LIVE: Falcons’ line to get tested by Bengals

This guy look familiar? Falcons face former Georgia star A.J. Green today. (Getty Images)

This guy look familiar? Falcons face former Georgia star A.J. Green today. (Getty Images)

This guy look familiar? Falcons face ex-UGA star A.J. Green. (Getty Images)

CINCINNATI – There are a number of ways to gauge how good an NFL team really is, but here are two of them: 1) How well do they play in December; 2) How well do they play on the road.

December is a few months away. But we’ll learn a little more about the Falcons’ level and toughness today when they play their second game against the Cincinnati Bengals. They were impressive in many ways in last week’s 37-34 home win over New Orleans, showing both their strength (Matt Ryan and the offense) and their weaknesses (defense). But today they will be going against a better defense and playing in front of a crowd that will be screaming when they have the ball (unlike at home).

If healthy, the Falcons’ offense gives them a chance to win any game, particularly when Ryan and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter spread things around the way they did against New Orleans. Ryan used nine receivers and all four running backs (Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith) contributed.

But there are some issues. I’ll get to those shortly.

Since 1990, when the NFL expanded to a 12-team field, 196 teams have started the season 2-0 and 124 of them reached the playoffs (63.3 percent). Strangely, however, the Falcons have started a season at least 2-0 eight times (1979, 1981, 1986, 1998, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2012) and reached the postseason in only three of those (1998, 2004, 2012).

Here are a few thoughts and concerns going into today’s game:

Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews is out with a left ankle injury. The Falcons haven’t stated the seriousness of the injury – he stood on the sideline in uniform last week after coming out of the New Orleans game, for what it’s worth – but this likely will significantly after blocking schemes. Tackle Sam Baker was lost for the season with a knee injury in the preseason. Depth is in issue. Two projected backups, Gabe Carimi (left) and Lamar Holmes (right), are now the starters. Expect the Falcons to often go with max-protect formations, which means fewer four-wide receiver sets.

Cincinnati finished 10th in the league in sacks last season with 43 and dropped Baltimore’s Joe Flacco three times last week. The Bengals also had nine pass breakups and in interception. So the Falcons will be playing an aggressive defense in a loud stadium. The most likely counter to that are quick passes and a power running game.

The Falcons struggled to mount a pass rush against New Orleans. If they don’t improve against Cincinnati, quarterback Andy Dalton is going to have a field day with his receivers, primarily former Georgia star A.J. Green. There was a lot of debate before the 2011 draft who was the best receiver available, Jones or Alabama’s Julio Jones. Green went fourth overall to Cincinnati, Jones sixth to Atlanta. The debate still lingers. The biggest difference is Green has stayed healthy, playing 48 games and totaling 266 catches for 3,964 yards (14.9 per) and 30 touchdowns. Jones has played only 35 games. Totals: 181 for 2,853, 15.8 average, 20 TDs.

Falcons’ inactives today are Matthews, wide receiver Courtney Roby, cornerback Javier Arenas, linebacker Tyler Starr, center James Stone, defensive end Cliff Matthews and quarterback Sean Renfree. There are three players active this week who were inactive against New Orleans: tackle Ryan Schraeder, defensive tackle Corey Peters and linebacker Nate Stupar.

That’s it for now. I’ll be here live blogging during the game.

Digital Jukebox (but it only plays Schultz songs)
— MyAJC: Georgia Tech has problems, but it also has Justin Thomas
— AJC: Short takes on Georgia Tech’s narrow escape
— AJC: Danny Ferry takes leave but Hawks won’t change with this ownership
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons (real ones) over Saints
— AJC: Hawks giving lessons on how not to contain a fire
— AJC: Goodell was at Masters when Rice video arrived at office
— AJC: Adam Silver, Magic Johnson see Ferry-Deng differently
— MyAJC: Only cure: All Hawks’ owners and Ferry must go
— AJC: Levenson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar miss point about Atlanta
— MyAJC: Levenson gone but timing raises questions
— AJC: Hawks’ Levenson has ugly exit because of email
— MyAJC: Matt Ryan wouldn’t let Falcons lose
— MyAJC: Georgia Tech still looks wobbly at 2-0
— AJC: Short takes on Tech’s 38-21 win over Tulane
— AJC: Live blog: Tech tries to spoil Tulane’s party
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons (real ones) over Saints
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons (real ones) over Saints
— AJC: Video evidence of Stephen Garcia hitting bottom
— MyAJC: Falcons need Mike Nolan to create an illusion
— AJC: Michael Sam not being viewed as just a player
— MyAJC: With Todd Gurley, possibilities are endless
— AJC: Short takes: Georgia 45, Clemson 21
— AJC: Cantor’s magic tallis has cure to Braves’ problems (on Fridays)
— AJC: Weekend Predictions (no lie): Dogs over Clemson
— MyAJC: Richt, Georgia need another highlight
— MyAJC: Braves CEO Terry McGuirk vows ‘Everybody accountable’
— MyAJC: Full Q&A with Braves CEO Terry McGuirk
— AJC: On Braves, McGuirk and repairing baseball
 

Reader Comments 0

367 comments
RodfromCollegePark
RodfromCollegePark

"I still blame the lack of defense for the loss in this game. When other teams go up and down the field on you, every offensive possession becomes more critical, and mistakes are more magnified."

