard when the pocket is instantly collapsing around him.
The Falcons must get better on third down, especially on passing downs. But also, the Falcons didn't really use Steven Jackson with the run on any third and short scenarios which was a curious choice by offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
The Falcons need to run more on third and short, and get better pass protection, especially on third down.
What are your worries after watching this game for the Falcons. Any positives? Let us know.
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