Falcons wise to reward Mike Smith with an extension, stay the course

I don’t fault anyone who thought the Falcons should hire two new coordinators, set fire to the Georgia Dome carpet and draft seven new defensive backs in April after the Packers torched Atlanta 48-21 in the postseason.

But that would have been an overreaction and after the Falcons went 13-3 this season, there’s no need to panic just because they were humiliated in the playoffs.

Pardon the clichéd expression but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Owner Arthur Blank had a real mess on his hands when Michael Vick was hauled off to prison and Bobby Petrino left in the middle of the night to go call hogs in Arkansas. But he made one really great decision in hiring GM Thomas Dimitroff, who then made one really great decision in hiring Mike Smith as head coach.

Smith, who has guided the Falcons to a 33-15 record in three years as head coach, was just given a well-deserved three-year contract extension. Don’t be surprised if Dimitroff were given a new deal as well, which would be smart on Blank’s part. This is a team that needs to stay the course.

The Falcons’ biggest goal is shared by all 32 teams: Win a Super Bowl. But while they want to emulate the success that the Steelers and Packers have had this season, they can’t worry about trying to model themselves after either team. The Steelers have had great defenses for decades and Ted Thompson spent years building the roster that the Packers will feature this Sunday in Arlington. Just because the Falcons aren’t in the position that Green Bay is right now doesn’t mean they need to start over.

Read the rest of this entry »

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Packers dominate overmatched Falcons, advance to NFC Championship Game

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (R) shakes hands with wide receiver Greg Jennings (L) after defeating the Atlanta Falcons following their NFC Divisional NFL playoff football game in Atlanta, January 15, 2011. REUTERS/Rich Addicks (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Here are six thoughts on the Packers’ 48-21 rout of the horrendous Falcons in the NFL Divisional Round.

1. Aaron Rodgers is a superstar.
That was like watching someone take candy from a baby. When I checked the stat sheet following the game and saw that Rodgers completed 31-of-36 pass attempts, I literally said out loud, “He had five incompletions?” I swear I only saw two of his passes hit the ground. He was surgical with his throws, averaging 10.2 yards per pass with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Even when the Falcons accidentally pressured him, he evaded pass-rushers and often bought himself more time with his feet. There were at least three times when Atlanta defenders had him dead to rights and every time he shook free to find a wide-open receiver. If he plays that well next week, the Packers will be going to the Super Bowl.

2. Really? That was your defensive game plan, VanGorder?
Rodgers is great but Atlanta’s defense made him look like the freak-o love child of Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Roger Staubach, John Elway, Johnny Unitas, Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton. That was one of the worst defensive efforts I’ve ever seen from a team that qualified for the postseason and I can’t say that it was all the players’ fault. During the first meeting between these two teams in November (a game Atlanta somehow won), Rodgers tore the Falcons’ defense to shreds when they only rushed three linemen. So what does defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder do on Saturday night? He only rushes three down linemen for most of the first half, of course. Rodgers is going to make plays – I get that. But you’re telling me that’s the best game plan that VanGorder could come up with? Rush three and sit back in zone? How pathetic. How unbelievably, undeniably pathetic. Where was the VanGorder defense that blitzed Drew Brees for four quarters and held him in check four weeks ago? Where was the defensive-minded Mike Smith when it was clear that Van Gorder was completely overmatched by Mike McCarthy? Guys like John Abraham and Stephen Nicolas failed to bring down Rodgers when they had clear shots at him. That’s not VanGorder’s fault. But my high school ran a better defense and all we did played was a 4-3 with a Cover 4. I won’t ever come to understand how VanGorder thought that game plan was best for slowing down Aaron bleeping Rodgers. Horrible, absolutely horrible.

3. Williams changed this game in a blink of an eye.
I don’t think the Packers were going to lose this game. Rodgers was too good and the Falcons were too overmatched for Green Bay to walk out of Atlanta without a victory. That said, Tramon Williams was the reason that this game wasn’t close. He was clearly beaten by Michael Jenkins on an end zone pass in the second quarter, but because Matt Ryan threw the pass like an 86-year-old grandma with arthritis, Williams was able to recover and make a great interception. Then he sealed the win for Green Bay right before half by baiting Ryan on a sideline route and taking his second pick of the quarter to the house for six. After that, the Falcons were done. You could see it in their eyes – they wanted to tap out. That interception was deflating and the Falcons weren’t willing to get off the mat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If only one Green Bay cornerback is heading to the Pro Bowl this year, it should be Tramon Williams. No offense to Charles Woodson because he’s great, but Williams was the Packers’ best defensive back this season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Average Giants beat average Falcons

The Giants’ 34-31 overtime victory over the Falcons might have made for a nice highlight piece for ESPN, complete with a rousing effort by Eli Manning and a fourth quarter comeback engineered by Matt Ryan. But the truth of the matter is that one very average team beat an equally average team today.

Both of these teams have noticeable holes, namely on the defensive side of the ball. Manning completed 25 of 39 passes for 384 yards with three touchdowns, but he accomplished all of that against cornerbacks that wouldn’t start for most teams in the NFL (Chris Houston is brutal). Ryan completed 26-of-46 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns (he also drove his team down the field for a game-tying touchdown with only 38 seconds remaining), but he too faced a suspect secondary dealing with injuries.

Both the Giants and Falcons can move the ball offensively, but neither team has a defense that is ready to take on the likes of the Saints or Vikings in the postseason. New York is a tad better on that side of the ball, but that’s only because they can rush the passer. (They’re also dealing with injuries, whereas the Falcons defense is what it is – average at best.)

Nevertheless, this was a big win for the Giants because it came against a conference foe. This may not be a team ready for the postseason, but a win is a win and now the G-Men are in the right position to at least win one of the Wild Card spots in the NFC.

As for the Falcons, they’re still very much in contention for a Wild Card spot themselves, but they need a better defensive effort going forward. They can’t generate any pressure, they can’t make plays in the secondary and they can’t force turnovers. Mike Smith and coordinator Brian VanGorder better come up with a better scheme because they just don’t have the playmakers on that side of the ball to go toe-to-toe with opponents.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Related Posts