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I don’t think anyone is shocked that the Patriots made the Super Bowl. What’s the point of even analyzing or critiquing them anymore?
Did any of us see the Falcons in the Super Bowl? I suspect not. Perhaps, you’re like me and predicted the Falcons for a losing record and constantly predicted their demise all season…and thought Dan Quinn would get fired during/after this season? You didn’t see it…and that’s cool. I didn’t see it…and that makes me bad at my job.
This week, in honor of the Falcons, I am reprinting all of their 2016 game recaps to embarrass myself more publicly. Laying myself naked before you. Also, I am going back through and reading to see if there were clues to what I was off on and to see what I was thinking going negative on the Falcons as a Super Bowl season was unfolding. It’s not the first time…I didn’t buy into the Panthers all last season either.
I am reprinting the Falcons 2016 season throughout the week and adding some extra commentary on how bad (or good) my commentary was at the time. In honor of the Falcons and to publicly flog myself this week, here we go…
*Original commentary from the day it was published in black text with my 2017 comments in green.
Atlanta 35 Oakland 28, the Falcons now (1-1)…
This game was a back-and-forth mess. Oakland’s defense was pretty much a sieve, so much so that Jack Del Rio took over the defensive play-calling in the fourth quarter…and the team promptly gave up the most points it had in any quarter in the game, going on to lose the game. Atlanta held on to win, but they should’ve put the Raiders away well before the fourth quarter. It was just such a bizarre game to watch. I don’t know what happened to the Oakland Raiders, but it is a cluster to say the least.
— There are two things, primarily, that are killing Oakland…
1: The defense is awful. (and never got a whole lot better)
Probably my worst call of preseason 2016 – that the Raiders would have a dominating defense. I was pretty confident in that call. So much so, that if I missed out on Denver in a redraft, I just waited until very late to take Oakland as a Plan-B.
I could see them struggling on opening day versus Drew Brees. However, it looked really rough that opening game. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt going into Week 2…big mistake. Atlanta seemed like they were running the ball at will, and anytime Matt Ryan (26-34 for 396 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) looks like a confident, high-end QB – you know something’s wrong with the opposing defense. (Or that he’s going to go on to be league MVP and go to the Super Bowl)
I don’t see the dominating front line that ended 2016. I can hardly recall Khalil Mack (2 tackles) making a play this season.
The linebacking is terrible, and led by FFM favorite Ben Heeney (6 tackles). I mean ‘led’ as in he’s leading being awful. I watched him a bunch in this game, because he was later benched in the fourth quarter by the genius Jack Del Rio. Rookie Cory James (2 tackles), who I also like, came in and was also awful, and was part of the LB crew that allowed Tevin Coleman a 13-yard TD run right up the gut in crunch time. Heeney is giving 110% effort, but was either guessing wrong at where the play was going, or was blocked out of the play. Heeney was a tackle machine in college, and was becoming one in the NFL late last year when given the chance to play. Suddenly, he’s forgotten how to play football…I’m supposed to believe that? I’m going to blame it on the Raiders. I’m going to blame it on the defensive coordinator that had to have the play-calling yanked away from him.
The Raiders’ pass coverage looks decent, but there’s no pressure up front, and quarterbacks have time to find things that are developing. It just looks like a mess. A poorly coached mess.
2: I feel some level of confidence in calling it ‘a coaching mess’ because the decisions Jack Del Rio is making with the offensive personnel are some of the most ridiculous choices anyone in the game of football could make.
Go back and read the recap of last week’s game on how they almost blew the game with a horrific decision, but were bailed out by the referees. The short version: critical fourth down, Del Rio inserts tiny Jalen Richard (6-17-0) in on a passing down, and Derek Carr threw it over his head. While half-a-foot taller, former wide receiver, Latavius Murray (8-57-, 6-44-0/6 targets) sat on the sidelines. It got even dumber this week…
On the 4th & 2 with about seven minutes left in the game, and the Raiders down by a score, they decided to ‘go for it’. For the entire game, 220+ pound power runner Latavius Murray was blasting his way for nice gains all over the field. He was averaging over 7.0+ yards a carry in the game. But on this critical 4th & 2, the power runner is on the sidelines once again, and incomes the diminutive, slow, Jalen Richard. In a shocking development…he falls a yard short of getting a first down. Turnover on downs. How in the world Latavius Murray was not on the field taking that carry is one of the most outrageous, ridiculous, idiotic things I’ve ever seen in the NFL – and I see a lot of those types of things every year. This one about takes the cake. Last week, quite honestly, was just stupid.
This team is ridiculously planned and executed. They have talent all over, and basically Del Rio is throwing pieces in a bag, shaking it up, and grabbing out a random option on every play. There’s no rhyme or reason. Poorly coached is an understatement.
Latavius Murray is doing fine for fantasy production; he’s doing very well. But for NFL purposes, he’s never on the field when he should be. If he got more touches, he could bring this offense even more success. Instead, after every play he makes, he rotates out of the game for one of the vastly inferior other options. It’s comical. As an owner of Latavius for fantasy, I don’t care as long as he gets numbers throughout the game. The Raiders can lose the next 14 in a row for all I give a crap, as long as Murray keeps producing like he has.
This backfield would go on to be a mess the entire season. Latavius was a star, but on the sidelines in too many critical spots. He will move on in 2017 via free agency.
— The running back on the other side of the field also looks good – Tevin Coleman. I cannot believe how well Coleman is catching the ball this year. He’s never really been a part of the pass game from college to the pros, so I assumed it just wasn’t his thing. I never saw enough of him to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. I just was left to assume nobody wanted him in that role. However, he’s been fantastic in that role this season. On one play, he lined up as a wide flanker in a five-wide spread set, and raced across on a slant, and caught a pass like he was Amari Cooper. I am wildly impressed with Coleman. Freeman has looked decent too, but Coleman is the superior talent.
Coleman and Freeman are splitting time about 50–50, but Coleman is outgaining Freeman in most every key category – total yards, touchdowns, target, catches.
Coleman would then go on to soon defer to Freeman…ending up 30th in overall catches in 2016 (missing 3 games). However, Coleman was 7th in receiving yards per game by an RB this season.
— I was watching Clive Walford (6-50-1/7 targets) a little more in this game, because I noticed his numbers keep rising – a trend carrying over from late last year. He’s a good blocker, with reliable hands and is just an available target when needed. He’s definitely not the center of the offense, or someone Carr is looking to constantly, but he is developing a better and better relationship with him in the pass game in 2016. He’s a TE2 that’s flashing some signs of being a fringe TE1 in a down TE economy for fantasy.
This was his best game of 2016, he became a 1-2 catch for 10-30 yards guy in most every game after. He’s a solid blocker, a decent receiver, but limited athletically/speed-wise.