The Falcons’ Mike Smith: Not exactly the master of time and space

Even Matt Ryan was culpable in this one. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Even Matt Ryan was culpable in this one. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Even Matt Ryan was culpable in this one. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

These short takes are presented as a companion to the Falcons-Browns game column, which can be found on myajc. The Falcons lost, somehow, 26-24.

1. When did Mike Smith become so bad at managing the clock? Maybe we forget that he called timeout too soon (at 0:13) before Matt Bryant’s winning field goal against Seattle in the playoffs in January 2013 and left the Seahawks time — after a bizzare short kickoff — to throw into the end zone. Maybe the Falcons’ astonishing record in one-score games (29-12) in one-score games over a five-year span masked the flaw. But the Falcons’ coach has butchered time management twice in 28 days. His team stopped the clock for the Lions twice in London on Oct. 26 and did it again for the Browns on Sunday. The Falcons lost both on last-second field goals. If that’s not cause-and-effect, I don’t know what is. It’s also the difference between 6-5 and 4-7.

2. When did the Falcons’ offense become a liability? The team’s purported strength wasn’t so robust against the NFL’s 22nd-ranked defense. The Browns pressured Matt Ryan from the first, sacking him three times and inducing a lost fumble. He completed 27 of 43 passes, but for only 273 yards. Play-action fakes should work against such an aggressive defense, but the Falcons couldn’t run the ball — 63 yards rushing against the league’s third-worst run defense — and play-action without a running threat is an empty promise. Julio Jones scored his first touchdown since Week 3 against Tampa Bay but looks more and more like just another good receiver. (Targeted 13 times, he caught five passes for 68 yards. Cornerback Joe Haden won this battle.) The Falcons even needed a mulligan to kick the go-ahead field goal. After Brian Hoyer’s first interception of the final five minutes, they made one first down before punting. After the second, they moved only 20 yards to Matt Bryant’s 53-yarder — and left 44 seconds for Hoyer.

3. Playoffs? We’re still talking playoffs? Should the Saints lose their Monday-nighter against the Ravens, the Falcons will again be atop the world’s worst division. But here’s all we need to know about their claim, tenuous as it is, to legitimacy. They’re 0-7 against teams outside the NFC South. The Browns tried everything in their power to give away this game, and the Falcons were incapable of taking it. Up next: Arizona, Green Bay and Pittsburgh, none of which are bad teams and none of which are from the NFC South.

Reader Comments 1

175 comments
TrueFan1
TrueFan1

Wouldn't it be funny if we won the division and next year was just a rebuilding year...

50Concept
50Concept

arthur needs to start coming down to the sideline earlier in the game to give orders to coaches so they don't keep making these dumb decisions and timeout mistakes.  Arthur knows the game from attending all these owner meetings.

CowbellHell
CowbellHell

1st of all Matt Ryan missed a wide open Julio all freakin day, not sure why ur throwing him under the bus.  This was one of Matt's worse games as a pro.  That being said Im GLAD Smith blew those two games, otherwise we'd be stuck with this clown act of Nolan, Koetter, Smith and TD.  AND I think golden boy Mike Nolan should be fired first, his defense is terrible and Im tired of hearing 'he doesnt have any players' crap all the time.  The guy sticks with players who are terrible and doesnt give backups a chance a la Thomas  Decoud last year who couldnt tackle my grandmother.  Going to prevent D AGAIN that got gashed

sstech80
sstech80

The coach didn't manage the clock worth a darn and the offensive coordinator's decision to call a pass play on 3rd down didn't help.  The ball should have been ran on 2nd and 3rd down.  We stopped the clock for the browns.  We were already in field goal range so why throw?

sstech80
sstech80

Steven Jackson isn't the problem.  Think about it, he gained over 1000 yards every year while with the rams.  No matter who we put behind the line we are not making any yards.  The offensive line isn't making any wholes. 

