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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 43, Bucs 28 (Thursday Night Football) — The Falcons jump to 6-3 by planting another 40+ points on an NFC South opponent.
The Falcons scored 40 or more points five times this past regular-season…against NO-CAR-TB-LAR-SF…a ‘who’s who’ of the worst teams/defenses in football last season. Carolina may not fall in that category but they lost their top corner in that game in the first series.
I really enjoyed the Thursday night Arena League Football game the NFL inserted into the rotation by surprise. It was a pretty good change of pace. I hadn’t seen an indoor Arena game in over a decade, and it’s the same way I remembered it – all offense and no defense/tackling, sloppy QBs throwing to the same WRs over and over. It’s a fun time for all. I wish I would have been there live so I might’ve had a chance at getting one of those T-shirts shot out of a cannon into the crowd…
Spoiler alert for these two defenses – most of the passes from these QBs are probably going to Julio Jones and Mike Evans. I mean, I’m no NFL defensive coordinator or anything. Just based on some loose observations – I kinda think those two guys are going to get a lot of passes…so you may want to cover them. Maybe even afford some extra coverage? But that’s just me…keep it in mind for 2017.
— We were so close to getting our projection of a mild shocker of a DST performance from the Atlanta Falcons in this game. If you didn’t catch a viewing of this game and just looking at the score, it seemed like typical Atlanta and Tampa (non) defensive performances. But it wasn’t the case…not from Atlanta.
Tampa Bay waltzed right down the field on the opening drive and scored a touchdown. Then the Falcons clamped down on Tampa Bay most of the rest of the game. The Falcons gave the Bucs a gift TD for their second score when Matt Ryan (25-34 for 344 for 4 TD/0 INT) was hit and fumbled inside his own 20. The Bucs converted that gift setup into a TD and had 14 points for the game early second quarter…and there the Bucs sat for almost two quarters – while the Falcons kept piling on the points. Tampa Bay scored two Blake Bortles-like TDs late in the fourth quarter to destroy what might’ve been a great DST scoring event.
I think the Falcons DST needs to stay on all of our radars for those that are streaming/struggling to find one. They got another 3.0 sacks in this game, giving them more sacks this season than they had all of last season – and most of the sacks this season have happened in the last 4-5 games. The Falcons also forced two fumbles/recovered them in this game. They had their hands on a couple of Jameis Winston (23-37 for 261 yards, 3 TD/0 INT) misfires/interception opportunities, but didn’t make the grabs. Considering they lost their top cornerback, Desmond Trufant (4 tackles), a third of the way into the game – this was pretty impressive by Atlanta to shut off the Bucs at home, when it mattered, without Trufant.
Losing Desmond Trufant is such a major blow…he would be gone for the year. How the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl without him is a testament to Dan Quinn’s defensive coaching.
— Of course, Antone Smith (5-25-0, 3-27-0/4 targets) blew his big opportunity. Smith looked better running the ball in this game than I’d seen him in the last two preseasons/regular seasons. He looked like a man who knew this was his last chance. The ultra-fast feet were back. I was starting to get a little excited when it became obvious Smith was the superior option to Peyton Barber (11-31-0, 4-24-0/5 targets) as this game unraveled. And then IT happened…
After a few nice runs by Smith, as time wound down in the first quarter – a weird exchange with Winston led to Smith clutching the ball in odd position on an inside run, and he was immediately plastered in the backfield, and the ball spit loose. A lost fumble. There is nothing worse in the entire NFL universe than a running back fumbling the ball…and losing it. Fumbling and the team getting it back is not a big deal. Fumbling and the team NOT getting it back – that’s the worst thing ever. RBs get cut the following week when the oblong shaped object doesn’t 50-50 go back to his own team. Quarterbacks can throw interceptions all day long. Wide receivers can drop wide-open passes as long as they have a bigger contract or higher draft status. What cannot stand is a running back fumbling the ball…and his own team not retrieving it.
