The Falcons’ opener? Unimpressive. But openers can deceive

Austin Hooper, featured receiver. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Were I equipped with no institutional memory – or were I utterly disingenuous – I’d take the Atlanta Falcons’ exceedingly halting victory over the Chicago Bears as evidence to support my oft-stated contention that Steve Sarkisian will never be half as good as Kyle Shanahan. But, to be fair, after one game last season I’d counted out Kyle Shanahan. Meaning: Season openers can fool anybody, yours truly especially.

In Week 1 against Tampa Bay, the 2016 Falcons scored 24 points and managed 374 yards. They also lost. Over 16 games, those Falcons would average 33.8 points and 415.9 yards. Of the many excellent things about that team, Shanahan’s play-calling – yes, up to a certain point in a certain game in February – was the most excellent. Meaning: I was as wrong about him as I’ve ever been about anything, which given my history is saying something.

Also meaning: I’m willing to give Sarkisian a dollop of a doubt. The Falcons had 23 points and 372 yards Sunday, almost exactly what they’d mustered in last year’s opening tilt. If those wind up being season averages, this team won’t do much. For all the blather about the Faster Better Defense, it had a hard time halting an offense headed by Mike Glennon. The Bears were unlucky not to win. If they had, we’d be affording nobody based in Flowery Branch the benefit of any doubt.

Even as we stipulate that it’s only one game, here’s the part about that game that bothers me – 88 of those 372 yards and seven of those 23 points came when the Bears failed to cover Austin Hooper. The tight end had more yards on two catches than Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu did on 10. This is no knock on Hooper, who could become a fine player, but if he’s the leading receiver in this offense, this offense needs a rethink.

The temptation is great to say that, “If you nearly lose to Mike Glennon, what’s Aaron Rodgers going to do?” Well, Rodgers comes here Sunday night, perhaps to work under a gloriously unclosed petal roof. Let’s defer any real judgment until Week 2, after which – hey, two weeks is one-eighth of a season! – all restraints will be removed.

Reader Comments 0

30 comments
SouthernDem
SouthernDem

The problem with this is that, first of all, last year against Tampa Bay, the Falcons had not already established that high octane offense. This year, this team is coming off a Super Bowl appearance.


I didn't see a Super Bowl-worthy team last Sunday. This looked like the team that came up short throughout the 2000s and 2010s. 


The plays made no sense and they were ineffective. Sarkisian needs to seriously tweak his plans because Chicago is not Green Bay. And there are other tests to come, such as a revamped Tampa Bay, New England, Carolina, N.O., and Dallas. 


I can't help but worry the Falcons are headed for a huge embarrassment Sunday night against the Packers as long as the offense looks like what it looked like Sunday.



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PhilipHarden
PhilipHarden

As always, I say withhold all comments and judgments until after the fourth and possibly sixth game. Said the same in 2015 and 2016. I will say the same now. The season never reveals itself any sooner than that.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Teams are out to beat the Falcons and their high octane offense. Sometimes certain teams are going to use the Falcons as a measuring stick.

Dasdguy
Dasdguy

Bears have a terrific D/O front line.  This was a good test for the birds.  Tough to win on the road in the NFL.  I'll take it.

DanJohn
DanJohn

First week of the season and many teams struggled. Packer, Pats, Seahawks, Giants, Dallas and several others. So I'm only concerned about the Falcons replacement for Chester. It's not like Taylor and Julio played in the preseason and jelled in the new offense. It may take weeks. After week 4 we should have an idea but not before. The key is winning even if ugly.  


I think the offense and defense will get better. As for now I won't lose sleep. 

Okeetee
Okeetee

Here are the facts...and they are indisputable!  The Bears had a great game plan and executed it almost to perfection! They needed to run the ball, which they did.  They needed to stop the run, which they did! They needed to keep there penalties to a minimum, which they did (4). They could NOT afford to turn the ball over, which they didn't!  We can't help it that on that Hooper play, nobody in the Bears secondary knew where he was suppose to be when they broke the defensive huddle!  On the other hand, we didn't have any turnovers, either....and we had 4 sacks!  Not bad at all for an opening game ON THE ROAD!  So lighten up, will ya!

David McCallum
David McCallum

It seems like fans are attempting to build a built up excuse for if the Falcons offense don't perform at a high level. The reality is that last season will not be duplicated in my mind. A lot of things went right on offense last season. Also, can we give Wes a break? You have got to be kidding me guys! 

Techsters2005
Techsters2005

Typical need to have to write about something.  He mentioned the Tampa game like it was not that bad other than it being a loss.  They were down in that first game 31-10 before scoring a few late TD's to make it look close.  And it was a home game! The fans were on the phone calling for everyone to be fired and the season is going to be horrible and then they proceeded to have one of the best offensive seasons ever.  Now they win the first game, on the road where they have not won in over 30 years and there has to be something to draw people to the article. How about that the first teamers barely played in the pre-season so it would make sense things might be a little off.  If Shark has issues then its up to Matt to step up and get him in line with the plays that would be best to run.