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

Sticking with Steven Jackson has got to be the most boneheaded illogical  decision that defies understanding......

donnieboy
donnieboy

SAD, really. I feel like coaching and management have failed the players—I've seen no evidence that they've quit on MS.


All things considered, the offensive, for example, has enough talent to keep most defenses on their heels. Seldom happens. Point 1. Lack of creativity.  The offense very often stalls out. Point 2. Opposing teams make adjustments; Falcons do not ( as suggested Sunday by broadcasters explaining consistent drop-off in 2nd half productivity.  


SAD, really.

sstech80
sstech80

@donnieboy I tatally agree with you posting.  It's time to get a coach that will not put up with no bs.  All this stuff jumping around after making a tackle, beating their chests after a pass defense, offensive line getting crushed on pass protection, celebrating after finally getting a sack.  Your are suppose to be doing those things.  Do all that after the game has been won.

Savdon
Savdon

Not being able to watch the game (We're considered Jaguar home territory) it was agonizing listening to it.  The thing is, I KNEW that ATL was going to blow it after they went ahead.  When a casual observer starts knowing that kind of thing, it is time to tear the house down.

Intruder
Intruder

After 12 years and one playoff win, some might say that Blank has been a dismal failure (except for the money he has made). Does he have an ounce of credibility left?

96JB
96JB

Who do you hire. Any new coach is just a recycled NFL lifer. Heck, Smitty will be hired by someone as the " savoir".

RogerHenslee
RogerHenslee

The priority should be on replacing the GM right away. Give the new GM time to watch the players in practice and games live to properly evaluate our talent(or lack of). It would be tremendously helpful to not hire a GM after the season right before free agency(when the GM would have to rely on our current coaches and film to judge how to reassemble this team) and the draft.

It also would give the organization time to allow the new GM to search for and hire a coach that could match somewhat well with the type of players we have in place now, with an eye looking forward to molding that into something that resembles a real team.

Alphaman
Alphaman

In the last minute of the game, the Brown were able to stop the clock 5 times.  Two times were donations from the Falcons coaching staff.  First the Falcons call a timeout when the team was in Bryans field goal range.  Next blunder, the Falcons throw an incomplete pass on 3rd and 2 thereby stopping the clock again.  Instead of the Browns using two of their timeouts, the Falcons coach staff give the Browns an early Christmas present.

Farcas
Farcas

This team and organization are a trainwreck. Who could blame Blank for starting to clean house today and be damned the "first place" garbage? When you look at Smith on the sidelines you can see the stress on this guys face and body language.That is something an NFL coach can not do. Nice guy but, an assistant coach at best in this league.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Smith and Dimitroff are gone.  Just a matter of when.  Blank is a nice guy so he probably won't embarrass them by firing during the season.

50Concept
50Concept

maybe thomas can work a deal again to trade 5 draft picks for a wide receiver---julio getting old!

Ruffski
Ruffski

What in the fock!! On the last drive, less the 2 minutes, the Falcons offense is running no huddle, leaving 20 secs plus on the play clock. Yer already in field goal range for the win!! Run the F'n clock down, don't use timeouts, and don't leave ANY time for your opponent. Bonehead clock management - Smitty has got to go!! This loss is on coaching - or the lack thereof... Embarrassing 

falconfever
falconfever

@Ruffski You are dead on/ even the announcers were stunned at the clock mgmt. pitiful/a choking coach!!

GT71
GT71

If you were lucky enough to not be there, you had 2 homer announcers on TV - those guys were Browns all the way up their rectal regions.  Just terrible.  But they got one thing right - Smith calling a TO was a killer brain-fart.

And it will be the straw that broke the camel's back - he's GONE!

And speaking of camels - PLEASE Artie, get your self and your little family circle OFF THE FIELD during games.

Falcon management: morons, top to bottom.

northbysoutheast
northbysoutheast

And one more thing: Is there any way we can convince Blank to stop stalking the sidelines with his family during games? He looks like a complete fool, which reflects poorly on the team.

