Posted: 11:38 pm Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Have the once-meek Falcons gotten too mean? 

By Mark Bradley

"Play with composure!" Smitty whispers. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

“Play with composure!” Smitty whispers. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I preface this by saying that exhibitions are no predictor of what happens when teams start playing games for real. I write knowing that, two games into September, this could fall under the heading of “never mind.” That said …

Twenty-nine penalties have been assessed against the Atlanta Falcons in three preseason games for a total of 268 yards, and that’s not counting infractions that offset or were declined. (On their final snap of the 24-17 loss to Tennessee on Saturday, they were flagged for two violations, neither of which was accepted.) But here again we offer a caveat.

As sloppy as they’ve been, the Falcons’ opponents have been worse — 35 accepted penalties for 297 yards. Still, the avoidance of penalties was one of the reasons the Falcons got good under Mike Smith and, until last season, stayed that way. From 2008 through 2012, they ranked sixth, seventh, first, fifth and first in fewest penalty yards, and even in the 4-12 disappointment of last year they were 13th.

“I don’t think it’s just the Atlanta Falcons,” Smith said Saturday night. “I think it’s all across the National Football League.”

Preseason 2014 has indeed been strewn with yellow, which can happen when refs get new directives and points of emphasis. Teams have to adjust, and by October teams usually do. (The good ones, anyway.) And the Falcons’ penalties haven’t been all late hits; the rookie tackle Jake Matthews was called for holding and a false start in Saturday’s first half. Even so, the contrarian in me wonders if they should have been more circumspect in their wishing.

In January, Arthur Blank pointed to the lack of retaliation after Matt Ryan suffered a late hit against New Orleans last season as evidence his team lacked toughness. For the record, Smith won’t use the word “toughness”; he’ll simply say that he wants his team to play “physical,” which is what every coach says. But it surely was no coincidence that training camp — perhaps spurred by the presence of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” — saw a goodly number of fights, including one that left rookie Ra’Shede Hageman wondering if he’d broken his hand. (He hadn’t.)

So this correspondent wondered Saturday if, in the pursuit of toughness or physicality or whatever, the Falcons’ attention to detail has suffered. “I certainly hope not,” Smith said. “We are a detail-oriented organization from top to bottom in everything that we do.”

He pointed to a sequence at the end of the third quarter as a case study in What Not To Do. The Falcons had sacked Zack Mettenberger — once a Georgia Bulldog, then an LSU Tiger, now a Titans’ rookie — on third down. But linebacker Pat Angerer, apparently appropriately named, was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Instead of punting, Tennessee drove to a field goal.

Moving to further action: After the Titans scored the winning touchdown with 5:45 remaining, rookie linebacker Jacques Smith was ejected for delivering a blow to the head on Tennessee’s (successful) two-point conversion.

“Yes, there is some aggressive play,” Mike Smith said. “We want to be an aggressive football team, but we have to make sure that when the play is over there’s not a yellow flag on the ground.”

Once again: I might well be making Everest out of an anthill. If Pat Angerer or Jacques Smith is playing in the fourth quarter against the Saints two weeks hence, the Falcons will have far bigger problems than their penalty rate. But it wouldn’t be productive for a team that has long been known for not beating itself to turn into a bunch of wild-eyed macho men. There’s some precision involved in football, lest we forget.

As for protecting the man who’s essentially the franchise: The Falcons seem to have figured that out. Ryan was accosted by linebacker Zach Brown after a first half scramble-and-slide, and for once Matty Ice got steamed. This led Brown to poke Ryan’s facemask. This led center Joe Hawley to rush to the rescue and backup tackle Ryan Schraeder to get called for unnecessary roughness.

“I absolutely have no issue with that,” Smith said. “That is our quarterback. Their job is to protect the quarterback.”

Given Blank’s offseason challenge, might Schraeder even be rewarded with a raise for his penalty?

“You’ll have to ask Thomas (Dimitroff),” Smith said, deadpan, and then he and the general manager left the room.

From myajc.com: Even if it didn’t count, the Falcons looked pretty good. (In the first half, I mean.)

Photo gallery: Falcons-Titans in all its raging glory.

47 comments
slydawg
slydawg

Playing dirty and taking cheap shots does not make one tougher or more talented.

LostGoat
LostGoat

arthur wants the team mean and tough this fall---he means business!  he'll be prowling the sidelines to make sure they are doing what he wants!  if not, he'll cut the salaries.

tmc
tmc

they are still not tough enough!

Talk is cheap. I want to see toughness in the regular season. And toughness has nothing to do with sticking up for teamates, or getting penalty's for hitting late...

