Welcome back for another season of Overreaction Monday, where if you can run block, you possess an ability seemingly absent from two football teams in town.
The offense managed just one touchdown on four red zone possession --and you're free to blame that on a dreadful running game, an inability of receivers to get open, penalties, play-calling or all of the above.
The defense allowed Tampa Bay touchdowns on three straight possessions and four out of five in one stretch -- and you’re free to blame that on the lack of a pass rush (zero sacks), shaky coverage, bad tackling and penalties, which extended three of the Buccaneers’ five scoring drives (17 points).
Do I think this means the Falcons are headed for doom? No. It’s one game. But it was an important game. The schedule does not set up well for the next five weeks: at Oakland, at New Orleans, Carolina, at Denver, at Seattle. What that means is if the Falcons don’t fix some of those aforementioned problems – particularly the pass rush and red zone offense – they’re in trouble.
I have two other concerns from Sunday. The Falcons were outcoached on both sides of the ball. Former Falcons coach Mike Smith , now the Bucs’ defensive coordinator, took away the run and, for the most part, Julio Jones. Head coach Dirk Koetter, the Falcons’ former offensive coordinator, knew where to attack the Atlanta defense with his passing game. Jameis Winston hit big touchdown passes to Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins behind Atlanta defenders.
Finally, there was a third-and-goal play from the Bucs’ 17 late in the first half when coach Dan Quinn (not offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) made the decision to run a concession draw play rather than take a shot in the end zone before a field goal attempt. When asked about the play call, Quinn said only “coach’s decision” and “we had the points.”
Maybe he figured the running play would force Tampa to burn a time out (it did) and leave them handicapped when they got the ball back (it didn’t). But it was a weak decision. Also, it backfired because Tampa drove to a touchdown in 1:31 to take a 17-13 lead, thanks to four Falcons’ inability to tackle Charles Sim III.
This isn’t to suggest the Bulldogs are going to have a bad season, based on Saturday’s inexplicable performance against a weak FCS team. Their schedule suggests nine to 10 wins. But it’s a bad sign when a team can’t overpower an undermanned opponent in its first home game of the year. It’s a bad sign when it can’t run the ball with possibly the best running back in the country. It’s a bad sign when a seven-to-eight-touchdown favorite finds itself trailing in the third quarter.
Coach Kirby Smart also doesn’t have complete confidence in freshman quarterback Jacob Eason yet. Eason played the entire game until the last two possessions when Smart put in Greyson Lambert because the coach had more trust in the senior running the offense in a close game.
My view: Maybe Eason wasn’t great against Nicholls State but he wasn’t the reason Georgia almost blew the game. That was on the offensive line. Media members would have loved to try to create some insight into what went wrong from the players' perspective but Smart continues to be extremely limited with media access. No quarterbacks or offensive linemen were made available for comment.
There will be some debate this week but Eason should start against Missouri. If he struggles early, Smart can always make a change. But my guess is Georgia bounces back.
But what to think about this team? It’s too early. The Jackets fumbled twice against Mercer, failed to create a takeaway on defense and failed to mount a pass rush. That won’t be a problem against Vanderbilt but it will five days later against Clemson.
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