So of course after Smith had fumbled he was not seen in the game for a couple of quarters. Because Dirk Koetter is a genius, and will not allow fumbles to stand, so he inserted his terrible, going-nowhere Peyton Barber option. This move only poured gasoline on the fire with poor starts and ends to drives because of Barber’s ‘nothing’ runs, and thus Tampa Bay piled up the ‘three and outs’ and lost the game. Maybe the Buccaneers would’ve had a better chance with Smith since he was gashing 5+ yards on every carry – except for the one weird handoff/smash in the backfield. Dirk Koetter’s too smart for that. He’s always been too smart for Antone Smith. The guy (Antone) was literally scoring touchdowns on every other touch he had years ago in Atlanta with Koetter as O-C, and Dirk always limited him to just 1–2 touches in most games no matter how many explosive plays Smith pulled off. No one deserves a losing streak and eventual firing more than Dirk Koetter. I hate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers more than any team in the NFL for what it’s current coaches did to Antone Smith for years – wasted a man’s life. They did it again Thursday night.
Side note: Not once that I recall or noted did the announcers ever reference Antone’s amazing statistical performances back in his Atlanta days. That’s unconscionable. The guy is a forced starter, and you bring up no interesting history on him? It’s sitting right there for the taking! I wish this were a Monday night game so Sean McDonough could have done the work no one in the NFL does.
But that wasn’t the end of my fantasy woes with Smith – because Antone Smith can never pay off for me.
Once the Buccaneers got down by a million, they went into their all-pass, Blake Bortles fourth-quarter garbage time offense mode complete with a lot of dump passes once Mike Glennon (10-11 for 75 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) came into the game. He dumped one off to Smith, who was finally graced to return to the game once it was way out of hand. He got a nice gain on it. Next play, Glennon dumped another one to Smith and got a nice gain, but Smith’s knee got twisted on the tackle, and out of the game he came. This forced Peyton Barber back into the game, who then took several dump passes during a meaningless scoring drive. Those were Smith’s garbage time dump passes!! That’s what I was counting on for Smith decent PPR projections – the Buccaneers way down and having to throw.
We can’t have nice things.
I don’t care if Antone Smith is named the starter in their next game, and then goes on to run for 500 yards in his opportunity – I’m never getting excited about Smith for fantasy for the rest of my life. It’s not his fault. *After writing this, I later learned Smith went on IR for the rest of the season. R.I.P. Antone, we hardly knew ye’.
I had to feel Antone-based disappointment one more time by re-reading all of this. What a sad waste of opportunity by the hands of NFL coaches his career was.
— I wish Smith had gotten treated like the Falcons treated Taylor Gabriel (5-52-0/5 targets) in this game. A couple of years ago, Gabriel was a semi-interesting speed burner receiver for the Cleveland Browns – at times the best the Browns had. Gabriel came from out of nowhere to be the Browns most explosive receiver for a stretch. And then the Moneyball group came in this season and drafted 19 wide receivers, and rostered them all, and jettisoned Gabriel unceremoniously. The Falcons took that gift, and I think they finally realized what they have with it. Gabriel is like a poor man’s J.J. Nelson or John Brown in this offense. Defenses are paying attention to the big starting receiver names and capable RBs, and then all of a sudden with lesser coverage a J.J. Nelson or John Brown springs open for a big play or two or three or four…same with Gabriel.
Gabriel had his best receiving day as a Falcon for sure, but he also got not one but two carries as a wide receiver on end-arounds. Popping one of them for 15 yards, and taking the other one in the red zone for an untouched 9-yard TD. I wish Minnesota saw Cordarrelle Patterson the same way Atlanta saw fit to use Taylor Gabriel in this game.
I don’t trust any non-Julio, non-RB in the Atlanta pass game, so I’m not running out to get Gabriel in a 12-team redraft, but in deeper roster leagues – Gabriel has a chance to be something every other week. He’s a pretty talented receiver and a good athlete. There’s just a lot of other mouths to feed ahead of him in Atlanta.
Maybe Atlanta will release Justin Hardy because of this and let him go play elsewhere, speaking of guys who are having their careers wasted.
Taylor Gabriel would go on to lead all Falcons WRs in TDs this season with 7 (one of them rushing). One more than greatest WR ever, so they say, Julio Jones with 6 TDs this season.
— There’s my guy Bradley McDougald (7 tackles, 2 PDs) again, right as rain with another 7+ tackle effort. This makes five games in a row with 7 or more tackles in a game.
After a slow start/reduced playing time early in the 2016 season…what a terrific IDP finish for McDougald for the season. Top 10 IDP Safety from about Week 4-5 on.