It has to do with whipping your opponent. playing physical and doing whatever it takes to win your battle with the oppenent on every play. All 11 on the field doing that from the opening whistle to the final tick of the clock.

Rarely in the last decade have i seen a team the Falcons played looked physically exhausted after a game. And way too ofter do i see the Falcons team physically worn out and exhausted by games end.


The hardest opponent is not necessarily the team with the most talent. It is usually the team that possesses the will of a lion and determination and relentlessness to wear down their oppenent.


The officiating will relax in the regular season, will the Falcons do the same? that is the question!

midtowncowboy
midtowncowboy

Horrible, inconsistent officiating.  I watched the Seahawks the other night and their defenders had their hands on the receivers downfield and while the ball was in the air.    Same with the Patriots.

JONBONBON
JONBONBON

Seenthatbefore still hasn't gotten over Katrina

loftisnews
loftisnews

This is not a gentleman's game it is combat full contact I will admit that all athletic contests should have good sportsmanship however you can not expect a kiss after a smash in the mouth 

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

Trying to be funny, right Brad?.

Nobody has ever described the Falcons as mean.

I wish one day they would.

VlSpencer
VlSpencer

Like Kyle Turley was protecting his quarterback, Aaron Brooks?  Kyle did the RIGHT THING and was treated like a monster for it.

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

I will always be a Falcon guy.

However, everything about the Falcons reminds you of Ga.

The media and fans spend too much time patting themselves on the back while the opponent is slowly beating them.

Both teams don't put much stock in lineman.

For that matter, defense too.

W B

PeachtreeBart
PeachtreeBart

The Angerer and Ice to steam lines made me chuckle.  I think RB will be a problem this year if they lean too heavily on Jacquizz again.  He doesn't seem to produce at the pivotal moments.  

JAS0N
JAS0N

"Have the once-meek Falcons gotten too mean?"


Penalties are a sign of lack of discipline, not meanness.  Quit trying to make it seem like this team is any different than last year

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

At least there not cheeters like teh Aints! LOLOLOLO!!!!!

falcon82111
falcon82111

seen please leave the falcon blog as you are a saints fan. so go blog on the saints site. thanks and have a blessed day

falcon82111
falcon82111

better effort last nite against the titans. the defense looked better but still not where it needs to be. on offense i think it is just about there with some fine tunning.  i say cut sjax39 cause the 3 backs in rodgers, smith, and freeman have looked descent. looks like our pass rush has not improved so hopefully nolan can scheme well and prince needs to start at inside backer cause he has out performed bartu.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

Birds looked pretty good.  Still haven't converted a critical short-yardage situation though.  


It's gotta suck to be you SeenThatB4.  



seminoleking
seminoleking

im more concerned about the fact that the nfl is destroying their own product. they keep thinking, like baseball did, that they can throw anything out there and the people gonna continue to buy it. the touch fouls on both offensive and defensive players in the passing game has just got to stop. this isnt basketball. in other words, im more concerned about the falcons losing a game on a touch foul beyond the  5 yards, than a unnecessary roughness penalty.


by the way, i WANT the falcons to be intimidating like that. how many games have they lost because they couldnt push the ball for one yard on fourth down?? battles in the trench can be won when your opponent fears you.......

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

So far, it seems to be mirroring 2013, undisciplined team and not much behind the starters.   Julio may mean a couple of extra wins, but not much else to get excited about.

RomanLegions
RomanLegions

Same old song and dance..Can anyone really blame the fans for not attending ?  Loyal fans have supported the Falcons $$ and they have been disappointed time after time.."Rise Up" Hahaha

Acworthdon
Acworthdon

They show lot's of talent and promise.... not many fans there? 

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

The first O looked gooooooood, i like having Hester out there. He is TG replacement seems like.

Dasdguy
Dasdguy

They left Yates in too long.  Should have put In Renfree sooner.  That guy was moving the ball.

zuzu331
zuzu331

First Team Offense looked great,no one other than Southward got hurt,Freeman looked like the Tasmanian Devil in a Falcons Uniform,Worrilow was once again hitting everything that moved-good preseason game. Interesting how Hawley and Schrader get written up,Pat Angerer gets insulted for no good reason and pointed out for his penalty yet Jacques Smith gets kicked out of the damn game altogether and isnt mentioned at all in an article about dumb penalties. Odd.

