Good morning and welcome to Straight from the 'Beek! The Falcons are back home preparing for the Buccaneers after a huge road win Monday night in Seattle – and you've got plenty of questions. Just remember that all opinions you see in this space are mine, unless otherwise noted.
And we're off, beginning with a question from Down Under.
John from Mackay, Queensland, Australia
G'day Beek! So good to be writing after a win, but I have this nagging feeling ... I've seen it so many times with the rugby team I follow here in Australia, and I'm just a little concerned about the possibility of some complacency that may creep into the Falcons' game against the Bucs. I mean, a win's a win, and we found some rhythm at last on Offence, but it came against two teams that would have been CONSIDERABLY tougher had they been at full strength, with a Zeke-less Cowboys and a Sherman-less Seahawks. I'm wondering, do you think the Falcons could lure themselves into a false sense of security with their slightly more comfortable 6-4 record, or do you think they are professional enough to just take the confidence of being on a winning streak and move on?
Matt: There's no question that the Falcons caught some breaks with Dallas and Seattle, especially on the injury front. But, you know, that's part of the game and it goes both ways, John. You take those when you can get them. But to your question, no, I don't think so. Sure, the Falcons are in a decent spot right now sitting at 6-4 with five more division games ahead, but I do not see this bunch getting complacent – not after everything they've been through to this point. Every single game is critical and they are aware that two teams – the Saints (8-2) and Panthers (7-3) – are still ahead of them in the NFC South standings. I'd be shocked if this team wasn't laser-focused on the Bucs this week. It's a big game.
Chris from Stonewall, MS
What's up, Matt? First off, hope you and your family have a happy thanksgiving!! SANU!! My gosh, man what a great receiver for us and my question is, do you think Mohamed Sanu will be a Falcon for a while? I sure hope so -- great compliment to Julio Jones.
Matt: Hey, Chris. Thank you! And same to you and your family – have a Happy Thanksgiving, bud. As far as Sanu goes, he's got 37 catches for 388 yards and four touchdowns this year. The Falcons have so many weapons on offense and the ball does get spread around quite a bit. Regarding his contract goes, how long he'll be in Atlanta and all that stuff – I really try to avoid speculating on that stuff, Chris. But I can tell you that there is credible site online called Spotrac.com that covers every major sports league and contains the contracts, yearly salaries, team salary caps, transactions, etc. It's a nice reference tool and a lot of people, including members of the media, use it and find it credible.
Ruben from Marion, OH
Hey, Beek. First time writer but I've been reading your column all year an gotta say I love it. I love how you put all the bandwagon fans in line. I've been a Falcons fan my entire life that I've watched football. I'm not really sure where to begin with my thoughts but the main thing I want to get the point across of is that this team is amazing. To me my dirty birds have never gotten the recognition they deserve. Whether as a team or individual players (besides Julio Jones. He's a monster an no one can ever deny that). But this whole year it seems Matt Ryan has been ridiculed much more than he should be. He is an amazing quarterback and he really leads this team. These Falcons aren't the same team as last year and I think everybody needs to realize that. But they are easily just as good. They've had some bad luck this year that has really made them seem a lot worse than they are to a lot of people. But I've always had faith an I've always known this team is great. After the last two games against Seattle and Dallas, I think they are finally starting to gel together again and some of that bad luck is turning around. Hopefully they can continue this. But no matter what, I'm a Falcons fan for life. An I love wat Dan Quinn has done in his few short years here. But I think that's enough of my ranting for now. I want to say thanks again for what you do here Beek and to all the Falcons fans (legit or bandwagoners), RISE UP for the BROTHERHOOD!
Matt: Thanks for reading and for writing in, Ruben. I'm posting this one because I'm sure there are a lot more Falcons fans out there who feel the same way. In fact, I think there might be more positive emails than negative ones in my inbox this morning.
Ray from Asheville, NC
Hi Beek. Great win for the Falcons Monday night! Clutch catches were made and converting on third down were definite difference makers. We were able to overcome penalties but I hope we clean that up. Matt Ryan showed true leadership and poise on and off the field. Besides the Hawks' late drive in the fourth quarter leading to a TD, the defense looked great. My main concern was special teams especially on kickoff returns. We cannot afford to give up so much yardage and expect to win when we give opposing teams excellent field position. That puts a lot of pressure on both the defense and offense. In your estimation what was the reason for those big gains on kickoffs? How do we stop those big gains in the future? Thanks again for your response.
Matt: Hi, Ray. First, give credit where credit is due – and let's just get it out there that Tyler Lockett is an excellent return specialist. I don't know how familiar you are with him, but I've been watching him since he played at Kansas State and he's a playmaker. And he's been doing since he came into the league. Against the Falcons he had five kick returns for 197 yards – that's an average of 39.4 per return. He also had a long return of 57 yards against Atlanta. And you're right, that's way too many yards. I'm sure it'll be a point of emphasis this week as the Falcons prepare for the Bucs. One of the keys, though, is containment and staying in your assigned lane on coverage. There were too many large creases (openings) and someone with Lockett's speed and vision will exploit that.
Kevin from Sierra Madre, CA
First, I'm very happy we beat Seattle. Though I'm puzzled as to why Steve Sarkisian is calling running plays on second-and-long. Seattle was stopping our run game up until Terron Ward came in. Secondly, Matty Ice had his streak broke of 200 yards in a game. Can we get Ty to replace Wes in the next game? I'm sorry Wes is not solid at right guard. Maybe he just needs to watch on the bench the rest of the season. We can draft a guard next draft.