50Concept
50Concept

@northbysoutheast arthur's up in his luxury suite with his hot young girlfriend, drinking expensive champagne for 3 quarters---but he gets tired of her after awhile and needs to be on the field for the last quarter, giving the coaches advice!

atlfanman
atlfanman

Answer to the first question, last two years. Answer to the second question, last two years. Answer to the last question, unfortunately the Falcons can legitimately still talk playoffs. Especially if the Saints lose to the Ravens.

Gov-waste
Gov-waste

Smitty is a deer in the headlights on I 75. Put the guy out of his misery now. He is not head coach material. AB, next time bring everyone you know down of the field for a family photo, Before they blow and after the blow it. It makes good news.

northbysoutheast
northbysoutheast

Last year I argued that Smith had earned a mulligan. This year I argued that the problems had more to do with injuries and lack of depth, which is not necessarily Smith's fault. I traveled to London and watched him give away a game, but argued it still wasn't enough to part ways with him. I didn't think that there could be any more of a sure-win giveaway than what I saw in London. I didn't think I could be more disgusted. I was wrong. Smith is actually finding new and more creative ways to lose sure-win games. I'm now read to say it: Fire Mike Smith!

TjIrish
TjIrish

@northbysoutheast How could you evn defend Smith. He does not even look like he has a clue. The Falcons are soft because Smith is soft.

BobbyDawg
BobbyDawg

We're right back to where we've always been, the worst team in the NFL.

electric1234
electric1234

For me it's poetic justice all the way to the top with Arthur Blank since his house staff from 2000 treated me and other skilled labor workers so harshly, Blank hates to lose or get shown out, now his investment as owner is the losing or laughingstock of the NFL nationwide if not world wide.

Mickey Rich
Mickey Rich

This version of the Falcons has reached its highest potential and have maxed out.After an awful season last year they still have the same issues now - a weak offensive line and a poor defense.These were issues at the end of last season and remain problems now.Thomas Demitroff’s personnel moves were not good.For example, the offensive line can’t open holes for the backs or pass protect, Steven Jackson is washed up, and Matt Ryan is far from elite and mistake prone.The defense doesn’t have a pass rush, they can’t stop the run and overall they are the NFLs worst defense.


Not only are the General Manager and the team subpar, but the coaching staff can't improve the team.Like the article stated, the Cleveland and the Detroit games were lost due in part to poor game management.Additionally, play calling is poor and there is a lack of in-game adjustments.


That said, we need a complete reboot – a new GM, coaching staff, quarterback and many new players.I don’t know what GM and coaching staff we need, but I do know we need an improvement over what we have now.As for quarterback, I would trade Matt Ryan and work to draft Marcus Mariotta of Oregon – he is a good passer, athletic, mobile and he has a huge upside and would bring excitement to the offence and the team.


After cleaning house, I would draft better offensive lineman and draft a couple of the great running backs coming out this year. (i.e. Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Amire Abdulla, etc.)On the defense, the Falcons need run stoppers, edge rushers and linebackers.


The Falcons should do what's necessary to acquire as many draft picks as they can and go young – reboot.It may take a couple of years to win with a new GM, coaching staff, quarterback and players, but what we currently have has reached its highest potential and is regressing.So starting over is necessary and if done right the team would be ready to win just as they move into the new stadium in 2017.This is defiantly the right time for a reboot and could breathe new life into the team, the fans and the city.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

@Mickey Rich Agree on all counts.  But I'm not sure if trading Ryan is feasible or advisable.  He is what you say he is. But with a stout support system, he flirts with elite status (see 2012).


Not sure there's enough time to build around him the support system he has to have to be a top flight QB.  


Ryan had one INT yesterday, could have had four.  Anybody can have a bad game, so you can discount that somewhat.  But he proves game after game that his arm/accuracy are inadequate - particularly when he attempts to hook up with Julio.


