Welcome to Straight from the 'Beek! The Falcons are back in Flowery Branch, trying to get back on track after dropping their fifth straight game over the weekend. They're sitting at 4-9 with three regular-season games to go – and you've got plenty of questions and comments. So, let's get right to them. Just remember that all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.
And we're off.
Jimmy from Townsend, GA
What is up with all these fair-weather fans? Matt Ryan is getting blasted and still has a chance at throwing for 5,000 yards. He is playing probably his best football despite the issues with the O-line, offensive coordinator, and the injury bug. Not once has Matt put blame on anyone. There is a lot wrong in Atlanta and I'm hoping Dan Quinn pulls things together. He's my guy. I truly am pulling for him. We have some diamonds that show they can play. Still believe in our team.
Matt: It has been a difficult season the Falcons and their fans, no question about it, Jimmy. And you're also right about Matt Ryan this season. After receiving a new contract extension in the offseason, he has put together one of the best seasons statistically in his career – and he very well might surpass the 5,000-yard mark this year. He's been averaging around 314 yards per game this season – and he'll need to average just north of that to do it. As far as turning things around, well, the Falcons still have three regular-season games to go. It'll be very telling how they finish, who steps up and all of that. I know Falcons coach Dan Quinn will be watching closely because he is as frustrated as I've ever seen him right now. They'll be getting a lot of players back during the offseason. That coupled with the infusion of rookies who made considerable contributions this season bodes well for this team's future. They must address the offensive and defensive lines during free agency and the NFL Draft, in my opinion. That'll be key heading into 2019.
Wade from Valdosta, GA
As I watched the Falcons and Packers, I wondered why most NFL players do not wear sleeves during cold weather games? Now I somewhat get the "macho" thing. However, when you have bare skin exposed to freezing temperatures the body has to replace that lost heat in lieu of that same energy that could be used by other muscles for football related moves. Your body will always protect the areas of massive heat loss first. It's a proven fact that you burn more calories during cold weather as opposed to hot for the same activity. Personally, I'd rather have that energy available for my muscles and be comfortably toasty at the same time. But that's just me.
Matt: Wade, all I can tell you is that they players care about performance, first and foremost. So if a players prefers to wear gloves, long sleeves or no sleeves, it's because they believe it will help perform at their best. Is there a mental game that sometimes goes on, especially when a player goes shirtless in frigid temperatures during pregame warm-ups? Sure. But once the ball is kicked off, it's all about winning and playing their best. They'll wear whatever is necessary to accomplish that. Hope that helps answer your question.
Mark from Marietta, GA
One play away. One step away. One drop away. Next, one whiff on a sack away by the DE. Why does that keep happening? Out-of-control pass-rush? The QB takes one step and the DE whiffs every game. For the record, enjoy your blog and 90 percent is good information for the fans. That's an outstanding number. Just find the what could have been a bit over the top, even humorous. Happy holidays and go Falcons.
Matt: I might be wrong, Mark, but I think you're probably referencing this column I wrote – and not the daily Straight from the 'Beek. In that piece I wrote about a game-changing interception during the 22-19 loss to the Cowboys back on Nov. 18. But the column was also about how we've said this so many times – too many times – this season about this Falcons team. The mistakes and missed opportunities have been a problem, not an excuse. So, I hope I don't come across as the latter. And I'm definitely glad you're enjoying SFTB.
Rob from Canton, GA
What's up, Beek: I don't claim to be a football coach, but I have a question in that regard. To the Green Bay game. Green Bay had the ball on their 45-yard line, 44 seconds to the half. Second down, 22 yards to go. Green Bay had one timeout left. Quinn called a timeout. Next play, Rogers runs, now third-and-1. They kick a field goal. Why would Quinn call time out, just let Green Bay waste their timeout and then just go into half. Quinn cost us three points. What was he thinking about? Getting the ball back and scoring before the half? That wasn't going to happen.
Matt: Falcons coach Dan Quinn called a timeout right Vic Beasley sacked Aaron Rodgers. The Packers were suddenly facing a second-and-22 at the Falcons' 48 and Quinn was hoping to get the ball back, hence the timeout. I had no problem with the decision at that point in the game. The Falcons were down by 10 with 43 seconds left in the second quarter. If you force an incompletion on third down and then a punt, you get the ball back with a chance to put some points on the board before halftime. What you're not planning on is Rodgers scrambling for a 21-yard run and a fight to break out – which is what happened. There's second-guessing and but that's a stretch, Rob. The defensive breakdown is what cost the Falcons, not Quinn's timeout.
Matthew from Greenville, WI
Sad, absolutely sad that this team has the talent they have and a coaching staff that can't figure out how to utilize it or put the right people (offensive linemen) in place for success. Maybe it's just me but I think it is time for a cleaning of the house with our coaches!
