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Questions about the Falcons' dominating performance, free agents, Julio Jones, coaches, more

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Welcome to Straight from the ’Beek! The Falcons are coming off a nice home win over the Cardinals and now turn their attention toward NFC South rival Carolina – and you have plenty of questions. So, let’s get right to them. Just remember that all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.

And we’re off.

JC from Vidalia, GA
Beek, your question hits the nail on the head. “Where has this been?” Please ask the coaches. Now that their jobs are on the line, we step up to the plate. No doubt, we had some great play calling on both sides of the ball, and we didn’t just beat up on an inferior team. The offense looked logical. Hey DQ and Sark, “Where has this been?” For the second week in a row, we were more aggressive on our defensive play calling? Let’s see, that’s games 13 and 14 of our season. Hey DQ and Manuel, “Where has this been?” Matt Ryan had a score on a QB sneak on goose. Plenty of chances from inches out time after time since the Panthers game, hey guys (collectively), “Where has this been?” A few minutes ago, Cris Collinsworth said the Rams coach took responsibility for being outcoached in the Bears game. Hey coaches, “Where has this been?” I love our owner (the best owner in football), I love our team (no, they didn’t lay down), and I love our fans (I am a season ticket holder and a lifetime Falcons, Braves, and Hawks fan). However, I don’t love a group of coaches who blame injuries and refuse to take any responsibility for their own loss of identity, and we deserve better. No, I am not saying we need to start over, but now that this year is shot, what are they going to do, bring back our coaches upon promise to do a better job next year? I wouldn’t feel this way if our coaches would just admit they didn’t get the job done week after week. Sorry DQ, Sark, and Manuel, it wasn’t the players, and it wasn’t the injuries. Find a mirror and look into it. The young Rams coach sure did.

Matt: Hey, JC. You certainly raise some valid points. And while it was good to finally see the team play well in virtually all phases of the game, I totally get your “too little too late” points. That was the point of my column, too. You mentioned an “inferior opponent” in the Cardinals and I disagree with that. This is the NFL and every team has talented players and proven coaches. While that team has a first-year coach and rookie quarterback, they did go into Lambeau Field and beat the Packers two weeks ago. To your point, though, I do believe the Falcons have some straight shooters on this team – guys like Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan who tell it like it is – and they have been accountable. Dan Quinn said last week that everyone and everything is being evaluated, from players to coaches. While the win must’ve felt good for him, his staff and the players, I don’t think anyone in this building is satisfied with the 5-9 record thus far. All teams – from division winners to last-place finishers – make changes in the offseason, from roster decisions and draft picks to the coaching staff and personnel departments. I expect the Falcons will make changes, too. Let’s hope they make the right ones, whatever they end up being. Thanks for reading and writing in, JC.

Falcons defensive end Bruce Irvin sacks Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen.

Jim from Townsend, TN
Beek, thanks for your great work covering the Falcons. The win against the Cardinals was, as you said in your article, what we have been looking for in 2018. My question has to do with the main reason for the convincing win. Was it due to the sad state of the Cardinals' OL and QB? Was it due to the fact that we seemed to be more aggressive on a Deion Jones-led defense, with a lot more blitzes? Was it due to getting younger players in the mix to give the team a spark (although Russell Gage was a liability)? Or was it simply because the Falcons played to their true talent level? Perhaps it was a combination of all of these factors. I would be very interested in your take. Thanks again for your superb work.

Matt: Thanks for the kind words, Jim. I think you nailed most of it in your assessment. There’s no question that the Cardinals had trouble protecting their rookie quarterback (who I think will eventually be a solid starter in the league). Part of that, however, was because Josh Rosen held the ball too long and made some poor decisions. Most of it was due to the Falcons’ aggressive pass rusher and solid all-around efforts from Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones and Vic Beasley. For the second game in a row, the offensive line did a nice job of providing Matt Ryan with a clean pocket and they opened up some nice running lanes for Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith. When you can run, protect the quarterback and, on the flip side, create pressure and turnovers, you’re going to win most of the games. The Falcons did in dominating fashion. We could play the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” game all day long, but … the Falcons are a five-win team at the moment. As the great Bill Parcells says, “You are what you are.” The coaches and players needed this game, and I’m happy for them.

Zach from Marietta, GA
Hey Beek, love SFTB. My question is, for the first time we all saw our defense thrive. We created turnovers and sacks. What did we do this time vs. the other times to play this well? Also, how can we keep this level of play up from both sides of the ball?

Matt: Hey, Zach. As far as how can the Falcons keep up this level of play, well, that’s the million-dollar question right there. As JC noted above, a lot of us have been waiting for this kind of performance since the Redskins game at the midpoint of the season. No one likes to hear or talk about it anymore, but injuries severely hampered this team (especially on defense) for most of the season. While Deion Jones is back to his former playmaking self again, younger players like Foye Oluokun, Ito Smith and Calvin Ridley have gained more and more experience and improved over the course of the season. The Falcons have also moved players around quite a bit, including on the offensive line, where both starting guards have been lost to season-ending injuries. The Falcons did a nice job of affecting the quarterback on Sunday with blitzes and pressure. But keep in mind, too, that Josh Rosen is not Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger or even Baker Mayfield or Dak Prescott. All of those quarterbacks present completely different kinds of challenges. This week’s opponent, the Panthers and Cam Newton, will be present a different challenge altogether. The one thing the Falcons coaching staff wanted to see was more focus this week and, according to Dan Quinn, he saw it on Sunday. If they can maintain that same kind of focus over the next two weeks, that’s a positive sign moving forward and will serve as a springboard into the offseason.

AP_18350757989841

Ray from Asheville, NC
Beek, that was a convincing win for our Falcons and it sure did feel good. Also, we finished off the home schedule with a .500 record. Now we just need to finish off the Panthers and Bucs to get a winning division record. Will any of our starters be limited in the next two games? There has been speculation that Julio Jones will be limited. It looked like Vic Beasley showed us enough in the win today to remain a Falcon, but I still want to see more. Maybe he'll make a few more statements in the next two games! There's so much on the line for Vic and many more players. I don't want to see Tevin Coleman go anywhere but know that he will likely go somewhere else. If so, can Ito Smith fill the void? Thanks again.

Matt: Wow, lots of speculation and question marks here, Ray. As of right now I do not expect any of the Falcons starters to sit out over the next two weeks. If Julio Jones doesn’t play, it might have more to do with the fact that he hurt his ribs during the Cardinals game (he left and then returned to action). The Falcons, like 31 other teams, do have a lot of decisions to make with their own free agents and the roster in general. The salary cap is a huge factor in it all, too. The Falcons have 19 players who are set to become unrestricted free agents. Here’s the list from Spotrac.com:

  • Andy Levitre, G
  • Matt Schaub, QB
  • Ben Garland, G
  • Derrick Shelby, DE
  • Justin Bethel, CB
  • Terrell McClain, DT
  • Bruce Irvin, DE
  • Jon Condo, LS
  • Logan Paulsen, TE
  • Kemal Ishmael, SS
  • Ty Sambrailo, LT
  • Jordan Richards, SS
  • Bruce Carter, ILB
  • Zane Beadles, G
  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB
  • Tevin Coleman, RB
  • Steven Means, DE
  • Justin Hardy, WR
  • Grady Jarrett, DT

Safety Brian Poole will be a restricted free agent and receiver Marvin Hall is set to be an exclusive restricted free agent.

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