And kudos to Tice and the Oline.  Marked improvement with this group.


"Reboot" is the right word.  



PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

@Mickey Rich You lost me at Mariotta.  See Seneca Wallace, Pat White, etc.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Isn't it kind of interesting that the Braves and the Falcons are having  exactly the same problems? And that both will be getting free, tax payer financed stadiums in within the next few years?  Is some kind of  evil and twisted karma going on here. 


Could it be that somewhere, in Charlotte, or Nashville, or maybe Jacksonville or Knoxville, or even Memphis, there are voodoo dolls labeled "ATL" getting lots and lots of pins stuck in them 24/7. Or could it be that both organizations are just  whole a lot better at blackmailing the local taxpayers for new, free stadiums than they are at playing in them. 


And now the Hawks too, after getting good coaching into place and getting the line up moving in the right direction, are having their problems now too - not as bad as what the Falcons and Braves are facing, but still not what everyone expected. 

So much like re-living that God awful summer and another memorable (but you wish you could forget)  Braves September redux. No talent executives making colossally stupid decisions resulting in huge bad consequences  -- management on the field is out to lunch, incompetent, incapable of changing things, or sees the need and has no clue as to where or how to begin -- over rated and under performing players seem to own the place -- and where did the on the field leadership go? -- Or, all of the above. Julio who? Matty Ice? (that was a joke, right?) Maybe Matty Pure Luck would have been a better nick name. 


And the good news is  . . . . . . ready . . . . . ?  Now they get to play some really, really good teams. Does Atlanta have a professional polo team? 

Zapp
Zapp

I think too many people are missing what caused the fiasco.  The illustrious owner decided he knows football, and after the team failed in the playoffs, he forced a change in the D. Coordinator and the O. Coordinator, and the neither are very good.  Nolan has already been fired for ineptitude at San Francisco and I have no idea where they found the offensive guru??  Ryan is simply responding like too many QBs that have been hit too many times and he doesn't trust this group of wide receivers to run their routes.  They had a quality tight end for many years and have none now.  And they had a terrific running back during their five year run.  When you look at what's happening now, you must go to the source ... the owner.  If I'm the head coach, I tell him to stay off the sidelines during the game, and that would be in the contract.  The great owners have never been there and shouldn't be.  It was a nice five year run but it's over.  Trade Ryan at the end of the season with hopes of getting a capable young QB in the draft.  Ryan deserves a good team, and he won't be with them if they have to rebuild.  The last item is the high priced receivers.  They are fast, but fast doesn't make them good receivers.  Most don't know how to run a tight route to get away from the defense.  There are no Fred Biletnikoffs on this team and he was never a fast receiver.

Dawgsandbones9
Dawgsandbones9

@Zapp  You don't have any idea where they found Dirk Koetter?

Seriously?

The same place they found the Head Coach. In the garbage dump behind the Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium.


No offense, but if you are going to comment amount what needs to change with my Falcons team, then you should at least know the basics about the team. Otherwise then I and others will not believe you know anything about anything...

MikeS777
MikeS777

Big picture:

1)  this defense is just a total disaster.  They can't cover a hot dog with mustard and they might as well be rushing 2 and dropping everyone else for all the pass rushing capability they show even when blitzing. 

2)  The offense is getting shut down in the second half.  The opposing defenses are making adjustments and this staff is not adjusting in response. Ryan is starting to look like he has no idea what to do with the ball late in games.

3)  Did I mention the D is awful?

So now we get to the clock management.  I think Mike Smith is throwing these games.  I can't think of any other reason why Smith calls timeout in the final minute on 3rd down when you are already in position for the winning FG.  He can't possibly think this defense is any good.  On top of that, they do the impossibly stupid and come out of the time out throwing down field...incomplete pass stopping the clock.