Matt: I totally get your frustrations, Matthew, but there are a multitude of reasons why this team is sitting at 4-9 right now, not just one (the coaching). If there was a simple fix like that, the people who run this team would've done that long ago. It's a combination of mistakes, lack of execution at times, injuries, inexperience and, yes, even the coaches would like to have some calls back. Dan Quinn said that the Falcons are evaluating everything (and everyone) right now, I can assure you of that much.
Clint from Evans, GA
Beek, you are slow today getting our comments out. I can only imagine the emails you are getting. Points that I have made on previous emails that you didn't print. Green Bay has more injuries on their offensive line than us, but that managed to outplay us because their backups are better than our starters. Same goes for the defense. It proves my point, TD and DQ are not very good at picking out raw talent or the potential of a player, therefore it's time both of them be let go and start afresh.
Matt: Hey, Clint. Apologies to the Beekers out there, but Monday I ended up writing a column on Julio Jones and the Falcons season (you can check it out right here) and held off on running SFTB. I'm going to disagree with your points above – one game or even one rough season doesn't erase or outweigh everything that Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn have accomplished here in Atlanta (I strongly encourage you to click that link, too). You can't just dismiss the fact that the Falcons were the only NFC team to return to the playoffs (from the previous year) or the fact that that they led the Falcons to the Super Bowl two years ago. Dimitroff has drafted a ton of great players, too, including Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett, Devonta Freeman, Calvin Ridley and the list goes on. This has been a tough year derailed by injuries and too many mistakes, as I noted above. But Dimitroff and Quinn have more than earned the chance to straighten things out for 2019.
Dylan from Rockford, IL
After a frustrating season to watch, I have a few questions about moving forward in draft and free agency. Will the Falcons cut guys like Ryan Schraeder and Robert Alford to officially move on? And I see a lot of team needs, defensive line being a big one. Is that No. 1 priority? And are there any free agents that the Falcons will try to move in on? Thanks.
Matt: Hey, Dylan. First of all, it's impossible for me to know the answer to your first question about the future of two players who are currently under contract. This team clearly has a number of needs, including the offensive line, defensive line, edge rusher, secondary, linebacker, and possibly even running back.
J.C. from Vidalia, GA
Beek, another loss, another batch of corporate stiff postgame conferences, and more frustration for the fans. Here's the deal. There are a lot of teams with injuries right now, and our coaches fail to realize we have been thoroughly outcoached week after week for two years since the Super Bowl. We have failed to make adjustments week after week, and we have been killed in the majority of the second half of our games, including losses to two rookie quarterbacks. I have yet to hear one coach take responsibility for any of this including the second half of the Super Bowl. What's the excuse for our sluggish play last year? We have a great owner, we have great fans, and we are dead in the water for 2019 if this irresponsible cast of characters are allowed to return. The first half of the Super bowl, the Rams playoff game, and the Redskins road game weren't flukes. Our guys can get it done, and this is what our owner and our fans deserve? Coach DQ says we need an identity. Once the injuries hit, we should have turned the offense wide open, not hid under a batch of excuses. Sorry.
Matt: Hey, J.C. Let's tap the brakes for a minute. Were you unhappy or ashamed to be a Falcons fan in 2016, when Matt Ryan put up video game-like numbers and was named league MVP? And were still embarrassed when the Falcons defense turned things around that same year and helped the team make a push all the way to Super Bowl LI, starting several rookies and first-year players to boot? How about the next season when the Falcons ended up being the only team in the NFC to return to the playoffs? That didn't impress you, huh? By the way, the Falcons did beat the Rams in the wild-card round of the playoffs, in Los Angeles no less. So this year comes along and many of the national writers even picked the Falcons to be a Super Bowl contender (some picked them to win it). Something right must be going on for that to happen. But, hey, then a season like 2018 comes around – and opening-day starters started dropping like flies to injuries, several have been season-ending. Guys like Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Deion Jones, Andy Levitre, Devonta Freeman, Grady Jarrett, Takk McKinley, Brandon Fusco, and Logan Paulsen. But, hey, that's no excuse, right? But with so many of those injuries occurring on defense, the offense did open up. Did you miss the first half of the season? Matt Ryan was putting up MVP-like numbers and the Falcons were averaging 28.5 points per game, scoring more than 30 a game in several of them. The problem was the defense, as you know. With two Pro Bowlers out and a handful of starters hurt, there were a lot of guys thrown into the fire and on-the-job learning going on. Unfortunately, the Falcons went 4-4 during the first half of the season. But these last five games, all losses, have been tough on everyone, the fans included. Instead of remembering all the good things people have accomplished here over the last few years, the fans are calling for the house to be cleaned. You noted that the fans deserve better. Maybe it's just me, but I think Dan Quinn deserves better, too.
Got a question? If there is something you want to ask or comment about, submit it right here.