Yeah.  The defense surely had everything with us putting up 3 points going into the 4th quarter.

JSSN
JSSN

Whew Jeff Schultz, they pay you extra or provide tylenol?

Dirtyb8
Dirtyb8

how long before we find out if Ra'shede Hageman is a bust or not?

Dirtyb8
Dirtyb8

@turftoe @Dirtyb8 sort of like how Jacques Smith was not nice enough to make the roster but Mrs. Zolciak did

lv1822
lv1822

I think the weather was a big factor,  it's tough playing in sunshine.

turftoe
turftoe

Cut #71 or forget toughness.

Dirtyb8
Dirtyb8

So much for "toughness". When you have Kroy BierGirl and the pathetic secondary lined up on D and Lamar Holmes lined up on O line, that word "toughness" goes out the window.

turftoe
turftoe

that was a complete beating!you would have thought we were playing the seahalks.The falcons were flatter than the pancakes I hade for brunch,and smith came up with one heck of a game plan.

Dirtyb8
Dirtyb8

@turftoe Coaching won't solve your problem as long as our idiot GM keeps drafting weak and nice guys who are team captains.

grillkicker
grillkicker

IC playing well in Cleveland...funny how former UGA players improve after they receive proper coaching...

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@grillkicker We never got to find out how IC played at Georgia because he was too busy being a punk and getting kicked off the team.

Dirtyb8
Dirtyb8

We should draft some more team captains like Robert Alford

oh boy...
oh boy...

Besides......................at least the aint's lost too!!

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

Gotta here the presser with Mike Smith.  should have plenty of trite comments, they're the same from last years press conferences.    and to top it off, we get to see it all again Thursday night.

Dirtyb8
Dirtyb8

@johnnyquest "We didn't perform well. I thought Bengals did a good job. Our team didn't do a good job. We need to do a good job next week." - Mike Smith

Big Wally
Big Wally

@Dirtyb8 Just replay one from last year.  Pretty much the same pitiful excuses.

eluv
eluv

Sunday's will be dedicated to family outings with my daughters. I am not going to go through this with our Atlanta teams ever again, it's too stressful. I'll just hang out and have fun  with them and check in for the final scores. All of our teams have a history of being losers....why do I keep expecting change.


oh boy...
oh boy...

Absolute crap game....pity it for the flight home...........then focus on the Bucs!!!

gditty
gditty

And.....Matty Ice....ice the game.

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

and Ryan ends the day with a pick.  please.

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

What are Julio Jones stats for the day?

Big Wally
Big Wally

@johnnyquest

4 plays - general loafing, 

6 plays - "I don't get paid to block on running plays", and 

10 plays - they hit pretty hard, I don't want the ball.

oh boy...
oh boy...

Would rather take that penalty now, than in a clutch game or situation.

EbertsGhost
EbertsGhost

Roddy is a punk. I'm sorry. Can't hang your hat on this guy.

Football Redneck
Football Redneck

Now we know the truth,the Falcons are no better than last year team.

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

NO is O and 2, Falcons are 1 and 1.   I'm still betting NO will win this division at the end of the season.   Love my birds but this is substantially the same team as last year.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Well on the bright side, the Falcons will be in the Todd Gurley sweepstakes.

oh boy...
oh boy...

Great penalty, the game is lost anyway. Glad to take that penalty when the game is not on the line


kevkat
kevkat

Panthers best team in the South...again?

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

Good to see Lamar Holmes stepping up to defend his QB.  He should be fresh, he hasn't blocked anybody all day.   Good penalty

BATLman
BATLman

Well, that's what them boys at the Branch were talking about in terms of toughness. lol

Big Wally
Big Wally

Memo to Arthur Blank.  When your looking for your next GM (which should be around next January), don't pick someone who was Bill Belichick's coffee and donuts gofer.  

EbertsGhost
EbertsGhost

I still blame the lack of defense for the loss in this game. When other teams go up and down the field on you, every offensive possession becomes more critical, and mistakes are more magnified. 

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

@EbertsGhost I partially agree but you can't have 4 defensive linemen getting to your QB on every play 

ChopItUp
ChopItUp

Well...at least the Saints are 0 - 2.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

@ChopItUp  It means we beat a really bad team... so last week was not an indication of greatness


kevkat
kevkat

Have we forgotten that A. Blank stated he has confidence in Smith and T.D. ?

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

and that Harry Douglas is how you get hit by a real DB

Onassis
Onassis

How much of this loss will be credited to Matty Ice??

johnnyquest
johnnyquest

@Onassis What?  Matt Ryan?  Surely you jest.  2 INT's is a problem.  At least one of those wasn't on him.   So he threw one clean pick and he loses the game for this team?   Don't think so.

kevkat
kevkat

It's a shame we have to hang today's happy moment on the Browns beating the Saints