B_D
B_D

Remembering days gone by when it seemed like on too many good plays, the gains where brought back because of knucklehead penalties, I got a flashback last night.  The Saints, Patriots and Seahawks have all learned to be very aggressive without having a host of penalties to go along with their play.  For me, while I know the second or even third team played most of the second half, there were far too many blown coverages.  Knowing, from last year, how devastating injuries can be, our backups have to be ready to go.  Those guys could be called "The Not Ready For Prime Time Players", out there. It let the Titans get back in the game and eventually win.  I hope Angerer got a good education in school.  He is going to need it.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I just want to see smart tough football, without the knucklehead penalties.....

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

 Last year Matt Ryan was sacked 27 million times (give or take) and the O-linemen acted like they were protecting themselves, not the quarterback.  After all, these are highly overpaid overweight sides of beef that want to be able to spend their wealth well into their 40s before having to find a real job.  What the Falcons want out of them is simple.  If the other team's players are going to sack or hit our quarterback, then get a penalty by dragging the would-be-sacker down before then.  In fact, try breaking his ankles or at least biting them.  Draw blood or bone.  Try to get the guy that always beats you out of the game by breaking a few rules.  That's all.  Just play dirty until the other team's millionaires get the message, play hard - get hurt.  What's a few yards when you're losing, right?  Chances are the other team will figure out what's happening (Pavlov's dog thing) and stop trying hard.  A great plan as long as the NFL does not allow sideline attorneys or policemen to arrest those more flagrant rule breakers on the spot and take them to the station (a real penalty box).

DollarDawg43
DollarDawg43

First and foremost we have to stay healthy. If we do that we will have a good season. If we ruffle a few feathers along the way with 'aggressive' play, all the better.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@midtowncowboy Thank you midtown..........can't imagine why i wouldn't remember some of the worst officiating i have ever seen. ( I was so wasted...)

slydawg
slydawg

This is not combat, not in the least.

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

Don't let them kid you.

Unfortunately, your opinion is spot on.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Flacons_go_2-14

Shut up and stop posting, liar--like you said you would if the Falcons didn't draft Manziel.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@falcon82111 Let him stay........the entertainment value alone is enough to keep him a while.

Boxtradamus
Boxtradamus

@seminoleking  Lot of truth in what you say. NASCAR tried throwing anything out there thinking it would be bought and their stadiums are less than 1/2 full. The night race at Bristol last night had sooo many empty seats. Hard to believe. Tickets to the night Bristol race used to be sold out years in advance. NFL is going down the same route. Empty seats everywhere if they aren't careful.

atlfalconno1fan
atlfalconno1fan

@SeenThatB4 why are you on the atlanta papers so much...you love atlanta and above all the atlanta falcons ???jealousy?? or nothing for you to do in swamp town??lol why are you so worried about the falcons ??i now N.O IS A SMALL TOWN AND A 2 SPORT TEAM...but always on a falcon blog??i know that your aints were so very close to being the SAN ANTONIO SAINTS...JUST YEARS AGO...if you dislike the falcons so much why are you so concerned??



??

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@SeenThatB4 Well, let's go lunger.........Johnny Ringo. Have that pack of cheaters ready sport.

seminoleking
seminoleking

@Boxtradamus exactly..........sooner or later, the people realize they being played and will stop buying the product......

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

New Orleans IS a small town! What's your point? Your town is ten times larger in population and still can't sell out all its season tickets seats for falcan't games. Is that your point? This story contains a reference to the Saints, that gives me an "in" to voice my opinion. Of course, the AJC fears me so much they delete my comment. Too bad Mike Smith can't delete Sean Payton, cause Smith definitely fears Payton. MSmith is Sean Payton's b--ch. and you know it.

zuzu331
zuzu331

@DawgNole @zuzu331 Preseason games are for evaluating talent,fancy practices under the lights,really. I dont have to argue my point with you,Blank already proved my point quite well with his halftime story about an old Pittsburgh Steelers salt telling him 0-4 in preseason didnt matter at all.(which the Steelers did a few years running back in their heyday). Kinda sickening how people on here jumping ship like squeaky little titmice first sign of things going wrong. Its a GAME,and things are ALWAYS gonna go wrong. That is the FUN of this GAME.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@SeenThatB4 You don't have to be scared of a coach who gets kicked out of the entire show because he cheats.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@SeenThatB4 Your history.............paper bags and a pack of cheaters, thank the football gods for sending yall D.Breese or we could ask once again....Paper or plastic.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@SeenThatB4

Stop lying.

You've never needed an "in" to come on here with your filth.

atlfalconno1fan
atlfalconno1fan

@SeenThatB4 nola is your hometown paper...not ajc...you like the aints?i dont..never have..dont visit and dont go on thier blogs due to fact i hate them..nola reference to aints all the time thats all you have down in swamp...go thier and blog your A-- off!! this is Atlanta...