Much like I wrote about the Houston Texans yesterday, it’s hard to imagine the Falcons players and coaching staff being more pleased than they are after a perfect 4-0 start. Sure, there are red flags and some weaknesses in the hull, but no team is perfect and Atlanta has to like their chances in the NFC for the remainder of the 2012 season.
They have a quarterback who looks like he has arrived, a running back that is consistent week in and week out and a multitude of receiving threats that make their offense as good as any in the league. Pair this up with a “bend, but don’t break” defense and you’ve got as good a team as in in the weakening NFC this season. But let’s take a look at each unit and their performance in the first quarter of the 2012 season.
As I said in the opening, this offense has the talent to match up with any other team in the league. Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Matt Ryan make up the kind of core that offensive coordinator’s dream of. Well, at least most offensive coordinator’s.
I wrote earlier in the season that the team parting ways with Mike Mularkey would be an addition by subtraction and it appears that was a safe assessment. They have went from the 10th ranked scoring offense in the league last year to the 3rd so far this year simply by opening up the passing game more and letting their playmakers create. Mularkey had a tendency to want to run the ball endlessly, whether it was working or not.
This was something that infuriated Falcons fans when it appeared that Julio Jones was being underutilized and displayed mostly as a decoy. But the biggest change has been that of Matt Ryan. With the chains taken off, he is now calling audibles at the line, making the big throws and looking to pass first to set up the run. The results have been great so far with the Falcons averaging 31 points per game and Matt Ryan having his name consistently thrown around in early MVP talk.
Don’t lie; when Brent Grimes was put on the IR after an achilles injury, you expected the Falcons defense to falter a lot. I know I did. But the addition of Asante Samuel, while huge, hasn’t been the only factor. Mike Nolan has this defense playing with an intensity that I haven’t seen in Atlanta in all my years of watching this team. They’re fast, they’re cocky and they’ll push you around.
Even with the loss of Grimes, the Falcons defense is allowing only 19 points per game, which the offense has easily been able to surpass. However, there are still some hiccups and if this team has a real weakness, it’s their lack of a consistent pass rush and inability to stop the run.
John Abraham is consistent as ever, but Ray Edwards has continued to be a free agent flop in his 2nd season with Atlanta. This is something that must be worked on to avoid another playoff performance like the one they had against Aaron Rodgers two years ago.
The secondary has held up surprisingly well with Samuel and Dunta Robinson holding down the edges. They’re holding the opposition to just 207 yards per game in the air and have pulled down 7 interceptions. It’s a full group effort here and everyone is making big plays when needed.
Again, it’s hard to do more than nitpick against the Falcons start this year. Many argue that they “should have” lost to the Panthers last week, but isn’t that what good teams do is win the close games and steal one here and there? They need to work on stopping the run when they know it’s coming, like Carolina consistently did against them all day Sunday, but other than that it’s really hard to complain.
Hard to believe, but Matt Ryan could just be entering his prime and it looks like he is well on his way to being the next big time quarterback in this league. All that is left is to have some playoff success, and it appears he’ll have another chance this year.
Filed under: Atlanta Falcons