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Timothy Knight
Timothy Knight

Mark what you wrote is absolutely on point. However if I may step into my Rod Serling black suit I cautiously remind the fateful of a certain Mike Smith who imploded before our very eyes due to expectations of another dimension. This team has received a major coaching and player overhaul in the off season and it will take time to gel. I don't expect to see that this weekend with Green Bay coming to the dome. I do expect, at the end of the season for Atlanta to return to the NFC Championship Game and perhaps the SuperBowl. Until then, we all must show a lot of patience and a lot more loyalty. Dan Quinn isn't Mike Smith and he will get the job done.

candlin14
candlin14

What concerns me is our Offensive Line. With Chester leaving, this team did not prepare very well on his replacement. There were multiple opportunities in Free Agency to land a solid replacement for Chester. The two we have now are not it. 


The run game starts with our offensive line. The pass game stems from a good run game and this offense thrives on play action. None of this can happen without a good offensive line. Right now there is a huge break in the chain, and that is Wes Schweitzer!!!

The major difference in Sarkisian and Shanahan is play action. I did not see nearly enough of that on Sunday. I agree that a win is a win, but it is very hard to be optimistic going into week 2 against the Packers, knowing that this offense is not running the ball effectively and our Guard is a huge ?

David McCallum
David McCallum

@candlin14Are you only focused on the offense? If the Falcons are going to do anything significant, it is going to have to be omg defense. This team must stop the run, period! They are going to have to prove that their undersized fast defense is capable of stopping physical teams like Carolina and possibly TB. 


The Bears game showed that the Falcons have the potential to do so, minus the missed tackles. In the playoffs it is entirely possible that the Falcons may have to win on the road if they make the playoffs. Sunday's game could very well be the difference between playing in GB, Seattle, or some other cold weather city in late January, as oppose to the Benz. Huge implications Sunday night!!!! 


I like speed but sometimes I think it's overrated. Even though the Falcons played in the Dome for years, I always thought they needed to build teams to play in cold weather. Great learning experience Sunday. I need to see improvement Sunday and they must not allow Aaron Rodgers to catch hem with 12 men on the field Sunday. In fact, I think the Falcons should turn the table on them by doing the same thing. They should also bring out the no-huddle as well. 

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

@candlin14  lest we forget the Falcons rated sixth in the overall offensive line play last year. Plus they were fifth or six in the running game, also don't forget Chester was the weak link last year and they landed in the Super bowl.

PickettMan
PickettMan

You know what last year people started off saying some of the same crap that people like you are saying now. If you don't have anything positive to say about our team then stfu. Be supportive not depriving. SMH

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

This is the NFL. The Falcons found a way to get a win, on the road, even though they didn't play very well. They are 1-0. Take the win, move on, and improve.


I have rarely if ever seen the Falcons pull a game like that one out of the fire. With Chicago having a first down and goal to go at the 5 with time running out, defeat seemed certain. The Bear play-calling helped us, but it was still a fine goal-line effort by the D. They dug deep and showed a lot of heart. If the Birds somehow keep finding ways to win, I am not going to nitpick about how they did it.

Ric1957
Ric1957

88 of those 372 yards and seven of those 23 points came when the Bears failed to cover Austin Hooper. The tight end had more yards on two catches than Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu did on 10 . The question really is, why? Was it because of philosophy, scheme, or Chicago? We will see.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

@Ric1957  You make a good point but I don't want to see Matt Ryan get intercepted trying to force the ball to Julio Jones.

Paul-jr
Paul-jr

Lots of work to be done

sacks
sacks

yeahhh..a win is a win..but..much improvement is needed on both

sides of the ball!!  All the ballyhoo about the billion dollar stadium took the heat off the lack luster falcons and the rookie O.C...

Question! How does a "nobody" with no proven background..go from almost being fired at Alabama..to becoming O.C. with the falcons??  Answer: No one else wanted the job!!

GTDano
GTDano

No one else wanted the job?! Why in the world would ANY OC not want to work with such a great assortment of talent? Respectfully, I have to disagree. In fact, it's my opinion that the offense is run, to a large degree, by the reigning NFL MVP, Matt Ryan. Being the OC of the Falcons offense is the perfect stepping stone to a HC position somewhere in the NFL, as has already been proven. Let's not forget that K. Shanahan wasn't the most sought after OC or HC until AFTER his time with Atlanta.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

@sacks  You make a point But Sark was good when he coached at Washington and USC. Also he had visited the team a year ago that's when Dan decided that if Shanahan split he seek Sark out as a replacement. Sark's personality fit Quinn and the team. Also everyone knows Nick Saban is difficult to work with. Dan and Sark develop a relationship back in Seattle. A lot of people believe Shanahan's arrogance and not sticking with the run caused the Falcons the Super Bowl.

Xtgog Huujd
Xtgog Huujd

What's wrong with you?  I guess the Bears were not lucky to recover their fumble to start the last drive.  Falcons will win the SB and you have no right writing about it anymore.  I sure hope you do not call yourself a Falcon fan.  

petefoley
petefoley

Not a capital "W", just a small one. But I'll take any "W" and ignore the style points on Week 1.



GTDano
GTDano

In 6-8 weeks, there will be little difference in whether this game was won by 30 points or by 1. A "W" is ALL that matters.