Then right on cue, this defense lets CLEVELAND charge downfield and get in FG range within 30 seconds.  THIRTY SECONDS is all it took.

Cancel the stadium and blow this thing up because this is just turning into a comedy of errors.  The D looks completely lost and you can see the anxiety all over Ryan and the offense.

buellerbuellerbueller
buellerbuellerbueller

It's not a clock management issue- the Falcons simply got out-played.  If not for Cleveland's QB mistakes in the 4th, we would have lost by two touchdowns.    We simply don't have the best players to win- even if we get to the playoffs.


The solution is simple-  go sign the best 42 SEC players fresh out of college and add 10 from the ACC.   You'll win the NFC South every year and fill the stadium.

MikeS777
MikeS777

@buellerbuellerbueller They used to make the calls to win these types of games.  Sometimes it happens, but you don't hand the favor right back like this.

northbysoutheast
northbysoutheast

@buellerbuellerbueller I agree that the D is weak, but it's a coach's job to know the strengths and weaknesses of his team. Other than the takeaways, the Falcons only managed one defensive stop the whole game. Just one. However, they did have those 3 takeaways and they held Cleveland to FGs enough times to make the game winnable. There was even a bit of a pass-rush at times. What I'm trying to say is, yes the D is weak, but they did enough, and with this team that's all you can ask. Smith should have recognized that Cleveland was marching down the field into FG range at-will the entire game. Anyone could see that if you give Cleveland the ball back with almost a min. on the clock and 3 timeouts that they could get into kicking range. The coach of all people should have seen that. His team gave him a chance to win and Smith blew it. Again.

skylander
skylander

Again (as I tried to share with O. Ledbetter) (who only commented back to me "thanks for sharing your thoughts") (I won't be wasting my time again on his blog),  TD has single handedly bankrupted this team.  We have no front 4.  Our linebacking core is one of the slowest and cheapest in the NFL.  Our offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL.  SJ is a waste of a down usually getting 1.1 yards per carry (he may as well be a penalty).   Everyone knows our pass routes, therefore no separation.  Matt Ryan throws the worst deep ball in the NFL but he never has time and I admire his toughness.  Overall, this is a team is a major wreck.  


I suggest: Fire TD right now.  Bring in a new GM RIGHT NOW to evaluate the current talent with an objective opinion and evaluate personnel for the rest of the season.  FIRE Dirk.  He has shown me nothing.  Smitty? I don't know but it's hard to evaluate him with the talent he is working with.  Any decent team should be able to stop ANY team from going 50 yards in 40 seconds. 


And Lastly…..What could we get for Matt Ryan?  I really like Matt but he is too expensive for his offensive line.  I suggest we trade him for a high draft pick or trade him for a linebacker.  We could use the cap space.  Draft smart in 2015 and we could see some dividends.  Tired of being in Loserville.

attendee
attendee

Love the title of this article! So totally on point. Same mistake twice in 4 weeks...

stillchillen
stillchillen

Hey Art!! Here's my resume! I coached my grandsons 5-6 year old football team to a 1 and 9 record this year(the one win was a forfeit) But I still would have had enough sense to not call a timeout to decide to run a stupid pass play on 3rd and 2 with 50 seconds left in the game win I knew I had a kicker that could clock the field goal from the 43 yard line!.


 Furthermore I would let Matt Ryan call all the plays from the no huddle!! Never call a bubble screen to Julio with time running out and would NEVER EVER rush 3 defensive lineman at the end of a game!! 


You can get in touch with me through the AJC! I'll give you a discount for the rest of the season!!

Hey that's better than what you got!!


Love ya brother,peace out!! Call me!

Mocha Fudge
Mocha Fudge

This game was the worst.  I was in attendance and boy oh boy.  We really suck!!!!!

GMAB
GMAB

Ryan and Smith look like they have reached their potential.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Wonder if Smitty told the team they were 0-1 in the locker room after the game.

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