Straight from the Beek

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SFTB: Falcons loss provides reality check, chances of sweeping Saints

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The Falcons short-lived two-game win streak ended Sunday with a 35-22 loss to the Bucs. While the Falcons’ playoff chances were minuscule at best before they even took the field against the Bucs, for all intents and purposes, the season ended Sunday. And let’s be honest, it was over before the bye week. Meanwhile, you’ve got plenty of questions and comments, so let’s get to them now. Just remember that all opinions here are mine unless otherwise noted.

And we’re off.

Ronald from Port Orange, FL
That performance yesterday should end all the playoff questions. I was kinda worried about Tampa. What happened to the Falcons offensive line? Matt Ryan was brutalized all day. Again, not much of a running game. Matt surely didn’t have time to throw the ball. Two interceptions, but no sacks on Winston. Defense was dominated with big plays. So disappointed this year.

Matt: Yes, that’s exactly why I wrote my column on Sunday, Ronald. It’s time to end all of the playoff talk and questions. The season was over weeks ago. I understood why fans were excited following the two huge wins over the Saints and Panthers. They were dominant wins and fans wanted to know if there was any sort of path to the postseason. I said repeatedly that there was a less than 1 percent chance heading into the Bucs game. Still, fans wanted to hope – and I totally get it, as crazy and as farfetched as it seemed. The offensive line did not have a good day at all.

J.C. from Vidalia, GA
Beek, you have declared the season’s over. The only thing unrealistic about running the table and finishing 9-7 was the playoffs. I obviously give our team more credit than you. However, it is obvious there is something else that is unrealistic, i.e., the notion that DQ should stay just because the Steelers have had three head coaches. Our coaches suck. We went straight down the field and had two early interceptions and trailed and it was over. We never threw a second pass to the tight end, and everyone in the stadium knows when we are going to run. We hardly saw 54 on defense until our butts were kicked. This was as dreadful as it gets, and we have had a wildly inconsistent team throughout the DQ tenure.

Matt: You’ve missed a couple of points, J.C. I actually noted that the season was over before writing Sunday’s postgame column more than a few times in this space (when I pointed out that the Falcons had less than a 1 percent chance of making the postseason). Think about that. I also said there’s something to be said for continuity so long as the team is making progress (and used the Steelers as an example by pointing out their multiple Super Bowl titles). Don’t twist my words.

Rick from Eaton, GA
Hi Beek. Welllll dayyyyyumn!

Matt: Well, at least the Falcons still have a chance at sweeping the Saints this season, Rick.

Michael from Münster, Germany
Hey Beek, love your column and patience during these difficult days. A few questions looking into next season: Are there any news regarding Kurt Benkert and Chris Lindstrom? Is it possible to get them back from IR to give them on the job training and evaluate them during the last meaningless games? What about the safety situation? Keanu Neal would play under the fifth-year option in 2020, right? And after moving Damontae Kazee back to safety do you see a battle between him and Allen coming up? How big is the cap space we could save if we trade one of them (although I like both but there have to be a few hard decisions)? Finally, a question about Mr. Blank’s patience: What has he done in past seasons if the team wasn't successful? Did he stick to the coach and GM?

Matt: Thanks, Michael. I’m hoping we get to see Chris Lindstrom at some point this season, but I do know that the Falcons will not rush him back before he’s 100 percent healthy. I don’t think we’ll see Kurt Benkert, either. The Falcons usually don’t carry more than two active quarterbacks during the regular season and Matt Schaub more than proved he’s a capable backup when he started a game this season. Keanu Neal is under contract through the 2020 season and is currently scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. I think it’s too early to speculate what they’ll do with Damontae Kazee at this point. Against the Saints and Panthers he definitely looked more like the player we saw all of last season. And as far as Falcons owner Arthur Blank is concerned, keep in mind that he’s made plenty of tough questions over the years – he’s pointed that out, too, recently. My advice is to go back and read Mr. Blank’s comments to the media back on Oct. 27.

Kenneth from Washington, DC
Good podcast ... Now that you all (Matt, Will, Kelsey) are on the same page as the fans since before the bye; let’s talk draft. My Falcons seem to lose when fans want a win and win when fans want a loss, so they’ll prob win out into at 15-17 spot draft pick. What do you see for Dirty Bird Nation in the mid-first round?

