Three and Out: Monday Afternoon Quarterback

Waiting here in the Falcons' media room up in Flowery Branch after gorging myself on some Papa John's Pizza (what, no veggie today?) and thinking about what to ask Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith for his weekly Monday post-mortem on Sunday's game.

First Down

One of the first things that Smith said in his postgame comments on Sunday was that the Falcons didn't play their best game on Sunday. I'm wondering why that was. One thing that struck me is how young this team is, especially on defense. (Of course you have veterans in each of the groups, with the line being the most seasoned, but overall you've got a lot of second- or third-year guys or those in first-time starting roles.)

To that end, the team's record at home and away is starting to become significant. Last year the Falcons were 7-1 at home, 4-4 on the road (4-5 including the playoff game). This year, that's 2-0 at home, 0-1 on the road. Notice the trend? The next game is against a tough San Francisco team on the road. That's a big test. Is that home-vs.-road record a reflection of a young team?

Second Down

Penalties also were a problem. Sometimes players commit a penalty because they're outmatched, but sometimes players commit penalties because of mental errors and a lack of discipline -- those are the ones coaches will never tolerate. I'm wondering what Smith's take on that will be.

Third Down

What will Smith say about the defensive line/run defense? In his postgame comments on Sunday, he mentioned the loss of first-round pick Peria Jerry. Thomas Johnson started in Jerry's place at tackle, but Trey Lewis also got some time in that spot. Perhaps the greatest reason why the Falcons lost the game was New England's 168 rushing yards on 39 attempts allowed them possess the ball for nearly 40 minutes and keep it away from the Falcons' offense. And this from a New England team that had rushed for fewer yards in its first two games combined than it did on Sunday. Given the bye week, let's see if the Falcons make any roster moves at that position, as they did with Tye Hill and Brian Williams at defensive back when that showed itself to be a concern in the preseason.

And Out...

Finally, I'm curious what the NFL punditocracy will make of the loss. Did you see how Ole Miss fell from No. 4 to No. 21 in the Associated Press poll after losing to South Carolina last Thursday? Well, Fox Sports' Web site ranked the Falcons No. 3 in their power rankings last week and ranked them No. 4. Will the Falcons sink like a stone, as the Rebels did, or will there be an acknowledgment of the difficulty of the task of beating the Patriots on the road with New England coming off a loss?

Lots to get on this Monday.

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