Matt: Kevin, the Falcons just knocked off the Seahawks in their place and picked up their sixth win of the year. Enjoy this one! Does it really matter how many yards Matt Ryan threw for or what play Steve Sarkisian called on a particular second down in the end? All that matters is that they're right in the thick of the NFC playoff race and they still control their own destiny.
Josh from Milwaukee, WI
Listen. I am going to admit I was wrong about Steve Sarkisian. The execution of the plays the last three weeks has been great. The OC can only do so much. I am starting to get into the feel of the 2016 team. I know you don't like comparing teams, but with this win at Seattle, where do you think this team is? I think we can get in at the least with the wild card, but even then, no team wants to see us in the playoffs.
Matt: Hey, John. Any time you can control your own destiny – and still have a chance to win your division – that's a good thing. Everything is on the table for the Falcons (6-4). Sure, the Eagles are sitting pretty at 9-1, but I've said this countless times here since August when I first started Straight from the 'Beek – anything can happen in the NFL on a week-to-week basis. All the Falcons need to do is take it one game at a time and string some wins together. If they do that, things could get very interesting.
Andrew from Meath, Ireland
Hey Matt! Greeting from Ireland! What you think the chances are of the Falcons going to London?? I support all the way from Ireland so it would probably be the only way I would get to see them.
Matt: Welcome to Straight from the 'Beek, Andrew! I've been asked this a few times and I can't say for certain, Andrew. There's always a chance. The Falcons last played in London during the 2014 season, a 22-21 loss to the Lions. This year eight teams played in London, including the Jaguars who played a home game there for an astounding fifth consecutive season. Once this season is over, 26 different teams will have played there since the inception of the London Games Series in 2007. The NFL recently announced an agreement to play games in Mexico through 2021 – so the international games aren't going anywhere.
Travis from Kaiserslautern, Germany
A win is a win is a win! I think our offensive play calling is making our margin of error way too small. It seems we have to make a great play on third down way too much (Justin Hardy's first down catch on third down in the first drive of the game). It seems as if Steve Sarkisian is a behind-the-sticks play caller. He pulls out what we (arguably) do best when we have to and that is throw the ball. The Seahawks had Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor out; their starting cornerback was lost early in the game and their starting safety (Earl Thomas) was back from injury after missing two games. With the reigning MVP and the wide receiver set that we have, this is the time you would have 75 percent to 25 percent pass-to-run ratio. I think we have to throw the ball to set up the run. Being in Germany and the Monday night game comes on at 2 a.m. and just ended around 6 a.m., Tuesday morning. … Beek, I am being overly critical, sleepy, grouchy, and mad I have to get dressed for work (after a win) or is there some shred of truth to my logic?
Matt: Yes, every win is big – and winning in Seattle on Monday night is not easy, either. So let's keep that much in perspective. Also, every game is different – the matchups, the situations, the weather – everything. And I hate to compare too much, but the Seahawks were doing a nice job shutting down the Falcons running game. Tevin Coleman ran the ball 20 times for 43 yards (2.2 yards per carry) and a score. Terron Ward did come in and give them a bit of a spark – six carries for 31 yards – but there was not a lot of room to run. It's all about matchups in the NFL and I think Sarkisian did a nice job of attacking the Seahawks defense in the passing game. Again, it's all about execution and Matt Ryan was solid and completed 70 percent of his passes (19 of 27 for 195 yards and two touchdowns).
Jerry from Statesboro, GA
Hey Beek. What a game, huh? I am very proud of our defense. The score looks like a track meet but Wilson was sacked and pressured all night. Yes, Wilson made plays but he does that against any team Seattle plays. However, the defense relaxed a little late in the game. Our special teams and penalties killed us. The game should have been over early but, again, bad special teams play by Roberts and a bad pass interference call on Alford saved Seattle early on. Now that we've gotten back in the playoffs mix, do you feel like we should be more aggressive on offense or stick to the game plan?
Matt: Hey, Jerry. Regarding your first question, I think you stay true to who you are – meaning, you don't change your identity. You stick to what you do well and try to get better in the other areas every week. The Falcons have a nice mix of veterans and your players – and teams evolve through the course of a season. And coaches are still trying to find ways to put their players in better positions to succeed. Now, I'm not making any play calls, and I think they Falcons will continue to play to their strengths. Hope that answers your question.
Vincent from Clarkston, GA
Beek, from last season to this current season, not really too much has changed with the Falcons offense. So why can't they put up the numbers from last year? Have other teams been playing them better? Or are other teams coaching been better against us? I do understand we can't put up 45 points every game but it just seems like we're out of sync. Thank you Beek for having this forum so the fans can ask the questions without calling into a sports radio station and being told you don't know what you're talking about. Thanks again!
Matt: Hey, Vincent. Thanks for writing in. Well, I think you know what I'm about to say … this team is not the same team as last year. It's the 2017 version of the Falcons. The players, coaches, opponents, schedule and situations are different and doesn't do any of us any good to sit and compare this team to 2016 or 2015. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, yes, teams are certainly trying to take away what the Falcons do best. And when you have the weapons Atlanta has – especially a receiver like Julio Jones – you're going to try to shut that down and limit the explosive plays. And when that happens, other players must answer the bell and make plays. The good news, Vincent, is that the Falcons have won three of their last four games and control their own destiny. That's all you can hope for as a fan – to have your team playing meaningful football games come December.