Matt: Thanks, Kenneth. I’ll make sure Kelsey Conway and Will McFadden see your note; they’ll appreciate that. The Falcons’ draft position is still up in the air, but I imagine they’ll end up with a high- to mid-pick in the first round. Right now, I see them going defense. I think they could use a difference-maker along the defensive line. I don’t think they’ll end up high enough in the first round to land Chase Young, but I think there are some very good edge rushers in this class.

Michael from Wisconsin
What are the important factors for the Atlanta Falcons to beat the New Orleans Saints this coming Thursday evening?

Matt: The exact same thing they did back on Nov. 10 in New Orleans. They pressured and sacked Drew Brees six times, held the Saints to 52 yards rushing, and kept them out of the end zone. New Orleans was just 3 of 12 on third downs, too, in that game. On offense, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones didn’t have gaudy stats, either. But the Falcons ran the ball effectively (34 times for 143 yards) and ate up plenty of game clock. If they can duplicate that performance, Michael, they’ll have a chance at sweeping the Saints.

Clint from Evans, GA
Beek, for once you were HONEST. THE SEASON IS OVER. I JUST READ YOUR ARTICLE. Typical DQ;  do just enough to save your job, but with everyone picking us to win and about 75 percent no-shows, I believe DQ and TD have sealed their fate to the unemployment line. It’s a sad day for a life-long Falcon fan. It’s time to clean house. I hope you keep your job. I enjoy trading barbs with you!

Matt: I’ve pointed out that the season was pretty much over a while ago, to be honest. When there’s a less than 1 percent chance, it’s over. And, c’mon Clint, I’m always honest with you guys. As far as what happens over the next five games and what direction the team heads in, that’s all speculation at this point. Another thing I’ve said repeatedly here is that coaches are ultimately judged on wins and losses, and they know that.

Angel from Mexico City, Mexico
Hi Beek, I think the Falcons today returned us very quickly to the reality of the team during this season. But still there are players that should be noted in this defeat, like Rusell Gage Jr. – it was certainly a good game today for him. And give Julio Jones the credit he deserves to return to the pitch injured because of the love he has to the team. I think that if someone doubts their commitment or if it is the best WR of today there is the definitive test (we have always known it). Well, now to wait for better times because 2019 is over as you say in your column. Falcons' fan forever.

Matt: Hey, Angel. I thought Russell Gage has played better over the last few weeks. Gage was targeted 10 times against the Bucs and finished with eight catches for 76 yards. And you’re right about Julio Jones; no one should ever question his toughness. We all know that he’s a special receiver, a special talent.

Anthony from Kennesaw, GA
Hello Beek, I don’t write often, but I have to get this off my chest. As a PSL owner of three seats in the club section, I believe I have made a bad investment. I hear players saying they play for coach Dan Quinn all the time. They (the players) needs to know there are many fans like myself who are investors because we purchase PSLs with no guarantee of seasons being good or bad. I would rather lose on the road and win at home. If you look at the home record over the past three seasons, you will understand my frustration. This team needs to Rise Up in Brotherhood. Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

Matt: Hi, Anthony. Well, let’s take a look at the Falcons’ record at home since 2015, beginning with the current season.

  • 2019: 1-4
  • 2018: 4-4
  • 2017: 5-3
  • 2016: 5-3
  • 2015: 4-4

The Falcons are 19-18 at home since 2015 and they still have three more home games this season.

Kayvon from Raleigh, NC
Hey Beek, love the content you do! Especially the podcasts you do. I want to get your thoughts on Austin Hooper’s free agency this upcoming off season. Hooper has emerged as one of the best TEs in the league and it’s pretty clear that our offense just isn’t as potent and dangerous without him. It’s still a good offense but there is something special about Matt Ryan having HOOOP in the middle of the field. Now as you know, coming across a good TE in the league is not easy and because of that and the fact that Hoop will be an unrestricted free agent I’m worried it’s going to be hard to re-sign him. What are your thoughts on this situation?

Matt: Austin Hooper is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season. Will the Falcons find a way to keep him in the fold? I think they’d like to, but the Falcons’ salary cap heading into the 2020 season – at least right now – is tight. They will have to get creative once again this offseason. That’s about all I can say about it right now, Kayvon. There’s a whole lot of evaluating that’s going to happen at the end of the season. Since they haven’t already given him a contract extension makes me think there’s a good chance that he will hit free agency, but I could be wrong.

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