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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.
Falcons 48, Panthers 33 — Three straight wins (to move to 3-1) and three straight 35 or more points scored.
My recollection of this game watching it live was that it was kind of a blowout. And my memory a few days later was that Atlanta got up huge, and just sat on Carolina. I have to say, I was a bit surprised on the re-watch. It was only 17–10 Atlanta at half time. Atlanta was definitely playing better, but it seemed like Carolina would turn on the juice any second. In the second half, Atlanta would get up by two scores, and then Carolina would cut it to one score…back and forth they went. With four minutes left in this game it was 34–26 Atlanta. Derek Anderson kept pace, and kept coming back on Atlanta. *Cam got hurt 4th quarter — that big hit where he got concussed.
All Carolina needed to do was get a ‘stop’ with four minutes left, and then they would have a chance to tie with a few minutes left. On the very first play of that crucial Atlanta drive, Carolina left Julio Jones single covered against Bene Benwikere (because Ron Rivera is a defensive guru, I guess) and Bene was given little/no help over the top – just a single safety (very) deep. Julio Jonesran the same pattern he had seemingly a hundred times in this game — flashing across the middle, with coverage too slow to follow, and Matt Ryan throwing a simple dump pass 5 yards and Julio taking it the other 70. This entire game may have been the worst defensive game plan in the history of football by Carolina.
The Panthers lost their best cover man, James Bradberry very early in this game, and Julio Jones proceeded to go off. I can’t remember seeing Julio double covered, but he might’ve been here and there. The Panthers pretty much looked like they thoughtJulio Jones was Mohamed Sanu. Not a care in the world about throwing all their attention at him…and thus Julio with 300+ yards and Ryan with 500+ yards. Ryan may not have thrown any passes that traveled more than 15 yards in this game for all I remember; he didn’t need to. All he had to do was drop short passes to a wide-open, flashing Julio Jones and then watch a comedy of the Carolina defense trying to win a foot race with Jones after the catch. Spoiler alert – the Panthers’ DBs didn’t win those foot races.
I have to give credit to Atlanta, they won. But the football mind in me looks at the tape of their last two weeks of victories against New Orleans and Carolina, and I’m thinking I can’t believe NFL coaches put these defenses together. The Saints were just awful on defense. The Panthers were just out of position the entire game, and allowed Julio to roam free. The Panthers let the one guy beat them that everybody on the planet knew was the one guy who could beat them. All the other Falcons’ offensive weapons were non-factors, for the most part.
I’ll take a rain check on predicting Carolina going back to the Super Bowl. I’ll also take a rain check on anyone who thinks Atlanta is going to win this division in the end. One of these rain checks in null and void…
Want to read something you won’t believe…
Julio Jones was #4 in PPG among WRs in PPR this season. Take out this massive game and he drops to #9 overall. That’s not the odd part. He falls to #9…just behind #8 — Brandin Cooks.
It’s about the same effect in non-PPR…and, again, falling behind Cooks.
Also note — in Week 16, Julio faced Carolina again…this time with an on-coming James Bradberry. 4 catches for 60 yards and no TDs.
— Just to circle back to Matt Ryan (28-37 for 503 yards, 4 TD/1 INT) – I would be trading him this week. I get that it’s the obvious move, and everyone will see it coming. But if you can find the right desperate person who has a poor record and QB issues (talent or bye week related) – you may get a surprise buyer.
I’m not watching Matt Ryan meticulously carve apart opposing defenses the last two weeks. I’m seeing a guy who is throwing dump passes to Julio Jones and racking numbers after the catch in Week 4. Julio was a ghost in Week 3, but then again — Ryan didn’t have a spectacular output game vs. New Orleans either – all he did was dump passes to his running backs who ran unfettered against the Saints.
When Denver hands the Falcons their ass in Week 5, everyone will realize the hot Matt Ryan start was a bit of a blip. His trade value will go from something to near-nothing pretty quickly. If you’re going to cash out on Ryan, this is the week.
What happened — he did struggle against Denver. He then went hot and cold the next seven games with a 3-4 record and passing TD counts of 3-1-3-4-1-2-1. he then finished strong against the NFL’s worst teams.
Looking at 2016 pass defenses from a ‘least passing TDs allowed standpoint’, Ryan faced four top 10 pass defenses and five if extended to the top 15. Against those five teams (DEN, KC, SEA, SD, ARI) he had more mild 1.6 TDs/0.8 INTs per game and a 2-3 record. *New England is a top 10 pass defense by TD passes allowed
Against the NFC South in 2016 (CAR, NO, TB), Ryan tallied 21 TDs/1 INT in 2016.
I want to cry about the Patriots easy schedule…the Falcons didn’t exactly face a bunch of juggernauts. When they did face a top 10 pass defense (by TD passes allowed) they had a losing record in the regular season.
— You take hot Matt Ryan, and I’ll take cold/injured Cam Newton (14-25 for 165, 1 TD/0 INT, 30 yards rushing). He looks fine to me. He’s under duress because of a weaker offensive line this season, but he’s still ‘Cam’. Had he been able to finish this game, perhaps it would have been a solid fantasy scoring effort.
Cam has had a rough start to 2016, but he’s also been cursed with matchup against Denver in Minnesota in this first three weeks. You can’t hold that against him or any other offensive player. You have to ignore it. I’ll take a cheap Cam off your hands.
Hopefully, you ignored that sequence back in October. I quickly changed my tune soon after this due to the Cam injury and subsequent pullback on his running. That’s all Cam is worth — when he’s running.
— What I don’t get is what happened to Kelvin Benjamin (3-39-1/7 targets)? The guy looks like the most dominant receiver in the NFL for two weeks, and then he goes into the witness protection program the last two weeks. I don’t see anything special happening in coverage, so I don’t get what Cam is trying to prove going away from Kelvin. I’m assuming it will be corrected when the easier matchups come up – like Tampa and the Saints the next two weeks.
From this game on…Kelvin had 2 TDs the rest of the season and no 100+ yard games. There is no more Cam-Kelvin delight. It was a 2014 blip.
— If you’re holding the Carolina defense you’re probably not that happy with what you have seen in 2016. I would only tell you this, because I’ve not been a fan of them from back in the preseason — the Carolina defense at best is ‘good’ this year. They are being held together by James Bradberry, a rookie corner. If Bradberry’s toe is worse than expected, or God forbid he goes on I.R. – this defense is going to be a near laughingstock.
If you see people starting to drop this defense in the next week or two, and your eyes light up for a second, ignore it…it’s not 2015 anymore.
This was an accurate assessment, mostly. I saw the Panthers defense start to rise up later in the season when Bradberry returned. I think they have a great nucleus for a bounce back 2017, but the Cam factor might be trouble for the DST.