Welcome to Straight from the 'Beek! The Falcons are preparing for the Panthers and also regrouping following the news of Keanu Neal and Deion Jones this week. You, in the meantime, have plenty of questions and comments – so, let's get right to them now. Just remember, that all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.
And away we go.
JC from Vidalia, GA
Hey, Beek. Great blog, but don't come down on the guy about Patrick DiMarco. I believe our offensive woes are due more to his departure than Kyle Shanahan's. However, both appear huge. Something is terribly wrong. We have no chemistry. I would like to see the running back averages with DiMarco in the game versus last year and one game this year. By the way, that sample size is 17. The lack of chemistry is baffling. Someone has to make a difference other than Julio. He is the one constant on offense. Other teams run plays with open receivers. With us, it is only Julio Jones, and a lot of lip service. The postgame emotionless corporate stiff interviews are getting old. These guys need to take responsibility for the sample size of 17. With Deion Jones and Keanu Neal out, we have to score. The defensive effort is there, and they will adjust. The offense needs to get going or this season will be over sooner than later.
Matt: Hey, JC. All fair points. To be clear though, I wasn't coming down on him, but at some point people have to realize that ship sailed long ago. The sample size for Steve Sarkisian is 19 games – the 2017 season, two playoff games and last Thursday night's game. The sample size for this team is one game – because every year (and every team) is different. Different coaching staff, different roster, different schedule makeup and different opponents. Without question, the offense needs to find some sort of rhythm – and produce points. I believe they will and I'm not worried about it. Why? Because Philadelphia's defense was very good – and Falcons fans need to start wrapping their head around that much of Thursday night's outcome. The good takeaway is that the Falcons' defense is also very good and despite 15 penalties for 135 yards and converting just 4 of 15 third-down attempts, Atlanta was this close to pulling out a win. These first five games will be telling and I'd rather wait and see what happens before making declarations after just one game. Oh, and fullback Patrick DiMarco was a very good player while here in Atlanta but I totally disagree that his departure was felt more or affected the team more than the offensive coordinator leaving. Thanks for writing in; hope to see you back in the inbox.
Stacey from Stockton, CA
Hey Beek!! I'm a 100-percent disabled vet living in California and originally from Bartow, Georgia. I would love for the #DirtyBirds to bring me and the family to see my favorite team in that nice Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Vet income can't afford it. Now all I can say is if it wasn't for DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket, I would never get to see them. Love you #DirtyBirds. Now to my second question. What will my favorite coach Dan Quinn do differently this week against Carolina than we did with the Eagles to create lanes for our running backs and receivers? Clearly Dontari Poe knows most of our defensive schemes and will use that to their advantage having played for us a year ago. And do you think Damontae Kazee is the best option to replace Keanu Neal?
Matt: Before I say anything here, thank you for your service, Stacey! Also, I've forwarded your email to some folks here in Flowery Branch to see if there's any way we can help in your quest to see the Falcons in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. I obviously can't make any promises, but hopefully we can help in some way. I think you're spot-on about the running game this week. While the Panthers have a very good front seven, it'll be important for the Falcons to get some run-pass balance and get the ground game moving. That should open the play-action passes downfield. But easier said than done against this Carolina front. Regarding Damontae Kazee, I'm a huge fan of his. I think he's instinctive, can hit like a truck and make plays back there. I think you'll see Kazee and Jordan Richards out there some, too. The Falcons also signed former Bucs safety Keith Tandy, a player I'm familiar with because he played at my alma mater, West Virginia University. I'm not sure how much he'll play this week, if at all. Thanks for your questions!
Ryan from Woodstock, MI
Beek, I'm trying to stay positive with these injuries, but it just feels like maybe it's not meant to be this year (I know it's only one game, but Jones and Neal are arguably the best players on D). I know recently the Eagles (Wentz, Peters) and Pats (Gronk) were missing key pieces when they won the Super Bowl. Do you think it is time to lower our expectations for this group assuming Jones won't be the last injury they take, or do you still feel confident with your preseason predictions? Do you think if they can play .500 ball until he comes back that will be enough considering we have a good chunk of home games early? Keep up the great work!
Matt: When you lose two Pro Bowl-caliber players on defense it's never a good thing, so I get the anxiousness and disappointment. But you're right when you point out that this is a team game – and that the good teams rally in the face of adversity. They play like there's nothing to lose – and those teams are the most dangerous teams to face. The Eagles rallied all the way to a Super Bowl title last year. So I am in no way throwing in any towel whatsoever! This is a long season and there's a ton of football left to play – and it's sometimes a game of attrition, too. Every team has injuries, but it's how you deal with them that counts. Just like in life – we all get knocked down. It's how you get back up that matters, right? So the Falcons got knocked down. It's time to dust of their backsides and go get it. The Panthers, Saints and Bengals are coming into town and, trust me, they're coming in seeking wins. They're dealing with their own injuries, so there's not a ton of sympathy from a competitive standpoint. Yes, I still stand by my prediction – I think this team is capable of winning 10-12 games, so I've gone with 11 as the magic number.
Matt from Augusta, GA
Hi, Matt. Just wanted to follow up on my email and your response. I guess I wrote it to get a fiery response which you did, and I appreciate it. I was still angry and frustrated over the Falcons' loss and what resulted was the personal attacks – I apologize. You tend to see the glass half full – me, half empty. Anyway, politics has nothing to do with sports (at least it shouldn't but seems to more and more) therefore, I was wrong to throw in that liberal comment in the end. Thanks for ignoring it. You do a good service, so good luck.
Matt: Glad you wrote back, apology accepted and the main reason I published your remarks was because I understand the anger Falcons fans are experiencing. I totally get it, trust me. And I think it's important for other fans to know they're not the only ones feeling frustrated, disappointed, anxious, etc. That's what Straight from the 'Beek is all about! It's for you guys to vent, question, celebrate … everything. And it's not that I'm a glass half-full guy (I'm sure my wife would chuckle at that), but I try to present the flip side and cut through the emotion a lot of the time – and stick to logic. Trust me, it's not always easy. If you guys could only here the conversations I have with myself while going through my inbox reading your questions – now THAT would be good content. Regardless, I'll leave this with what I told you yesterday … it's just one game. This team certainly has a lot to clean up and address, but they're a veteran group and I think they'll be fine. The injuries, however, are tough. Other players need to step. Who will it be?
Michael from College Park, GA
Why is it every year the same old Falcons, same answer for every game? "... we got to go back and look at the game film." Why is it the fans can see the game calling better than the coaching staff? I can coach the Falcon better than Steve Sarkisian. He is a joke! We have the best offense in the league and we couldn't score last year in the red zone and we will probably be 20 percent this year in the red zone! It's ridiculous. As a fan's point of view, we are still that down to the last-second-on-the-clock team that can't, and maybe never will, win a Super Bowl.
Matt: Just think about this for a minute, Michael. The Falcons were the ONLY team in the NFC to return to the playoffs last year. They not only returned, but they went out to Los Angeles and beat the Rams in the wild-card round. Then they went to Philadelphia and were a catch away from beating the eventual Super Bowl champions. I get your frustrations, but it's not as bad as you make it out to be. Are the 15 penalties in one game frustrating to watch? Absolutely. And it was equally as hard to watch the Falcons in third-and-long situations on Thursday night as well. That stuff has to be cleaned up, and I'm sure it will be. They're fixable problems, especially the penalties. But this is still a very good team. They just happened to play the defending Super Bowl champs before their home crowd in the opener and lost on the final second of the game. Let's move on to Carolina.