Something is up with the Atlanta Falcons.

For the second time in three weeks they basically failed to show up for the first half of a football game. Their quarterback, he of the $90-plus million in guarantees, keeps turning the ball over. They have 223 yards rushing as a team through three weeks. Their defense cannot get a stop when they need one.

With the coaching staff entering the season under fire, needing to bounce back from a lost 2018 that was attributed to injuries more than anything else, well, it’s fair to call September uninspiring at best thus far. Atlanta’s defense has been run over in the ground game far too often, they have seemed like the less physical football team too often and they are starting slow to a season once again.

Yes, they had two pristine second-half drives to make a game of it in Indianapolis Sunday, but that was only after Matt Ryan threw his sixth pick of the season and the Colts marched up and down the field and led, 20-3, at halftime. The Falcons couldn’t come all the way back, cutting things to three at one point, and the Colts could have scored again late but chose to run out the clock – yet again, with the Falcons needing a stop, none came.

Here’s what the Colts offense did to them in the first half on four possessions:

Nine plays for 39 yards and a field goal.
Seven plays for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Fifteen plays for 94 yards and a field goal.
Ten plays for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Yeah, two drives over 90 yards in the first half alone. Jacoby Brissett completed his first 16 passes and barely had to break a sweat doing it. Julio Jones‘ frustration boiled over at times. And, as I posited several times this offseason, expecting a Dirk Koetter/Matt Ryan reunion to be transformational was folly. We will never see this offense look like it did in the second season Kyle Shanahan called plays there … and it might be quite some time before the Falcons get back to the Super Bowl after blowing it to the Pats in 2017.

They are 17-18 since losing that heartbreaking game, they’re on their third offensive coordinator and head coach Dan Quinn already took over the defense. There isn’t much more shuffling to do. The cosmetic stuff has already happened. At some point owner Arthur Blank’s patience will run out, and if these uneven performances continue then that day is coming in early 2020, at the latest.  

I’d suggest a quick turnaround, because the second half of the season looks like a chore. From Week 7-14 the Falcons face the Rams, Seahawks, then after a bye, play divisional games five weeks in a row, including twice with the Saints and Panthers.

Packers winning, but questions remain

Kudos to the Packers for another win, but, man, I come away thinking the same thing every week. They are creating early turnovers at an unsustainable rate, which is allowing the offense to feast off its script of early plays … then things bog down exponentially and everything looks like a struggle and Aaron Rodgers is not putting teams away as we’ve come to expect.

I guess what I’m saying is I’m really interested to see how this looks when they play a team that can actually throw the football and make things happen quickly downfield. So far it’s been the Bears, Vikings and Broncos who have displayed no vertical thrust at all in 2019. I’m interested to see what kind of adjustments the Packers can make on both sides of the ball.

Ravens‘ decisions costly as Mahomes, Chiefs roll on

Surprised the Ravens, against a defense allowing six yards per carry, did not attack the Chiefs with more heavy formations early and show the intent to grind it out in the first half like they did in the second. That, coupled with a strange decision to go for two when down nine points, plus two penalties that extended dying Chiefs’ drives, ended up costing them big at Arrowhead.

Patrick Mahomes doesn’t look quite right to me, especially in the first quarter of games where it seems like it takes a while before his ankle – which was banged up in Week 1 – settles down. Not that it matters. Put him down for 5000 yards and 45 touchdowns and all of the ridiculous speed they added at receivers makes Tyreek Hill, truly, expendable. It’s like they don’t even miss him at all. Speed, and the system, still kill.

More insider notes from Week 3

  • This is a huge week for the Eagles. They are even more beat up after a tough loss to the Lions, on the heels of a tough loss to the Falcons, and now they have to turn around and play on a Thursday night. They’ll be short at receiver again, and probably on the offensive and defensive line, too. When the injuries come in waves at certain positions groups there is only so much you can do.
  • I think the Colts win the AFC South by three games or more. They are so well coached and they don’t beat themselves and they have a real gamer at quarterback.
  • The Bengals made a game of it in Buffalo, but were out-gained 257-77 in the first half and it really didn’t feel even that close. Two straight weeks they have been dominated out of the gate; this week Josh Allen and the Bills‘ offense came undone in the second half to keep them in the game, but slow starts seem to be contagious.
  • Full marks to the Dolphins for effort and determination on Sunday. Yes, it ended in another blowout loss, but they made the Cowboys earn it this time. This game was even at the half and Josh Rosen was a huge bright spot for what had been a totally moribund Miami offense.
  • The Raiders‘ knucklehead factor on defense threatens to undermine whatever gains they have made on that side of the ball. I wanted to buy in to some of what I had seen, but then when they start throwing punches and getting gashed on the ground like they did in Minnesota it makes it hard to take them seriously. 
  • I didn’t expect much from the Broncos this season, overall, but I did figure on two of their players topping 16 sacks each. The lack of sustained pressure by Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, on a Vic Fangio defense, befuddles me.
  • Once Kyler Murray figures out the red zone the Cardinals are going to be something. Love watching this kid play.
  • Kudos to Adam Vinatieri for putting two horrible weeks behind him and putting together a perfect Sunday.


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